The first people we know about are the Quinnipiac Tribe.
“The first people to live in New Haven were Native Americans. Native Americans lived in New Haven as long as 8,000 years ago! The earliest people known to live in New Haven were members of the Quinnipiac Tribe. They lived in villages around the harbor and caught fish and raised maize (a kind of corn).
The Dutch gave New Haven its first name, Rodenberg.
A map drawn in 1614 by the Dutch sea captain, Adrian Block, marked native settlements along Long Island Sound from Milford to East Haven. He was the first European to give a name to what today is New Haven. He and the other Dutch who visited New Haven harbor called it Rodenberg or Roodeberg, meaning ‘Red Hills’ and referring to East Rock and West Rock.
1638 – 1640
English Puritans settled in New Haven. They named the colony “Quinnipiak Colony.”
In April 1638, five hundred English Puritans from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, led by the Reverend John Davenport and the London merchant Theophilus Eaton sailed into New Haven harbor to establish a new colony. In November of 1638, the English settlers entered into a treaty with the Quinnipiacs to buy land, in return for protection from the neighboring Pequot tribe. The treaty restricted the Quinnipiacs to an area on the east shore— creating the first ‘reservation’ in American history.
By 1640 a Nine-Squares plan and a new name: “New Haven.”
Within two years, the ‘nine squares’ plan that we can still see today on the New Haven Green was in place and the colony was re-named New Haven. On September 1, 1640, at a meeting of the ‘General Court,’ a legislative and judicial body of sixteen members under the leadership of Theophilus Eaton, the area was officially referred to as New Haven for the first time. More English would follow, from other colonies and from England itself. Until the 1840s, the greatest number of foreign-born New Haveners were born in England.
People of African descent, both slave and free, lived in colonial New Haven.
Slaves were mentioned in New Haven from 1644. By the time of the Revolution, Connecticut had the largest number of slaves (6,464) in New England.
Connecticut Colony Laws about slavery.
In 1774 Connecticut outlawed the importation of slaves. Emancipation bills (laws to free the slaves) were rejected by the Connecticut Legislature in 1777, 1779, and 1780. Free blacks lived in colonial New Haven, too, but discrimination against them was more severe in Connecticut than in other New England colonies. In 1690 the colony forbade blacks and Indians to be on the streets after 9 p.m. Black ‘servants’ were not allowed to wander beyond the limits of the towns or places where they belonged without a ticket or pass from their masters or the authorities. A law of 1708 imposed a penalty of at least 30 lashes on any black who disturbed the peace or who attempted to strike a white person.”
-Excerpt courtesy of The Ethnic Heritage Center, “An Ethnic History of New Haven,” April 2013. (top) Image courtesy of The Ethnic Heritage Center, “An Ethnic History of New Haven,” April 2013
Link to the entire excellent document, courtesy of ConnecticutHistory.org: