Yale: A Short History

It was the Reverend John Davenport (picture to the left), one of the founders of the Colony, who in the 1640s first imagined a college for New Haven. But bad luck and a legacy that went awry prevented. In 1701 the Reverend James Pierpont, with certain other Congregational ministers from the towns along the Connecticut shore, revived Davenport's vision, and persuaded the General Court of Connecticut to vote an "Act for Liberty to erect a Collegiate School" wherein youth might be instructed in the arts and sciences "and fitted for Publick employment both in Church & Civil State," Then -if early memories and the surviving records can be so reconciled-the Minister Trustees met in Saybrook, pooled some (forty?) volumes from their meager libraries for the founding and endowing of their institution, and drew up the course of study.

Having been given authority to appoint a Rector or Master as well as to select their own successors, they chose one of their own number, the Reverend Abraham Pierson (Harvard 1668), as first Rector (1701-07), but his congregation would not let him go to the chosen site at Saybrook. In March 1702 the first student, Jacob Heminway, appeared at his parish door in Killingworth (today Clinton), and "solus was all the College the first half-year." In the fall after the first Commencement a Tutor was appointed to help teach a handful of young hopefuls from along shore and river; and by 1707 eighteen students had been graduated B.A. Today Davenport and Pierson Colleges commemorate these wilderness prophets.

On Pierson's death the Seniors were sent to the Reverend Samuel Andrew of Milford, the rest under a Tutor to the small settlement on the windy marshes at Saybrook. Yet sickness and dissension so plagued the school at its bleak outpost that in 1716 the Trustees voted to remove to more hospitable New Haven. Angry citizens of Saybrook tried to prevent the carting away of the School's books, unhitched the oxen, broke down some bridges. Meanwhile two Hartford Trustees struggled to have the school established up-river at Wethersfield, instead, but friends in New Haven and in the General Court (Assembly) outbid them and in 1717-18 the first Collegiate building was erected off the south-west corner of the New Haven Green -about where Bingham Hall now stands. The monies from the Assembly and New Haven proving insufficient, on news of Elihu Yale's munificent gift (nine bales of goods worth £562 12s, with 417 books, a portrait and arms of King George I), the hopeful Trustees named the building (and so also the Collegiate School) Yale College. In 1745 the General Court authorized the enlargement of the charter to the "President and Fellows of Yale College in New Haven," but not until 1887 would the men of Yale add to the old unpretending name the alternative legal title of Yale University.

Killingworth Historical Highlights

Provided Courtesy of the Yale University Library

Killingworth originally comprised present day Killingworth and the Town of Clinton to the south. Killingworth was first settled in 1663 as the plantation of “Homonoscitt” (Hammonasset). On May 9, 1667, it was ordered that “ye towne of Homonoscit shal for ye future be named Kenilworth.” Through corruption of spelling, Kenilworth became Killingworth which was used exclusively after 1707.

In October 1667 Rev. John Woodbridge, a graduate of Harvard, became minister. He was pastor until 1679 when he became pastor in Wethersfield.

Uncas, Sachem of the Mohegan, married the daughter of Sebaquaneh, Sachem of the Hammonassets and came into possession of all the Hammonassets' lands. On November 26, 1669, Uncas and his son, Joshuah, sold to the inhabitants of Killingworth all the lands in the township. They reserved for themselves "Six acres of Land on the Great Hammock."

In 1686, there were 36 persons (freemen only were counted) living in town.

The Rev. Abraham Pierson was called as pastor in 1694. He holds the distinction of being the first Rector or president of what was to become Yale College and held the first classes in Killingworth.

The Rev. Jared Eliot, one of Pierson’s pupils, preached for about two years and was called as pastor and ordained on October 26, 1709. He was a distinguished physician and scientist; a friend of Benjamin Franklin who visited him occasionally; and operated the iron forge off Ironworks Road in present Killingworth and developed a method for making iron from black sand that was located on the shore.

On May 8, 1735, an Act of Organization was passed by the General Assembly dividing the Town of Killingworth into two Distinct Ecclesiastical Societies. The act stated where the division line would be and made the northern part of town a separate ecclesiastical society. This line would be the boundary between Clinton and Killingworth.

Four Meeting Houses

(Click to view the document)

Historical Records and Memoranda

(Click to view the document)