Oliver Wolcott Dies – Today in History: December 1
Ralph Earl, Oliver Wolcott

Ralph Earl, Oliver Wolcott, ca. 1789, oil on canvas - Museum of Connecticut History

On December 1, 1797, signer of the Declaration of Independence Oliver Wolcott died while serving his term as Connecticut’s governor. Born in 1726 to a prominent political family, Wolcott grew up in what was then Windsor. He graduated from Yale in 1747 and, with a captain’s commission, began what would be a long military career. He served on the British Colonies’ northern frontier during King George’s War, a conflict between Britain, France, and their respective Native American allies over land rights.

Wolcott’s even lengthier political career commenced in 1751 when his father Roger Wolcott, then governor (1750-1754) of the Colony of Connecticut, appointed him sheriff of the newly formed Litchfield County. A string of legislative, judicial, and military offices followed. In his dual capacities as soldier and politician, Wolcott advanced the cause for independence from Britain. He served as a Connecticut delegate to the Continental Congress and as a state military leader during the Revolutionary War. The latter role culminated with his appointment to Brigadier General of the Connecticut Militia.

After the war, Wolcott continued in political service as the state’s lieutenant governor from 1787-1796 and, from 1796 until his death, as its governor. Oliver Wolcott is buried in the East Cemetery in Litchfield. His son, Oliver Wolcott, Jr., continued the family tradition of state governorship when he, too, occupied the post from 1817 to 1827.

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