Middletown is a city located in Middlesex County, Connecticut, along the Connecticut River, in the central part of the state, 16 miles (26 km) south of Hartford. In 1650, it was incorporated as a town under its original Indian name, Mattabeseck. It received its present name in 1653. In 1784, the central settlement was incorporated as a city distinct from the town. In 1923, the City of Middletown was consolidated with the Town, making the city limits of the city quite extensive. Originally a busy sailing port and then an industrial center, it is now largely residential with its downtown serving as a college town for Wesleyan University. Middletown was the county seat of Middlesex County from its creation in 1785 until the elimination of county government in 1960. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 47,481. Middletown, Connecticut is considered the southernmost city in the Hartford-Springfield Knowledge Corridor Metropolitan Region, which features a population of 1.9 million, the second largest metropolitan area in New England.
The land on the western bank of the Connecticut River where Middletown now lies was home to the Mattabesett Native Americans (also spelled Mattabesec, Mattabeseck, and Mattabesek); the area they inhabited—now Middletown and the surrounding area—was named after them. At the time the first European settlers arrived in the region, the Mattabesetts were a part of the group of tribes in the Connecticut Valley, under a single chief named Sowheag.
Plans for the colonial settlement of "Mattabesett" were drawn up by the General Court in 1646; the first Europeans arrived from nearby Connecticut colonies in 1650. Life was not easy among these early colonial Puritans; clearing the land and building homes, and tending farms in the rocky soil of New England was a labor-intensive ordeal. Law, too, was often harsh among the Puritans; offenses legally punishable by death in the Connecticut colonies included, "witchcraft, blasphemy, cursing or smiting of parents, and incorrigible stubbornness of children."