From England to Connecticut

Overview: In this lesson students connect the names of towns in Connecticut or Massachusetts to towns in England. From their observations, they conclude that New England was settled by people from England.

Focusing Questions

Where did the first European settlers come from?

Topical Understandings

The first European settlers in New England came from England

Background Information

Why did settlers come to New Hampshire and Vermont, and where did they come from?


English Towns (Handout B)
Connecticut Town


Part 1: New England in Old England

  1. Pass out worksheet – Map of England (English Towns (Handout B)
  2. Have students label the map “NEW ENGLAND IN OLD ENGLAND” Look. Do some of these names seem familiar?
  3. Next, have them mark the four directions on the map: NORTH at the top, SOUTH at the bottom, WEST left, and EAST right.
    • In the southeast corner of England find LONDON and color it YELLOW.
    • North of London – along the coast search for NORWICH and color it BLUE.
    • Southwest of Norwich find THETFORD and color it PURPLE.
    • Southwest of Thetford, find ENFIELD. Color it ORANGE.
    • Follow the coastline moving south and then west from London. Can you find LYME and color it BROWN?
    • Between Lyme and London look for WINDSOR and color it RED.
    • Further north find HARTFORD and color it PINK.

Most of these towns and cities were founded between the years 1000 – 1200 AD, five hundred years before English Colonists traveled to and colonized New England. Some of these are originally “native” place names – indicating specific natural settings. Can you decode the language of one or more of these place names? “Thet” = a river in England; “ford” = river crossing “Nor” = abbreviation for north; “wich” = a village “En” = short for end; “field” is self-explanatory

Now let’s look how colonists tried to replicate Old England in New England

Part 2: Old England in New England
Note: this lesson works best for the Upper Connecticut River Valley. 

  1. Pass out a map of Connecticut towns.
  2. Have students label the map: COLONIZATION IN CONNECTICUT
  3. Next have them label the four directions on the map of Connecticut: write NORTH at the top of the map, SOUTH at the bottom, WEST to the left of the map, and EAST to the right.
    • Connecticut was colonized in 1636. You can see the Abenaki heritage in the name Connecticut, meaning “long tidal river;” as well as the transition of “old” England into New England in the transparent naming of ‘New London.’ Find NEW LONDON on the jagged southern coastline and color that city YELLOW.
    • Upstream from New London search for NORWICH, Connecticut and color that town in BLUE.
    • Two towns west of Norwich find LEBANON, Connecticut and color it PURPLE.
    • Northeast of Norwich can you find PLAINFIELD, Connecticut? Color it ORANGE.
    • Follow the coastline west from New London. Can you find LYME, Connecticut and color it BROWN?
    • Now try to place your fingertip in the center of the state of Connecticut. Can you find Wethersfield, Hartford and Windsor all in a row? Color WEATHERSFIELD in GREEN.
    • Now color HARTFORD in PINK…
    • And finally, color WINDSOR in RED.

Closing discussions:

How did the colonists name their ‘new ‘communities? Why do you think they named them in this fashion? Some names were clearly for places…New London from London Others were named for powerful people… Bennington, VT from Governor Benning Wentworth; OR Or to honor / receive favor from the landed gentry / nobility… Thetford, from the Viscount of Thetford Orford, from the Earl of Orford How did the colonial way of naming differ from the way natives named places? And why?