roger wolcott b. 1679 > roger wolcott b.1704 > parmenio wolcott b. 1746 > mary polly wolcott stone b. 1778 >
josiah stone b.1807 > mary stone van hoessen b. 1863 > helen van hoessen williams b.1893 > roger wolcott williams
b. 1924 > wendy wolcott williams katowik campbell > emily
Roger Wolcott b. January 1678/9, Windsor, Connecticut
Governor of the Colony of Connecticut, 1750-1754
Selectman for Windsor, 1707
Deputy, Connecticut General Assembly, 1709-1711
Justice of the Peace, 1710-1721
Lower House, General Assembly, 1710-1711
Commissary, CT Military Expedition to Canada, 1711<
Judge, Hartford County Court, 1721-1732
Judge, Connecticut Superior Court, 1732-1741
Judge, Superior Court, 1741-1750
Deputy Governor, 1741-1750
Commander of Connecticut Troops and Second in Command
of New England Troops in United Colonies Expedition Against Louisburg, 1745
Governor of Connecticut, 1750-1754
May 17, 1767, Windsor, Connecticut
Roger Wolcott was born at Windsor, Connecticut on January 28, 1678 (Old Church
Record) or January 4, 1679 (headstone), the tenth child of Simon Wolcott and his second wife, Martha Pitkin. Martha is said
to have come to Hartford about 1660 or 1661 to persuade her brother William to return to England. Instead, she met Simon Wolcott,
and the couple was married in October of 1661. Simon's father, Henry, had come to Dorchester, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony,
on the Mary and John in 1630 and moved to Windsor with the other founders from Dorchester in 1636, but Simon, Henry's youngest
son, did not come to America until 1640. Simon died in 1687, when Roger was eight, leaving Martha with six children and many
debts. The family struggled. Two years later in 1689, she married the widower Daniel Clarke of Windsor, who became Roger's
Because a formal elementary education was not available, Roger Wolcott did not learn to read or write until he was about
11.1 Having once learned, however, he applied himself to reading every book that he could borrow, and progressed rapidly in
knowledge. Much of his reading was in law books. He tried to save money to go to school, but never had enough, and yet he
educated himself in an impressive manner. In 1694, at age 15, Roger was apprenticed to a clothier (a person who "dresses"
or finishes cloth) in Windsor and left home. He did so well in that business that by 1699, only five years later, he had his
own shop. He ran his business for several years before he married Sarah Drake, daughter of Jacob Drake of Windsor, on December
Roger and Sarah Wolcott had fifteen children, including a set of twins. Three boys and one girl died in infancy,
and one boy died as a child. Roger Wolcott may well be the Connecticut governor who had the most children as well as the Connecticut
governor with the most Connecticut governors (three) as his descendants. He was the father of Oliver Wolcott, a signer of
the Declaration of Independence ( see below) as well as Governor of Connecticut from 1796-1797, and the grandfather of Oliver
Wolcott, Junior, Governor of Connecticut from 1817-1827. In addition, Roger and Sarah's thirteenth child, Ursula, married
Matthew Griswold (Governor, 1784-1786) and was the mother of Roger Griswold, Governor of Connecticut from 1811-1812.
Wolcott's successful business and knowledge of the law no doubt brought him to the attention of the town officials and leading
citizens. In 1707, he was elected as a Windsor selectman. He was admitted to the bar in 1709 and elected Deputy from Windsor
to the General Assembly in that same year. He became a justice of the peace in 1710 and also served as clerk of the lower
house from 1710 to 1711. When Connecticut participated in a military expedition against the French in Canada in 1711, he was
appointed as commissary, or supply master.
Wolcott was chosen an Assistant in 1714, serving during a period when Connecticut's
government chose to cooperate with England in order to offset the continuing efforts of British politicians to portray Connecticut
as a rebellious colony and revoke her liberal 1662 Charter. He was also a member of important colonial committees that decided
matters of finance, law revisions, Native American issues, and boundaries.
Seven years later, in 1721, Roger Wolcott became a judge of the County Court of Hartford County. He joined the Connecticut
militia in 1722 and was appointed to the post of captain. Wolcott became a Judge of the Superior Court in 1732 and while still
in that position, in 1739 became a colonel, commanding Connecticut's First Regiment. Two years later, in 1741, he became Deputy
Governor under Governor Jonathan Law, and, as was the custom of the time, he was also appointed Chief Justice of the Superior
Court of Connecticut. Law's administration was another in which Connecticut had to defend its right to its Charter.
1740's were years of a religious revival known as the "Great Awakening". Congregational Churches experienced divisions in
their congregations, the "Old Lights" wanting to keep things as they were; the "New Lights" embracing and advocating reforms
and worship with more spirit and fervor. Both Law and Wolcott sided with the Old Lights.
In 1745, Roger Wolcott was
67 years old. Still, he was so highly respected that he was appointed major general in active command of the Connecticut troops
in King George's War. He was second in command for all the New England forces and led the Connecticut troops in the capture
of Louisburg in Cape Breton, a major victory. Wolcott returned to Connecticut by 1746, and in 1747 his wife, Sarah (Drake)
Governor Jonathan Law died in November of 1750, one month after the General Assembly ended. The General Assembly reconvened
briefly to elect Roger Wolcott as Governor and Thomas Fitch as Deputy Governor to serve until the regular election of May
1751. Both were reelected in that election.
Roger Wolcott had served Connecticut faithfully and well for many years,
and the first part of his term as governor went well. Then one incident cast a shadow on his public life. A 200-ton Spanish
ship, the Santa Elena y Senor San Joseph, was driven off her course from Honduras to Spain by bad storms. On November 24,
1752, while limping into New London harbor, the ship was twice run into rocks, resulting in heavy damage and one of her masts
being cut away. It was suggested that the pilots guiding her into the harbor deliberately tried to wreck her so they could
steal the cargo of gold doubloons, silver, and valuable indigo, worth some $400,000 in Spanish dollars, or about $3,800,000
in today's money, a staggering amount of goods and money for colonial New Londoners.2 In addition, the cargo consisted of
items that were relatively uncommon in the colonies, including silver, which was very scarce in New England as Britain did
not allow silver coins to leave England3 (the colonists often relied on silver coins minted in Mexico).
The cargo was off-loaded and stored in the port's customs house and in a basement strong-room at the house of Gurdon
Saltonstall, Jr., who had asked the Governor and Company to be appointed special agent to protect the property. The British
naval and military actions against Spain in the Caribbean in the 1740's in which New Londoners had fought and died, a general
dislike of the Spanish by the British at that time, and the fact that the vessel had originally belonged to England but had
been captured by the Spaniards about twelve years earlier perhaps influenced the mysterious disappearance of portions of the
cargo from storage over the next year. It did not help that the Gurdon Saltonstall who stored part of the cargo was the son
of Governor Gurdon Saltonstall, under whom Roger Wolcott had served. Collusion on the part of Wolcott and Saltonstall was
suspected. Meanwhile, New Yorker Henry Lane had convinced the Spanish supercargo (steward of the cargo) to request that Saltonstall
be relieved as agent. Under pressure, Governor Wolcott authorized Lane to receive the cargo, but Lane then apparently appropriated
four chests of silver for himself.
Political wrangling over who was responsible for the losses involved the New London
customs inspector, Saltonstall, Wolcott and the Connecticut government, and the British Crown and the Spanish court. It was
feared that Connecticut could be responsible for damages amounting to up to one million Spanish dollars4. At one point, both
Britain and Spain each sent a warship to New London harbor. The reconstructed Santa Elena y Senor San Joseph finally left
in January 1755. Many felt that Governor Wolcott was too lax in solving the thefts and in providing sufficient protection
to the cargo. Some accused him of malfeasance. His poor handling of the situation created rumors and caused him to lose votes
in the 1754 elections. Thomas Fitch was elected Governor of Connecticut instead.
Wolcott was 76 years old when he was defeated, a new event for Connecticut. All previous governors had died in office.
Shortly after the election, he was exonerated of the charges of theft of goods from the Santa Elena y Senor San Joseph. Supporters
voted for him in 1755, although he was not on the ballot, and he almost won. Wolcott spent the much of the remainder of his
life on his farm, cultivating his land, and served as an elder statesman, on call if the government needed him.
was a many-talented man. In addition to his political and military activities, he also wrote the first book of poetry published
in Connecticut. Titled Poetical Meditations, Being the Improvement of Some Vacant Hours, it was printed in 1725. After his
retirement from public office, he continued to write, publishing church-related pamphlets. He also published a "Letter to
the Freemen of Connecticut" in the Connecticut Gazette (New London) of 1761. In his final years, he lived in Windsor with
his daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Newberry. He died there on May 17, 1767 at the age of 89. He is buried in Windsor's Palisado
Cemetery and is commemorated by that town's Roger Wolcott School.