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My Town: Groton
Where is my town?
Groton Town Seal
Groton is on the coast of Long Island Sound. It is bordered on the west by the Thames River. It is bordered on the east by the Mystic River. It is bordered on the north by Ledyard.
Groton was part of New London until 1705. Ledyard was part of Groton until 1836.
The City of Groton is part of the town. It was set off as a borough in 1903 and then became a city in 1964. It has its own government separate from the town government. Groton is the only town that has a city with a government separate from the town government.
Villages in Groton
City of Groton Seal
Groton Long Point
How was it founded?
Groton was Pequot homeland. Before 1700 about 8,000 Pequot lived across southeastern Connecticut. There were as many as 20 Pequot villages. Between 50 and 400 people lived in each village. There were villages on the Thames and Mystic rivers.
The Pequot traded with Dutch traders. They traded with other tribes. They also fought with other tribes. They fought to gain power over the other tribes. They fought for control of trade with the Dutch.
The Europeans brought diseases. The Native Americans had never been exposed to the diseases. These diseases killed many Pequot before 1635. And then the Pequot War from 1636 to 1637 killed many more Pequot. But a small number of Pequot people survived. They lived in Noank and Mashantucket.
Detail of a drawing of the English attack on the Pequot Village in Mystic in 1637.
Read about the Pequot War HERE.
The English began settling the area after the war. New London was settled by John Winthrop, Jr. in 1646. He was the son of the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He became governor of the Connecticut Colony in 1657.
Robin Cassacinamon helped the Pequot survivors come together after the war. He gained Winthrop’s trust. The Connecticut Colony established a reservation for the Pequot in 1651. It was in Noank. The fishing grounds there were important to the Pequot.
Revolutionary War soldier at Fort Griswold
By 1720, though, the Pequot had been forced to leave. English settlers wanted the land. The Pequot moved inland. The Connecticut Colony established a new reservation. The Mashantucket Pequot Reservation was established in 1666.
More English people settled between the Thames and Mystic rivers. They built a meetinghouse in 1703. In 1705 Groton separated from New London. The meetinghouse was both the church and the town hall for 60 years. Groton is named for Winthrop Jr.’s birthplace in England.
Groton was the site of a Revolutionary War battle. Fort Griswold was attacked in the Battle of Groton Heights. Many Patriot lives were lost.
Ledyard separated from Groton in 1836.
How do its residents make a living?
Water is very important to Groton’s story. In the colonial era, grist and saw mills were built on the Poquonnock River.
Shipbuilding was an important industry on the Thames and Mystic rivers. Nearby there were blacksmiths, coopers, sailmakers, and rope makers. They made things that ships need.
Noank Lighthouse. Groton Public Library Collection
Ships built in Groton traded in the West Indies. The largest commercial sailing vessel in the colonies was built in Groton.
Away from the water, people were farmers. In the colonial era, people in Groton owned slaves to work their farms and in their businesses. Jubee was enslaved to Capt. Christopher Avery in Groton. Not all African Americans in Groton were enslaved. James Right was the paid servant to Andrew Davis. Prince William was a free man in Groton.
How did it grow?
The shipbuilding industry modernized. Steam ships and submarines were built in Groton. Whaling and sealing became important industries in the 19th century.
The U.S. Navy established a submarine base in Groton in 1915. It had been a Naval station since 1872.
The Boston Post Road, built in the 1690s, linked Groton with Boston, New Haven, and New York. Center Groton became a commercial center. The first church, school, tavern, and stagecoach stop were located here. Once Ledyard split off, Center Groton was no longer in the geographic center of town.
The railroad was built in 1852 from Stonington to Groton. At first the railcars crossed the Thames River on a ferry. In 1889 a railroad bridge was built. The railroad made it easier to get goods to market.
Map of Groton-Stonington Railway Line
Today General Dynamics Electric Boat and Pfizer are major employers. The University of Connecticut has a campus at Avery Point.
Source: Connecticut Secretary of the State
Who are its notable people?
Powerful Sachem of the Pequot in the 1630s. A Pequot fort and village were located on the west side of the Mystic River. The English waged war on the Pequot in 1637. The English burned the fort at Mystic and killed hundreds of Pequot men, women, and children. Sassacus fled to the Mohawk in New York. He was later killed by the Mohawk.
A wealthy businessman who donated money to build Groton’s town hall. His estate was called Branford House. It is now the University of Connecticut at Avery Point.
Groton Town Hall. Collection of Groton Public Library
Jordan Freeman and Latham Lambert
Plaque at Fort Griswold showing Jordan Freeman and Latham Lambert’s bravery.
Freeman and Lambert were among the 150 Patriots killed at the Battle of Groton Heights during the Revolutionary War. They were enslaved to militia officers. A plaque at Fort Griswold honors their service.
John J. Kelley
Kelley was a runner and a running coach. He won the Boston Marathon in 1957. He was an Olympic athlete. He was a coach at Fitch Senior High School. He coached Amby Burfoot who also won the Boston Marathon, in 1968.
Notable Places in Groton
Groton has three State Parks:
Bluff Point State Park
Haley Farm State Park
Fort Griswold State Park
Submarine Force Museum
USS Nautilus, first nuclear-powered submarine and Connecticut’s State Ship
Groton-New London Airport
The airport was built in 1929. It was originally named Trumbull Airport after Governor Jonathan Trumbull, “the Flying Governor.” It was a military airport during World War II. Read more about Governor Trumbull HERE.
Groton in 1893
Mystic in 1879. This is called a “birdseye” map because its drawn as if it’s from the view of a bird flying overhead. The Groton part of Mystic is on the west side of the Mystic River. The Stonington part of Mystic is on the east side of the river.
Five towns were once part of New London: Groton, Ledyard, Waterford, Montville, and part of Salem.