Oliver Wolcott, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Windsor, Connecticut, on November 26, 1726. Oliver's father, Roger Wolcott, distinguished himself by becoming a major general, a judge, lieutenant governor, and finally governor of the state of Connecticut.
The family name of Wolcott was found among the early settlers of Connecticut. Oliver's English ancestor was Henry Wolcott, who arrived in America in 1630 and first settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He moved to Windsor, Connecticut, in 1636 with several associates to form a settlement there. He was one of the men involved in organizing the Connecticut government and obtaining a charter from King Charles II.
Oliver was 17 years old when he enrolled at Yale College. Four years later he graduated and was commissioned as a captain in the Army. He raised a company of soldiers for the French and Indian War and led them to confront the enemy in the northern frontier. He was regularly promoted from captain to major general and returned home after the hostilities ended.
Wolcott began a study of medicine under the direction of his uncle, Dr. Alexander Wolcott, but he interrupted his studies when he was appointed as sheriff for the newly-organized county of Litchfield.
Oliver married Laura Collins, daughter of Captain Daniel and Lois Cornwall Collins of Guilford, Connecticut, in January 1759. Roger was 33 years old at the time of the marriage, and Laura was 23 years old. Roger took his bride home to the town Litchfield. Five children were born to the couple, three sons and two daughters, with one son dying in infancy.
It appears that Oliver was meant to be in politics because he was elected as a member of the council of Connecticut in 1774 and was reelected annually until 1786. During the time that he served on the council, he also served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, Chief Justice of Litchfield County, and Judge of Probate for the district.
Oliver was appointed by the General Congress to be one of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs for the northern area. In this position he helped to bring about an amicable settlement between Connecticut and Pennsylvania concerning the Wyoming settlement.
Wolcott was elected as a delegate to the second General Congress near the end of 1775 and took his seat in January 1776. He took an active role in debating the independence of the Colonies; he then voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence.
Oliver returned home soon after signing the glorious document and was immediately appointed to the command of fourteen regiments of the Connecticut militia destined to defend New York. Following the battle of Long Island, he returned to Connecticut and resumed his seat in Congress in November. He was in Congress in Philadelphia when the congressional body was forced to flee to Baltimore by the approach of the British army.
Wolcott was active in recruiting soldiers during the summer of 1776 and sent several thousands of volunteers to General Putnam then camped on the Hudson River. He then took command of a group of volunteers and joined General Gates at Saratoga. He was there when Burgoyne and his army were captured in October, 1777.
Oliver soon was back in Congress - then meeting in York, Pennsylvania. George Washington and his army were at that time in Valley Forge. Oliver continued in the Congress until July, 1778. He took command of a militia division in the summer of 1779, and his company successfully defended the southwestern coast of Connecticut from the British army.
Wolcott alternated his service between civil and military duties in Connecticut until 1783 and occasionally served in Congress. He continued to serve as an Indian Agent and was one of the commissioners who issued terms of peace to the six Indian nations living in western New York.
General Wolcott was elected as the lieutenant governor of Connecticut in 1786 and was reelected every year until he was elected as governor in 1796. He was reelected as governor in 1797 and held that office when he died on December 1, 1797, at age 71. Governor Wolcott was a patriot, a statesman and a Christian; he was a man whose most prominent characteristics were virtue, piety, and integrity.
Facts for this article came from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp 59-62.
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