Welles, Thomas (DNB00)

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WELLES, THOMAS (1598–1660), governor of Connecticut, born in 1598, belonged to the branch of the family of Welles settled in Northamptonshire. In 1634 he was living at Rothwell in that county. On 3 Nov. 1634 he was admonished by the court of Star-chamber to answer in full articles against him and several others, among whom was William Fox, the ancestor of George Fox, charging him with holding puritan tenets. His property was confiscated, and on 16 April 1635 their cause was appointed to be finally sentenced; but Welles evaded punishment by proceeding to New England in the capacity of secretary to William Fiennes, first viscount Saye and Sele [q. v.], a great protector of nonconformists (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1634–5 passim, 1635 p. 179). Early in 1636 Lord Saye and Sele arrived with his secretary at the fort at the mouth of the Connecticut, afterwards called Saybrook. Displeased with his reception and discouraged by the difficulties of colonisation, he speedily returned to England, leaving Welles, who was unwilling to face the Star-chamber. Welles joined a party of emigrants from Newtown (now Cambridge) in Massachusetts, among whom were Thomas Hooker and Samuel Stone [q. v.], in founding a new settlement on the north bank of the Connecticut, which they at first called Newtown, after their former residence, but afterwards, on 21 Feb. 1636–7, renamed Hartford, after Stone's birthplace. In 1637 Welles was chosen one of the magistrates of the town, an office which he held every year until his death. The colony of Connecticut was organised on an independent footing on 1 May 1637, and in 1639 Welles was chosen the first treasurer under the new constitution, a post which he held till 1651, when, finding the duties burdensome, he was relieved of it at his own request. From 1640 to 1648 he filled the office of secretary, and in 1649 was one of the commissioners of the united colonies in the first federal council assembled in New England. Welles defended the policy of the colony in placing a small duty on exports from the Connecticut river for the support of Saybrook, and successfully used his influence to avoid war with the Dutch in Delaware Bay. On 1 March 1653–4 John Haynes, the deputy governor, died, and as the governor, Edward Hopkins [q. v.], was absent in England, Welles was chosen head of the colony, with the title of moderator of the general court. In May 1654 he was elected deputy governor. In the same year he was again appointed a commissioner to the assembly of the united colonies, but was prevented by his other duties from serving. During his year of office he quieted a dispute concerning lands between Uncas, the Mohican chief, and the settlers at New London, and sanctioned the sequestration of the Dutch property at Hartford. He served as governor in 1655 and 1658, and as deputy governor in 1656, 1657, and 1659. He possessed to a very great degree the confidence of the colonists, and drafted many of their most important enactments. He died at Wethersfield, near Hartford, on 14 Jan. 1659-60. He was twice married. By his first wife, Elizabeth Hunt, to whom he was married in England in 1618, he had seven surviving children, four sons and three daughters. His first wife died about 1640, and in 1645 he was married to Elizabeth, daughter of John Deming of England, and widow of Nathaniel Foote of Wethersfield. By her he had no issue. She died on 28 July 1683. Welles's will is printed in Albert Welles's 'History of the Welles Family,' New York, 1876.

[Welles's Hist. of Welles Family, pp. 98-107, 110-12, 120, 132-3; Savage's Genealogical Dict. 1862; Public Records of Connecticut, i. 346, 359; Collections of the Connecticut Hist. Soc. ii. 84, iii. 277.]

E. I. C.