Farmer and Merchant who emigrated to Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts on the 'Hector', arriving 26 June 1637. He moved to Connecticut in 1638, and helped found New Haven, becoming its first governor. He was also a Magistrate.
He was born at Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, England about 1590, to Rev. Richard Eaton and his wife, Elizabeth. His father may have been the curate at that time, but later became Vicar of Great Budworth, Chester. Theophilus married Grace Hiller in 1622, and had at least a daughter (Mary), and a son (Samuel) before her death (some authorities think that he also had a son by the name of James).
In 1625 he remarried, this time to a widow, Anne Yale, who was the daughter of George Lloyd, the Bishop of Chester (some authorities say Anne Morton, the daughter of Bishop Thomas Morton of Chester). The couple had three children (Theophilus, Hannah, and Elizabeth), but the household raised eight children. Besides their three, and Mary and Samuel, it included Anne, David, and Thomas Yale from Anne's first marriage to Thomas Yale.
The three Yale children all had notable places in the history of Connecticut. Thomas Yale (son of Thomas and Ann (Lloyd) Yale, settled in the New Haven Colony and signed the Fundamental Agreement of the New Haven Colony on June 4, 1639. Anne Yale (the daughter) married Edward Hopkins in 1631; he later became the governor of Connecticut. David Yale, who married Ursula Knight in 1641, became the father of Elihu Yale, namesake of Yale College.
Governor Eaton's five children fared as follows. Daughter Mary Eaton married Valentine Hill of Boston in 1647. (His brother, Nathaniel Eaton, the first schoolmaster of Harvard, was present as a witness.) Samuel Eaton married Mabel (Harlakenden) Haynes in 1654. Both of them died in the small pox epidemic of 1655. Hannah Eaton married the Lt. Governor William Jones (1624–1706) in 1659. Theophilus Eaton, Jr., or Ellis, as he was known, returned to England with his mother after his father's death, settled in [[Dublin, Ireland],] and married an Anne King. Elizabeth died in London in March 1637 before the family departed for the colonies.
For several years Theophilus was an agent for King Charles I to the Danish Court, then a merchant in London. He was a Puritan interested in colonial development and was one of the original patent holders and president of the Massachusetts Bay Company.
He emigrated to New England with other Puritans in the ship Hector, arriving in Boston on June 26, 1637.
His group of colonists had John Davenport as their religious leader, and they wanted to start their own settlement – probably due in part to the commanding persona of John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at the time (1637 to 1640, and many other terms). Winthrop was termed "an object of great fear in all the colonies," and caused the Rev. Thomas Hooker and others to go off and form their own colonies as well.
In the spring his group moved from Boston and when they arrived on April 14, 1638 they named the site New Haven
He was elected as the first governor on June 4, 1639 and reelected each year until his death on January 7, 1657/8 (Julian Calendar timing). He was buried on the green in New Haven and later his remains were removed to Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven. One of his major accomplishments as governor was the creation of a written legal code for the colony in 1655 later to be known as the Blue Laws of Connecticut. For this, and the fact that he was the first president of the Massachusetts Bay Company, he is sometimes thought of as being the Father of American Law, but this is arguably an example of hyperbole.
Clarification of his Death
- Gov. Eaton's death is listed as 7/8 Jan 1656/7, citing the New Haven Vital Records, in The Families of Ancient New Haven by Jacobus .
- The date on his gravestone says Jan 7, 1657, ae 67, also cited by Jacobus. This is a family monument and was probably put up by someone in a later generation.
- The town record reads. "Theophilus Eaton Esqr the Honored Governor of New Haven dyed the 7th/8 of the 11th mo in ye night and was buried the 11th of ye same and was buried aboute two in ye afternoone. No year is listed, but it is placed between entries dated December 1656 and January 1657.
- He was present in court the 8th month (October) of 1657. p.226 New Haven Records
- A different governor was elected in May 1658 p231 New Haven Records
Therefore he must have died after Oct 1657, ergo Jan 1657/8
- ↑ Records of the Colony or Jurisdiction of New Haven, From May 1653 to the Union Together with the New Haven Code of 1656. Hoadley, Charles J, MA. (editor) . Hartford: Case, Tiffany and Company, 1858.
- Dexter, Franklin Bowditch. Historical Catalogue of the Members of the First Church of Christ in New Haven (New Haven, 1914) Page 1
- I. Partial list of admissions during the ministry of the Rev. John Davenport, 1639-1668
- (In June, 1639, seven pillars were chosen, who formed the nucleus of the Church organization, and received the other planters into fellowship.)
- 1. Theophilus Eaton *Jan., 1658 [* died]
- Son of Rev. Richard, of Stony Stratford and Coventry, England; born 1590; husband of of 21; father of 197 and 235. Governor of the Colony, 1639-58.
- Historical Catalogue of the Members of the First Church of New Haven.., Parts 1639-1914
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