Norwich was founded in 1659 by settlers from Old Saybrook led by Major John Mason and Reverend James Fitch. They purchased the land that would become Norwich from the local Native American Mohegan Tribe. In 1668, a wharf was established at Yantic Cove. Settlement was primarily in the three mile area around the Norwichtown Green. The 69 founding families soon divided up the land in the Norwichtown vicinity for farms and businesses.
By 1694 the public landing built at the head of the Thames River allowed ships to off load goods at the harbor. The distance between the port and Norwichtown was serviced by the East and West Roads which later became Washington Street and Broadway.
Norwich merchants were shipping goods directly from England, but the Stamp Act of 1764, forced Norwich to become more self sufficient. Soon large mills and factories sprang up along the three rivers which traverse the town, the Yantic, Shetucket, and Thames Rivers. During the American Revolution Norwich supported the cause for independence by supplying soldiers, ships, and munitions. One of the most infamous figures of the Revolution, Benedict Arnold, was born in Norwich. Other Colonial era noteworthies include Samuel Huntington, Christopher Leffingwell, and Daniel Lathrop.