Oliver Wolcott


Oliver Wolcott (Windsor, Hartford County, Connecticut, United States; November 20, 1726-Farmington, Hartford County, Connecticut, United States; December 1, 1797) was an American politician, signer of the Declaration of Independence of the United States and Articles of Confederation as representative of Connecticut and 19th Governor of Connecticut.


Oliver Wolcott was the son of Sarah Drake (1686-1747) of Windsor, Connecticut and Roger Wolcott (1679-1767), colonial and royal governor of Connecticut from 1750 to 1754.

His parents were married on December 3, 1702 in Windsor, Hartford, and together they had 14 children: Roger Wolcott (1704-1759), Elizabeth Wolcott (1706-1775), Samuel Wolcott (1710-1717), Sarah Wolcott (1712-1712), Alexander Wolcott (1712-1795), Sarah Wolcott (1715-1735), Hepzibah Wolcott (1717-1780), Josiah Wolcott (1718-1802), Erastus Wolcott (1721-1722), Epaphras Wolcott (1721-1733), Erastus Wolcott (1722-1793), Ursula Wolcott (1724-1788), Oliver Wolcott (1726-1797) and Marian Wolcott (1730-1798).

One of the sons, Roger Wolcott, was Windsor's representative in the General Assembly and Major in the Connecticut Troops. Superior Court Judge and one of the State Law Reviewers.

Elizabeth Wolcott, married Captain Roger Newberry (1706-1741), who died of yellow fever on a ship that was withdrawing to Jamaica during an English expedition against the Spanish West Indies, and was buried at sea.

Another of them, Alexander Wolcott, accompanied his father as a surgeon on the expedition against Louisburg and later settled in Windsor as a practicing physician, justice of the peace, and municipal representative in the General Assembly.

Erastus Wolcott, was an American politician and commander of the Connecticut state militia during the American War of Independence. He served in the Connecticut General Assembly for more than twenty years and was a Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court from 1789 to 1792.

Ursula Wolcott married Matthew Griswold (1714-1799) and was the 17th Governor of Connecticut from 1784 to 1786. He also served as lieutenant governor and was president of the Superior Court of Justice during the American Revolution (1769-1784).

Oliver Wolcott was the great-grandson of Henry Wolcott (1578-1655), who emigrated to New England during the Great Puritan Migration (1620-1640) and was an English gentleman of considerable fortune.

During the progress of the Independents in England, he embraced the principles of that religion and, therefore, becoming a problem for the British government, found it expedient to emigrate to America, and in 1630 they settled for a time in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Oliver Wolcott married on January 16, 1755 in Guilford, New Haven, Connecticut, at the age of 28, to Laura Collins (1732-1798) and together they had 5 children: Oliver Wolcott (1757-1757), Oliver Wolcott (1760-1833), Laura Wolcott (1761-1814), Mary Ann Wolcott (1765-1805) and Frederick Wolcott (1767-1837).

One of the sons, Frederick Wolcott, was a probate judge for Litchfield County, Connecticut, in 1796, and a member of the honorable Wolcott family. In turn, one of his grandchildren, Schuyler Brinckerhoff Jackson (1849-1914) married Angela Forbes (1863-1960), granddaughter of Susannah Foster (1784-1865) and Captain Cleaveland Alexander Forbes (1780-1857), who during the war of 1812 he sailed as a privateer and from 1833 to 1836 he was in command of the Francis Depau between New York and Havre, France.

Another son, Oliver Wolcott, was the second United States Secretary of the Treasury, judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Second Circuit, and the 24th Governor of Connecticut.

Laura Wolcott married William Moseley (1755-1824), an attorney in Hartford, Connecticut and a member of the Connecticut General Assembly. And Mary Ann Wolcott, married Chauncey Goodrich (1759-1815), an American lawyer and politician from Connecticut who represented that state in the United States Congress as a senator and representative.

It should be noted that Oliver's wife, Laura Collins, was the daughter of Lois Cornwall (1702-1768) of Middletown and Captain Daniel Collins (1701-1751) of Guilford, New Haven, Connecticut, United States.


Oliver Wolcott was born in Windsor, Connecticut, the youngest of 14 children to Colonial Governor Roger Wolcott and Sarah Drake.

He attended Yale University and graduated in 1747 as the best scholar of his class, and upon graduation, the Governor of New York, George Clinton, awarded Wolcott a captain's commission to form a company of militias to fight in the War from France and India.

Captain Wolcott served on the northern border defending the Canadian border against the French until the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. At the end of the war, he moved to the newly established Goshen in northwestern Connecticut to practice and study medicine with his brother Alexander Wolcott (1712-1795).

Then he moved to Litchfield and became a merchant; he was appointed Sheriff of the newly created Litchfield County, Connecticut, and served from 1751 to 1771.

Wolcott had two wartime careers as one of Connecticut's top delegates to the Continental Congress and also as a militia officer. He participated in the American War of Independence as a brigadier general and later as a major general in the Connecticut militia. As a representative in the Continental Congress, he was a staunch defender of independence.

At the beginning of the escalating struggle with Great Britain, Wolcott made it clear that the colonists would not give up their rights and privileges.

In February 1776 he declared: "Our difference with Great Britain has become very great. What matters will come to light, I cannot say, but perhaps in total dissent from Great Britain."

Initial support for independence led him to play important roles during the war, both as a military leader and as a member of the Continental Congress.

Wolcott saw extensive militia service during the American Revolution. On August 11, 1776, Connecticut officials ordered him to march with the Seventeen Militia Regiment to New York and join George Washington's army. Upon reaching the Washington camp, Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull appointed Brigadier General Wolcott to command all of the state's militia regiments in New York. He led 300 to 400 volunteers from his brigade to help General Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold defeat Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga.

In May 1779, Wolcott was promoted to major general in command of the entire Connecticut militia. That summer, he saw a fight to protect the coast from Tryon's raids.

The Continental Congress appointed him Commissioner for Indian Affairs and he was elected to Congress in 1775. He became seriously ill in 1776 and did not sign the Declaration of Independence until some time later.

At the beginning of the Revolution, Congress appointed Wolcott commissioner for Indian affairs to persuade the northern Indian nations to remain neutral.

His qualifications for that role come from his early experience on the Northern Front of the French and Indian War. He was asked, along with Richard Butler and Arthur Lee, to negotiate a peace treaty with the Six Nations at Fort Schuyler.

Beyond his postwar diplomatic role, Wolcott aspired to higher office. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut as a Federalist in 1786 and served in that position for ten years. He was re-elected to the position, holding office until his death at the age of seventy-one.


Oliver Wolcott died on December 1, 1797, in Farmington, Hartford County, Connecticut, United States. He was buried in East Cemetery, in Litchfield, Connecticut.


Historian Ellsworth Grant recalls Wolcott's revolutionary war efforts by stating that "It's doubtful that any other official in Connecticut during this period carried so many public duties on his shoulders."

Oliver Wolcott Jr., his son, served as Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents George Washington and John Adams and as Governor of Connecticut. The town of Wolcott, Connecticut, is named after him.

His home in Litchfield was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971. In Torrington, Connecticut, there is a school named after him, The Oliver Wolcott Technical High School.

In 1798, Fort Washington on Goat Island in Newport, Rhode Island was renamed Fort Wolcott. Fort Wolcott was an active fortification until 1836. It later became the site of the United States Naval Torpedo Station.

His descendants include Congregational Minister Samuel Wolcott, D.D, Edward O. Wolcott, United States Senator from Denver, and Anna Wolcott Vaile, who established the Wolcott School for Girls in Denver.


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  3. Bruce Stark, "Signers of the Declaration of Independence, State Governors"," American National Biography Online, 1.
  4. Stark, "Signers of the Declaration of Independence, State Governors," American National Biography Online, 1.
  5. Stark, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, State Governors, American National Biography Online, 1.
  6. Grant, "From Governor to Governor in Three Generations," 68.
  7. Edmund C. Burnett, ed., "Letters of Members of the Continental Congress," vols. 1-3, 5-7 (8 vols., 1921-1936), vol. 1, 163.
  8. Grant, "From Governor to Governor in Three Generations," 68-69.
  9. Stark, "Signers of the Delectation of Independence," 1.
  10. Jump up to:Grant, "From Governor to Governor in Three Generations," 69.
  11. Wolcott Papers, vol.1, (Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Connecticut), 240.
  12. "Oliver Wolcott". National Governors Association. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  13. "Oliver Wolcott". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  14. "Wolcott, Oliver (1726-1797), Connecticut governor and revolutionary patriot | American National Biography". American National Biography. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.0101003. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  15. The Connecticut Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly. Connecticut Magazine Company. 1903. p. 335.
  16. "The Wolcott Family". The National Magazine: (Cleveland) a Monthly Journal of American History. Magazine of Western History Publishing Company. 1889. pp. 627-629.
  17. James Bretz (2010). Denver's Early Architecture. Arcadia Publishing. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-7385-8046-3.


  • Jensen, Merrill (1978). The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution: Volume III Ratification of the Constitution by the States Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia and Connecticut. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
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