Henry Wolcott (1578-1655) and his wife Elizabeth Saunders arrived in Massachusetts Colony on the good ship Mary & John in 1630. Henry and his grandson Gov. Roger Wolcott scored a previous mention in these pages – here. That post had to do primarily Henry’s daughter Anna’s Griswold family, a line truly brimming over with important figures of Colonial Connecticut. Interesting, but been there/done that.
Gov. Wolcott’s line is every bit as impressive – if not more so – and that’s our focus today. Sadly, my direct Wolcott line, that of Henry’s daughter Mary (an 11th Great-Grandmother on my mother’s mother’s side), while a very fine, upstanding group, I’m sure, just isn’t as interesting as the other two.
So. Here goes.
Roger Wolcott (1679-1767, 1st cousin-12x removed) was a grandson of Henry Wolcott, a son of Henry’s son Simon. He was apprenticed to a weaver at age 12, but ended up practicing law. He accompanied a military expedition to Quebec during Queen Anne’s War (1711). and after his return, he began a mind-boggling series of important positions concerned with the general running of things in Connecticut. Clerk for the Lower House, elected to the Upper House, Commissioner of this entity, Captain of that bunch of troops… Deputy Governor of the Colony, judgeships in the County court, the Colony’s Supreme Court… and so on.
In 1745, a general call went out from Massachusetts Governor William Shirley for men to form an expedition into Canada against the French during King George’s War. Roger Wolcott, then aged 67, was asked to become active in the militia again and was named second in command of all of the New England forces. Major General Wolcott led the Connecticut troops in the capture of the fortress at Louisbourg on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in 1745. With the death of Jonathan Law in 1750, Roger Wolcott became Royal Governor of the Colony of Connecticut, and was re-elected annually for three years. Gov. Wolcott died May 17, 1767.
Roger and his wife had fourteen children – and I’m sure they were all quite accomplished and lovely. But today I’m interested in just two: Erastus and Oliver.
Erastus is interesting (to me, anyway) because (a) he married his cousin Jerusha, a granddaughter of Henry Wolcott’s son Henry, and (b) I think the names Erastus and Jerusha are awesome. That’s it.
Oliver Wolcott, however, was an important guy by just about anyone’s standards. He was born in 1726 – the 14th of those 14 children. He graduated, top of his class, from Yale College in 1747. He was a Captain in the militia during King George’s War, sent up to watch the New York and Vermont’s Canadian border. He practiced medicine with his brother for a time, then went into business. He was elected to the Connecticut Council, and he became a one of Connecticut’s principal delegates to the Continental Congress.
He fell ill and had to leave the Congressional debates concerning Independence in June 1776, right when stuff was getting real. But he was there for the bulk of it and, accordingly, is one of the names found on the Declaration of Independence. But due to his illness, his signature came a few months later, fully recuperated and experiencing during a lull between major battles. This of course explains the location of his name – waaay down in the lower-right, 2nd to last.
AND he’s in the group shot – Jonathan Trumbull’s painting of the presentation of the draft Declaration to the Continental Congress. The guy back there in the corner. Give a wave next time you’re in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
So, as it happens in times of war, it was back to the military for Oliver. Named Brigadeer General in charge of all Connecticut troops in New York, participating in the Battles of Long Island and Brooklyn. The next year, September 1777, he led some 300 Connecticut volunteers to a spot on the Hudson River, where they met Generals Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold to take on Burgoyne in a little skirmish known as the Battle of Saratoga.
Oliver Wolcott became Lieutenant Governor of the State of Connecticut in 1786, and when the Gov. Samuel Huntington (another DOI signer) died in 1796, Oliver Wolcott became Governor. He died not quite two years later, December 1, 1797.
And finally, Oliver Wolcott had a son named Oliver. 3rd cousin-10x removed. Oliver Wolcott, Jr. began his political career in 1792 when he was appointed to the Committee of the General Assembly. In 1788, took the position of Connecticut Comptroller, managing the state’s financial affairs.
From 1789-1791, Oliver Wolcott, Jr. was chosen to be an Auditor of the National Treasury and promoted to Comptroller of the United States Treasury in the spring of 1791. On February 3, 1795, he was appointed by Pres. Washington to succeed Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. He held that position until 1800, into John Adams’ administration.
And a fitting finale. Oliver Wolcott, Jr. was Governor of Connecticut for ten years, 1817-1827, the third of three successive generations of Wolcott governors.