Waterford got its name for its proximity to being in between the Niantic and Thames rivers. One of the first europeans who set sail for this area was John Winthrop, Jr., son of the Massachusetts Bay Colony governor. His mission was to thwart Dutch trade encroachment in the Connecticut valley. The year was 1637. Residents of Waterford resided in wigwams until set up plots for 38 houses near the Great Neck area. John Winthrop was given several hundred acres of land, including Millstone Point and Alewife Cove. Various dams, mills, and ponds were constructed in these area. The only expansion of people in the Waterford-New London area were the growth of families and children. Later on, more people immigrated to Waterford, including the Welsh, Italian, Russian, Irish, and Scottish.
Graniteville, a district in Waterford, is named after the granite industry that was a large part of the region’s economy. Waterford’s granite was used in many construction projects such as roads, the foundation for Fort Sumter, and the Statue of Liberty.
Waterford was part of New London until October 8, 1801. Several farmers representing the dominant commercial interests in the area decided to hold a petition to separate them. Waterford in the 19th century was a huge agricultural town, having mostly sheep farms. The first town meeting was held in November, 1801 to appoint town officials; tax collectors, town surveyors, Fence Viewers, and First Selectman. Only the first selectman got paid at the time. During the 20th century, sheep farms were replaced by dairy farms. Between 1920 and 1960, there were about 100 dairy farms in Waterford. In addition, there were 10 to 100 heads of cattle.