HOW THE TOWN OF BOLTON GOT ITS NAME
by Hans DePold, Town Historian
Bolton was recently visited by officials of the town of Bolton, England. In preparation for their visit, I reviewed the state's Colonial records of the decision to create and name the town of Bolton. The members of the Connecticut General Assembly and the settlers of Bolton, Conn., were of Puritan stock—modest and unassuming men and women of few words. The Colonial records of the General Assembly are handwritten in perfect penmanship. They are short and to-the-point summaries without reference to who debated or how final decisions were made.
The unsettled areas of Colonial Connecticut were primeval forests with massive trees said to be about 200 feet tall. It took years to clear a farm, but there was plenty of lumber to build houses and barns, or to sell. Europeans traditionally cleared land with fire and almost always burned fields in the fall to kill weeds and parasites. The Connecticut forests were filled with game animals, including numerous turkeys that were so tame they seemed to pose so the hunter could get a good shot. That was recorded to be true as late as 1781.
You had to be male, a landowner, and belong to the Congregational church to vote in New England during Colonial times. Most settlers spent their time working and surviving; only the fairly wealthy had time to legislate. So the legislature seldom met for more than one or two weeks each year. Gradually the Connecticut General Assembly wrote marriage laws, ministers' laws, birth and death record standards, and school laws.
Bolton in Colonial times was a huge piece of land, more the size of a county than a town. Only 40 settlers were part of the first grant. There is no evidence that any of the original settlers chose the name of Bolton. Samuel Bartlett (born in Northampton, Mass.) is listed as one of the first settlers. He is the father of the famous Colonial stone cutter Gershom Bartlett, who was born in Bolton in 1723. We know that stone quarrying became the most profitable business, but farming and the lumber industry were other profitable early Bolton businesses. This enormous piece of land also had tremendous water power needed for the Industrial Revolution, and Bolton quarry stone was used to build historic buildings as far away as Philadelphia. Since 2010, when I wrote that Gershom Bartlett was born and did his work in Bolton, I have had at least three calls from stone masons seeking to contact quarry owners to get small amounts of Bolton stone to restore damaged historic buildings. There were numerous quarry pits in Bolton to the east of what is now I-84, and by 1810 "Quarryville" had more residents than all of the rest of Bolton.
It is amazing to think that Bolton Center, with its first Minister's Farm and house, its beautiful fields and sky that the famous theologian Rev. Jonathan Edwards credited as reconciling him to God, still exists. Jonathan Edwards, when he accepted the post as Bolton's first minister, wrote in Volume I of Bolton's Town Records until he returned to Yale to teach.
The Origin of the Town of Bolton:
In May 1718 and October 1719, the General Assembly passed acts "for regulating and settling a plantation on the mountain east of Hartford," which was "a tract of land westward of Coventry and Tolland." In October 1720 it was given town privileges and named Bolton.
In May 1731, a patent was granted to the town which was recorded in "Connecticut Records for Pattents [sic] Deeds and Surveys of Land No. 4," pages 550–552. I recently read the copy kept in the Bolton town vault. It is provided below with the original 1700s spelling.
"To ALL Christian People to whom these presents shall come the Governor and Company of the English Colony of Connecticutt in New England in America sends Greeting–
"Whereas by Order of the General Assembly of the Colony of Connecticutt that Tract of Land Lying in the County of Hartford and Bounded West on the Town of Hartford and on the Town of Windsor North on the Town of Windsor East on the Town of Coventry and Tolland and South on the Town of Hebron has been granted to Certain Persons Proprietors of said Land which appear upon Record and Whereas the General Assembly of the said Colony of Connecticutt att theire Sessions at Hartford on the 13th Day of May Anno Domini 1731 upon the Application of the said Grantees and Proprietors of said Lands for a Pattent of the same
Resolved that the said Proprietors Should have a Pattent under the Seal of the Corporation Signed by his Honour the Governor and Secretary for the Granting Passing over and Confirming the said Tract of Land to them theire Heirs and Assignes forever
Know Ye that We the said Governor & Company by Vertue of the Power and Authority Granted to us by our Late Soveraign Lord King Charles the second of Blessed Memory in and by his Majestys Letters Pattents under the Great Seal of England bearing Date the Three and Twentyth Day of April in the fourteenth, year of his Reign and In Pursuance thereof for Divers Good causes and Considerations us here unto Moving Have Given Granted and Confirmed and do by these Presents for ourselves and our Successours fully freely and Absolutely Give Grant Convey Enfeoffe and Confirm unto the Several Persons Inhabitants in the Colony Aforesaid here after named being the Grantees and Proprietors aforesaid that is to Say
Roger Wolcott Esqr one fiftith part M"- John Talcott Two fiftith parts M"- Thomas Pitkin Two fiftith Parts and an half of a fiftith part the Reverend M"- Thomas White one fiftith part Capt. John Bissell one fiftith part M"- Nathaniel Talcot one fiftith part Nathaniel AUis one fiftith part Samuel Bump one fiftith part Cornelius Birge one fiftith part John Church one fiftith part John Clark one fiftith Part Joseph CoUyer one fiftith part John Crowes Heirs the half of one fiftith Part Daniel Dart one fiftith part Ebenezer Dart one fiftith part Daniel Dart Junior one fiftith Part Mathew Dewolph one fiftith part Stephen Johns one fiftith part Hezekiah King one fiftith Part the Heirs of Ensign Nathaniel Loornis Deceased Two fiftith Parts James Loomis Two fiftith parts Charles Loomis one fiftith part Jabez Loomis one fiftith Part the Heirs of John Marshall Deceased one fiftith Part Edward Rose one fiftith part Abel Shaylor one fiftyth Part Francis Smith one fiftieth part Jonathan Strong one fiftyth part M" Benjamin Talcott one fiftyth Part and the half of a fiftyth Part Timothy Olcott one fiftyth part and the half of a fiftyth Part Joel White one fiftyth Part Samuel Brown one fiftyth Part the Heirs of M" Caleb Stanly (Late Secretary) one fiftyth Part Samuel Bartlett one fiftyth Part Lieu' Thomas Olcott one fiftyth part Except the Homelott which belongs to Samuel Spencer Joseph Olmstead one fiftyth part Ephraim Tucker one fiftyth Part Obadiah Dickingson one fiftyth part Thomas Loomis one fiftyth Part John Bishop one fiftyth part John Goodwin the One half of a fiftyth part the Heirs of Jonathan Hubbard one fiftyth Part Abel Shaylor in Liew' of Samuel Raymond one fiftyth part a Personage Lott of one hundred Acres Excepting only a Farm Containing Two hundred Acres belonging to the Heirs of Major Jonathan Bull Also a farm Originally belonging to the Honourable John Talcott Esq" containing one hundred and fifty Acres and likewise one hundred Acres belonging to M" Samuel Woodbridge
To Have And To Hold all the said Tract of Land Use Occupye and Possess the Same Except only as before Excepted together with all and Singular the Rivers Waters Trees Woods brooks under Woods fishings fowlings huntings Mines Mineralls Quarries and Precious Stones within or upon the said Tract of Land being with all & Every of the rights Titles Profitts Priviledges and Appurtenances to the Above granted Premisses belonging or any Way Appertaining to them theire Heirs and Assignes forever and to their only proper Use Benefitt and behoof and to and for no other Use Intent or purpose Whatsoever in such Share part and Proportion Each with the Other According as is Annexed unto each of the several Persons names Aforementioned and the said Governor & Company for themselves and their Succesors by these presents Do Also Give and Grant unto the Proprietors aforenamed of the Tract of Land hereinbefore Granted theire Heirs and Assignes that the s* Tract of Land so Butted and Bounded as Aforesaid shall from Time to Time and forever att all Times hereafter be Deemed Reputed Denominated and be an Entire Town of itself and shall be called and known by the Name of Bolton and that the Aforesaid Proprietors & Inhabitants thereof TOWN OF BOLTON shall and lawfully may from Time to time forever hereafter have Use Excercize and Enjoy all Such Rights Powers Priviledges Immunitys and Franchises in and among themselves as are Given Granted Allowed and Excercized to by and among the Proper Inhabitants of other Towns of this Colony According to Common Approved Custom and Observance and that the said Tract of Land and Premisses hereby Granted as Aforesaid and Appurtenances (Except as before Excepted) shall remaine continue and be linto the aforenamed Persons Proprietors aforesaid their Heirs and Assignes in the Proportion above said forever a good Sure perfect Absolute and Indefeasible Estate of Inheritance in fee Simple to be holden of his Majesty his Heirs and Successors as of his Majestys Manour of East Greenwich in the County of Kent in the Kingdom of England in free and Common Soccage and not in Capite nor by Knights Service Yielding therefore and paying unto our Soveraign Lord King George his Heirs and Successors forever one fifth part of all Oar of Gold and Silver which from Time to Time and att All Times forever here after shall be theire gotten had or Obtained in Liew of all services Dutys and Demands Whatsoever
"In Testimony Whereof the Public Seal of said Colony is hereunto Affixed and Signed by the Honourable the Governor and Secretary of said Colony Dated att Hartford the 28"' Day of January in the Ninth Year of the Reign of our Soveraign Lord George the second of Great Brittain &c King Annoque Dom 1735/6
George Wyllys Secretary
J Talcott Governour
Received September 29 1743 and here Recorded
Test George Wyllys Secret"
Roger Wolcott was listed first in the "Patent" document probably because he was from one of the most influential and wealthy families in Connecticut. Roger Wolcott, born 11 Sep 1624, was the son of Simon Wolcott from Tolland, Somerset, England, who married Martha Pitkin on 17 Oct 1661 in Windsor, Conn., and had two sons, Henry and Roger. Today the town of Bolton is in the county of Tolland and Tolland existed before Bolton.
Certainly the towns in Connecticut had the names of English towns that the English settlers came from, but the unpretentious Puritans did not select particular people to honor with their English town names. They chose to honor the English towns. Neither the most prominent first mentioned Bolton landowner, Roger Wolcott, nor the first to pay for his land, Jabez Loomis, were immigrants from the area of Bolton, England. The Loomis family was from the area of Braintree, Essex, England, and the Wolcott family was from Tolland. But the names of both Essex and Tolland had been taken earlier by the towns of Essex and Tolland in Connecticut. We could go through the names of every Bolton settler but without records of the Assembly debates, knowing the reason for the name chosen is pure speculation.
Once Bolton was settled and thriving, it made geographic sense to name the new town next door Manchester, since Manchester is next door to Bolton in England. But again that could be a coincidence. Clearly these Colonial towns in Connecticut were named after towns in England, and it was by a majority vote of the legislators, each having their own reasons. Most certainly, the sincere, serious, and prayerful Puritans chose to remember and honor their homelands in this way. Later, as Americans moved westward, they remembered and honored the eastern towns and other foreign homelands in the same way.