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Not to be confused with John Trumbull, a prominent artist.

Jonathan Trumbull Sr. (October 12, 1710 – August 17, 1785) (the original spelling "Trumble" was changed for an unknown reason) was the only man who served as governor in both an English colony and an American state, and he was the only governor at the start of the American Revolutionary War to take up the Patriot cause.[1] Trumbull College at Yale, the town of Trumbull, Connecticut, and Trumbull County, Ohio are named after him. (The Ohio county was originally part of the Connecticut Western Reserve.)

Jonathan Trumbull Sr.
16th Governor of Connecticut
In office
October 10, 1776 – May 13, 1784
LieutenantMatthew Griswold
Preceded byhimself
(governor of Connecticut Colony)
Succeeded byMatthew Griswold
16th Governor of Connecticut Colony
In office
Preceded byWilliam Pitkin
Succeeded byhimself
(governor of State of Connecticut)
Personal details
BornOctober 12, 1710
Lebanon, Connecticut
DiedAugust 17, 1785(1785-08-17) (aged 74)
Lebanon, Connecticut
Political partyNone
Spouse(s)Faith Robinson
ChildrenJoseph Trumbull
Jonathan Trumbull Jr.
Faith Trumbull
Mary Trumbull
David Trumbull
John Trumbull
Alma materHarvard University


Early lifeEdit

Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Trumble (1678–1755) and his wife, Hannah Trumble (née Higley), the daughter of John Higley and Hannah Drake. The patriarch of the Trumble family was the immigrant John Trumble (1612–1687), from Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, who was Joseph's grandfather.

Jonathan graduated from Harvard College with a B.A. in 1727; three years after graduation, during which time he studied theology under the Rev. Solomon Williams at Lebanon, and was licensed to preach at Colchester, Connecticut, this became a Master of Arts degree.


He became a merchant with his father in 1731, participating more fully in the business after the death of his brother at sea in 1732. From 1733 to 1740, he was a delegate to the general assembly, and, in 1739–40, was Speaker of the House. He was appointed lieutenant colonel in Connecticut's militia in 1739, and was colonel of the 12th Connecticut Regiment during the French and Indian War.

He served as deputy-governor of the Colony of Connecticut from 1766–1769, and, on the death of Governor William Pitkin, became Governor of Connecticut in 1769, serving in that capacity until 1784.

Revolutionary WarEdit

British General Thomas Gage arrived in Boston, a city with a history of violent protests against British policies, on May 13, 1774. Given the problems he was inheriting from Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson, within a week of arriving Gage contacted Trumbull and expressed a "readiness to cooperate" with him "for the good of his Majesty's service."[2] When Gage sent Trumbull a request for assistance after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Trumbull refused and made clear his choice to side with the Patriots. He replied that Gage's troops would "disgrace even barbarians," and he accused Gage of "a most unprovoked attack upon the lives and the property of his Majesty's subjects."[3]

On July 6, 1775, along with other officers, the governor of Connecticut commissioned Nathan Hale as a first lieutenant in the newly raised Seventh Regiment.[4]

Trumbull was a friend and advisor of General Washington throughout the revolutionary period, dedicating the resources of Connecticut to the fight for independence. Washington declared him "the first of the patriots."[5] When Washington was desperate for men or food during the war, he could turn to "Brother Jonathan."[6] He also served as the Continental Army's Paymaster General (Northern Department) in the spring of 1778, until the untimely death of his mother forced him to resign his post. As part of his resignation, he requested that the remainder of his back pay be distributed to the soldiers of the Northern Department.[7]


He was one of only two colonial governors to continue in office after independence (the other was Rhode Island's Nicholas Cooke, who assumed office early in the war).

Governor Trumbull was elected as an honorary member of the Connecticut Society of the Cincinnati in 1784.

In 1782, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[8] He received an honorary LL.D. from Yale University in 1775 and from the University of Edinburgh in 1787.

Personal lifeEdit

On December 9, 1735, he married Faith Robinson (1718–1780), daughter of Rev. John Robinson. They were the parents of six children including:

Governor Trumbull died in Lebanon, Connecticut and is buried at the Old Cemetery there. His home in Lebanon, the Jonathan Trumbull House, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

In historical fictionEdit

  • In A Little Maid of Old Connecticut, by Alice Turner Curtis, the main character, a little girl named Ellie Barlow (aided by a friend), delivers a secret message to Trumbull during his years as a governor, after which he seeks her out, and helps her friend's father get a much-needed job. The story begins in the year 1777.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Lewis, Charles H. (2009). Cut Off: Colonel Jedediah Huntington's 17th Continental (Conn.) Regiment at the Battle of Long Island August 27, 1776. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7884-4924-6.,
  2. ^ Phelps, Page 48.
  3. ^ Eddlem, Thomas R. 25-AUG-03 The New American
  4. ^ Rose, Page 8.
  5. ^ Phelps, Page 59.
  6. ^ Lefkowitz, Page 232.
  7. ^ "Misc Letters to Congress 1775–1789".
  8. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter T" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 28, 2014.


  • Baker, Mark Allen (2014). Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut, From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale. The History Press.
  • Baker, Mark Allen (2014). Connecticut Families of the Revolution, American Forebears from Burr to Wolcott. The History Press.
  • Phelps, M. William (2008). Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America's First Spy, St. Martin's Press.
  • Lefkowitz, Arthur S.(2003). George Washington's Indispensable Men: The 32 Aides-de-Camp Who Helped Win the Revolution, Stackpole Books.
  • Rose, Alexander (2006). Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring, Bantam Books.

External linksEdit