English settlers in southeastern Connecticut aided the Mohegan Tribe many times during the 17th century Pequot and Narragansett Wars. In 1645 Thomas Leffingwell and others helped lift a Narragansett siege of the Mohegans Fort Shantok on the Thames River. In appreciation, Sachem Uncas deeded a nine square-mile tract of land to the first settlers. In June of 1659, those first settlers of Norwich, led by Major John Mason and Reverend James Fitch, arrived by sailing vessel and landed on the nearby Yantic River shore. They established the first settlement a short distance inland, surrounding the present Norwichtown Green. Ackowledgments
Norwich grew into a thriving 18th century seaport and shipbuilding center and by 1774 was the twelfth largest town in the colonies, its growth and prosperity due to the maritime trade. During the Revolution, Norwich provided essential supplies, munitions and soldiers. Norwich waterways also powered industry. Numerous factories and mills were powered by three rivers — the Yantic, Shetucket and Thames. By the 19th century, the center of town shifted to the harbor.
In the 18th century, Norwichtown Green's iconic features included the town's meeting house, post office, court house, powder house, jail and pillory. Citizens gathered around a liberty tree to express resistance to British oppression.
Watch-making, blacksmithing and book-binding shops and the Joseph Carpenter silversmith shop surrounded the Green. Residents gathered in five taverns to exchange in rum, tobacco and news.
President John Adams and First Lady Abigail Adams dined at the Jesse Brown Tavern. The Marquis de Lafayette encamped on the Green with his soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Samuel Huntington, signer of the Declaration of Independence and President of the Continental Congress, resided near the Green, as did Benedict Arnold, Generals Jedediah and Ebenezer Huntington, and Christopher Leffingwell, supplier of provisions to the Continental Army.
"the green was the place where trades, merchandise, public business, military exercises, shows, sports, festivals, and the general entertainment of the town, found a center ... taverns, schools and shops alternating with private dwellings around the border."(Francis Manwaring Caulkins, "History of Norwich")
This panel was produced by the Norwich Historical Society in cooperation with the Norwich Community Development Corporation, the Norwich Heritage Groups, Norwich Historic District Commission, City of Norwich, and Norwich Public Works Department. Research and writing by Regan Miner; panel design and oversight of fabrication by Geoff Steadman and Pam Ballard.
The Norwich Historical Society received support for this project from: the State Historic Preservation Office of the Department of Economic & Community Development with funds from: The Community Investment Act of the State of Connecticut; the Sachem Fund; Eastern Connecticut Association of Realtors; the R.S. Gernon Trust; and the Elsie A. Brown Fund