History of Stonington
The First European Settlers
William Chesebrough first came to Stonington in 1647 on his way back to Boston from New London. He returned in 1649 with his wife and four sons to settle on the west bank at the head of Wequetequock Cove. In January of the same year, Thomas Stanton was appointed the official Indian Interpreter for the Colony of Connecticut. Stanton was given the right to erect a trading house on the Pawcatuck River, which he built the next year. Two years later, Walter Palmer, Thomas Miner and Captain George Denison arrived. Many more families seeking homesteads soon followed.
The Early Years of Stonington
In 1658, Massachusetts claimed the town and called it Southertown. Governor John Winthrop, Jr. obtained the Connecticut charter from England in 1662, which set the boundaries of the town. The General Court changed the name from Southertown to Mystic in 1665, then renamed it Stonington in 1666. Originally, Stonington was known for farming in the coastal and Caribbean trade. In time, the town became known for its shipbuilding, sealing and whaling. Militia from Stonington and nearby towns repelled two British attacks, once during the American Revolution, and again in the War of 1812.
The Settlement Thrives
In the 19th century, Stonington prospered as a railroad and steamboat terminus between Boston and New York. Small businesses thrived and the Joslyn Fire Arms Company (later the Atwood Machine Company) and the American Velvet Mill provided jobs ashore, while the fishing fleet continued to thrive at sea. Many Sea Captains and business owners built beautiful homes which line Water Street and Main Street.
Today, Stonington’s heritage is preserved in its tree-lined village streets and historic houses. The Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer House and the Old Lighthouse Museum tell the stories of the people who made Stonington one of the most charming small towns in Connecticut.