Get To Know Connecticut's Colonial-Era Deputy Governors

Jan 16, 2014

Before the position of lieutenant governor existed, the Colony of Connecticut had what was then known as the "deputy governor." According to the Connecticut State Library, this position was established in 1639. There were 18 deputy governors, several of whom would alternate off between governor and deputy governor because of one-year term limits.

On a recent episode of Where We Live, we discussed the role of the lieutenant governor and why anyone would want that position. So this got us thinking about some of Connecticut's first #2's when the state was a colony.

Although you may not know the names of some of Connecticut's more recent lieutenant governors, you might recognize the names of the state's deputy governors, who have last names like Wolcott, Talcott and Trumbull.

We're only sharing a tidbit of information about these deputy governors, but the Connecticut State Library has more detailed biographies on many of them.

Roger Ludlow (1639, '42, '48)

Roger Ludlow and Chief Mahackemo are depicted in The Purchase of Norwalk.
Credit Harry Townsend / Works Progress Administration

Ludlow was the first deputy governor of Connecticut when it became a self-ruled entity in 1639. He drafted the Fundamental Orders, which is the disputed first written constitution ever. You can thank Ludlow for the bottom of your license plate, which includes the official state nickname. Ludlow served three one-year terms as deputy governor for The Colony of Connecticut.

He is also credited with being the founder of Norwalk. 

John Haynes (1640, '44, '46, '50)

This portrait was thought to have been of John Haynes but the State Library says it was more likely to be of his son. Sorry.
Credit Connecticut State Library

Haynes was the second deputy governor of Connecticut, but he was the first governor. Again, due to term limits Haynes quickly discovered the revolving door loophole. He signed onto the 1638 treaty between Native American tribes and the Colony and was opposed to the killing of Pequot women and children, which was considered liberal at the time.

Haynes has statues and streets in his honor today but there was a darker side to him as well. He prosecuted citizens who were accused of witchcraft in the middle of the 17th century.

Edward Hopkins (1643, '45, '47, '49, '51, '53)

Credit Robbi Akbari Kamaruddin/iStock / Thinkstock

Someone tried to, but did not shoot this deputy. Well he was actually governor at the time, but Hopkins did survive an assassination attempt in 1646. One Native American tribe attempted to kill him because Connecticut was protecting one of their rival tribes.

In 1639, Hopkins became the first attorney to have a recorded case in Connecticut's history. Among his other business ventures, he had a monopoly on the fur trade, developed a cotton industry and owned a mill. Connecticut's voters loved this man so much, that they elected him governor in 1654 even though Hopkins was living back in England.

Apparently, nobody loved Hopkins enough to paint a portrait of him.

John Winthrop, Jr. (1658)

John Winthrop, Jr. was the eldest son of his namesake.
Credit Connecticut State Library

Winthrop was only deputy governor for a year before becoming governor from 1659-1676 (the one-year term limits were over by then). But setting aside his political career, Winthrop was a fascinating man. He was "an avid chemist and practical scientist, famous for starting one of the first ironworks in Massachusetts." He also experimented with evaporating sea water to obtain salt. Oh, did I mention that he was also a traveling physician?

Winthrop corresponded with his first wife (and cousin) Martha Fones in code. They married in the early 1630s, and their coded conversations would not be deciphered for nearly three centuries.

John Mason (1660-69)

The statue of John Mason now resides in Windsor.
Credit Johnna Kaplan / TheSizeOfConnecticut.com

Mason is largely responsible for what the History Channel deemed one of the "10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America." More than two decades before becoming Connecticut's deputy governor, Mason led attack on the Pequots known as the Mystic Massacre. According to Stephen Wood from CT Museum Quest, the statue on the right was initially placed at the site of the massacre before being moved to Windsor in 1995.

“It was certainly a contested issue,” said Jason Mancini, another researcher from the Pequot Museum. “The tribe was adamant to not have that statue there.” Not only was the tribe upset that the state had designated the site of the massacre as an appropriate place for the monument, but a plaque that characterized Mason’s actions as “heroic victory” was a slap in the face to local Pequot descendants.

Jonathan Law (1724-41)

A portrait of Governor Jonathan Law.
Credit Connecticut State Library

Longevity is the best word to describe Jonathan Law. He was the longest serving deputy governor, putting in 16 years and 5 months of service. He was then governor from 1741-1750. Law died at the age of 86, nearly a decade longer than U.S. life expectancy today.

He was also a war-time governor who sent his troops to join the combined forces of New England to capture Nova Scotia from the French during King George's War.

Jonathan Trumbull, Sr. (1766-69)

WNPR producer Betsy Kaplan, grew up in Trumbull, which is named after the politician.
Credit Connecticut State Library

Trumbull served as deputy governor until Governor William Pitkin died in 1769. He was one of the few American politicians to be governor before and after the Revolutionary War. Trumbull was a friend and adviser to George Washington, who apparently gave him the nickname "Brother Jonathan."

It is assumed that Trumbull had no idea that in the 1930s, his home state's university would name its Husky mascot after him. He also would not have guessed that Jonathan the Husky would be frequently seen during basketball games on ESPN. Actually, there's a lot that Trumbull probably would not have guessed.