November 16: Joseph Talcott, The First Connecticut Governor Born in Connecticut

 

The first thirteen chief executives of colonial Connecticut (including the governors of Saybrook and New Haven colonies, which merged with Connecticut by 1665) were all born in England. It was not until the second decade of the eighteenth century that Connecticut’s governor was a person actually born and raised in the Land of Steady Habits.

Joseph Talcott was born on November 16, 1669 in Hartford, to one of the leading families in the colony of Connecticut. His father served as treasurer of Connecticut, and his grandfather John was one of the very first English settlers to buy land in the colony in the early 1630s.

Even though he was born the eighth of nine children, Joseph was the eldest son at the time of his father’s death in 1688, and therefore inherited the whole of the Talcott estate at the age of 19. This windfall ensured a comfortable life for Joseph for the duration of his life and helped him become a leading citizen in Hartford at an earlier age than most. In addition to serving as an officer in the local militia, Talcott studied the law, likely as an apprentice under a practicing lawyer, and held a series of increasingly important judicial and political appointments beginning in his thirties.

Governor Joseph Talcott’s restored gravestone at Hartford’s Ancient Burying Ground.

In 1724, after the sudden death of Governor Gurdon Saltonstall, Talcott was elected to take his place, becoming the first native-born governor in Connecticut history. Talcott’s legal experience served him well as Governor: during his tenure, he was asked to serve as a third-party adjudicator to help settle border disputes between the colonies of Massachusetts and New Hampshire as well as Maine and New Hampshire. He also successfully defended Connecticut’s property inheritance laws — as explicitly laid out in Connecticut’s Charter — against a legal attempt to have them overturned by an English court. Talcott was successfully re-elected sixteen more times to serve a total of seventeen years as Governor of Connecticut before his death in 1741. Of all Connecticut’s colonial governors, only John Winthrop Jr. served a longer tenure as the colony’s chief executive.

Further Reading

Joseph Talcott, Governor of the Colony of Connecticut, 1724-1741,” Museum of Connecticut History

The Governors of Connecticut: Joseph Talcott [pdf],” Connecticut General Assembly