Ruth Haynes was the daughter of the Connecticut colony’s first governor, John Haynes. She married Samuel Wyllys, whose father and grandfather before him had been Treasurer of Connecticut. Because of their position, it was in the Wyllys home that the cherished charter, given to the colony by King Charles II, was kept under lock and key.
However, in 1687, King James II named Edmond Andros the governor-general of all New England. And to consolidate his power, Andros laid claim to all prior charters. In October of that year he arrived in Hartford to remove the Charter.
Some residents of Connecticut were resigned to this state of affairs, but others were determined to do all in their power to retain their Charter. Among those was Ruth Haynes Wyllys.
On the day appointed, Andros arrived in Hartford. He was escorted to the council chambers where the charter, removed from the Wyllys home, lay on the table. Much debate had already gone on when Andrew Leete, whose father had also been governor of Connecticut rose. Leete looked ill and trembled as he began to speak. Midway through his speech, he fell forward onto the table, upsetting the candelabrum and leaving the room in darkness.
By pre-arrangement, Lt. Joseph Wadsworth, a lineal descendant of the poet William Wadsworth, was stationed outside a window. The charter, quickly scooped up when the lights went out, was handed to him, and he made haste to return it to the Wyllys home.
Ruth Wyllys, home alone, authoritatively told him that it would not be safe in the house as Andros’ men would be sure to search there. She quickly led him to a huge tree standing near the Wyllys house, known to all as “the oak.” Ruth Wyllys held the charter while Wadsworth climbed up into the tree and then handed him the document which he secreted in a hollow limb.
No one could explain the charter’s disappearance, and Andros was soon on his way back to Boston, highly miffed, while the Wyllys’ oak tree was known forever after as “The Charter Oak.”