The History of the Bulkeley Family

The Bulkeley Family History Exhibit is generously sponsored by the Bulkeley Endowment Fund.

The Ancestry of the Bulkeley Family


The Bulkeley Family traces it’s English roots to the town of Bulkeley in the County of Chester, where around 1200 Robert de Bulkileh was the Lord of the Manor. In 1583 Peter was born to the Reverend Edward and Olive Bulekely. Following his education, in 1608 Peter was ordained and succeeded his father as Rector of All Saints Church in Odell in Bedfordshire in 1610. The Reverend Peter Bulkeley was attracted to the Purtian ideals and in 1635, to excape persecution by the Church of England hierachy, the Reverend, his wife Grace and their three young sons fled England for the New World. The passage was slow, with the family arriving in Boston in mid-summer of 1635. The family soon settled in Concord, Massachusetts, a town they help found. Grace gave birth to a son, Gershom, a few months later.

Gershom Bulkeley graduated from Harvard, married the daughter of Harvard’s president and sailed to New London, Connecticut in 1660. Gershom served as minister in New London until 1666 when he was invited to lead the ministry in the town of Wethersfield. He remained there until 1677 when he moved to Glastonbury to practice medicine, surgery and politics. Gershom died in 1713 at the age of 77 and is buried in the old Wethersfield burial ground under a fine tablestone.

Gershom and Sara Bulkeley’s son, John, became the first minister of the first church in Colchester in 1703. The Reverend John Bulkeley’s original meetinghouse was located on Old Hebron Road and was replaced by a more centrally located church in 1714. In 1771 a replica of the Old South Church is Boston was built facing Linwood Avenue. Around 1839 this structure was torn down and was replaced by the present building. In 1949 the Colchester Federated Church was established when the congregation merged with the Baptist Church.

One hundred years after the arrival of the Reverend John Bulkeley, Eliphalet Adams Bulkeley was born in 1803, the fifth generation of Bulkeley’s to live in Colchester. Eliphalet graduated from Bacon Academy in 1820 and Yale University in 1824. He practiced law in Lebanon, Connecticut later becoming the first President of the East Haddam Bank and in 1834 was elected Representative in the Connecticut State Legisature. He moved, with his family to Hartford in 1847 and was again elected to the State Legislature becoming Speaker of the House. He founded Aetna Life Insurance Company in 1853 and remained until his death in 1872.

Morgan Gardner Bulkeley was born to Eliphalet and Lydia Bulkeley in 1837 in East Haddam, Connecticut but spent much of his time with family members in Colchester. At the age of 14 he worked in this uncle’s store in Brooklyn, New York, becoming a business partner at 21. He returned to Hartford in 1872 after his father’s death eventually becoming President of Aetna Life Insurance Company until his death in 1922. While in Hartford he was elected Mayor in 1880 and was elected Governor of Connecticut in 1888. In 1896 he was an unsuccessful candidate for Vice Presient of the United States on the McKinley ticket but in 1905 he was elected to the US Senate. An avid sports fan, he became part of the first class elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937, having served as president of the National Baseball League in 1876.

Learn More About…

Bulkeley Flight to Freedom
Bulkeleys in Colchester
Colchester Church
Morgan Bulkeley
Bulkeley Passage to the New World
Bulkeleys in Connecticut
Eliphalet Bulkeley
The Bulkeley Ancestry

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Ghoulchester: A Graveyard Tour into the Past
Location: tour begins at Hayward Fire Company Museum on South Main Street
Friday, October 13, 6 pm to 7:30 pm
*(Rain Date: Sunday, October 15, 4 pm to 5:30 pm)*
$10 CHS members / $15 non-members / $25 families
Fortune-teller cost: $10 for 10-minute reading (optional; pay at Colchester History Museum)

Formerly known as the “Spooky Cemetery Tour,” the Colchester Historical Society’s newly-named “Ghoulchester” is still the same great popular program! During this tour of the Colchester Burying Ground, visitors will meet notable characters from Colchester’s past–as if they’ve just risen from their graves to share their stories!

Tours are guided and recommended for both adults and families with children. All children 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Please wear comfortable footwear, dress for the weather, and bring a flashlight to enhance your experience. Tour space is limited and advanced reservations are strongly recommended.

After your tour, meet a fortune-teller (extra cost; purchase tickets in advance of your tour, as tickets are limited) and enjoy free baked goods and apple cider refreshments at the nearby Colchester History Museum.

*If rain date is necessary, decision will be made by 12 noon on 10/13. Check Facebook and/or CHS E-Blast for notification. Event will be cancelled in event of heavy rains; light percipitation will not cause event to be cancelled; dress appropriately.*

The historic Colchester Burying Ground, located behind the Old Bacon Academy, is one of the finest graveyards in eastern Connecticut housing the remains of many prominent citizens, and featuring exquisitely carved historic headstones. For more information, email: mail@colchesterhistory.org.

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