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Clinton Connecticut
Founded 1663

Introduction Tours 2 and 3


First settled in the early 17th Century, present day Clinton has a remarkable number of 17th, 18th and 19th Century houses still standing. Seven houses, dating back to the early 18th Century are in the Liberty Green Historic District along with a portion of the original Town Green. Clinton also has over 150 houses on the National Register of Historical Places. Clustered along East Main St, formerly the Old Post Road, on Liberty Street and along Waterside Lane down to Long Island Sound, they form an exceptional record of the growth of a New England Town.

Before 1650 the land between Guilford and Saybrook was largely unsettled, but in May of 1662, the General Court in Hartford agreed to a petition to establish a settlement on the unclaimed 50 square miles between the two towns to be called Homonoscitt. Following a committee report that the area would make a "comfortable plantation for the entertainment of thirty families", the Court in October of 1663 agreed to the establishment of this new settlement.
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The settlers promptly laid out lots east of the Hamonassett River and set rules for the town that included the establishment of a Church and the appointment of a Minister.

In May of 1667, the Court of Election in Hartford ordered that the town be renamed Kenilworth, which became Killingworth on the records--evidence of variations in pronunciation and spelling at the time. During the same year, the Congregational Church was established on Meeting House Hill and Rev. John Woodbridge, a Harvard graduate in his early 20's, became its rector.

Two years later the settlers formally bought the land from Uncas, the Sachem of the Mohegans, and maintained an alliance with him for 40 years, assuring themselves of protection from both the Mohegans and Pequots.

The settlers prospered, growing grains, planting orchards, and harvesting oysters, clams and fish from the harbor and streams. Shad was so plentiful that it was salted and shipped in barrels to the West Indies to feed the slaves on plantations there.

In 1678 Rev. Woodbridge resigned to move to Wethersfield, and the pulpit was empty for 16 years. Then in 1694, Rev. Abraham Pierson was recruited from Newark to take over the church. He asked for and received a charter from the General Council of the Colony to establish a Collegiate School in his parsonage. From 1701 until his death in 1707, Pierson educated young men, many of whom subsequently became preachers, including Jared Eliot, class Of 1706. After Pierson's death the Collegiate School was moved to Saybrook. However, the Saybrook location proved to be unsatisfactory, and in 1717 after much discussion between the Hartford Trustees and the New Haven Trustees, the Collegiate School was finally and permanently moved to New Haven.

Books and funds for the school were solicited from wealthy businessmen in London. One was an East Indies merchant, Elihu Yale, who furnished a shipload of valuable goods that helped fund and establish the early college. Thus the Collegiate School founded in Killingworth (present day Clinton) became Yale University in New Haven. While Rev. Pierson's parsonage was torn down shortly after his death, beams and fixtures from his original home were incorporated into Stanton House, built in 1789, that sits next to the original site of the school facing the Post Road. Meanwhile Jared Eliot, one of Pierson's most brilliant students, served as pastor of the Clinton Church for 56 years. He was a superb physician, a good friend of Benjamin Franklin, a director of Yale and a major benefactor to Clinton.
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As Killingworth grew and farming became more productive, the settlers found shipping increasingly important for exporting grains and fish. Shortly after the turn of the 18
th century, Robert Carter, a young shipwright from Bristol, England, sailed to America making his way to Killingworth where he opened the first shipyard on the Indian River. By 1730 there were 42 ships engaged in exporting goods, and in 1795 Killingworth was designated as a port of entry for foreign goods as well as for exports. Numerous ship captains sailed from Killingworth and built impressive homes near the port, a heritage which we can enjoy today.

In 1730 Killingworth separated into two church parishes with the northern part about 2/3rds of the whole. One hundred years later (1838) this dividing line was formalized with the southern portion being named Clinton after Dewitt Clinton, the popular governor of New York. While Killingworth retained the greater portion of the land area, Clinton held the stores, the harbor and shipyards, and the heritage of the Colonial homes described in this leaflet.

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The original Morgan School building stood proudly on Clinton's Main Street, its front door just steps away from the statues of Charles Morgan and Abraham Pierson.  The statues remain today in their original location near the Abraham Pierson School.  Charles Morgan wanted to do something for the town he cared for so deeply and after much consideration decided to have a school built hoping to furnish every child of Clinton the opportunity of acquiring an education that would prepare them for further education, to be successful in life and to help make them useful and intelligent citizens.

Charles Morgan was a Clinton native, who made his fortune with a steamship business, railroads and Morgan Iron Works, and was considered one of the eminent millionaires of New York City during his lifetime. In 1869 and 1870 he purchased land on Main Street in Clinton as the site for his school, paid for the construction of the building and established an endowment to help with the care of the buildings and the support of the school. 

The Morgan School was officially dedicated on December 7, 1871 and opened for students April 8, 1872. It very rapidly became known internationally for its excellence.  This superb education and the privileges and advantages of The Morgan School was provided to Clinton students as well as to residents of neighboring towns and beyond. Students from Clinton were not required to pay tuition, others were charged $4.00 per term for the lower grades and $8.00 per term for the high school level.  Board could be obtained from good families in town for $4.00 to $6.00 per week.

In 1872-1873 there were a total of 216 students who were not only from Clinton but from Madison, Westbrook, Middletown, Saybrook, Deep River, East River, Brooklyn NY, South Glastonbury, and Richland, Michigan.  This information was provided by the 1872-1873 Morgan School Catalogue which lists the names of the students in each class, the course of studies, terms of admission, the details of the examinations given and monthly reports given, rules of discipline, and expenses were also included.  Text books, stationary, etc. were furnished at cost and extra charges were incurred for Instrumental Music and Elocution.  Copies of the transcript from the school dedication and the school catalogues beginning with 1872 can be found at the George Flynn Library of the Clinton Historical Society. 

What follows is a description of some of the outstanding homes in Clinton built in the period 1675 to 1850, along with a map to guide the visitor.

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Tours 2 and 3 were first prepared for the Historical Society by Roy Dickinson, Wally Woods and Denise Woods as part of the Town's 350th anniversary celebration in 2013. Learn more about them.