Gurdon Saltonstall, Colonial Governor of Connecticut

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Gurdon Saltonstall, Sr.,

Birthdate: (58)
Birthplace: Haverhill, Massachusetts
Death: September 20, 1724 (58)
New London, New London County, Connecticut Colony
Place of Burial: New London, New London County, Connecticut, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Col. Nathaniel Saltonstall, Sr. and Elizabeth Saltonstall
Husband of Jerusha Saltonstall; Elizabeth Saltonstall and Mary Clarke
Father of Elizabeth Christophers; Mary Miller; Sarah Davis; Jerusha Saltonstall; Roswell Saltonstall and 4 others
Brother of Elizabeth Denison and Col. Richard Saltonstall

Occupation: Colonial Governor of Connecticut, Gov.
Managed by: Max Kushner Saltonstall
Last Updated:

About Gurdon Saltonstall, Colonial Governor of Connecticut

Gurdon Saltonstall was governor of the Colony of Connecticut from 1708 to 1724. Born into a distinguished family, Saltonstall became an accomplished and eminent Connecticut pastor before being appointed the colony's governor.

Saltonstall was the son of Nathaniel and Elizabeth (Ward) Saltonstall, a prominent north Massachusetts family active in Massachusetts politics since the 1630s. He received his bachelor's degree in 1684 from Harvard Divinity School, where he studied theology, and was awarded his masters degree in 1687. It was at this time that Saltonstall first preached at First Christ Church in New London where he impressed congregants enough to warrant his appointment as the town's sole pastor. Saltonstall soon grew close to the Connecticut's governor, Fitz-John Winthrop and became not simply an adviser in spiritual matters, but in civil ones as well. When Governor Winthrop's health failed him, Saltonstall eventually began assuming executive responsibilities in the Governor's absence. He was married to Mary Whittinghame (d. 1730), a granddaughter of Mayor of New York John Lawrence (1618-1699).

Upon Governor Winthrop's death in 1707, Saltonstall was appointed governor of the Colony of Connecticut by a special session of the legislature, a decision that sparked some outcry because of Saltonstall's status as clergy. Saltonstall himself was hesitant to leave his Church and take on the position of Governor, which prompted the state Assembly to aid his First Church of Christ in finding a replacement pastor. His selection approved by voters in May of that year, however, Saltonstall continued to be re-elected annually until his death. Governor was just one of the influential positions held by Saltonstall, as he was appointed commander of the Connecticut militia and Chief Justice of its Superior Court.

Saltonstall believed strongly in the power of traditional authority, a trademark of his time as clergyman and governor. He was wholly intolerant of divergent Christian sects, and favored the enjoining of Church and government into what he imagined would be a more effective system, an idea enumerated in the Saybrook Platform, a proposal mainly ascribed to him. The governor also found opposition to his government, or dispute within it to be contemptible, and frequently threatened to resign if such discord was not discontinued.

Saltonstall's support of established authority is also seen in his decision-making throughout Queen Anne's War, the second French and Indian War over control of North America. The governor was an loyal supporter of the British cause, seeking to reduce colony opposition to the war, and aided Queen Anne by increasing the recruitment and equipment of Connecticut militiamen sent to battle French forces. The Connecticut soldiers would eventually total 4,000 men, a sizable portion of the colony's 17,000 people. Because of the war's heavy costs, Connecticut's fiscal situation deteriorated, but Saltonstall's enthusiastic support of the Crown won the state much improved relations with Great Britain, recently renamed the United Kingdom.

The governor worked closely with Massachusetts Bay Colony governor, Joseph Dudley, in peacefully resolving the problem of the "Equivalent Lands," just one of many border disputes demanding his attention.

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     Education: Entered Harvard College at 14, graduated 1684. Harvard Divinity School, graduated 1687; Ordained as pastor of First Church of Christ, New London, Nov. 19, 1691.
     Occupations: Governor, Colony of Connecticut, 1708-1724; agent, secretary and political manager to Governor Fitz-John Winthrop, 1698-1707; Pastor, First Church of Christ, New London, 1691-1708.
 Buried: Ancient Cemetery, New London, CT.
   * Family ties: Great grandson of Sir Richard Saltonstall, Lord Mayor of London, 1597; grandson of Sir Richard Saltonstall, first associate of Gov. John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and one of its founders; one of the patentees of Connecticut. His father, Nathaniel, was a Magistrate of Haverhill, Massachusetts, a Colonel in the military and one of judges for the Salem witchcraft trials in 1692 (opposed to the proceedings at the trial he denounced the violence of his colleagues and vacated his seat on the bench). Son-in-law of James Richards, richest man in Hartford at the time of his death, 1680 and one of the Commissioners of the United Colonies, 1672-1675.:
   * Connecticut’s first Chief Justice
   * Was first clergyman ever to hold the office of Governor in the Colony of Connecticut
   * In an essay of commemoration upon the death of the Honorable Gurdon Saltonstall, Cotton Mather wrote, in part, The Colony of Connecticut was Exalted, Yea, all New England was brightness, while we enjoy’d our Saltonstall….We will not call him a Star, but even a Constellation…
   * Writing of the Saltonstall family a correspondent for the New York Tribune said of Governor Saltonstall that he was...unquestionably one of the first men in New England—standing at the head of the literati, distinguished for great reasoning powers and captivating eloquence, a profound knowledge of men and things, and extraordinary dexterity and wisdom in the despatch (sic) of business. His moral qualities were of the most pure and exalted kind.
   * Owned first printing press in Connecticut
   * Largely responsible for removal of Yale College from New London to New Haven
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Gurdon Saltonstall, Colonial Governor of Connecticut's Timeline

1666
March 27, 1666
Haverhill, Massachusetts
1690
May 11, 1690
Age 24
New London, New London, CT
1692
1692
Age 25
New London, New London, CT
1694
April 8, 1694
Age 28
New London, New London County, Connecticut Colony, Colonial America
1695
July 5, 1695
Age 29
New London, New London, CT
1701
1701
Age 34
New London, New London, CT
1704
June 19, 1704
Age 38
New London, New London County, Connecticut
1707
July 1, 1707
Age 41
New London, New London County, Connecticut, United States