The fifth Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut was probably the best known nationally of any of our Grand officers. Oliver Wolcott, the son of Oliver and Loraine Collins, was born in Litchfield January 11, 1760. Entering Yale in 1774 his course was interrupted by the Revolutionary War. He was present at Tryon’s Raid on Danbury, served a quartermaster under his father in western Connecticut and had especial charge of keeping roads open in the state for transportation of supplies to the army. At the close of the war he returned to college, graduated and studied law, at the famous law school in Litchfield.
In 1781 he started out for himself. With three dollars in his pocket he went to Hartford to take a clerkship. From then on his rise was rapid. In 1784 with Oliver Ellsworth and William S. Johnson he performed his duties as commissioner to adjust the claims of Connecticut against the United States. First Comptroller of Connecticut in 1788, auditor of the United States Treasury Department in 1789, Comptroller of Treasury in 1791 and Secretary of Treasury, 1795 to 1800, succeeding Alexander Hamilton, were among the offices held by this patriot.
In 1802 he mended his finances successfully in New York as a merchant and banker. He had the honor of being the first President of the Bank of North America. The woolen mills of Wolcottville near Torrington were started by him shortly after the war of 1812.
In 1817 he was elected as the twenty-fourth governor of the state and the third in the family to hold the office. For ten years he served the state. It was a reform administration with the adoption of a new state constitution as its principal achievement. After retirement from office he returned to New York City and died there June 1, 1833.
Yale gave him the degree of M. A. in 1781. He also received the degree of LL. D. from Yale, Brown, and the College of New Jersey. He was made an Entered Apprentice in St. John’s Lodge, No.4, January 28,1784, was raised in November, and for 18 months from January, 1786, was its secretary.
When Solomon Cowles declined further office in May 10, 1818, the representatives turned to his Excellency Governor Wolcott, elected him and installed him in office. All the time he was Grand Master he was also Governor. For three years he headed the fraternity. Three Lodges have his name on their charter and one is named in his honor. During his term the custom of holding semi-annual sessions was changed to annual sessions and Jeremy Cross was sent around among the Lodges at their expense to instruct them in the work.
Self-reliance and devotion to all that duty, honor and patriotism enjoined characterized our fifth Grand Master.
Oil on canvas portrait of Connecticut politician and governor Oliver Wolcott, Jr., painted by Gilbert Stuart circa 1820. The painting is now in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.