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Theophilus Eaton (abt. 1591 - 1658)

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Gov. Theophilus Eaton
Born about in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, Englandmap
Brother of [half], [half], [half], [half], [half] and
Husband of — married in London, Englandmap
Died in New Haven, New Haven Colonymap
Eaton-104 created 13 Sep 2010 | Last modified
This page has been accessed 1,441 times.

Categories: Hector, sailed 1637 | Signers of the New Haven Fundamental Agreement.


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.[1] 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.[2] 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[1]
  • A different governor was elected in May 1658 p231 New Haven Records

Therefore he must have died after Oct 1657, ergo Jan 1657/8


  1. 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.
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.
  • Vol. 50, Page 72: "Savage says that the widow Yale, who married Gov. Theopolis Eaton, was a daughter of Bishop Moreton of Chester. Said bishop died at the age of 93 without children, and was never married. Yal married daughter of Bishop Lloyd of Chester; his widow married Governor Eaton.
  • Vol. 3, Page 227: "Mr. Theophilus Eaton, with a family of six persons, and an estate of £3000 (thrice as large as that of any other planter, and almost ten per cent. of the whole amount)..."

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Images: 3
Governor Theophilus Eaton
Governor Theophilus Eaton

New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial
 New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial

History of Long Island
History of Long Island


On 10 May 2014 at 12:14 GMT Ann (Thompson) Johnson wrote:

I have confirmed these are the same person and will re-propose the merge

On 10 May 2014 at 01:48 GMT Laura (Braun) Scott wrote:

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

On 10 May 2014 at 00:41 GMT Vic Watt wrote:

Eaton-751 and Eaton-104 are not ready to be merged because: These may be the same men, but we need to resolve the problem of different fathers first.

On 10 May 2014 at 00:08 GMT Laura (Braun) Scott wrote:

Eaton-751 and Eaton-104 appear to represent the same person because: It is time to merge these gentlemen. :-)

On 18 Mar 2014 at 16:16 GMT Ann (Thompson) Johnson wrote:

Eaton-267 and Eaton-899 appear to represent the same person because: Based on information provided

Theophilus is 16 degrees from Kevin Bacon, 12 degrees from Abraham Lincoln, 22 degrees from Ayn Rand, 18 degrees from Peter Roberts and 14 degrees from Queen Elizabeth II of the Commonwealth Realms on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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