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Oliver Wolcott

Signer of the Declaration of Independence

OLIVER WOLCOTT was born on November 26, 1726 in Litchfield, Connecticut. His father, Roger Wolcott, was judge of the county court when Oliver was born and later served as colonial governor of Connecticut. One of the best scholars in his class, Oliver graduated from Yale in 1747, and in the same year, was commissioned a captain by the governor of New York. Wolcott raised a company of volunteers and served on the northern frontier until his regiment was disbanded. He then studied medicine with his brother, Dr. Alexander Wolcott, but in 1751, before he entered his own practice, he was chosen sheriff of the newly organized county of Litchfield, a post he held for twenty years. He was active in the militia, and rose through the grades from captain to the rank of major general. In 1755, he married Miss Collins, the daughter of a sea captain from Guilford, to whom he remained married for forty years.

Oliver was a man of integrity and a professional politician who had spent most of his adult life in public affairs. He came to the Second Congress, taking his seat in January, 1776 with a strong optimism about the eventuality of independence. "A final separation between the countries I consider as unavoidable," he told his wife in April 1776. He remained during the debates on the Declaration and until after it was adopted. He then left on June 28, 1776, the day Thomas Jefferson set the Declaration before Congress and a week before final debates were to commence, to return to Connecticut. Wolcott, who had not been home for six months, simply believed the vote for independence was a certainty. 

Oliver Wolcott was appointed by the governor of Connecticut to the command of the fourteen regiments of Connecticut militia that were sent for the defense of New York. A gilded leaden statue of George III had been erected on Bowling Green in New York City in 1770. In 1776, the statue was thrown down by the citizens and taken to Wolcott's place in Litchfield, where his daughters and their friends converted the material into cartridges for the militia. 

He returned to Congress on October 1, 1776 and signed the Declaration of Independence. Wolcott devoted his life to public service and the military, and was appointed in 1785 as one of the commissioners of Indian affairs who negotiated a treaty of peace with the Six Nations. He was elected governor of Connecticut in 1796, and he held that office until the time of his death on December 1, 1797, at the age of seventy-one.

It is important to note that Oliver Wolcott's son, Oliver Wolcott Jr (1760 – 1833), succeeded Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington. He was elected Governor to Connecticut in 1817.

Note signed by Oliver Wolcott, Jr.

A Free Franked address leaf, addressed in his hand to "Mrs. Laura Wolcott, Litchfield, Connecticut," franked "Franked, O. Wolcott."  Unusual as normally a person would write the word "Free" with his frank.

Source: Centennial Book of Signers

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