Trumbull Connecticut's Namesake
In 1797 a fledgling community formerly known as "North Stratford"
in Southwestern Connecticut became incorporated into the State of Connecticut
as a town named "Trumbull". Also on December 1, 1797, Jonathan Trumbull
Jr., the second son of Revolutionary War Governor Jonathan Trumbull,
became the Governor of Connecticut when incumbent Governor Oliver Wolcott passed
away. Many encyclopedias, including Funk & Wagnalls, state that Trumbull,
Connecticut was named after the then current governor, Jonathan Trumbull Jr.
in 1797. Another book titled "Connecticut Town Origins" also states that
"Trumbull, Connecticut was named after then governor, Jonathan Trumbull
During research for this project, contradicting information regarding which
Jonathan, Senior or Junior, that Trumbull Connecticut was named after can
be found. In a 1935 Trumbull, Connecticut Historical Committee pamphlet,
author and chairman David Cronin writes, "Our Town bears the most honorable
name in Connecticut history, and perpetuates Connecticut's Revolutionary Governor,
Jonathan Trumbull, on whom Washington leaned heavily for moral and material
support during the Revolutionary War." The name "Trumbull" for the new
township separated from Stratford, Connecticut was decided upon prior to an
October, 1797 meeting of the Connecticut General Assembly at which approval
for the incorporation of the new community was granted.
Therein lies the confusion as to which Jonathan Trumbull the new town was
named after, since records do not specify how the name was determined, or
after which Trumbull family member the town was actually named. In 1797, the
newly created Town of Trumbull may have taken the name of Jonathan Trumbull
Jr. the current lieutenant governor and statesman although undoubtedly
the selection of the name Trumbull for the new township would have been influenced
by the strong historical and patriotic contributions of the entire Trumbull
family of Lebanon, Connecticut. It is easy to see why some believe that
Trumbull Connecticut was not named solely after Jonathan Jr. since
he became Governor of Connecticut after the Town of Trumbull was incorporated
in October of 1797. Many feel that the encyclopedias and references
to Jonathan Trumbull Jr. as the town's namesake are wrong, and the town is
named after the war governor, Jonathan Senior. Although Jonathan was
not Governor when North Stratford's new name was selected, he had already
held several very prominent positions in U.S. government including being both
a U.S. Senator and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Regardless of which Trumbull family member that Trumbull, Connecticut is
named after, the entire family made significant contributions to early American
history. Unless more specific evidence can be found that pinpoints to
which Trumbull family member that Trumbull, Connecticut was named after, it
would be best to say "The Town of Trumbull was named after the Trumbull
Family, a patriotic Revolutionary War family, from Lebanon, Connecticut."
Trumbull Family History
The Trumbull family first arrived in Lebanon Connecticut in 1705 when Joseph
Trumble (original spelling), (1678 - 1755) left his failing farm in Simsbury
Connecticut to pursue both the agricultural and trade business. At this
time, Lebanon was a sparsely populated region and hard work and Puritan ethics
were required to make ends meet. Joseph Trumbull had two sons, Joseph
Jr. (1705 - 1732) and Jonathan (1710 - 1785). Joseph Sr. had a clear
vision for his boys' futures, Joseph worked with his father in the family
business and Jonathan attended Harvard to prepare for the ministry. These
plans suddenly changed in early 1732 when Joseph Jr. was lost at sea aboard
a brigantine vessel named the Lebanon bound for the Barbados.
Upon the death of his older brother, Jonathan abandoned the ministry, and
took the place of his older brother in his father's business. Because
of his competence and the failing health of his father, Jonathan was managing
all the family business within four years of his brother's death. Jonathan's
experience as a merchant proved to be valuable during the revolution when
procurement of supplies for the Continental Army with almost worthless Continental
notes required tact and diplomacy.
As Jonathan Trumbull's notoriety in Lebanon as a successful business man
increased, he was elected to the General Assembly. In 1735, Jonathan
Trumbull married Faith Robinson (1718 -1780), a direct descendent of John
and Priciscilla Alden. This marriage raised Jonathan's status to one
of almost nobility, having married into the direct lineage of the first settlers
of New England. Their marriage produced six children, Joseph (1737 -
1778), Jonathan Jr., (1740 - 1809) the second of four "Governor Trumbulls",
Faith (1743 - 1775), Mary (1745 - 1831), David (1751- 1822) and John (1756
- 1843) a famous early American painter.
The wisdom and respect that Jonathan Trumbull had earned himself allowed
him to hold positions in the Colonial general assembly beginning in 1733.
During the French and Indian War, Jonathan served as a colonel of the
Twelfth Connecticut Regiment. From 1766 until 1769, Jonathan Trumbull
served as Deputy Governor of Connecticut. From 1769 until his retirement
in 1784, Jonathan Trumbull was the Governor of Connecticut. During his
term, he redefined the role of governor from mostly a powerless figurehead
to a mastermind in the logistics of running the state.
Jonathan Trumbull was the only colonial governor to hold his job for the
periods of time before and after the Revolutionary war. Jonathan was
instrumental in providing Continental Army troops with provisions. He
arranged for numerous cattle drives that originated in Hartford to supply
General Washington's almost starving troops in Valley Forge and Morristown
with provisions. Because of his efforts, Connecticut was refereed to
as the "Provisions State" and its governor was referred to as "Brother
Jonathan" by General Washington because of his passionate ability to
raise supplies for the needy Continental Army. Jonathan mobilized Connecticut's
resources and encouraged the manufacture of items within Connecticut to support
the war effort.
Governor Trumbull had six children, many of whom were significant contributors
to early American history. The oldest son Joseph was a member of the
Continental Congress in 1774 and from 1775 to 1777 he was the Commissary General
of the Army. Joseph resigned from this position in 1777 because he found
it too tough to procure the necessary items for the army and after a bitter
run-in with General Schuyler in 1776. Joseph took sick in February of
1778 and died on July 23 of that year.
Governor Trumbull's youngest child, John was the most rebellious toward
his Puritan father. Over the objection of his father, John studied art
abroad from 1783 to 1785 under Benjamin West. Although Governor Trumbull
did not wish to see his son pursue a career in art, he never stopped showing
affections to his children and constantly wrote to his son while he was away.
When he wrote John in 1785 that his health may be failing, his son returned
home to be with his father prior to his death. John Trumbull became
one of our nations most noteworthy early American artists, known for his historical
scenes of the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence (1794,
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.), is one of his most notable
Governor Trumbull's son Jonathan Jr. after whom some believe Trumbull Connecticut
was named, also had a very illustrious career as an early American statesman.
He was the first Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury from 1778 until 1779.
He worked as a personal secretary on President Washington's staff from
1781 until 1783. A member of the U.S. House of Representatives from
1789 until 1795, during which period from 1791 to 1793, he held the position
of Speaker of the House. From 1795 until 1796, Jonathan Jr. represented
Connecticut as a U.S. senator. From 1797 until his death in 1809, Jonathan
Jr. was Connecticut's governor, the same office that his father "Brother
Jonathan" held from 1769 until 1784.
The Trumbull family of Lebanon Connecticut had little contact during the
Revolution with the Society of North Stratford. However, one significant
connection between Trumbull, Connecticut and the Jonathan Trumbull Family
was Benjamin Silliman, one of this early nation's most prominent scientist, and for
whom Silliman College
at Yale is named after. Silliman was born in Trumbull (then
North Stratford) in 1779. In 1809, he married Harriet Trumbull, daughter
of Governor Jonathan Trumbull, Jr.
David, the third son of Jonathan Trumbull Sr. served as his father's aid
and counsel at the onset of the war. He was responsible for furnishing
weapons and supplies to both the land and naval forces of the Northern Army.
After the war David spent the remainder of his life as both a farmer
and Representative to the General Assembly. David's son Joseph also
became Governor of Connecticut in 1849, making him the state's third
Although not related to the Trumbull family of Lebanon, it is interesting
to note that Connecticut had a fourth "Governor Trumbull." John
H. Trumbull, born on March 4, 1873, in Ashford, Connecticut, the son of Irish
immigrants, served as governor from 1925 to 1931.
Trumbull Connecticut should be proud to bear the name of a family that contributed
so much to the revolutionary war effort and history of this young country.
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