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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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William Pitkin

PITKIN, William, lawyer, born near London, England, in 1635; died in East Hartford, Connecticut, 16 December, 1694. He received an excellent English education, studied law, and settled in Hartford about 1659, where he taught, bought a tract of land on the east side of Connecticut river, and engaged largely in planting. On 9 October, 1662, he was admitted a freeman, and in that year was also made prosecutor for the colony, became attorney for the colony by appointment of the king in 1664, was deputy in 1675 and treasurer in 1676-'7, and in 1676 he went with Major John Talcott to negotiate peace with the Narragansett and other Indian tribes. From 1665 till 1690, with the exception of a brief period, he was a member of the general court, and occasionally served as commissioner from this colony to the United Colonies. In 1690 he was elected a member of the colonial council which office he held until his death. In 169a he was appointed with Samuel Chester and Captain William Whiting to a commissioner to run the division-line between Connecticut and the Massachusetts colonies, and in that year he was sent by the colony to Governor Benjamin Fletcher, of New York, to negotiate terms respecting the militia until Governor Winthrop's return from England, whither he had gone for the same purpose. He laid out with John Crow the first Main and other streets of Hartford on the east side of the river. He owned a fulling-mill near Burnside, which was burned in 1690, and the locality became known as Pitkin's falls. Many of his descendants held important places in the civil, political, and military affairs of the colony. He married Hannah, daughter of Ozias Goodwin, the progenitor of the Goodwin family of Connecticut, who came to this country with Dr. Thomas Hooker.--Their son, William, jurist, born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1664; died there, 5 April, 1723, was a member of the committee of war that was appointed with plenary power to send troops into Massachusetts and the frontier towns of Connecticut, and that ordered, on 1 January, 1704, 400 men to be in readiness for any sudden occurrence. He studied law with his father, and was judge of the county and probate courts and of the court of assistants from 1702 till 1711 when the superior court was established in place of the court of assistants, and of which he was chief justice in 1713. This office was held by four successive generations of William Pitkins. He was said to have been apt in repartee as well as argument, and once, when a lawyer named Eels, in summing up a case, said, "The court will perceive that the pipkin is cracked," Mr. Pitkin's reply was: "Not so much cracked, your honor, but he will find it will do to stew eels in yet." In 1697 he was elected one of the council of the colony, serving until his death. He was one of the commissioners to receive the Earl of Bellomont on his arrival in New York, was a commissioner of war in 1706-'7, one of a committee to prepare the manuscript laws of the colony in 1709, and again to revise the said laws. In 1718 he was appointed one of a committee of three to build the first state-house in Hartford, and one of a committee to prepare a map of the course of the Connecticut river from the "mouth of it to the north bounds of the colony, to be inserted in the plan of the colony now ordered to be drawn." In 1706 he built two fulling-mills at Pitkin's falls, in connection with which he conducted a large business in clothing" and woollens, which was continued by his sons.--The second William's son, William, governor of Connecticut, born in Hartford, Connecticut, 30 April, 1694; died in East, Hartford, Connecticut, 1 October, 1769, was chosen town-collector in 1715, served in the colonial assembly from 1728 till 1734, was made captain of a" train band" in 1730, and rose to colonel in 1739. He was elected to the council in 1734, appointed chief justice of the supreme court in 1741, holding this office until 1766. From 1754 till 1766 he was lieutenant-governor of Connecticut, and was the first to resist the stamp-act passed in 1765. He was one of the delegates to the Colonial convention in Albany on 19 June, 1754, and also one of a committee, of which Benjamin Franklin was chairman, to prepare the plan of union that was adopted. He was governor of Connecticut from 1766 till 1769, being elected by so great a majority "that the Votes were not "counted." His urbanity and courtesy of manner were long remembered, and a "Satire on the Governors of Connecticut," published in 1769, mentions him as "bowing, and scraping, and continual hand-shaking."--His brother, Joseph, born in 1696 ; died in 1762, was justice of the peace, represented the town in the general assembly for twenty years, and was judge of the county court in 1735. He was captain in the 3d militia company and became colonel of the 1st regiment in 1757. He mustered the company raised for the expedition against Crown Point, which was led there by his brother, John, born in 1707; died in 1790, who also served in the legislature, and presented with others a memorial to incorporate the town of East Hartford, which was effected in 1783.--The third William's son, William, jurist, born in Hartford in 1725; died there, 12 December, 1789, was major of the 1st regiment of the colonial forces that were raised for the expedition against Canada under General Abercrombie in 1758, and was a member of the council of safety during the greater part of the Revolutionary war. He was appointed colonel in 1762 and was a member of the council from 1766 till 1785. In 1784 he was elected to congress. He was chief justice of the state supreme court for nineteen years, and was a delegate to the convention for the ratification of the constitution of the United States in 1788. He was connected with large manufacturing interests in East Hartford, and in 1775 began to manufacture gunpowder for the Revolutionary war in the same mills owned by his grandfather. This was the first powder-mill in the state.--Another son, George, born in 1709; died in 1806, was clerk of the superior and supreme courts for many years, was commissioned captain in 1768, lieutenant-colonel in 1774, colonel in 1775, and commanded the 4th regiment of minute-men, with which he marched to Boston on hearing of the battles of Concord and Lexington.--George's brother, Timothy, clergyman, born 13 January, 1727; died 8 July, 1812, was graduated at Yale in 1747, was tutor there in 1750-'1, and a fellow of the corporation from 1777 till 1804. He studied theology and was installed pastor of the Congregational church in Farmington, Connecticut, in 1752. At the one hundredth anniversary of the church in Farmington, Reverend Noah Porter said that, while pastor of that church and afterward, Reverend Mr. Pitkin "walked with dignity up the centre aisle in flowing coat and venerable wig, with his three-cornered hat in hand, bowing to the people on either side."--The third William's grandson, Timothy, lawyer, born in Farmington, Connecticut, 21 January, 1766; died in New Haven, Connecticut, 18 December, 1847, was the son of Reverend Timothy Pitkin. He graduated at Yale in 1785, devoted much time to astronomy, calculating the eclipses of 1800, studied law, was admitted to the bar, served in the legislature for several years, and was speaker of the house during five successive sessions. He was elected to congress as a Federalist, serving from 2 December, 1805, till 3 March, 1819, and during his term was esteemed good authority on the political history of the country. Yale gave him the degree of LL.D. in 1829. He was the author of "Statistical View of Commerce of the United States of America" (Hartford, 1816 ; 3d ed., New Haven, 1835) and "A Political and Civil History of the United States of America from the Year 1763 to the Close of Washington's Administration" (2 vols., New Haven, 1828). He left in manuscript a continuation of this work to the close of his own political life.--The second William's descendant through his son Joseph, Frederick Walker, governor of Colorado, born in Manchester, Connecticut, 31 August, 1837; died in Pueblo, Colonel, 18 December. 1886, was graduated at Wesleyan university, Middletown, Connecticut, in 1858, and at Albany law-school in 1859. In 1860 he went to the west and began to practise in Milwaukee, Wisconsin His health became impaired, and he went to Europe, whence in 1873 he was brought home in a dying condition, but removed to Colorado and engaged in rough labor in the mines, regaining sufficient health to resume his practice. He also entered politics, and in 1878 was elected governor of Colorado, and re-elected to this office in 1880 as a Republican. He was prompt and fearless during the riots at Leadville, his energetic action preventing the loss of many lives and the destruction of much valuable property. He was urged to become a candidate for United States senator in 1883, but declined. The town and county of Pitkin, Colonel, were named in his honor. A genealogy of the Pitkin family was published by Albert P. Pitkin (Hartford, 1887).

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