Ohio History Journal

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Samuel Huntington: A Connecticut

Aristocrat on the Ohio Frontier



Samuel Huntington, Jr., was one of the many ambitious

Americans who went west in the early nineteenth century hoping to

improve their station in life. Although most western pioneers were

humble yeoman farmers, a significant number of well-to-do citizens

also emigrated to the frontier in search of their fortunes. Hun-

tington typified this latter group. Born to one of Connecticut's most

prominent families, he moved to frontier Ohio, became one of the

leading figures in Great Lakes politics, and headed the coalition of

conservative Republicans and Federalists that broke the liberal

Republican hold in the state. An aristocratic leader in a democratic

society, Huntington's career illustrates the ease with which a promi-

nent easterner could win high office in the sparsely settled West.

The Huntington clan emerged in the generation before the

American Revolution as one of the most prominent families in Con-

necticut. One branch provided wealthy merchants and a Revolu-

tionary War general. Another supplied Samuel Huntington, Sr., a

self-taught farm boy who became a successful Norwich lawyer and

served as President of the Continental Congress in 1779-1781.

Samuel Sr. moved at the center of American politics, and as titular

head of the nation acquired responsibility for hosting foreign

dignitaries. Well known in America and Europe, he capped his

career by serving as governor of Connecticut from 1786 to 1796. A

taciturn and soft-spoken leader, Huntington was also a confirmed




Jeffrey P. Brown has taught American history at Parkland Community College

and the University of Illinois, Urbana and Champaign campuses. He is currently

employed as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Northern Iowa.


1. Larry R. Gerlach, Connecticut Congressman: Samuel Huntington, 1731-1796

(Hartford, 1977), 9-12, 17, 19-21, 28, 52-58, 88-91, and 102; Deforest Van Slyck,

"Samuel Huntington," from Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of American

Biography, 24 vols. (New York, 1932), IX, 418-19; David M. Roth, Connecticut's

War Governor: Jonathan Trumbull (Chester, Connecticut, 1974), 35; The Governor

came from a farm family and was apprenticed to a barrel-cooper. He studied law and