February 15, 2015

Connecticut’s Charter Oak by Barbara Edwards

I love Connecticut history and became interested in the Charter Oak when I learned the large white oak growing alongside the Plymouth Congregational Church, where I sang in the choir, was a descendant.

In 1667 the towns of Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield joined in a covenant to form the colonial entity of Connecticut. The Fundamental Orders described their freedoms, rights and duties and is considered to be the first constitution in the world. This fact is the basis for the name Constitution State. This agreement was followed by the Connecticut Charter that recognized the Connecticut Colony by the English Monarchy. 

During this early settlement period, a Farmer Wyllys was clearing the trees from his land and was approached by the local Indians. They asked him to leave a massive oak tree they claimed was planted and used for religious ceremonies. He agreed. 

On the restoration of monarchy after Cromwell’s death in 1660, the Connecticut colonists had fears regarding their future. Their sturdy republicanism and independent action in the past might be mortally offensive to the new monarch. The General Assembly of Connecticut, therefore, resolved to make a formal acknowledgment of their allegiance to the crown and ask the king for a charter. A petition was accordingly framed and signed in May, 1661, and
Governor Winthrop took it to England.

On October 9, 1662, the General Court of Connecticut received the Charter from King Charles II due to the diplomatic efforts of Governor John Winthrop, Jr. It confirmed the popular constitution of the colony, and contained more liberal provisions that, any yet issued by royal hands.

In 1687, twenty-five years later, James II ascended to the throne. This spelled trouble for Connecticut. King James wanted to revoke Connecticut's Charter. The people of Connecticut, however, did not want their Charter taken away because it entitled them to certain rights under British Law. Sir Edmund Andros, His Majesty's agent, followed up the failure of various strategies by arriving in Hartford with an armed escort to seize the Charter.

After hours of debate, with the Charter on the table between the opposing parties, the candlelit room went suddenly dark. Moments later, when the candles were lighted again, the Charter was gone. Captain Joseph Wadsworth is credited with having removed and secreted the Charter in the majestic oak on the Wyllys estate thereby preserving the charter and the rights of the colonists.

For over a hundred and fifty years, the "charter oak" was a prominent and widely recognized Connecticut landmark. When it was toppled during an 1857 storm, acorns were collected as keepsakes, as were a considerable amount of twigs, leaves, branches and lumber.
The State Museum exhibit includes numerous souvenirs made from wood of the original charter oak, including a Colt revolving pistol, picture frames and miniature furniture. Today, several "descendants" of the charter oak are to be found on the grounds of the State Capitol and in Hartford's Bushnell Park. Saplings were offered to every town and The Plymouth Church on the Green has one growing alongside the building.

The original charter, preserved in an ornate frame made of "charter oak" wood, is prominently displayed. Also on permanent display are the State Constitutions of 1818 and 1964 and Connecticut's copy of the United 
States Bill of Rights.

Author, Barbara Edwards, offers a lucky person who comments a copy of her newest paranormal novel, Ancient Curse.  Please include your email in your comment so we can award your prize! 

Barbara Edwards is a native New Englander.
She is a “Jill of All Trades” from crossing guard to sales manager before graduating from the University of Hartford with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
She writes poetry for herself and novels when she needs to tell a longer tale. Barbara is fascinated by the past so naturally turned to writing historical romance. The dark stories evolve from nightmares. The romance comes from her belief in people’s basic goodness and longing for love.
Twitter  https://www.twitter.com/Barb_ed
(all info provided by author)


  1. Barbara, I loved the story about the Oak and was bummed to learn a storm knocked it down! Great storytelling. Loved your bio. When I lived in New England I didn't get a chance to visit Connecticut as much as I would have liked to.

    Steph Burkhart

  2. What a great post. History is an amazing thing. thanks for sharing.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  3. Very interesting, Barb. I'd heard of the Charter Oak but never about its history. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I learned something new today about your state, Barbara. Thank you for sharing this interesting information.

  5. I have often traveled through Connecticut, sometimes even staying overnight. I always felt it not quite fish or fowl with its charming towns and at times nasty cities. Strange, but of all the New England states —and I'm a New Englander — it always seemed to lack a sense of state identity, but not like California or Arizona, states that should be broken into two (or more) separate but definable states. No more like it is a left-over smooshed together. But there are some great things in Connecticut and I appreciate this historical post.

  6. Hi Steph,
    Connecticut is small but interesting. a lot of the revolution history took place here.

  7. You're welcome Debbie. I love finding little-known facts.

  8. Hi Diane, Thanks for commenting and visiting.

  9. Hi Linda,
    I always love to talk about thinks I've learned. Thanks for listening.

  10. Hi Ken,
    My state is small but has an incredible amount of interesting places and historic sites. Any city is nasty, but there's nothing like driving up Route 8 in the spring for the mountain laurel display or autumn for the foliage.

  11. That was very interesting. Thank you, Barbara. I've read Gift of the Magi and really enjoyed it.

  12. Enjoyed the story of the oak. I've visited your state and even got lost in it one night returning from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania. Took a wrong turn onto a rural road that ran for miles through thick forest.

  13. Have you ever read the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer? In it, we find out that leprechauns and other
    "fairy folk" have to bury an acorn near the base of an old oak tree, the older the better, when their magic is waning. That revitalizes them. This was probably one of the oaks the local magic folk used a lot!

    Thanks for sharing this interesting bit of history. Never been to Conn. Probably head out there to camp someday, if we ever get to retire.

  14. Fascinating--I love history! Our 'roots' (pun intended :-)) are so essential to who we are as Americans. I have a niece in CT, used to live in Windsor. Wonderful post, Barbara. Much success!


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