Plaque sponsored by the Gernon Trust
Located on 34 East Town Street
Lawyer, judge, diplomat, and President of the Continental Congress, Samuel Huntington left an indelible mark on the history of Norwich and the United States. His life reflected the independence and ambition of a growing nation. He saw Norwich change from a colonial possession to membership within a republic larger than any nation in Europe.
A descendent of Norwich’s founding fathers, Huntington was born in Scotland, Connecticut in 1731. From an early age, Huntington displayed intelligence and a desire to do more than was expected of him. While apprenticed as a cooper, he made time to teach himself Latin. This zest for learning caught the attention of Rev. Ebenezer Devotion, who urged young Samuel to continue his education, by allowing him access to his extensive library and introducing him to Eliphalet Dyer and Jedediah Elderkin. Prominent lawyers and patriots, these men shaped Huntington’s future by schooling him in the law. Passing the bar exam in 1758, Huntington soon married Martha Devotion (daughter of Re. Ebenezer), and moved to Norwich in 1760. Four short years later, he was elected as Norwich’s representative to the Connecticut General Assembly. A year later, he rallied his constituents to stand firm against the dreaded Stamp Act.
Over the next twenty years Huntington’s reputation for fairness and integrity grew. He was appointed superior court judge and justice of the peace. In 1775, he was named a delegate to the Continental Congress. Professional growth was matched by personal growth when he adopted three of his relative’s children and raised them as his own.
The many years of dedicated service resulted in Huntington being elected President of the second Continental Congress from 1779-1781. His service as President of the Continental Congress coincided with the ratifications with the Articles of the Confederation and Perpetual Union, our first Constitution, which declared that whoever is President of the Continental Congress shall serve as President of the United States.
On March 1, 1781 Maryland became the final state to ratify the Articles of Confederation, thus making Norwich’s Samuel Huntington the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled. This is and undeniably true fact.
Unfortunately, due to health problems, Huntington tried to retire from public service later in 1781, but was to continue in elected public office. In 1784, he became Connecticut’s Chief Justice, and in 1786, Governor of Connecticut, a post he would occupy for ten years. A testament of his popularity as Norwich’s adopted son was that in his last election for governor, he received all 900 votes from Norwich’s eligible voters. Huntington died on January 5, 1796 at age 64.
His home on East Town Street, built in 1783, is a reflection of a modest man who achieved greatness as Governor, Chief Justice, President of the Continental Congress and first President of the United States of America under the Articles of Confederation in Congress Assembled.