History of Groton
The Town of Groton lies on Fishers Island Sound between the Thames and Mystic Rivers. Its rugged hills and lush green woods slope down to sandy beaches and rocky shores.
This was the stronghold of the Pequot Indians, the area's major Native American tribe, when Dutch explorer Adrian Block charted the coast in 1614. In 1637 the Pequot population was decimated when Captain John Mason led a punitive expedition against their Mystic fort.
Groton was settled by Europeans as part of New London when John Winthrop, Jr., came from Massachusetts Bay in 1646 to found Pequot Plantation at the mouth of the Thames. By 1705 the population east of the Thames River had increased sufficiently for the General Court to allow the inhabitants to incorporate as a separate town. Groton was named in honor of the Winthrop estate in England.
Early settlers were primarily farmers, but shipbuilding and the maritime trade soon emerged as ways to make a livelihood. Groton vessels traded with Boston and New York and soon found their way to the West Indies and across the Atlantic.
During the American Revolution the town was active against the tyranny of King George, sending out privateers to prey on British commerce. Perhaps in retaliation for their success, on Sept. 6, 1978, British troops led by the American traitor Benedict Arnold attacked Fort Griswold on Groton Heights and overwhelmingly defeated the American patriots. The battle is commemorated by Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park where a 134-foot monument marks the site.
After the war, shipping and commerce boomed, and mill wheels turned on every stream. Groton seamen sailed to the ends of the earth hunting seals and whales. Major shipyards developed. In West Mystic, Maxson & Fish built clipper ships and the Civil War ironclad Galena. In 1868 a Naval Yard was established on the Thames River. During World War I it was officially commissioned as a submarine base
The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics delivered 74 diesel submarines to the Navy during World War II and Groton became known as the Submarine Capital of the World. The world's first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, was launched from Groton in 1954. This historic submarine is permanently berthed at Goss Cove near the Submarine Base.
Today Groton is a regional center for commerce and industry while its shoreline location and its many historical sites have made the region a prime tourist attraction.