Governors of Connecticut

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John Webster

From: The Governers of Connecticut
By: Frederick Calvin Norton
Published: 1905


THE early life of John Webster is shrouded in mystery. Family tradition said that he was from the County of Warwick, England, but even this is indefinite. The date of his birth is unknown and there is nothing handed down to us regarding his ancestry.

His name first appears in history when he became one of the original proprietors of Hartford.

Webster must have been one of the first settlers, for it is recorded in 1639 that he owned a lot on the east side of the thoroughfare now called Governor Street. His prominence in the town is demonstrated by the fact that in 1637—8 he sat with the Court of Magistrates, and was a magistrate himself from the year 1639 to In the latter year Webster was chosen to the office of deputy governor of the colony, and in 1656 was advanced to governor. He held the office one year. During the year 1642 Governor Webster was a member of the commission that framed the code of criminal laws for the colony. In 1654 he was one of the commissioners of the United Colonies. Governor Webster took a prominent part in the famous church controversy at Hartford. Professor Johnston, in his scholarly book, “Connecticut,” says the nominal beginning of this trouble was after the death of Rev. Thomas Hooker in 1647. “Goodwin, the ruling elder,” writes Johnston, “wanted Michael Wigglesworth as Hooker’s successor; and Stone the surviving minister, refused to allow the proposition to be put to a vote. The Goodwin party-twenty-one in number, including Deputy Governor Webster—withdrew from the church; the Stone party undertook to discipline them; a council of Connecticut and New Haven churches failed to reconcile the parties; the General Court kindly assumed the office of mediator and succeeded in making both parties furious; and finally a council at Boston in 1659 induced the Goodwin minority, now some sixty innumber, to remove to Hadley, Massachusetts.”

The year following his removal to Hadley, Governor Webster was admitted as a freeman in that colony. His career in Hadley was destined to be brief; however, fbr he died on April 5, 1661 nearly two years after his arrival. He was survived by his widow and seven children.

The historian, Hollister, speaks of Webster as an “honored name,” and “whose virtues are still perpetuated in those Who inherit his blood.” Probably the most distinguished descendant of Governor Webster was Noah Webster, the famous lexicographer, who was born in Hartford in 1708 and died at New Haven, May 28, 1843.

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