Table of Contents
A Guide to the Oliver Wolcott, Sr. Papers at the Connecticut Historical Society
Oliver Wolcott was born in Windsor, Connecticut, on November 20, 1726, the youngest son of Roger Wolcott (1679-1767) and Sarah (Drake) Wolcott (1684?-1748). On January 21, 1755 he married Laura (Loraine, Lorrain) Collins (1732-1794), the daughter of Daniel and Lois (Cornwall) Collins of Guilford. He graduated from Yale in 1747 and received a captain's commission from Governor George Clinton of New York in the same year. He served with the army in border action between English and French colonists in King George's War (the War of the Austrian Succession, 1744-1748).
Returning home in 1748, he studied medicine with his brother, Dr. Alexander Wolcott. Before he was established in practice, however, he moved to Litchfield, where his father owned property, and became Litchfield's first sheriff (1751-1771). Wolcott was a representative of the town in the General Assembly, and in 1774 he was chosen an Assistant or Councilor, a position to which he was annually elected until 1786. While a member of the Council, he was also Chief Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the County, and for many years he was Judge of the Court of Probate for the district of Litchfield. He served in the militia in every grade of office from Captain to Major-General.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Assembly appointed Wolcott as commissary to supply stores and provisions for the troops. In July 1775, he was named one of the commissioners of Indian affairs for the northern department. He met representatives of the Six Nations at Albany and helped settle the Wyoming Valley and the New York-Vermont boundary questions.
Wolcott was first elected a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775, and except in 1779 when he was not chosen, he attended from three to six months every winter or spring until 1783. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. In July 1776 he brought to Litchfield from New York the lead statue of King George the III which was melted into bullets for the war effort.
As Brigadier-General in August 1776, Wolcott commanded the fourteen militia regiments sent to New York to reinforce General Putnam on the Hudson River. In December he was put in charge of the 6th Militia Brigade in northwestern Connecticut, and in September 1777, he led a force of volunteers from his brigade to join Horatio Gates' army against Burgoyne. As a Major-General in 1779, he was responsible for the defense of the Connecticut seacoast, and in May 1780, he was added to the Council of Safety, the state executive committee for the prosecution of the war.
At the end of the war Wolcott resigned from the Congress and returned home to Litchfield. He served as commissioner at the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784 to make peace with the Six Nations, but he resigned from that post in the following year. In 1787 he was chosen Lt. Governor of Connecticut and was a member of the state convention which accepted the Constitution. In 1789, Wolcott helped conclude a treaty with the Wyandottes which extinguished their title to the Western Reserve.
On the death of Governor Samuel Huntington in January 1796, Wolcott succeeded to the governorship, and he held that office until his death the following year. He was president of the Connecticut Society of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of an honorary degree from Yale.
Oliver and Laura Wolcott had five children, four who survived infancy. Oliver Wolcott died December 1, 1797 and is buried in Litchfield, Connecticut.
Note: There is a discrepancy in a number of accounts of Oliver Wolcott's life as to his date of birth. Some sources list his birth date as November 20, and others as December 1, 1726. This discrepancy is caused by the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar, the latter which was adopted in the American colonies in 1752. Oliver Wolcott, Jr., in the Biographical Sketch of his father, lists his father's birthrate at November 26, 1726.
Collection consists predominantly of correspondence to and from Oliver Wolcott, legal and legislative papers, printed material, and the Oliver Wolcott, Jr. Papers.
Materials are organized into five series, based on form.
Series I. Correspondence consists of letters to and from Oliver Wolcott, and supporting material. military correspondence, letters and supporting documents concerning negotiations with Native Americans, and relations between the military and the colonists. Also included are correspondence and related material concerning local government, the Continental Congress, current events, and some family letters. Military correspondence includes commissions, orders, dispatches, military maneuvers, troop movements, military intelligence, casualty lists, accounts, exchanges of prisoners, and parole letters. Correspondence between Oliver and Laura Wolcott, and Oliver Wolcott and his children, discusses military, government, personal and family matters, and current news. Also included are undated letters to Laura Wolcott and letters and supporting documents from Wolcott's descendants. Correspondents include: his wife Laura (Lorrain) Collins Wolcott (1732-1794), Chauncey Goodrich (1759-1815), Samuel Holden Parsons (1737-1789), Jonathan Trumbull, Sr. (1710-1785), Israel Putnam (1718-1790), Roger Sherman (1721-1793), Andrew Ward (1727-1799), and George Washington (1732-1799).
Series II: Legal Papers consists of a copy of a transcription of Oliver Wolcott's Bill to the Estate of Joseph Yale. Original is owned by Wolcott G. Lane.
Series III: Legislative Papers consists of the original constitution of Connecticut, Resolutions of Litchfield Town Meeting and the Connecticut general Assembly, and proclamation.
Series IV: Printed Material consists of one page from The Connecticut Courant.
Series V: Oliver Wolcott, Jr. Papers consists of a biographical sketches of Henry and Oliver Wolcott written by Oliver Wolcott Jr.
Materials in the Correspondence series follow the 1848 physical binding into four volumes. Other series are arranged chronologically to compliment access points from the card catalog.
There are no restrictions on access to the collection. Some material is fragile so the researcher is initially directed to microfilm copies
Use of the material requires compliance with the Connecticut Historical Society's Research Center regulations.
Parsons, Samuel Holden
Concord, Battle of, 1775.
Iroquois Indians Treaties.
Lexington, Battle of, 1775.
United States History Revolution, 1775-1783 Prisoners, Exchange of.
United States History Revolution, 1775-1783 Secret service.
Holographs; holographs, signed; printed forms completed in manuscript.
Item, Collection Title, Collection number (Box #, Folder #). Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Connecticut.
Collection was processed by Marilyn Paul-Lewis under an NHPRC grant (#89-003) in April 1999. EAD finding aid updated to EAD2002 in December 2010.
An index of catalog cards is available to aid access to this collection and material in other collections. Access is through writer, recipient and date. The card catalog is located in the Research Center reading room.
A microfilm copy of the collection is available for researchers.