William Leete, Colonial Governor of New Haven and Connecticut

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William Leete, Gov

Birthdate: (71)
Birthplace: Dodington, Huntingtonshire, England, (Present UK)
Death: Died in Hartford, New Haven County, Colony of Connecticut, (Present USA)
Place of Burial: New Haven, New Haven County, CT, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of John Leete of Dodington (the elder) brother to John Leete of Islington and Anne Leete (Shute)
Husband of Mary Newman Street Leete; Sarah Rutherford (Newman) and Anne Leete (Payne)
Father of John Leete; William Leete, Jr.; Hon. Andrew Leete; Peregrine Leete; Mary Leete and 5 others
Brother of John Leete of Midlow Grange, Huntingdonshire and Anne Raby

Occupation: Magistrate, Governor of New Haven (1661-1665), Governor of Connecticut (1676-1683), Colonial Governor of New Haven (later Connecticut), Governor
Managed by: Randy Stebbing
Last Updated:

About William Leete, Colonial Governor of New Haven and Connecticut

Wikipedia Biographical Summary:

"...Governor William Leete (about 1612/3 – 16 April 1683) was Governor of the Colony of New Haven from 1661 to 1665 and Governor of the Colony of Connecticut from 1676 to 1683.

He was born about 1612 or 1613 at Dodington, Huntingdonshire, England, the son of John Leete and his wife Anna Shute, daughter of John Shute, a justice of the King's Court.

He was educated as a lawyer, and served as a clerk in Bishop's Court at Cambridge, England. His distaste for the oppression of the Puritans by that court was a key factor in his emigration to Connecticut. He was town clerk of Guilford, Connecticut from 1639 to 1662, and Justice of the Peace there in 1642. He served as town magistrate at Guilford from 1651 to 1658, and as deputy from Guilford to the New Haven Colony General Court from 1643 to 1649. He was Commissioner of New Haven Colony (1655-1658), Deputy Governor (1658-1661) and Governor of the New Haven Colony from 1661 to 1664. After the consolidation of New Haven Colony and the Colony of Connecticut, he became Governor of the Colony of Connecticut from 1676 to 1683. He is the only man to serve as governor of both New Haven and Connecticut.

He is remembered for sheltering the Regicides William Goffe and Edward Whalley in Guilford.


He married three times. His first wife, and mother of all ten of his known children, was Anna Payne, daughter of Reverend John Payne of Sothoe. They married on 1 August 1636; she died on 1 September 1668. His second wife, whom he married 7 April 1670, was Sarah, widow of Henry Rutherford. She died 10 February 1673/4. His third wife was Mary, widow successively of Francis Newman and Reverend Nicholas Street.


John Leete

Andrew Leete

William Leete

Abigail Leete Woodbridge

Caleb Leete

Gratiana Leete

Peregrine Leete

Joshua Leete

Anna Leete Trowbridge

Gov. Leete died at Hartford, Connecticut in 1683 and was interred at the Ancient Burying Ground there. His third wife survived him but a short time, dying on 13 December 1683."

SOURCE: Wikipedia contributors, William Leete, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 June 2011, 10:40 UTC, <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=William_Leete&oldid=437026897> [accessed 12 July 2011]

Biographical Summary:

William Leete

  • Governor of the Colony of New Haven, 1661-1665
  • Governor of the Colony of Connecticut, 1676-1683
  • Born: ca. 1613, Dodington, Huntingdonshire, England
  • College: Possibly studied law at Cambridge University
  • Political Party: None
  • Offices: Clerk in Bishop's Court at Cambridge, England
  • Justice of the Peace, Guilford, Connecticut, 1642
  • Guilford Town Clerk, 1639-1662
  • Magistrate, Guilford, 1651-1658
  • Deputy, New Haven Colony General Court, 1643-1649
  • Commissioner, New Haven Colony, 1655-1658
  • Deputy Governor, New Haven Colony, 1658-1661
  • Governor, New Haven Colony, 1661-1665
  • Governor, Colony of Connecticut, 1676-1683
  • Died: April 16, 1683, Hartford, Connecticut

William Leete was born about 1613 in Dodington, Huntingdonshire, England, the son of John Leete and Anne Shute, daughter of Robert Shute, a judge of the king's court. His grandfather's legal experience may have influenced William to go into the practice of law. He became registrar for the Bishop of Ely's Court at Cambridge, England, which was investigating the activities of the Puritans, and became converted to Puritan beliefs. In May 1639, he, with his wife, Ann, and their young child, left England for Quinnipiac (New Haven) with the Rev. Henry Whitfield.

Leete was an original planter (settler) of Guilford, being one of the 25 who signed the covenant of the Whitfield Company on June 1, 1639 and among those who purchased Indian lands in 1639 and 1641. On June 19, 1643 he became one of the seven founders of the First Congregational Church of Guilford. In that year he also served as a representative from Guilford to a meeting in New Haven that led to the formation of the New Haven Colony.

William Leete's civic service continued through the following years. He served as Guilford Town Clerk for 22 years and was Magistrate of Guilford from 1651 to 1658. He was one of the Deputies from Guilford to the General Court of the New Haven Colony for every session between 1643 and 1649, and was Deputy Governor of the New Haven Colony from 1658 to 1661. While Leete was serving as Deputy Governor and Chief Magistrate of the New Haven Colony, royal agents sought his assistance in capturing Edward Whalley and William Goffe, two former English judges known as "regicides", wanted by King Charles II for signing the death warrant of his father, Charles I. Leete cooperated enough to avoid charges of obstructing justice but not enough to insure the capture of the fugitives.

William Leete became acting Governor of the New Haven Colony when Governor Francis Newman died on November 18, 1660. He was officially elected Governor of the New Haven Colony in May of 1661. In 1662, John Winthrop gained a charter from the Crown for the Connecticut Colony granting it lands from the Pawcatuck River westward to the "South Sea" (i.e., Pacific Ocean). The charter also merged the New Haven Colony with the Connecticut Colony. Neither colony had legal status). Leete initially protested to the United Colony commissioners in Boston. Many residents of the New Haven Colony were so upset by the union that they left for a new settlement at Newark, New Jersey. Lands were laid out for Leete there, but by the summer of 1663 he had begun to work towards the union of the New Haven and Connecticut Colonies. He ultimately chose to remain in Connecticut.

In October 1664, prior to the absorption of the New Haven Colony by the Connecticut Colony, William Leete received a provisional appointment as an Assistant to the Connecticut General Court. His efforts to insure that unification was done "in a righteous & amicable way" and willingness to serve in the unified colony's government helped dispel the concerns of many unhappy residents of the New Haven Colony. As a reward for his efforts in the unification, Leete was granted 300 acres "for a farme" by the Connecticut General Court in 1667.

Leete was reelected Assistant yearly until he was elected Deputy Governor of the Connecticut Colony in May 1669. He assumed some of the duties of Governor when Governor John Winthrop went to Boston to attend meetings of the New England colonies and more of the duties later as Winthrop's health began to fail. At Winthrop's death in 1676, Leete became Governor of the Colony and was requested by the General Assembly to move to Hartford "to attend the occasions of the country as governor." There he faced issues related to the recent wars with Native Americans, adjustments to the border with Rhode Island, and the planning of countermeasures against New York Governor Edmond Andros' efforts to encroach on Connecticut's sovereignty.

William Leete married three times. While still in England, he married Ann Payne, daughter of Rev. John Payne of Southhoe on August 1, 1636. She bore him ten children and died on September 1, 1668. He then married Sarah, the widow of Henry Rutherford, on April 7, 1670. She died on February 10, 1673/4. His third wife was Mary, widow of Francis Newman (a governor of the New Haven Colony) and of Rev. Nicholas Street. She survived Governor Leete by a few months, dying on December 13, 1683. There were no children by the last two marriages.

Following his election as Governor of the Connecticut Colony, William Leete moved from Guilford to Hartford. He is buried in Hartford's Ancient Burial Ground. Leete's Island in Branford/Guilford is named for him.


Garrity, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds. American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, s.v. "Leete, William" [CSL call number GIS Ref CT 213 .A68 1999].

Leete, Edward L. The Descendants of William Leete. Second edition. New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, Printers, 1934 [CSL call number CS 71 .L486 1934].

Leete, Edward L., compiler. The Family of William Leete. New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse, & Taylor, Printers, 1884 [CSL call number CS 71 .L486 1884].

Leete, Joseph. The Family of Leete. London: Blades, East & Blades, Printers, 1906 [CSL call number CS 439 .L4 1906].

National Cyclopedia of American Biography. Vol. X. New York: James T. White & Company, 1900, s.v. "Leete, William" p. 322 [CSL call number E 176 .N27].

Norton, Frederick Calvin. The Governors of Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Magazine Co., 1905 [CSL call number HistRef F 93 .N 88 1905].

Raimo, John W. Biographical Dictionary of American Colonial and Revolutionary Governors 1607-1789. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1980 [CSL call number E 187.5 .R34].

Steiner, Bernard Christian. Governor William Leete and the Absorption of New Haven Colony by Connecticut. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1891 [CSL call number E 172 .A60 1891].

Portrait: There is no known portrait of William Leete.

SOURCE:History and Genealogy Unit, Connecticut State Library; William Leete; September 1999; Last Revised: 09/28/2010; Copyright © 2002 - 2010, Connecticut State Library. All rights reserved. Retrieved from http://www.cslib.org/gov/leetew.htm

Additional Information:


  • Frederick Calvin Norton,The Governors of Connecticut, Connecticut Magazine Co., 1905.


Graduate of Cambridge University.

Note: "He was bred in the law at Cambridge University, and served for a considerable time as clerk in the Bishop of Ely's Court, at Cambridge. Observing the oppressions and cruelties then practiced on the conscientious and virtuous Puritans, he was led to examine more thoroughly their doctrines and practices, and eventually to become a Puritan himself." [Desc. of Wm. Leete]


10 JUL 1639 New Haven, CT

Note: "He gave up his office and came to America in the company of the Rev. Henry Whitfield, and was one of the signers of the Plantation Covenant on shipboard June 1, 1639. They sailed from England May 20, on the ship "St. John," Captain Russell commanding, and arrived in New Haven between July 10th and 15th." [Desc. of Wm. Leete]


Note: "When the Company decided upon Guilford, Connecticu as a place of settlement, he was one of the six selected to purchase the land from the native Indians in trust for the plantation until their organization. When the lands in the village were surveyed and laid out for individual ownership, he selected for his residence a lot opposite that of William Chittenden, on the corner of what are now Broad and River Streets, a site overlooking the Menunketuck river as it winds its way through meadows reclaimed from the sea, as green then as now, or, when it meets a full tide expanding into a broad lake. His outlaying lands (about 250 acres) were located chiefly some three miles away in a southwesterly quarter of the town, and the place was named from him Leete's Island. That which goes by this name is not strictly an Island, but a part of these lands, at first called Horse Island, is surrounded with salt meadows, and of course was once an island. This section of Guilford still retains the name of Leete's Island and the lands have been owned and occupied by Leetes almost exclusively down to the present generation." [Desc. of Wm. Leete]


"His tombstone was discovered about 1830 in the ancient burial ground in the rear of the First Church of Hartford where it had long been hidden by an accumulation of earth. Some years later his descendants erected a plain granite monument to his memory." [Desc. of Wm. Leete]

1st governor of CT Colony 1676-1683, governor of the Colony of New Haven 1661-1665

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William Leete, Colonial Governor of New Haven and Connecticut's Timeline

Dodington, Huntingtonshire, England, (Present UK)
November 18, 1638
Age 26
Huntingdonshire, England
Age 27
Guilford, New Haven Colony
Age 30
Guilford, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
March 24, 1643
Age 31
Guilford, New Haven Colony, (Present Connecticut), (Present USA)
Age 31
Guilford, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
August 24, 1651
Age 39
Guilford, New Haven, Connecticut, USA