Did Trumbull Come from 'Turnebull'?

The quixotic history of the birth and naming of Trumbull.

This is the first part of a two-part series on the history of the incorporation of Trumbull.

While we know that Trumbull was once part of the large town of Stratford, and that bustling village on Long Island sound was founded in 1639, taking its name from Stratford-on-Avon, England.

Or alternatively, the name Straetforda which appears in 1067 and was the crossing in London, of the old Roman road linking Londinium to Brittania's Roman capital, Colchester.

The native name "Cupheag" being replaced by its European preference, very little of the story on how Trumbull became a separate entity has been told.

We know that Trumbull was incorporated from Stratford, and it was known at the time of its 'secession' as North Stratford. It was a place which combined Unity and Long Hill including the area established as Nichols — which was itself rich in farmland, created for that purpose and supplying the thriving commerce and residents of its parent community.

In about 1660, the town council of Stratford voted to allow all town inhabitants within its boundaries to have "the liberty of taking up a whole division of land anywhere they could find fit planting ground as long as it was not within two miles of the meeting house."

It required prior approval in order for these settlers to make any of the rural parts of the village their domicile and a committee was formed comprised of Philip Grove, Capt. William Curtiss and Joseph Judson, who were to become among the first farming inhabitants of Nichols.

Stratford produced numerous important Americans during pre- and post-Revolutionary War times. For instance, Connecticut's delegation to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia included William Samuel Johnson, of Stratford, a political independent and eminent jurist, who gave a speech on the need to protect small states power within the federal government.

This position advanced the idea of the creation of a federal Senate, his wife was Anne Beach from the North Stratford branch of that family. Johnson would go on to serve as one of the first two U.S. senators from Connecticut. Sen. Johnson, having lived in London following the French & Indian War, developed the belief that the Royal government of England mistreated the colonies largely the result of ignorance rather than any malicious intent. 

Over 130 years, there was no need for separation between the various precincts of the town, North Stratford's marriage to the town of Stratford being literally written in stone. Every person born in Trumbull or who died while living here had the name Stratford written alongside their name.

During the Revolutionary War, Franch troops were stationed in the rural village here. The views afforded of New York, "on top of the hill," were of great strategic importance, as the City was a British settlement. The sentries on duty could watch the British sloops and first-rate battle ships with their 70 guns alongside their hull.

These British men-of-war could be easily viewed from Trumbull as their Royal British Navy ensignia were spotted sailing towards the Port of New York.  On a clear day, you still can see the beautiful vista of the northern shore of Long Island, at the top of Daniels Farm Road near the High School. Prior to a mature tree line and before the advent of smog, it must have been a pleasant place in which to picnic and see the ocean with Alexander Hamilton's home state in the distance.  

Trumbull's independence arrived in October of 1797 following an act of the State Legislature. Trumbull was named and achieved its own government in the year after the Old State House opened in 1796, which is the oldest standing statehouse in the nation.

Oliver Wolcott was the governor at the time and was originally one of the signers of the U.S Declaration of Independence. In Trumbull's famous painting of the scene, he is shown in the far back corner (perhaps the best view of the entire assembly) prominently being spoken to by fellow Lebanon resident William Williams. Sitting in front of Wolcott are delegates from New Jersey and Samuel Huntington from Connecticut. 

At the time the resolution for our local independence was brought before the governing body of the State, Jonathan Trumbull was the lieutenant governor, perhaps showing the office even then was not merely ceremonial.

The entire Trumbull family was influential in the politics of Connecticut and in Washington's Continental Army. Friends of founders, politicians in their own right, one Trumbull was even arrested in the England of George III on charges of sedition and for being a spy, while studying in Bloomsbury, London.

Remember, it was the painter Trumbull whose paintings adorn the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, immortalizing the exploits of Washington on horseback as well as other dramatic scenes. Upon Wolcott's death a few months after "Trumbull" the town broke from Stratford, Jonathan Trumbull Jr., a fellow Federalist would preside as the state's chief executive becoming governor on the death of the patriot.

Of course the town was not the only thing named after the colonial governor. A college of Yale, named Trumbull College, still features the historic Trumbull family crest of three bulls upon it.

Legend being that the family patriarch William once saved King Robert the Bruce from a bull charging at him. The Scottish King dubbed him William Turnebull, and granted to him large tracts of land on England's border named Philipaugh, not far from where my ancestral maternal family was from.

So there are many good reasons for the naming of our town, but why the separation from Stratford, why did it occur at that exact moment in history?

To be continued...

Aaron Leo November 27, 2011 at 02:03 AM
Thanks for reading Patch! The sequel will be posting soon.
Tom Pieragostini November 28, 2011 at 04:30 PM
The reason given to the CT legislature when the town requested its own town rights, was the burden to attend town meetings and elections held at the Stratford meeting house; an overnight journey. Since a person, or a horse pulling a carriage or wagon, can travel at about 4 m.p.h.. The trip to attend town meetings in Stratford village from the northern most parts of Trumbull, a distance of 12 miles, would take 3 hours.
louis November 28, 2011 at 08:35 PM
Very true....but let's not jump the gun too much, I think we will find part II a compelling read. It was a standard excuse, but the politics of it was more interesting than that and regarding what became Trumbull we must remember that these folks were only given the chance to establish farms in Nichols because they were far from town center in Stratford. The original resolution was that they had to move more than 2 miles away....now they were coming to the legislature asking for their own town government because they lived too far from town hall.
louis November 28, 2011 at 10:09 PM
and of course in all likelihood there would have been no way that our town would receive its present name without the fact that at that very moment of passage, the lieutenant governor was J. Trumbull. They named Northstratford, Trumbull because it didn't have Stratford in its name any longer and that was the soon to be governors name.
Tom Pieragostini November 29, 2011 at 02:52 PM
Another interesting story on who area towns were named after is the town of Monroe. It was named after President James Monroe in 1823. The Monroe town seal is in the form of a circle with the words "Town of Monroe Connecticut" written in the outer rim of the seal. Inside this outer circle is a profile of a bust of James Monroe, who was the fifth President of the United States, serving from 1817-1825.


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