Robert Treat (February 23, 1622 July 12, 1710), was an
American colonial leader and governor of Connecticut between 1683
and 1698. Treat was born in Pitminster, Somerset County, England,
but was brought to Massachusetts as a child. His father was
Richard Treat and his mother was Alice Gaylord. His family was
among the early settlers at Wethersfield, Connecticut. He settled
in Milford, Connecticut in 1639 and became one of the leaders of
the New Haven Colony, serving in the General Court as its
Assembly was known.
On Christmas day, December 25, 1647, he married Jane Tapp in
Milford, with whom he reared eight children.
When the Connecticut Charter of 1662 forced the New Haven
Colony to merge with Connecticut in 1665, Treat led a group of
dissidents who left the colony. They moved to New Jersey in 1666
where they were joined by other dissidents from Branford,
Connecticut, another part of the former New Haven Colony. The
dissidents from Branford were led by the Rev. Abraham Pierson,
For hundreds of years, the land we have come to know as East
Orange had been inhabited by Native Americans, who lived, farmed
and hunted in the area. What is now Main Street (formerly called
First Road and then Orange Road) was once a trail used by the
Hackensack Indians (Lenni Lenape), who used it to get around the
swamplands, which were described in early reports as
impenetrable. Main Street twists and turns through
the Oranges because the first road built by European settlers
followed the Native American trail.
In 1666, the Native Americans
made a land deal that was to change the destiny of the entire
area. All the land from Newark to what is now Montclair, was
"sold" to Captain Robert Treat, leader of a band of
Puritans who had originally settled in New Haven, Connecticut,
after arriving from England to seek religious freedom.
The Puritan colonists "purchased" the land for
four barrels of beere, 850 fathoms of wampum, 3 trooper's
coates, 2 ankors of liquer and other items.
Chief Oraton was leader of the Hackensacks when the New Haven
Colony came to settle the area. He was old, and was not known to
deal directly with the settlers. Oraton Parkway is named in his
honor and a bronze tablet commemorating him may be found where
the Parkway intersects Park Avenue.
Keep in mind that the Native Americans did not have the same
concept of "selling land" as the Europeans. The Native
Americans accepted these gifts more as "rent" for the
use of the land. When they made use of land, they did not divide
it up and surround "their" property with fences. The
land was for all the people, not just for the permanent use of
one person or family. This difference in understanding of land
"ownership" was the cause of many of the conflicts
between Native Americans and Europeans.
Robert Treat wanted the new community to be named Milford,
New Jersey. Pierson, a devout Puritan, preferred the name New
Ark, and this place is now known as Newark. Robert returned to
Milford, Connecticut, in 1672 and lived there the rest of his
Treat headed the colony's militia for several years, principally
against the Narragansett Indians. This included participating in
King Philip's War in 1676. He served on the Governor's Council
continuously from 1676 to 1708. He was first elected Governor in
Sir Edmund Andros supplanted him in 1687, and attempted to make
Connecticut part of the Dominion of New England. Treat is
credited with having a role in concealing the state's Charter in
the Charter Oak, and resumed his job as governor when the
dominion scheme fell apart in 1689. He was re-elected annually
until 1698. Robert Treat died in Milford.
His great-grandson, Robert Treat Paine, was one of the
signers of the Declaration of Independence.