William H. Potter

Date of Birth

Aug. 26, 1826

Date of Death

March 28, 1887

Letters Authored


Letters Received


William H. Potter was born 197 years ago.
136 years ago, William H. Potter passed away at the age of 60.

Letters Authored in Collection

Date Recipient Title
April 8, 1861 Calista "Kitty" Potter Family Letter


The letter was written by Bridget and William H. Potter in Mystic River to their daughter Calista “Kitty” Potter in Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, Massachusetts. Although, Mrs. Potter writes about everyday life in Mystic river and the health of her husband, she also writes of the activities at the Navy Yard at Mystic River where she reports that ships are taking on “immense quantities” of provisions and she states that some people think that they may be provisioning Fort Sumpter. William H. Potter, who is recovering from one of his lifelong bouts with poor health, ends the letter started by Mrs. Potter by discussing family news.

William H. Potter's father, Henry Potter, was a Colonel who served in the Revolutionary War in the Third Rhode Island Regiment. His mother was Anna Babcock. In 1820 Henry Potter moved his family to Connecticut where he became a state legislator.

“William H. Potter, his only son, was educated in the common schools of Waterford, and at Dr. Ulysses Dow's grammar school in New London, going thence to Bacon Academy, Colchester, in 1833, where he had as classmates and friends Lynman Trumbull, afterwards Senator from Illinois, and Morrison Waite, afterwards Chief Justice of the United States. He was graduated in 1836 as valedictorian, and entered Yale College in the same year. Before the close of his collegiate course, his health and eyesight failing, he was compelled to give up close study, which prevented him from being graduated with his class, but because of his literary attainments as a scholar, he received from his alma mater the honorary degree of A. M. Soon after leaving college he became a teacher, his first attempt being in the district school at Waterford. Afterwards he taught a select school at Newbury Vale, and in 1840 he became principal of the Mystic River graded school and there married his wife, the daughter of Deacon Elisha Rathbun, who, with daughters, Mrs. S. S. Thresher, of Norwich, and Mrs. Horace W. Fish, of New York, survive him. On account of frequent attacks of quincy Mr. Potter left Connecticut and spent four years, 1851 — 1855 in the more genial climate of the South, teaching in Mississippi, as principal of the Brandon Academy, where he was highly esteemed as a man, and because of his success as a teacher. returning to Connecticut at the end of four years, much improved in health, he resumed teaching as principal in the graded schools at Mystic River, in which he remained until 1865, just prior to the assassination of President Lincoln. He was appointed by him United States Assistant Assessor of Internal Revenue, which office he continued to hold until 1869, when he resigned it to become a member of the Legislature as Representative from the town of Groton. In 1872 he was Senator from the Seventh Senatorial District, and as chairman of the Committee on Education took a leading part in moulding the entire educational code of the state, revising every law pertaining to colleges, academies, common and normal schools...He was for many years a justice of the peace, and at one time first selectman of the town of Groton, which office he held by repeated elections until shortly before his death...Judge Potter always took a lively interest in all public matters, among which may be mentioned the centennial celebration of the massacre on Groton Heights, September 6, 1881, in which he bore an active part, and the erection of a statue to the memory of Maj. John Mason, and the brave men under his command, on Pequot Hill, towards the accomplishment of which it may be said without disparagement to others who took an active part in the work, he did more than any other.” [1]

William H. Potter was born at Potter Hill, Rhode Island, 26 Aug 1816 and died 28 March 1887 at his home in Mystic River The image above is of William.

Wife: Bridget Rathbun (b. 12 Apr 1824, d. 24 Jan 1899). They were married 12 Apr 1842. Bridget's parents were Elisha Rathbun (b. 14 Dec 1782) of Vermont and Lucretia Packer (9 Apr 1787) of Groton, Connecticut.

Calista Vinton Potter (b. 28 Feb 1843) married Samson Seneca Thresher 28 May 1878 at Mystic River. The couple had the following children: Annie Hayward Thresher (b. 12 Mar 1879) and Mabel S. Thresher (b. 22 Sep 1880).

Annie B. Potter (b. 12 Sep 1846) and married to Horace Walworth Fish.

Henry Potter (b. 12 March 1790, Potter Hill, Hopkinton, Washington Co., Rhode Island) and Nancy Anna Babcock (b: 09 MAY 1791 in Ashaway, Washington Co., Rhode Island).

William H. Potter, 43, is enumerated in the Census and living in Groton Township, New London County, Connecticut. His occupation is noted as “Teacher of Academy”. Listed in his household are: Bridget R. Potter, 36, Calista V. Potter, 17, and Anna P. Potter,13.

William H. Potter, 53, is enumerated in the Census and living in Groton, New London County, Connecticut. Enumerated in his household are the following: Bridget R. Potter, 46, Calista V. Potter, 27, Horace Fish, 29, occupation noted as Merchant, Anna P. Fish, 23, and Edith Fish, 1. This section of the Census is signed Wm. H. Potter, Ass't Marshal.

William H. Potter, 63, is enumerated in the Census as living in Groton, New London, Connecticut. Also listed in his household is Bridget R. Potter, 56.

Next door to the William Potter household is the household of Horace Fish, 28, Manufacturer, and Anne P. Fish, 34, noted as wife, Edith Fish, 10, noted as daughter, and Alice Fish, 9, noted as daughter.

Calista P Thresher, 37, noted as wife, is numerated with her husband, Samson S. Thresher, 48, noted as a lawyer, in Norwich, New London, Connecticut. Also listed in the household are: Seneca H. Thresher, 25, noted as son, occupation lawyer, Annie H. Thresher, 1, noted as daughter, and Annie Murphy, 17, noted as servant, born in Massachusetts, but parents both born in Ireland.

[1] “Memoir of Hon. William H. Potter”, Records and Papers of the New London County Historical Society, Volume I, 1890-1894, Published by the Society, New London, Connecticut.