April 24: New Haven Colony Settled in 1638


Portrait of John Davenport, painted in 1670.

In the 1630s, John Davenport, like many Puritan ministers preaching in 17th century London, yearned to create a “New Jerusalem” in a place free of the persecution and political pressures of England.  Arriving in the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1637, Davenport and his congregants couldn’t find a large enough plot of land to their liking, so they sent a small group led by Theophilus Eaton southward to scout potential settlement sites along Long Island Sound.

Eaton’s journey was a success: a few months later, he returned with a favorable report of an area called “Quinnipiack” by a local native tribe of the same name; it was situated on a natural harbor and the natives appeared to show a willingness to engage in trade with their new neighbors.  Davenport immediately sailed for the spot Eaton described with 500 fellow Puritans, and landed there on April 24, 1638.

After purchasing a swath of coastal land from the amiable Quinnipiac Indians, Davenport christened the settlement “New Haven.” Surveyor John Brockett drew up a city plan consisting of nine squares, with the central square being reserved as the town common (or green), thus establishing New Haven as the first town in American to laid out in a formal grid system.  With its natural deep harbor, New Haven soon became the foremost trading hub of the Connecticut colony, and to this day remains one of Connecticut’s most prosperous and influential cities.

Further Reading

Nancy Finlay, “A Separate Place: The New Haven Colony, 1638 – 1665” connecticuthistory.org

Kim Sheridan, “Why Was New Haven Divided Into Nine Squares?” connecticuthistory.org