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March 31, 2015 Trumbull, Connecticut - Written History


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The Jonathan Trumbull Family

by John Lauria

Jonathan Trumbull - Colonial Governor
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 Jr."

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 works.

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 "Governor Trumbull."

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.

Points of Interest:

Governor Jonathan Trumbull House
(c. 1735)

West Town St. - On the Green
Lebanon, Connecticut
(860) 642-7558
open May 15 - October 15
Jonathan Trumbull Jr. House
(c. 1769)

Trumbull Hwy. - Rte. 87
Lebanon, Connecticut
(860) 642-6100
open May 15 - October 15
Governor Trumbull War Office
West Town St, Lebanon, CT
Open: Sat/Sun 1:30-4:30pm
Memorial - Labor Day
Sat 1:30-4:30pm
Lebanon Historical Society
856 Trumbull Highway, Lebanon, CT
Open: Saturday 1:00p to 5:00p
and by Appointment
Phone: 860-642-6579

Governor Trumbull - Colonial and Revolutionary War Documents

Links to other sites:
  • The Trumble-Trumbull Family History and Genealogy Web Site

  • Lebanon at War - story of Connecticut's war headquarters

  • Information about Connecticut's Early Governors

  • Information about John Trumbull - early American painter

  • Art: Surrender of General Burgoyne, by John Trumbull

  • Art: Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull

  • Biography - Jonathan Trumbull Jr. Speaker of the House 1791 - 93

  • U.S. Capitol Art - Jonathan Trumbull Sr. - Marble Statue and Biography

  • Library of Congress - John Trumbull the Artist

  • CT Society of the Sons of the American Revolution : West Hartford, CT

  • Portraits of the Jonathan Trumbull Family
    These portraits were painted by John Trumbull and can be found at the Yale University Art Gallery.   Click on any portrait to download a larger version of the picture.

    Jonathan SR. & Wife Faith Colonial War Governor
    Jonathan Trumbull, SR.
    Jonathan Jr, Wife Eunice & Daughter Faith

    Connecticut's Nationalist Revolutionary: Jonathan Trumbull, Junior - by John W. Ifkovic
    Published by "American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut" - Hartford, 1977
    Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 77-92200

    Connecticut's War Governor: Jonathan Trumbull - by David M. Roth
    Pequot Press - Chester, Connecticut 1974
    Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 74-82316

    Connecticut Town Origins - by Helen Earl Sellers
    Pequot Press - Stonington, Connecticut 1964

    Town of Trumbull - Connecticut's Tercentenary Celebration
    A pamphlet published by Trumbull Connecticut's Historical Committee
    David A. Cronin Chairman, 1939

    INFOPEDIA - Multimedia Reference Tool - including Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia
    Future Vision Multimedia Inc., Spring Valley, NY, © 1994

    Additional information supplied by Charles Trumbull, Evanston, IL

    Trumbull Historical Society - PO Box 312 - Trumbull, CT 06611
    Copyright © 1964 - 2015 - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED