City of Hartford municipal offices are located at 550 Main Street, Hartford CT 06103; phone: 860-522-4888.
Hartford is the State Capital of Connecticut.
A Great Oak tree fell in the city of Hartford on August 21, 1856. The night had been wild and stormy; in the early morning a violent wind twisted and broke the hollow trunk about six feet above the ground, and the old oak that had stood for centuries was overthrown.
All day long people came to look at it as it lay on the ground. Its wood was carefully preserved and souvenirs were made from it: chairs, tables, boxes, picture frames, wooden nutmegs, etc. One section of the trunk is today in the possession of the Connecticut Historical Society. Tradition says that this tree was standing, tall and vigorous, when the first English settlers reached Hartford and began to clear the land; that the Indians came to them then, as they were felling trees, and begged them to spare that one because it told them when to plant their corn. "When its leaves are the size of a mouse's ears," they said, "then is the time to put the seed in the ground."
At sunset, on the day when it fell, the bells of Hartford tolled and flags draped in mourning were displayed on the gnarled and broken trunk, for this tree was the Charter Oak, and its story is bound up with the story of the Connecticut Colony.
About the year 1613, five little ships set sail from Holland on voyages for discovery and trade in the New World. They were the Little Fox, the Nightingale, the Tiger, and two called the Fortune. The Tiger was under the command of a bold sailor named Adriaen Block and he brought her across the ocean to New Netherland, which is now New York. There was then a small Dutch village of a few houses on Manhattan Island.
"While she was anchored off the island, the Tiger took fire and burned. But Block was not discouraged. He set to work at once and built another boat—one of the first built in America. She was 40 feet, 6 inches long by 11 feet, 6 inches wide, and he called her the Restless. In the summer of 1614 he sailed her up the East River and out into Long Island Sound where no white man had ever been before. He named both the East River and the Sound "Hellegat," after a river in Holland, and a narrow passage in the East River is still known as " Hell-Gate."
Block sailed along the low wooded shores of Connecticut, past the mouth of the Housatonic, which he named the "River of the Red Mountain," and resorted it to be "about a bowshot wide," and by and by he came to a much larger stream emptying into the Sound. This was the Connecticut, and Block turned and sailed up the river as far as the point where Hartford now stands. He noticed that the tide did not flow far into this river and that the water near its mouth was fresh, so he called it the "Fresh River."
When the Dutch in Manhattan heard of this new country which he had discovered, they began a fur trade with the Indians who lived there. In June, 1633, they bought from the Indians a strip of land on the river, one Dutch mile in length by one third of a mile in width, and they paid for it with "one piece of duffel [that is, heavy cloth] twenty-seven ells long, six axes, six kettles, eighteen knives, one sword blade, one pair of shears, some toys and a musket." On this land, which is now in the city of Hartford, the first block house in Connecticut was built and was called the "House of Hope." Although two small cannon were mounted upon it the Dutch said the place should be a peaceful trading post only and free to all Indians who came in peace.
In 1634 the English population of New England numbering about 2,000, was confined to the vicinity of Boston and Plymouth. Now that the Indians seemed peaceable, and ready to welcome some of them, some of the people living near Boston though it would be to their advantage to emigrate to the Connecticut River valley, whose fertile meadows would afford better pasture and richer soil to till.
Many were opposed to the planned emigration, thinking it would weaken the colony; and, before the consent of the General Court was obtained, there was much excitement and earnest discussion. The most influential advocate for emigration was a minister of great eloquence and ability, the Reverend Thomas Hooker. While the matter was still under debate, a few restive men banded together, in the fall of 1634, and set out for the Connecticut Valley and settled at Pequag (Wethersfield), where they spent the winter in crude log huts.
In May of 1635, Hooker and his friends renewed their request; and leave to remove was reluctantly granted to them by the General Court. During the summer quite a number of people from Watertown joined their friends who had already settled what is now Wethersfield. Several persons connected with the congregation of the Reverend John Wareham of Dorchester selected for their home a point on the river, not far from Plymouth trading house, and here laid the foundations of the Town of Windsor.
In October a company of about 60 men, women, and children, from the neighborhood of Boston, came through the wilderness to the Connecticut River. The march was tedious, as they brought not only their household goods, but their cattle, horses and swine. They were detained some time in building rafts for crossing the river; and before they could get their log huts erected, they were overtaken by an early winter. Most of those who came in this company settled at Suckiag (Hartford).