Theophilus Eaton
Theophilus Eaton was a merchant, farmer, and Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 colonial leader who was the co-founder and first governor of New Haven Colony
New Haven Colony
The New Haven Colony was an English colonial venture in present-day Connecticut in North America from 1637 to 1662.- Quinnipiac Colony :A Puritan minister named John Davenport led his flock from exile in the Netherlands back to England and finally to America in the spring of 1637...

, Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...


Early life and first marriage

He was born at Stony Stratford
Stony Stratford
Stony Stratford is a constituent town of Milton Keynes and is a civil parish with a town council within the Borough of Milton Keynes. It is in the north west corner of Milton Keynes, bordering Northamptonshire and separated from it by the River Great Ouse...

, Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in 1590, to the Vicar
In the broadest sense, a vicar is a representative, deputy or substitute; anyone acting "in the person of" or agent for a superior . In this sense, the title is comparable to lieutenant...

 of Great Budworth
Great Budworth
Great Budworth is a civil parish and village, approximately north of Northwich, England, within the unitary authority of Cheshire West and Chester and the ceremonial county of Cheshire. It lies off the A559 road, east of Comberbach, northwest of Higher Marston and southeast of Budworth Heath...

, Chester
Chester is a city in Cheshire, England. Lying on the River Dee, close to the border with Wales, it is home to 77,040 inhabitants, and is the largest and most populous settlement of the wider unitary authority area of Cheshire West and Chester, which had a population of 328,100 according to the...

 – Richard Eaton (1569–1616) and his wife, Elizabeth Shepheard (1569–1630). He was married to a Grace Hiller in 1622, and at least had a daughter (Mary), and a son (Samuel) before her death (some authorities think that he also had a son by the name of James).

Second marriage and children

In 1625 he remarried, this time to a widow, Anne Yale, who was the daughter of George Lloyd, the Bishop of Chester
Bishop of Chester
The Bishop of Chester is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Chester in the Province of York.The diocese expands across most of the historic county boundaries of Cheshire, including the Wirral Peninsula and has its see in the City of Chester where the seat is located at the Cathedral...

 (some authorities say Anne Morton, the daughter of Bishop Thomas Morton of Chester). The couple had three children (Theophilus, Hannah, and Elizabeth), but the household raised eight children. Besides their three, and Mary and Samuel, it included Anne, David, and Thomas Yale from Anne's first marriage to Thomas Yale.

Thomas Yale, son of Thomas and Ann (Lloyd) Yale, settled in the New Haven Colony and signed the Fundamental Agreement of the New Haven Colony
Fundamental Agreement of the New Haven Colony
The Fundamental Agreement of the New Haven Colony was signed on June 4, 1639. The free planters who assented to the agreement are listed below:*William Andrews*Richard Beckley*John Benham*Jarvis Boykin*William Browning...

 on June 4, 1639. Anne Jr. married Edward Hopkins
Edward Hopkins
Edward Hopkins was an English colonist and politician and Governor of the Connecticut Colony. Active on both sides of the Atlantic, he was a founder of the New Haven and Connecticut colonies, serving seven one-year terms as governor of Connecticut. He returned to England in the 1650s, where he...

 in 1631, later the governor of Connecticut; and David, who married Ursula Knight in 1641, became the father of Elihu Yale
Elihu Yale
Elihu Yale was a Welsh merchant and philanthropist, governor of the East India Company, and a benefactor of the Collegiate School of Connecticut, which in 1718 was named Yale College in his honour.- Life :...

, namesake of Yale College
Yale College
Yale College was the official name of Yale University from 1718 to 1887. The name now refers to the undergraduate part of the university. Each undergraduate student is assigned to one of 12 residential colleges.-Residential colleges:...


The Governor's daughter, Mary Eaton, married Valentine Hill of Boston in 1647, to which his brother, Nathaniel Eaton
Nathaniel Eaton
Nathaniel Eaton was the first schoolmaster of Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and later became a clergyman.- Biography :...

, the first schoolmaster of Harvard
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

, was present as a witness; Samuel Eaton married Mabel (Harlakenden) Haynes in 1654, but both of whom died in the small pox epidemic of 1655; Hannah Eaton married the Lt. Governor William Jones (1624–1706) in 1659; Theophilus Eaton Jr., or Ellis as he was known, settled in Dublin, Ireland and married an Anne King; and Elizabeth died in London in March of 1637 before they had departed for the colonies.

Early career in England

For several years Theophilus was an agent for King Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 to the Danish
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 Court, then a merchant in London. He was a Puritan interested in colonial development and was one of the original patent holders and president of the Massachusetts Bay Company.

Emigration to New England

He actually emigrated to New England with other Puritans in the ship Hector, arriving in Boston on June 26, 1637.

His group of colonists had John Davenport
John Davenport (clergyman)
John Davenport was an English puritan clergyman and co-founder of the American colony of New Haven.-Early life:Born in Manchester, Warwickshire, England to a wealthy family, Davenport was educated at Oxford University...

 as their religious leader and they wanted to start their own settlement – probably due to Winthrop's persona who also caused the Rev. Thomas Hooker
Thomas Hooker
Thomas Hooker was a prominent Puritan colonial leader, who founded the Colony of Connecticut after dissenting with Puritan leaders in Massachusetts...

 and others to go off and form their own colonies and was termed "an object of great fear in all the colonies."

Foundation of New Haven

In the spring his group moved from Boston and when they arrived on April 14, 1638 they named the site New Haven
New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven is the second-largest city in Connecticut and the sixth-largest in New England. According to the 2010 Census, New Haven's population increased by 5.0% between 2000 and 2010, a rate higher than that of the State of Connecticut, and higher than that of the state's five largest cities, and...


That fall, Eaton led an exploration to the south, and located a site at Quinnipiack on the northern shore of Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound is an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean, located in the United States between Connecticut to the north and Long Island, New York to the south. The mouth of the Connecticut River at Old Saybrook, Connecticut, empties into the sound. On its western end the sound is bounded by the Bronx...

. On November 14, 1638, he and his company entered into an agreement with the chief sachem
A sachem[p] or sagamore is a paramount chief among the Algonquians or other northeast American tribes. The two words are anglicizations of cognate terms from different Eastern Algonquian languages...

 Momauquin agreeing that in exchange for protection from the Quinnipiack
This article is about the Native American nation. For the university, see Quinnipiac University.The Quinnipiac — rarely spelled Quinnipiack — is the English name for the Eansketambawg a Native American nation of the Algonquian family who inhabited the Wampanoki This article is about the Native...

 Indians' ancient enemies, the Mohawk
Mohawk nation
Mohawk are the most easterly tribe of the Iroquois confederation. They call themselves Kanien'gehaga, people of the place of the flint...

 and the Pequot
Pequot people are a tribe of Native Americans who, in the 17th century, inhabited much of what is now Connecticut. They were of the Algonquian language family. The Pequot War and Mystic massacre reduced the Pequot's sociopolitical influence in southern New England...

, Momauquin would relinquish his right, title, and interest to the lands that both parties agreed would not later evolve into feelings of animosity, hate, or regret. [Cf. J. W. Barber, History and Antiquities of New Haven, (Conn.) (1831) pp. 25–29].

The Mohawks and the Pequots had all but wiped out the New Haven Indians, leaving but 40 surviving males, and to that end Theophilus and his company also covenanted to protect them when unreasonably assaulted and terrified, that they would always have a sufficient quantity of land to plant on, and by way of free and thankful retribution that they give to the sachem and his council and company: twelve coats of English cloth, twelve alchemy spoons, twelve hatchets, twelve hoes, two dozen knives, twelve porringer
A porringer is a small dish from which Europeans and colonial Americans ate their gruel or porridge, or other soft foods.Porringers were shallow bowls, between 4" to 6" in diameter, and 1½" to 3" deep; the form originates in the medieval period in Europe and they were made in wood, ceramic, pewter...

s, and four cases of French knives & scissors.

This agreement was signed and legally executed by Momauquin and his council as well as by Theophilus Eaton and John Davenport.

Some still say, however, that Theophilus simply traded thirteen coats to the local Indians for seven townships of land; but what is a fact is that in the following December of 1638 he and his company did also purchase the usage of a large area of land from Monotowese, son of the sachem at Mattabeseck
In early Dutch maps of the American colonies from the early 17th century, the term Mattabeseck is applied to an area of land just to the north of New Haven, Connecticut, between the Housatonic and Connecticut rivers...

, which was 10 miles in length and 13 in breadth. He did pay 13 coats to Monotowese as per their agreement, but again, the English gave the Indians ample grounds to plant on and free usage of all the lands for hunting. Further, even though Monotowese's tribe consisted of but 10 males with their women and children, it was understood that the English would also protect them from the Mohawk and the Pequots.

Upon arrival in the new colony, Theophilus at first attempted to resume his trade as a merchant.
He was not successful, however, since the colony was too new to afford imports and the Indian fur trade was more successful at the Dutch outposts at Hartford
Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The seat of Hartford County until Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960, it is the second most populous city on New England's largest river, the Connecticut River. As of the 2010 Census, Hartford's population was 124,775, making...

, so he soon turned to farming.

When the New Haven Colony established its administration, he was chosen as one of the "seven pillars of the church" acting as one of the 7 councilors who formed the body of freemen
Freeman (Colonial)
Freeman is a term which originated in 12th century Europe and is common as an English or American Colonial expression in Puritan times. In the Bay Colony, a man had to be a member of the Church to be a freeman. In Colonial Plymouth, a man did not need to be a member of the Church, but he had to be...

 and elected civil officers.

Their names were: Theophilus Eaton, John Davenport, Robert Newman, Matthew Gilbert, Thomas Fugill, John Punderson, and Jeremiah Dixon.

Career as governor

He was elected as the first governor on June 4, 1639 and reelected each year until his death on January 7, 1657/8 (Julian Calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

 timing). He was buried on the green in New Haven and later his remains were removed to Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven. One of his major accomplishments as governor was the creation of a written legal code for the colony in 1655 later to be known as the Blue Laws of Connecticut. For this, and the fact that he was the first president of the Massachusetts Bay Company, he is sometimes thought of as being the Father of American Law, but this is arguably an example of hyperbole.


Theophilus' epitaph reads as follows ...
"Theophilus Eaton, Esqr. Govr. dec'd Jan'y 7, 1657, Ætat. 67.
Eaton so fam'd, so wise, so just,
The Phœnix of our world, here lies his dust,
This name forget, N. England never must."


Although deposed in 1639 by the then Governor John Winthrop
John Winthrop
John Winthrop was a wealthy English Puritan lawyer, and one of the leading figures in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first major settlement in New England after Plymouth Colony. Winthrop led the first large wave of migrants from England in 1630, and served as governor for 12 of...

 in what some have considered to be Massachusetts' first Witch Trial
Salem witch trials
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before county court trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in the counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex in colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693...

, Theophilus' younger brother Nathaniel Eaton
Nathaniel Eaton
Nathaniel Eaton was the first schoolmaster of Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and later became a clergyman.- Biography :...

 (1609–1674) was the first schoolmaster of Harvard College
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

. Another brother, Samuel Eaton (1597–1665), was a minister who accompanied Theophilus to New Haven, but then later chose to return to England.

External links

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