In 1686, Thomas Parke, Thomas Tracy, and several others petitioned for and were granted by the Connecticut General Court authority to establish a plantation seven miles square to the east of Norwich and north of New London and Stonington. Owaneco, son of the Mohegan sachem Uncas, gave a confirmatory deed for the land in 1687. In October of that same year, the town was formally incorporated as Preston, named for the English city of Preston, Lancashire.
Early trades in the area included shoe making, metal smithing, shipbuilding, and brickmaking.
The Ecclesiastical Society of Preston was first organized in 1698, with the first meetinghouse located in present-day Preston City. At the request of residents in the northern part of Preston (now the town of Griswold), the North Society was established in 1716. A splinter group, the Separate Church of Preston, was established in 1747 and continued until 1817. The Preston City Baptist Church (now the Preston City Bible Church) was established in 1812. The town of Griswold separated from the town of Preston in 1815.
Preston has a large number of properties on the National Register of Historic Places including the Preston City Historic District and the Long Society Meeting House.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 31.8 square miles (82 km2), of which 30.9 square miles (80 km2) is land and 0.9 square miles (2.3 km2), or 2.71%, is water.
There were three distinct settlements in the town when it was first established:
Other minor communities and geographic locations in the town are Hallville, Happyland, and Preston Plains.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,688 people, 1,837 households, and 1,359 families residing in the town. The population density was 151.7 people per square mile (58.6/km²). There were 1,901 housing units at an average density of 61.5 per square mile (23.8/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 95.63% White, 0.75% African American, 0.83% Native American, 1.15% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.51% from other races, and 1.11% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.39% of the population.
There were 1,837 households out of which 30.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.9% were married couples living together, 7.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.0% were non-families. 21.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 4.95.
In the town, the population was spread out with 22.4% under the age of 18, 5.9% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 28.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 100.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.1 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $54,942, and the median income for a family was $62,554. Males had a median income of $44,053 versus $28,226 for females. The per capita income for the town was $24,752. About 1.6% of families and 3.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.5% of those under age 18 and 5.5% of those age 65 or over.
According to the Preston Historical Society, "Schools were built in 'districts' to serve the local children, until two central schools, one on Poquetanuck and one in Preston City were built between 1938 and 1940." Currently, public education in Preston is administered by Preston Public Schools, which operates the Preston Veterans' Memorial School (Pre-K to Grade 5) and the Preston Plains Middle School (Grades 6-8). For high school, students go to multiple school districts of surrounding towns, including the Norwich Free Academy, Ledyard High School, Grasso Tech, Norwich Tech, Marine Science Magnet High School, and Science and Tech Magnet High School in New London, CT.
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