Frederick Wolcott


Frederick Wolcott, 1835
Frederick Wolcott was born on November 2, 1767. He was the youngest of five children born to Oliver Wolcott and Lorraine (Laura) Collins Wolcott. His oldest brother, Oliver, died young. Oliver Jr. was born in early 1760, followed by Laura in late 1761, and Mariann in early 1765.

In 1786, Frederick graduated from Yale. The following year he got his law degree from Tapping Reeve's Litchfield Law School. Illness, however, prevented him from practicing law right out of school. Instead, he started working for the local courts.


Frederick and Betsey


Elizabeth "Betsey" Huntington Wolcott
On October 12, 1800, Frederick married Elizabeth "Betsey" Huntington. She was the daughter of Colonel Joshua Huntington of Norwich, CT. According to Joseph C. Jackson, the author of The British and American Wolcotts, described Betsey as "beautiful" and "highly accomplished." Sadly, Betsey died on April 2, 1812, after eleven years of marriage.

The Litchfield Historical Society, in the Alice Wolcott collection, has a substantial number of letters (roughly sixty) written between Frederick and Betsey. Below are some excerpts from their letters.

June 26, 1800 (Frederick to Betsey)

My mind dwells with great pleasure on our
acquaintance & friendship. I love, without reserve, to write
to you & to disclose my feelings; to tell you I am your friend,
& that I will always remain so. With pleasure and with
as much true gratitude as every heart felt, I reflect on the
confidence you repose in me, & on the kind civilities with
which you treat me.

February 15, 1801 (Betsey to Frederick)

I am anxious to hear from you
how you can possibly make out in my absence, I am of such
importance when I am with you, I hope you will write me
particularly, how the girls manage, and all the trifling things
you can think of, for you may be assured I feel a little interested

April 25, 1803 (Frederick to Betsey)

I shall be very busy this Week, & can only
add, ay present, that I wish you to be a happy
as possible with your friends, & I am sure you will
make them happy. - If I feel a little lonely in
your absence I will say nothing about it. - Kiss the
little girls every day for me & remember me with
respect to our kind Parents; & be assured of the
affection of your forever

May 1, 1803 (Betsey to Frederick)

I received your letter on Friday, and was
very happy to hear you was well. I had feared you would
suffer from the cold you had; you doubtless have thought me
quite inatentive in not writing you, but I will inform you
of the circumstances

June 1, 1806 (Betsey to Frederick)

the Girls have both been to
meeting all day, and have been good Children, they send
love to you and say they long to see you, and Mary Ann
requests me to write that she has not struck Huntington
since she has been here, Elizabeth is very good except
when I leave her, she has still her cough,

June 8, 1806 (Frederick to Betsey)

Kiss the dear Children for me & tell Huntington I shall
expect when I go to Norwich to see him quite a man
& competent to assist me considerably in my farming.-
As for Hannah I shall play with her no more (poor child)
as I hear from all quarters that I am quite partial
to her.

October 16, 1811 (Betsey to Frederick)

Agreeable to your request, I have began to
write you and I can say with a trembling hand as you
are well a ware, my nervous system is very weak.
But I think I can assure you, that I have yesterday
and to day felt a little better, I cough, but not as much
and the unpleasant sensation at my breast lessens

November 11, 1811 (Frederick to Betsey)

It gave me great pleasure to be
informed by your letter of the 4.th inst. and also
by our Cousin Jabez, that you are regaining
your health. If you meet with no accident so
as to occasion a relapse I think you will soon
enjoy health.


His Family

Betsey Huntington and Frederick had six children. Mary Ann Goodrich was born on August 8, 1801. Her sister, Hannah Huntington, arrived on January 4, 1803. A year and a half later, Joshua Huntington was born on August 9, 1804. Elizabeth followed on March 6, 1806. Frederick Henry arrived just over two years later on August 19, 1808. Laura Maria was the last to be born. Her birthday was August 14, 1811. All ix of the children, including the boys, attended the Litchfield Female Academy.

On the same day, May 22, 1827, Mary Ann married Asa Whitehead of Newark and her sister, Elizabeth, was wedded to John P. Jackson of Newark. Four years later, on March 3, 1831, Laura Maria married Robert G. Rankin of New York City. Both Jackson and Rankin were Litchfield Law School graduates.

After Betsey's death, Frederick remarried on June 21, 1815. His second wife was Mrs. Sally Worthington Cooke. She was the daughter of Reverend Samuel Goodrich of Berlin. Together, Frederick and Sally had four children. Charles Moseley was the oldest, having been born on November 20, 1816. Chauncey Goodrich, their second son, died young. Henry Griswold followed on November 4, 1820. Mary Frances, born on July 9, 1823, was their final child. Charles Moseley was the only one of the children to attend the Litchfield Female Academy.

Frederick and his family lived on South Street in Litchfield in the home originally built by his father, Oliver Sr. Frederick received the home after his father's death in 1797.


Business


Frederick Wolcott & Co. Account Book,
1802-1828
In June of 1805, Oliver Wolcott, Benjamin Tallmadge, and Frederick Wolcott signed an agreement to finance four successive voyages to China, beginning in the spring of 1806. Shares in the venture were later purchased by local merchant Julius Deming. Oliver Wolcott procured the Trident, a nearly new vessel, to carry out the trade. The ship was cleared to depart the Port of New York on April 11, 1806. After the return of the Trident in March of 1807, Oliver Wolcott announced the availability of the newly imported items at his shop in New York. They included several varieties of tea, yellow and white nankeen (a type of cloth manufactured in China), silks, and pearl handled combs. China and lacqured ware were later added to the list. Goods they imported were also sold in Litchfield, as well as by Belden, Dwight, & Company of New Haven.

The Embargo Act of 1807, which remained in effect until 1809, raised concerns about foreign trade which pervaded the endeavor. To allay his brother’s fear, Oliver Wolcott wrote Frederick in January of 1808,

…it is natural for you to feel concern respecting our China Trade. I can assure you, that the danger is less than appears at your distance. No Merchants have failed, who were not insolvent before the Embargo. Large sums are due our concern, but in general they are due from the best men in the City…There is no immediate danger of War & the Ship & Cargo out, are not embraced by any of the decrees of either of the Parties to the War. The Ship & Cargo are insured against all risques even War, in the best offices here & in Philadelphia…Tell Mr. Demming what I write & Keep yourself cool, for I assure you that we are not in any new danger, unless the British perfidiously swept our Commerce from the Ocean, which is not in the least probable.

In April of 1809, Oliver Wolcott announced to his brother, “…we have concluded to send out the Trident with a moderate Investment & to close the existing concern with the depending voyage.” After it’s return in 1810, newspaper advertisements announced “On Tuesday the 12 th June, at one o’clock, Will be sold at Public Auction, at the Tontine Coffee House, the ship TRIDENT, a first rate merchant ship, about 4 years old…” thus concluding the five year enterprise.

According to Samuel Orcutt, author of History of Torrington, Connecticut (1878), a mill in Torrington (a neighboring town of Litchfield) was sold "to Frederick Wolcott of Litchfield, and Guy Wolcott of Torrington; deed dated May 3, 1813. The Wolcotts purchased another plot, below the first, at the same time; and upon this they erected, that year, the woolen mill. They purchased several other pieces of land giving the owners until the next September to remove the timber. On the day of the raising of the wooden mill, the Rev. Alexander Gillet being present as well as a large number of people of the town, proposed that the name of the place be changed. In response to which a call was made. 'What shall we call it? Name it.' He answered, 'Wolcottville;' and to this all agreed, and WOLCOTTVILLE it is." (90 - 91) Wolcottville became the principal village in the town of Torrington.

Frederick did a lot of his business with his brother, Oliver Jr. They owned the mills mentioned above, manufactured woolen cloth, and imported sheep and cattle. They imported the cattle mainly from Britain, dealing mainly with breeds of Devon and Durham while the sheep were acquired mainly Spain.


Law and Politics

Instead of pursuing his own law practice, Frederick was Clerk of the Common Please. He followed that job by moving up in 1798 to become the Clerk of the Superior Court in Litchfield County. Afterwards he was appointed a Judge of Probate, a position he held until he retired from public life.

He served as a presidential elector in 1808. In 1810, he elected to the State Senate and remained there through 1823. Throughout his life he held several other positions: he represented Litchfield in the Connecticut General Assembly, was president of the Litchfield County Foreign Mission and Education Societies, was president of the Board of Trustees of the Litchfield Female Academy, was a fellow of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was a fellow of Yale College.

Frederick died on May 28, 1837. He is buried in the East Cemetery in Litchfield (less than a mile down the road from the Historical Society).