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Connecticut's Susquehanna Settlers

For primary documents relating to Susquehanna Settler's please see the links to the "Connecticut Archives" topics on this subject.

About Connecticut's "Susquehannah Settlers"

This controversial episode in Connecticut's history revolved around the need for cheap land and conflicting interpretations of Connecticut's Charter of 1662. With the Charter, the King granted:

'ALL that parte of our dominions in Newe England in America bounded on the East by Norrogancett River, commonly called Norrogancett Bay, where the said River falleth into the Sea, and on the North by the lyne of the Massachusetts Plantacon, and on the south by the Sea, and in longitude as the lyne of the Massachusetts Colony, runinge from East to West, (that is to say) from the Said Norrogancett Bay on the East to the South Sea on the West parte, with the Islands thervnto adioyneinge, Together with all firme lands ... TO HAVE AND TO HOLD ... for ever...'

This area ran directly through the present state of Pennsylvania. The need for more land led some Connecticut residents to test accuracy of the Charter, with disastrous results.

According to Alfred Van Dusen, in his book Connecticut (New York: Random House, 1961), in the 1750s as the state "was filling up rapidly and a mania for land speculation was growing, eyes inevitably turned westward to lands beyond the Hudson. In July 1753 the Susquehannah Company was organized at Windham.... The next year it secured from some Indian chiefs a dubious deed to a large tract of land along the Susquehannah River, amounting to about one-third of Pennsylvania." (page 124). Van Dusen states this was controversial not only in Pennsylvania, but also in Connecticut where the Colony's Governor supported the company, while the Deputy Governor did not. Connecticut was finally told by England "that no Connecticut settlements could be made until the royal pleasure was known". (page 124).

Connecticut received a favorable reply from England in 1773 regarding title to the Susquehannah River area. "Governor [John] Trumbull openly favored settlement.... Responding to this lead, the Assembly appointed a committee to seek an agreement with Pennsylvania which would open the way for peaceful settlement, but the effort failed completely" (page 129). What ensued was a battle between "Radicals" who saw great economic gains for both the individual and the state from settling the area and "Conservatives" who feared "the western claims would endanger the charter; and the dominant role of the hated 'eastern Radicals' in the Susquehannah Company." (page 129) The town of Westmoreland was established as a town and later a county of Connecticut.

Pennsylvania did not give up its claim to the Valley. There were incursions, culminating in the July 1778 attack that killed approximately 150 settlers and left thousands as refugees. Connecticut residents later returned to Pennsylvania but were again subject to reprisals from the Pennsylvanians. Finally, in December of 1783 a commission found in favor of Pennsylvania's claim to the land. Several more years of conflict over titles ensued and in 1786 "Connecticut yielded her claims to any Pennsylvania land by a deed of cession to Congress" in exchange for the rights to land later known as the Western Reserve." (page 198). Eventually emigrants from Connecticut had "their individual land titles ... confirmed by Pennsylvania." (page 170).

Most land title records, wills and estate papers, and other genealogical source materials relating to Connecticut's Susquehanna settlers are in Pennsylvania. Inquiries may be made at the courthouses in the appropriate Pennsylvania counties - principally Luzerne [at Wilkes-Barre], Northampton [at Easton], or Northumberland (Northumberland County Courthouse, 201 Market Street, Sunbury, PA 17801 570-988-4167)[at Sunbury]. The article "The Connecticut Pennsylvanians" by George E. McCracken in The American Genealogist for April 1979 (Vol. 55, No. 2) contains a useful guide to genealogical sources in the area. Another valuable aid is the article "Following Connecticut Ancestors to Pennsylvania: Susquehanna Company Settlers" by Donna Bingham Munger, in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register for April 1985 (Vol. 139).

Although the region was called Westmoreland County, Connecticut for many years, the present Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania is in a different part of the state.

Important collections on early Wyoming, including early township proprietors' records, land records, tax lists, and church records, are at the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, 69 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 18701 (Tel. (717) 823-6244). That society also sponsored the publication of The Susquehannah Company Papers, ed. Julian P. Boyd and Robert J. Taylor, 11 volumes (Cornell University Press); available at the Connecticut State Library and in many other larger genealogical libraries.

Collections at the Connecticut State Library also include original records, in the "Connecticut Archives," pertaining to Susquehanna Settlers (Series I and II), 1750-1820. The records may be consulted on microfilm in the History and Genealogy Reading Room, although most of these papers throw relatively little light on family history or genealogical questions.

Published Resources Include:

Boyd, J. P. The Susquehannah Company, 1753-1803. [CSL call number: F157 .W9 B69 1931]

Henry, William (ed.). Documents Relating to the Connecticut Settlement in the Wyoming Valley. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1990 [CSL call number: F157 .W9 D63 1990 v1, 2].

Joyce, Mary Hinchcliffe. Pioneer Days in the Wyoming Valley. Philadelphia: 1928 [CSL call number: F157 .W9 J89].

Smith, William. An Examination of the Connecticut Claim to Lands in Pennsylvania: With an Appendix, Containing Extracts and Copies Taken from Original Papers. Philadelphia: Joseph Crukshank, 1774 [CSL call number: Wells Collection F157 .W9 S55].

Stark, S. Judson. The Wyoming Valley: Probate Records... Wilkes-Barre, PA: Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, 1923 [CSL call number: F157 .W9 S72].

Warfle, Richard Thomas. Connecticut's Western Colony; the Susquehannah Affair. (Connecticut Bicentennial Series, #32). Hartford, CT: American Revolutionary Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut, 1979 [CSL call number: Conn Doc Am35 cb num 32].

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Wilkes-Barre (the "Diamond City"), Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Wilkes-Barre, PA: The Committee on Souvenir and Program, 1906 [CSL call number: F159 .W6 W65 1906].


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