Elizabeth Colt erected the first major monument at Cedar Hill. The tour introduces you to Colt family members as well as friends and associates of the influential couple.
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Some of the stories shared on the tour include:
First Major Monument
Elizabeth Colt erected the first major monument at Cedar Hill, one of her many efforts to commemorate her husband Sam’s legacy in Connecticut’s capital city. Only eight people are laid to rest in the large lot on Section 2 including:
Samuel Colt is recognized for the improvement and mass production of the revolver.
Colt applied for a U.S. patent for his revolving cylinder design in 1836 and built his first factory in Paterson, New Jersey. Although the gun was popular with soldiers fighting the Seminole War, poor sales and business communication resulted in the factory closing in 1842.
Colt moved on to marketing other inventions including remote-controlled underwater detonators and underwater telegraph cables. Then, in early 1847, Captain Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers contacted him about ordering firearms to be used in the Mexican-American War. With no factory, Colt hired Eli Whitney Jr., the son of the famous cotton gin inventor, to assist with completing the order.
With this and other developments, Colt got back into the firearms business, this time setting up shop in Hartford – first in Solomon Porter’s factory from 1849 until 1855 and eventually building his own factory on the banks of the Connecticut River.
The new factory was incorporated as the Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company in 1855. It was designed to support assembly work and outfitted with state-of-the-art machinery. Colt quickly adapted the system of interchangeable parts to the mass production of guns.
Sam Colt was originally interred at a private burial lot on Armsmear’s grounds. (Armsmear, erected in 1857, was the Colt family home on Wethersfield Avenue.) Elizabeth moved him and their four children who were also buried in the lot to Cedar Hill in 1894 when their only child to survive to adulthood died.
Elizabeth Hart Jarvis, daughter of Rev. William and Elizabeth Hart Jarvis, married Samuel Colt in 1856. Their marriage came to an end in 1862 when Sam died at the age of 47.
In the short time that they were married, Elizabeth was pregnant five times. Her first two children died in infancy and at the time of Sam’s death, she had a three-year-old son, sickly two-month-old daughter, and was pregnant with her fifth child. Ten days after Sam died, the two-month-old died and the following July, Elizabeth gave birth to her final child who was stillborn. Of her five children, only her son Caldwell survived into adulthood.
When Sam died, Elizabeth inherited an industrial empire. Although she was not president of the company, she managed from behind the scenes. When the armory burned to the ground in 1864, it was Elizabeth who had insured the building beforehand and managed its reconstruction, including making it fireproof and recreating the blue onion dome that was destroyed in the fire. Elizabeth was also a prominent philanthropist and patron of the arts.
Educated at Yale’s scientific school, Sam and Elizabeth’s son Caldwell designed his first firearm in 1879. Today the Colt double barrel hammer rifle is considered one of the rarest Colt firearms. Caldwell was elected vice president of the company in 1888 at the age of 29. There is little information regarding his active participation in the business.
Caldwell was most interested in sailing, hunting and gambling. And since he received his inheritance at age 21, he was able to pursue his hobbies without financial concerns.
Caldwell’s interest in yachting began in 1868 at age 10 in Newport. He acquired his first yacht at 18 and eventually owned 5 yachts. In 1881, he purchased the Dauntless, a champion racer. He averaged 10 months a year sailing. He toured Europe and the West Indies and regularly visited Florida where he was a member of the St. Augustine Yacht Club.
In 1887, Caldwell took part in a transatlantic race between the Dauntless and the Coronet. He crossed the Atlantic in 16 days, arriving 30 hours behind the Coronet. Although he lost, the race made him a yachting legend. In 1888 he was made vice-commodore of the prestigious New York Yacht Club and in 1892, he was made commodore of the Larchmont Yacht Club.
Caldwell died in Punta Gorda, Florida in January of 1894.
Elizabeth Colt’s brother, Richard Jarvis, is also laid to rest in the Colt lot. Richard was the third child and oldest son of Rev. William and Elizabeth Jarvis. He was a graduate of Trinity College and Yale Law School.
Richard began practicing law in New York City before heading to Arizona as a representative of Sam Colt. At the time, Colt was a financier of the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company. When the company failed, Richard returned east and practiced law for a short time before moving to Hartford in 1860 to again work with Colt. Richard became the head of Colt’s Willow Works founded in 1859.
In 1865, Richard was elected the third president of Colt. He served 35 years until the reorganization of the company in 1901.
Elizabeth Colt erected a second monument on the lot for Richard when he died in 1903.
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