Entire contents copyrighted 2005 by Jack Sanders. Reproduction without permission is forbidden.
Bailey Avenue, a doglegged road between Main Street and Prospect Street, was named for Lewis H. Bailey who developed it. The road does not appear on the Beers Atlas map of the town in 1867, but does on an 1893 map.
Bailey, who lived from 1818 to 1899 and was the first president of the Ridgefield Savings Bank, is said to have opened the road - and others on East Ridge - to develop businesses and residences. Bailey Avenue served as a shortcut to the small freight yard along its eastern leg, where the Ridgefield branch railroad line ended. An old railroad warehouse, now owned by Ridgefield Supply Company along the lower leg, has been converted to shops and offices in recent years.
In the early 20th Century, Bailey Avenue was home to many immigrant Italian families, several of whom still live there. Paul J. Morganti, head of the construction firm, was born in an apartment house there. During Prohibition, bootleg wine and other alcoholic beverages arrived at lower Bailey Avenue by freight car. Every once in a while, the state police - whose barracks were on nearby East Ridge - would pull a raid, roll the barrels up to Main Street, and smash them open with axes in the middle of the road for all to see. Many members of the Italian-American community never forgot that, and long disliked the state police, which had its Troop A headquarters on nearby East Ridge, and certain of its leaders.
Bailey Avenue has the distinction of being the first one-way road in town, an arrangement approved by the Police Commission around 1973 to ease traffic congestion in the center. While some merchants have opposed the action and a Planning and Zoning Commission study of the village once recommended that the road be returned to two-way traffic, most officials and users seem to have accepted its one-way status as being the only way the narrow road can handle the traffic - especially the curbside stoppers.
Bailey Avenue is also the site of the town's first municipal parking lot, developed in the mid-1950's on the site of the old Garden School. The school was torn down in 1955 to make way for the lot. At the time, many opposed the lot, saying that no one would walk all the way from there to shops on Main Street. By the 1970's and 1980's, the lot became so full of "walkers" that the town began planning more lots, with the help of its new Parking Authority.
Although the road has been in use for more than 90 years, the town learned in the summer of 1976 that it had never obtained title to the end of the road near Prospect Street. Technically speaking, it was still privately owned. Using its attorneys and the cooperation of neighboring landowners, the town eventually got the ownership.
One of the more exciting days in Bailey Avenue's history occurred under the road. On March 29, 1985, gasoline leaking from a service station's underground tank was sucked out of the ground water table by a sump pump in the cellar of The Ridgefield Press building, and emptied into the storm sewers. The fire department closed down The Press and the gas station for several days, and an explosion of gas fumes damaged a workshop down the road.
This beautiful five-acre park in the center of town, opposite the library, was the 1964 gift by bequest of Elizabeth B. Ballard. It had been her home and that of her father, Lucius Horatio Biglow, who called the place "Graeloe," a name visible on one of the gateway pillars along the Main Street sidewalk. (The name came from his wife's maiden name, Graham, and his own, with the e's added, apparently to give it a Gaelic or Scottish air.)
In the 18th Century, the property had been the site of the home of Col. Philip Burr Bradley, commander of the Fifth Continental line during the Revolution and a noted Connecticut personality. Mr. Biglow bought the place in 1889, according to the date on one of the pillars at the entrance, and moved the house back a bit from the road, renovating and adding to the structure. (Some say the original Bradley house was destroyed and Biglow's was a newer structure; others say he incorporated the old Bradley place into his new mini-mansion. Pictures of the Biglow house suggest that it was, indeed, built around a gambrel-roofed house, similar to the style of the Hauley house at Main Street and Branchville Road.)
Biglow was the head of Biglow and Main, music publishers in New York, and was also president of a paper company. He built the Tudor-style store and office building on the west side of the Main Street, owned in 2005 by the Amatuzzi family, who for many years operated Roma Pizzeria in the southeast corner of the building (Planet Pizza in 2005).
Mrs. Ballard reportedly felt that her house would be a white elephant for the town to maintain, and in her will ordered that it be razed. That happened around 1965.
In her more than 80 years at Graeloe, Mrs. Ballard was active in the community. She was a founder of the Ridgefield Boys Club in 1936, serving as its chairman for many years, and had been a member of the Ridgefield Garden Club since shortly after its founding in 1914, and was twice its president. Her bequest included the Greenhouse, now used by both Ridgefield and Caudatowa Garden Clubs. She was 88 at her death June 14, 1964.
BANKS HILL PLACE
Banks Hill Place is a dead-end road serving the 1983 "Lounsbury Ridge" subdivision of 21 acres off Lounsbury Road. The name comes not from the hilly terrain, but from a former owner. In fact, the Banks family was farming in this neighborhood as early as the 1850's and the family was in town at least a half century earlier (see below).
BANKS MILL POND
A 1795 deed from Silas Hull to Mary Hull describes land "east and adjoining to David Banks Mill pond."
David Banks, along with Daniel Banks, possibly his son, were owners of the old "woolen factory" that stood on the Norwalk River at the present-day intersection of Route 7 and Topstone Road. The early 19th Century operation was the successor to the fulling mill started around 1770 by Hugh Cain (whose name still lives today in Cain's Hill Road).
The Banks family operated the mill or factory at least until 1839 when a list of some $750 in debts against the property. said to be worth only $600, was filed in the land records.
The place is now an official historic site in Connecticut, the result of archaeological studies conducted there in the early 1980's (see Cain's Hill). However, little but crumbling stone foundations was left of the mills by then.
Bare Mountain is a name that appears in a 1752 deed for a hill in Ridgebury better known as Bear Mountain (q.v.). It may be an interesting example of how names change to fit situations or imaginations.
While documents as early as 1739 spoke of "Bear" Mountain, the 1752 deed from Theophilus Taylor to Theophilus Benedict, both Danburians, described eight acres "situate in Ridgefield North Pattent, lying westerly from ye Bare Mountain, lying in ye hollow between said Bare Mountain and ye Chestruin so-called." A reference is also made to Bare Mountain Brook.
While the word may be just a misspelling, George R. Stewart, in Names on the Land, offers this possibility: "Most... mountains had thick forest all the way to the top. But some were higher or more wind-swept, or more rocky, or had perhaps been cleared by fire. These grassy-topped or rocky-topped mountains stood out sharply among the others and were good landmarks. In all the colonies they were most often named Bald Mountain, sometimes Bare Mountain, occasionally Naked Mountain."
In some regions, the name became so common that any such summit was simply called a bald.
"Later, after the forests had been cleared, these mountains were not so individual, or sometimes the trees grew on a burned summit. Then, because the sounds were the same, men often wrote Bear Mountain. So there is no way of telling which it first was, but there are so many more of these than of mountains named for other animals that most of them were probably Bare Mountain."
Barlow Mountain is a term that came into use in the 19th Century for the eastern end of Asproom or Ridgebury Mountain where it joins with the northern end of Stonecrest or Copps Mountain.
Its peak is about 950 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest points in town. This peak in the 18th Century was known as Asproom Loaf or Loft (q.v.)
The mountain received is modern name from John Barlow, a blacksmith who had his shop and home near the top of the mountain and along an old highway, once the eastern end of Barlow Mountain Road. This road still exists as a path from Limestone Road to the intersection of Barlow Mountain and Knollwood Roads, and cuts through Pierrepont State Park. It was said to be a stagecoach route and one of Barlow's tasks may have been some shoeing of passing teams.
According to Silvio Bedini, author of Ridgefield in Review, Barlow was born in Fairfield in 1744 and came here in 1769. He made all of the usual wrought iron objects, such as shoes, hinges, and nails, but may also have been skilled enough to produce parts for guns.
There has long been a tradition, reported by Mr. Bedini, that Barlow was the inventor of the famed Barlow knife. That, however, is not true. Russell Barlow produced the Barlow knife, known as early as 1779, and he did it in England.
Around 1802, like many other Ridgefielders of the period, John Barlow moved to Ballston, N.Y.
Foundations to the old Barlow farm still exist in the woods of Pierrepont Park. Although much of the old iron abandoned around the site was removed during World War II scrap drives, excavations of the stone foundation around the blacksmith's shop as late as the 1970's turned up some fine, though ground-worn, examples of 18th Century smithing, including heart-tipped strap hinges.
Barlow Mountain is erroneously shown as Barrow Mountain on some US Geological Survey maps.
BARLOW MOUNTAIN ROAD
Barlow Mountain Road is so called because it was the road that led to and across Barlow Mountain. It begins at North Salem Road (Route 116), angles past Pierrepont Pond, and heads up through Twixt Hills subdivision, ending at the state park. It once went through the park to Limestone Road (see above).
Most of this roadway was in existence in the 18th Century. However, the upper reaches are new, built in connection with Twixt Hills. The new road bypasses some of the old route, part of which is now called Old Barlow Mountain Road and part of which is abandoned.
The original roadway, including the strip through Pierrepont State Park, was said to be one of the routes used by American revolutionary troops on their way to meet the British in the April 27, 1777 Battle of Ridgefield.
How long Barlow Mountain Road has been so called is not known. A 1928 property map refers to "Barlow Mountain Hill Road."
Barrack Heights is the late Francis D. Martin's 34-lot subdivision of land on Barrack Hill Road and North Salem Road. Mapped in 1956, the subdivision was approved in 1966 and is served chiefly by Continental Drive.
BARRACK HILL ROAD
Barrack Hill Road, the eastern half of which is quite old, was named for the cavalry barracks of Col. Charles Armand's Partisan Legion of French troops, said to have been located near the intersection of Old West Mountain Road toward the end of the Revolution (see Armand Place).
The western end of the road was improved by H. B. Anderson around 1908 for his mountain top resort (see Eight Lakes). The road, from North Salem Road to the New York state line, is shown on the 1856 Clark's map of Fairfield County.
The eastern end, at least up to Old West Mountain Road, existed from early in the 18th Century and was probably called the Toilsome Road (q.v.) at that time. The first recorded use of its current name, albeit misspelled, occurs in 1857 when Samuel S. Olmstead sold Samuel Scott four acres, "following the line of Barac hill Road."
Barrack Hills is a 1965 subdivision of 9.6 acres into six lots (three one-acre and three two-acre), situated along Barrack Hill Road between Blue Ridge Road and Hillcrest Court. Developers included real estate broker John F. Coyle of New Canaan, who was then also a Ridgefield junior high teacher.
Barrow Mountain appears erroneously for Barlow Mountain on modern US Geological Survey maps.
Barry Avenue is state Route 102 from High Ridge Road to the intersection of West Mountain and Ramapoo Roads. The point where it turns into West Mountain Road has often confused people, but its extent to Ramapoo Road was defined by the Board of Selectmen on Oct. 23, 1958.
Barry Avenue is an example of a road's picking up its name from a prominent family that lived along it. In this case, the R. C. Barry family had a sizable farm on the north side of the road, almost opposite Fairview Avenue, around the turn of the 20th Century.
According to Beers' 1867 atlas, Barry Avenue was then called New West Lane (q.v.) The same name also appears on an 1893 atlas.
New West Lane suggests that the road is a relatively modern one, built as a shortcut from town to West Mountain. (The "old" West Lane, off southern Main Street, was called West Lane as early as 1775.) In fact, an 1854 deed, no doubt referring to Barry Avenue, calls it the "new road," suggesting the highway was built around 1850.
Though it was "New West Lane," the road was probably not meant as a new alternative to West Lane, which was a flatter route to New York. Instead, it was a short cut to West Mountain, replacing Ramapoo Road and Gilbert street - long considered one road.
The name Barry Avenue was in use at least by 1908 when it appears on a map published that year.
And if two names for one road are not enough, there was once a considerable discussion about a third name. One of the road's most prominent residents was Frederic Remington, who is considered the foremost American artist and sculptor of the old West. He died at his new home there in 1909. For some time after his death, townspeople debated whether the highway should be called Remington Road. In fact, a 1927 property map prepared for Edith M. Finny uses the term "Remington Road." There was a similar movement in the 1950's and Silvio Bedini's 1958 history of the town went so far as to locate a house as being on the corner of High Ridge and Remington Road, a modern impossibility since a street at Westmoreland has since acquired the name of Remington Road (q.v.).
BATES FARM ROAD
Bates Farm Road, an old highway at the Ridgefield Lakes, dates from before 1856 and recalls the Bates family.
The Bates clan was living in the area by 1835 when one John Bates is mentioned as a property owner in connection with the building of Limestone Road. Taylor Bates bought 72 acres thereabouts in 1841.
By 1908, there were at least three families of that name living in the area, but the road took its name from the farm of Fred S. Bates who lived at the intersection of Bennett's Farm and Bates Farm Roads. He served three terms as a selectman here between 1904 and 1907.
The Bates house is still standing at 19 Bates Farm Road. When the Richard Clare family took down some crumbling plaster in the house in the mid-1980's, they found written inside the outside sheathing, "Fred S. Bates, Ridgefield, Conn., June 10, 1885."
The beginning and end of the road - Limestone to Bennett's Farm Road - was defined in 1961 by First Selectman Leo F. Carroll in a letter to the town attorney. Previously, it had been considered a portion of Limestone Road. However, when the dirt section of old Limestone Road from Bates Farm north to Bennett's Farm was finally paved about this time, a new name was needed for the connector between Limestone and Bennett's Farm. It was Selectman Paul J. Morganti (1920-1997) who suggested the name, recalling his childhood memories of the Bates farm he had visited on milk runs with his father.
BAYBERRY HILL ROAD
This name is the result of a 1959 petition by its residents who didn't like the original name of the road. And with good reason.
Bayberry Hill Road runs off lower Branchville Road, serving a subdivision first laid out in 1955 by a firm called the Stam-Nor Holding Company. Stam-Nor consisted chiefly of two partners: Raymond Wennik and George Bossert, both of Norwalk. They named the road leading to the circle-shaped development "Lakeview Road" because it overlooked John's Pond on the other side of Branchville Road.
But, in an example of creativity that doesn't work, they called the circle "Boswen Drive" after themselves. A road off Boswen Drive was called, with equal modesty, Wenbos Lane.
It's not difficult so see why residents didn't take kindly to those names. And town officials didn't much care for Lakeview Road since there was already a Lakeview Drive at the Ridgefield Lakes, several miles to the northwest. The neighborhood suggested "Hickory Hill" but there was already a Hickory Lane off Florida Road.
So they offered Indian Hill and Bayberry Hill as alternatives, and the selectmen chose the latter for both the entrance road up the hill and the circle.
The bayberry, incidentally, is a native plant whose berries, when boiled, produce a kind of wax or tallow that was used in colonial times to make candles of a dirty green color. Bayberry candles do not bend easily and, according to a 1748 description by a Swedish naturalist visiting in America, do not melt in summer as "common candles do; they burn better and slower, nor do they cause any smoke, but yield an agreeable smell when they are extinguished."
The northern bayberry, more common along coasts than in the hills of Ridgefield, provides food for many songbirds, particularly the myrtle warbler, as well as the ruffed grouse, bobwhite, and pheasant. It's also popular with road namers; though probably few people could identify a bayberry and even fewer find one, 20 of the 23 towns in Fairfield County have bayberry roads.
According to a 1959 subdivision map of the Hemlock Hills development in Ridgebury, Bear Island is a tiny island in a pond west of Old Mill Road. It takes its name from the nearby Bear Mountain Road and Bear Mountain (see below).
Bear Mountain, a ridge reaching an elevation of 794 feet, is south of the eastern end of George Washington Highway, and runs north-south between Old Mill Road on the west and Pine Mountain Road on the east.
The name is first mentioned in Ridgefield records in 1739 when the boundary line between Danbury and Ridgefield was perambulated. (Perambulation was the state-required practice of periodically walking the town lines to check and, where necessary, restoring boundary markers.)
The perambulation began at Freeholders Corner, which is east of Route 7 (behind Ridgefield Ice Cream Shop), and "from thence running north (N 13 degrees W) two miles and three quarters to a heap of stones on ye south end of a steep rock (the east-northeast corner of Ridgefield) and from thence west two degrees north to a stake sett in ye ground on stones laid to it, which is on ye west side of a hill near against the northeast end of ye Bear Mountain and from thence north five degrees west to Danbury northwest corner..."
Bears may well have been sighted on the hill; they may also have lived in the rocky, craggy inclines there. Writing in 1800, the Rev. Samuel G. Goodrich said that there had been bears in Ridgefield, but they were "extinct." However, they may have survived longest in the remote hills of Ridgebury.
Bears are not unknown in Ridgefield in modern times. In July 1991, a black bear wandered through town, and was spotted by many people at Lake Mamanasco and in the Bucks Hill area. A couple of times since, invariably in the spring, bears have been seen, undoubtedly just passing through.
This hill has also been called Bare Mountain (q.v.), leading to speculation that the name came from a lack of trees at its top.
A 1752 deed refers to Bare Mountain Brook, which may be the stream just west of Pine Mountain Road and which was later called the Wolf Pond Run or Brook.
BEAR MOUNTAIN ROAD
Bear Mountain Road is a short road up the west slope of Bear Mountain. The late Otto H. Lippolt developed it as part of his Hemlock Hills subdivision, designed in 1959.
On a 1957 map, Mr. Lippolt called the planned road "Bare" Mountain Road, suggesting he may have believed in the "bald top theory" (see Bare Mountain).
An 1800 deed mentions a property line passing by "Bear Swamp" near Round Pond. Judging from the landowners' names and the property descriptions, the swamp was probably west or northwest of the pond - quite possibly the swamp east of and parallel to Oreneca Road near Sturges Park, the one-time Camp Catoonah operated by the Girl Scouts.
This has always been one of the wildest sections of town and, in the 18th Century, was probably used chiefly for woodlots. Perhaps the name was applied after some farmer, out cutting fuel for his fireplace, saw a bear in the swamp.
The earliest reference to this interesting name occurs in 1795 when Phinias and Levi Smith sold William Scott 2nd of Norwalk several tracts and a house. One of the parcels was "near the Bear's Den."
However, historian George L. Rockwell, writing in the 1920's about the Bear's Den, said it had been so called for more than 150 years, dating it back to at least the 1770's.
Mr. Rockwell wrote: "On Stonecrest Farm (part of which is now the development along Stonecrest Road) in Titicus District is located the Bear's Den, and such it has been called for over a century and a half. It is only a matter of conjecture just when the section of woods and rocks ceased to be a home of the bear.
"The author was told many years ago by Benjamin Lee of Farmingville that his grandfather, Daniel Lee, killed a large black bear one winter day. Mr. Lee was drawing logs with his oxen to a saw mill on the Norwalk River, and was passing through the woods about a half mile north (of Farmingville School) when a large black bear rose up in his path. Mr. Lee seized one of the stakes from the sled and by a lucky blow, broke the bear's back."
Sounds more like Davy Crockett than Daniel Lee.
The ambitious beaver was recognized in place names long before the name was applied to the road in Ridgebury.
In a 1770 sale of a 40-acre farm to Oliver Whitlock of Norwalk (probably Wilton parish), Ebenezer Nash, also of Norwalk, describes the property as "one piece of land lying near Beaver Brook with a dwelling house and barn thereon... bounded north by John Baldwin's land and the Flatt Rock, east by Ridgefield Road, south by Abraham Nash's land, and west by highway." Another piece sold at the same time was bounded on the west by "Beaver Brook."
This appears to be the stream that runs along Wilton Road East, which modern US Geological Survey maps call the East Branch of the Silvermine River.
The name Beaver Brook is quite common in the Northeast. George R. Stewart, in his Names on the Land, says it and Mill Brook are the most common stream names in Massachusetts. The reasons are not only that the animal was desired for its fur, but also because its effect on the land - the result of its dam-building and pond-making - was difficult not to notice.
No doubt, the industrious farmers admired the hard-working beaver, even though its dams frequently flooded their land.
Even today, beavers periodically cause problems in town, blocking up streams and causing flooding that, in one way or another, annoys or threatens suburban life. Usually, they are trapped and carried off to more rural parts of the state.
BEAVER BROOK ROAD
Beaver Brook Road is the main roadway through Ridgebury Estates, and connects with Briar Ridge Road and Shadow Lake Road. No pre-1900 references have been found to a "Beaver Brook" here and the origin of the name is probably modern.
Ridgebury Estates was first proposed for development as Rolling Meadow Estates in 1957 by Herman J. Leffert and others. The road through it was to be called Old Farm Road. For some reason, the plan was abandoned.
Then, in the early 1960's, David Katz and Sons proposed a subdivision there called Sherman Colonial. A great debate with planning and zoning authorities ensued over the lot sizes, and the case went to court. Meanwhile, the town attorney, who would normally have defended the Planning and Zoning Commission, bowed out of the case to avoid a conflict of interest. The commission asked the town for money to defend the suit, but the town declined. So the commissioners on their own hired counsel, fighting and winning the case in the Connecticut Supreme Court.
However, the town for years refused to pay the lawyers who defended the commission, and the unpaid "Sherman Colonial fees" became almost a running joke in the town hall. Finally, the Board of Finance gave in and appropriated the money, but not without a stern warning against incurring unbudgeted expenses without finance board approval.
That fight was over whether lots should be one or two acre. In the 1980's zoning battles continued there, but over whether the subdivision should be surrounded by corporate development zones, which were adopted in the late 1960's. Ridgeburians want the area returned to residential zoning while several developers as well as town officials who want to fatten the tax base favor corporate zoning. Eventually, the town gave up on its corporate zoning, and in the 1990s, most of the land south of Ridgebury Estates was developed as Stoneridge Estates (q.v.)
Jerry Tuccio developed most of the lots at Ridgebury Estates in the late 1960's and early 1970's. He chose the name of Ridgebury Estates. Beaver Brook Road was accepted as a town road in 1970.
"Ye Beaver Damm" appears from time to time in the land records of the early 1700's. Citations usually referred to a dam across the outlet of New Pound Boggs, now called Silver Spring Swamp. It was possible at the point just east of the intersection of Silver Spring and St. John's Roads where there's now a dam, but it may also have been farther north.
Deeds as late as 1780 speak of land "southeast of the Beaver Dam at New Pound Ridge" or "at Beaver Dam near New Pound Ridge." It is interesting that an animal-made feature like a mud and stick dam could gain such recognition that it appears in property deeds as a landmark for more than a half century.
However, this was not the only beaver dam so cited. In 1782, the proprietors took land from the heirs of Samuel Smith for a highway "at their meadow under Copps Mountain at a place called Beever Dam." This dam was probably west of Danbury Road around Tanton Hill Road.
Beck Lane, a little dirt road no longer in use, shows up on a 1939 property map in the town clerk's office as being east of and generally parallel to Silver Spring Road, across from Silver Spring Country Club.
The name came from former Silver Spring Road resident Thomas H. Beck, who owned 100 acres thereabouts in the 1930's and 1940's. Mr. Beck was chairman of the board of Crowell Collier Publishing Company at the time of his death in 1952.
Bedford Road is a highway of great importance and, perhaps consequently, a highway with several names. It is the modern-day Route 35 from Main Street at the fountain to the New York State line.
The term was used as early as 1717 when the proprietors deeded Norwalk Samuel Smith "six acres of pasture land near ye West Mountain, south of Bedford Wrote" (probably in president-day Lewisboro, once part of Ridgefield).
"Bedford Rhode as far as ye West Mountain" was formally laid out by the proprietors in 1722. This would have brought it a few hundred yards west of the present state line.
Frequent mention of Bedford Road or "ye road leading from Ridgefield to Bedford" appears in deeds throughout the 18th Century and as late as 1817. It surprisingly shows up even on a 1902 survey map of property along the section of the road today called South Salem Road.
In the early 18th Century, the entire length of the road from Main Street to the colony or state line was called Bedford Road. The term West Lane, for the portion east of the West Lane Schoolhouse, did not come into common use until the 1770's. South Salem Road, for the western section, probably dates from the 1830's.
Bedford Road was so-called because the next important town west of Ridgefield was Bedford, N.Y., In fact, in 1790 Bedford had the largest population of any town in Westchester County, all of 2,470 people.
As early as 1640, Connecticut colonists purchased the land that later became Bedford. According to Richard M. Lederer Jr. in his Place Names of Westchester, the General Court of Connecticut favored naming new settlements after places in the homeland, "intending thereby to keep and leave to posterity the memorial of several places of note in our dear native country of England." The name was selected in 1682 and applied to an area of six square miles.
Bedford Road was an important highway, being a main route for stagecoaches and the quickest way to get to New York from this part of the state. The Keeler Tavern, at the head of Bedford Road, was consequently a popular stopping place for long-haul coaches. It was also where the mail for Ridgefielders was dropped off.
So important was this route that a 1777 British Army map called "A Plan of the Operation of the King's Army under the Control of General Sir William Howe KB in New York and Eastern New Jersey," termed this highway the "Upper Road to Connecticut." The name distinguished it from the lower road, also called the Boston Post Road (today's US Route 1 along the coast). A 1793 map of Lewisboro refers to it as "The Hartford Post Road" (see Post Road). It was also one of the first state highways, receiving the route number 3 by the 1930's. Later, it became Route 35.
During the 18th Century, Bedford Road also served as a route from town to several mills, including a grist mill and a saw mill, near the New York line. The town's horse pound was also located somewhere near where South Salem and Old South Salem Roads are today. (Old South Salem Road was the original route of Bedford Road as it crossed the line.)
The town's sheep common and ram pasture (q.v.) were on the eastern end of the road, near Parley Lane.
In the 19th Century, Bedford Road might have been called Shoemaker's Highway. According to Silvio Bedini, no fewer than 20 shoemakers lived along the road in 1820, all working from their homes. At that time there were 40 shoemakers in town - one for every 57 residents. The writer lives in a house, just off West Lane, that was occupied in the mid-1800's by shoemaker David W. Olmstead.) One vestige of the trade remains in the name Cobbler's Lane (q.v.), which runs off lower South Salem Road.
By the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, much of the old Bedford Road had become lined with large homes, many of them occupied by wealthy New Yorkers and maintained as summer and weekend places. The rolling hills, the closeness to New York, and decent roads leading to the city made it an attractive place for them to live.
Among the more illustrious people who lived along the road were Robert P. Scripps, partner in the Scripps-Howard newspaper empire, and John Ames Mitchell, founder in 1883 and publisher of the original Life magazine.
And speaking of men of letters, author Samuel G. Goodrich, known to millions in the 19th Century as Peter Parley, was born along this road (near Golf Lane) in 1793 (see Parley Lane). His brother, author of several popular histories, was born there in 1790.
Beechwood Lane is a short road that runs from Pelham Lane to a cul de sac, but also connects with Rising Ridge Road. It was laid out in the early 1960's by the late Giles Montgomery and his son, Barry, as part of the Twin Ridge development and became a town road in 1968.
Just how modern subdivision roads get their names is often not thought worthy of recording. Most are just "pulled out of a hat," so to speak. But in the case of Beechwood Lane, there's an interesting little tale about how the name was pulled from the hat. It was provided by one of its residents, the late Max Gunther, author of 26 books and countless magazine articles:
"The name of this little street (barely a quarter-mile long) was plucked out of the air on about two seconds' notice one morning in 1968. It happened during a phone conversation between Barry Montgomery and me.
"Barry was chief visionary behind the large land development now known as Twin Ridge. When I first met him in February 1968, he had completed the western part of Twin Ridge, but the eastern end was undeveloped. There was nothing here but swampland and wild woods. To raise operating cash, Barry was offering to sell plots in this trackless wilderness for what now (1986) seem like astoundingly low prices.
"My wife Dottie and I tramped through the snowy woods with Barry and decided this was where we wanted our new home to be. We bought acreage on a rise overlooking the swamp, which Barry planned to turn into a seven-acre lake. He also planned to build a paved road adjoining our property. Until the road was built, the only way we could find our way to our future home site was by looking for forest landmarks. The main landmark was an enormous, 200-year-old beech tree.
"Barry started work on his road in the spring of 1968. In our rambles through the woods, I had suggested that he call this road Tanglewood Lane, which pleased him. We were referring to it by this name before it was even so much as a dirt trail. But one morning, Barry phoned me in a mild panic. He was at the Ridgefield Town Hall. He was in the process of filing maps of the proposed new Twin Ridge section, and it turned out that he would not be allowed to call the new road Tanglewood. The name was already in use elsewhere. He needed another name and needed it fast.
"I immediately thought of that gigantic tree. 'Beech Lane,' I said.
"He was dubious. 'People would misspell it,' he said. 'It sounds like - you know, a sandy beach.'
" 'Okay,' I said. 'How about Beechwood?'
"And so it came to be. The huge beech tree still stands massively off the southeast corner of our house today."
The American beech favors forest soils and can grow to 120 feet tall. The wood, strong and difficult to split, tends to warp. It has been used for inexpensive chairs and furniture, railroad ties, food boxes, and barrels. Its prickly burs contain nuts eaten by a wide variety of wildlife. The nuts have also been popular as the name and symbol of a food and gum manufacturer.
Beers Station was an early name for the corner of town we today call Branchville. The term was first used in an 1854 deed for land on a "new road" running from "Beers Station on railroad" to Ridgefield. The new road was Branchville Road.
When the Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road line was built up the Norwalk River Valley in 1852, a station to serve Ridgefield was erected in the southeast corner of town. The area had been chiefly farmland and where many members of the sizable Beers clan lived. It wasn't until after 1870, when the spur or "branch" line to the village was built, that this section became known as Branchville.
The Beers connection with the railroad began in 1850 when Sherman Beers sold land for $600 to the new railroad company, including "the privilege of extending to the Sugar Hollow Turnpike on the east and to the river on the west."
Beers wanted to make certain that the sale would benefit the community, for he added "the condition that the said rail road company establish or locate a station or depot on said lands." He also agreed "that the said company shall have the privilege to lay a lead pipe from my spring east of my house for the purpose of supplying the said station with water for all purposes connected with said road."
By 1851 the railroad decided that "for the accommodation of the business and travel for the town of Ridgefield, Redding..." a facility should be leased rather than built. So Sherman Beers leased to the railroad "the front two rooms in the basement in the dwelling house now occupied by me, together with the room or office between the said front two rooms and now occupied as a bar room... for the uses and privileges of a passenger house and ticket office for said railroad company."
One room was to be specially prepared "for the reception and accommodation of females." The bar room became the ticket office, and Beers had to provide the rooms with "suitable chairs or settees, and a looking glass of a suitable size, and wash stand, pitcher, basin, and napkins for the ladies room with a desk fixed or portable." He also supplied office furniture and "airtight" wood or coal stoves for each room.
According to Silvio Bedini, Sherman Beers stipulated that he himself would be station agent.
For a while, "Beers Station" became a commonly used term, not only for the building but also for the southeast corner of town. It's last recorded use was in 1868 when Sherman Beers, who was obviously biased toward the name, sold an acre "at a place called Beers or Ridgefield Station on the Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road."
Ridgefield Station was the more formal name, and appeared on the 1867 map of Ridgefield included in the New York metropolitan atlas published by F. W. Beers (no known relation).
In 1970, this writer, who is an amateur radio operator, was talking to another ham station at Woods Hole, Cape Cod. The man turned out to be Yardley Beers, a physicist who worked on the development of radar at MIT during World War II and was working then for the National Bureau of Standards in Boulder, Colo. Later, by letter, he told me:
"My branch of the Beers family moved from Norwalk to Ridgefield in the 1790's when my great great grandfather, Anthony, bought a house on Nod Hill Road on the Wilton line... Anthony and my great grandfather, Lewis, are buried in a private (Beers) cemetery adjacent to the house. (The cemetery is still there.)
"The house has since been owned by a number of artists. One of them was a friend of the famous architect Stanford White, who was frequently a guest there. And the house was enlarged under White's supervision. The most recent owner ... is Sperry Andrews, an artist. (This was the home of J. Alden Weir, the artist, the centerpiece of the Weir Farm National Historic Site.)
"My grandfather, William Woolsey Beers, (was) the first stationmaster in Branchville. My father, Louis Gilbert Beers, was born in a house no longer standing.... (He) inherited an interest in the Gilbert and Bennett Company of Georgetown through his mother, a Gilbert. He went into the company at an early age and opened their plant in Chicago. Later, he was forced out of the company by Gilbert family politics, and he joined John A. Roeblings Sons Company - also manufacturers of wire - in Trenton, N.J., where I grew up.
"My father's sister married Dr. R. W. Lowe and I was a frequent guest at their home on Main Street, diagonally opposite The Elms, until their deaths around 1945 or so. My father's half sister, Mrs. Ebenezer Hoyt, lived at the other end of Main Street, and I frequently called on her. A son of another half sister, Harvey Valden, was (assistant) postmaster..."
Silvio Bedini, in Ridgefield in Review, seems to confirm Yardley Beers' statement about his grandfather. Says Bedini: "Another district post office was maintained in Branchville. Its first postmaster was William W. Beers, who also served as the station agent of the Norwalk-Danbury Railroad from its establishment in 1852 until his death in 1879."
Apparently, Sherman didn't want the job at "his" station.
BELDEN FIELD'S CORNER
Belden Field's Corner applied to the sharp curve of Bennett's Farm Road just before Ridgebury School, where a man named Belden Field owned an 80-acre farm early in the 20th Century.
According to the late Harold IIes of Redding, children from the Limestone School used to walk to a spring on this property to get drinking water for the schoolhouse - a walk of nearly a mile each way. Mr. IIes' two brothers attended the school.
The neighborhood around southern Main Street was called Belltown in the mid-1800's when a schoolhouse there was said to be the only one in Ridgefield to possess a bell to summon its pupils.
The Bell District School, according to Historian George L. Rockwell, burned in 1865 and about 30 students from the district were absorbed into Flat Rock, West Lane, and Whipstick school districts to avoid having to build a new school. Mr. Rockwell does not mention what happened to the bell, which no doubt survived the fire.
Belltown never appears in the land records as a locality name.
In 1852, Gould Sherwood sold Caleb Pierce nearly 10 acres "at Benedict's Mountain, a place so called." Both buyer and seller were Danburians, so the land was probably just across the line in the Ridgebury section of Ridgefield, probably up by Pine Mountain.
One of the adjoining property owners was listed as "the heirs of Asa Benedict," and therein probably lies the source of the name.
Benedict's Pond was apparently another name for Bogg's Pond, a body of water now in Danbury but in territory that was part of Ridgefield before 1846.
In an 1826 deed, Ezra Pearce Benedict of Danbury quit claimed to Richard J. Boughton, also of Danbury, a saw mill at "the Boggs so called, on the outlet of the Boggs or Benedict's Pond. II Thus, the name probably came from the miller. An 1832 deed mentions Benedict's Pond, but ignores the name Boggs.
Boggs Pond, sporting a modern dam, still exists under that name in northwestern Danbury. Water from it feeds the city's West Lake reservoir.
As an area of town, Bennett's Farm has been so known from as early as the 1730's and is one of the town's oldest names. Although there were several other 18th Century "farm" localities, such as Knap's Farm and Fitch's Farm, Bennett's Farm is the only name of that kind to survive.
James Bennett, founder of what was to become a sizable clan here, came to Ridgefield in 1721. He had lived in Fairfield, although his home there may have been in what is modern-day Redding (then northern Fairfield). Bennett bought a house on Danbury Road, possibly near Grove Street, from Alexander Resseguie in that year. He soon began amassing large quantities of land a couple of miles to the north where he evidently lived for a while before moving to nearby Danbury, possibly in the Starrs Plain area.
The date of his death has not yet been found, but was probably around 1739. For in 1740, his estate was divided among his heirs: Gershom, Ephraim, Samuel, Abraham, and Deborah Bennett, Elizabeth (Mrs. Jonah) Smith, and Hannah (Mrs. Israel) Mead.
Several of the family members, particularly the Meads, continued farming in the area, in some cases acquiring more land from such owners of large tracts as John Sturdevant, while others went off to new frontiers. Bath Ephraim and Gershom, for instance, moved to northern New York State, which was being widely promoted for settlement after the Revolution. In 1835, the "Widow Lucy Bennett" was living on Great Hill Road but by 1867, not a single person named Bennett still owned a farm in all of Bennett's Farm District.
The precise size and extent of James Bennett's farm is difficult to determine, but it apparently included most of the present Ridgefield Lakes area, as well as Fox Hill and the ponds to the north. Bennetts also had land to the west, near Lake Windwing, possibly part of the same farm.
At any rate the farm was large and notable enough to become a place name early in the town's settlement. In 1739, for instance, the proprietors gave Ebenezer Lobdell three acres "lying between Danbury Rhode and yet Rhode to Bennitts." In the same year, the proprietors allowed Abraham "Bennit" four acres "lying westerly of ye road that leads to Bennits Farm," the first recorded use of the name. (The road mentioned in both deeds is probably today's Great Hill Road. A 1743 deed calls it "Bennits Path.")
In 1740, the proprietors sold John Whitlock 100 acres "northerly from Bennitts Farm and southerly from Joseph Keeler's New Pattent (Ridgebury) Division" and 10 acres at Whitlock's "new dwelling house near Bennitts Farm."
Note that the spelling of Bennett varies considerably. The second "e" begins to appear in the 1770's (such as in "Bennets Long Pond" in 1779).
Bennett's Farm soon began to gain more distinction as an entity as it gained in population. The Annual Town Meeting on Dec. 14, 1756 "voted that there shall be a school kept ... amongst ye people at Limestone and Bennits Farm." This schoolhouse, probably no longer existing, may have been erected on Danbury Road near the intersection of Limestone and Haviland Roads. (Near the Texaco gasoline station just to the north is the site of a later Limestone Schoolhouse which still stands and is now a home.)
An old schoolhouse used for Bennett's Farm district was still standing but crumbling at the corner of Bates' Farm and Bennett's Farm Roads in the 1970's. Its date of erection is unknown, but George Rockwell, who frequently tried to have the building preserved, maintained that it was the second oldest wooden one-room schoolhouse in Connecticut. The building was eventually torn down.
The Annual Town Meeting of Dec. 8, 1789, voted that "a lawful pound may be erected in some part of the town that is called Bennits Farm." However, a Town Meeting several months later decided that the pound should instead be erected at Limestone near Ebenezer Lobdell's house and that Lobdell should be "keeper of the pound." There's no record of the discussion which prompted the change of site, but it was probably argued that the Limestone neighborhood was more densely populated with men and beasts and more in need of a pound than Bennett's Farm.
By 1867, the Bennett's Farm School District (number two) was defined as bounded on the east by Danbury, on the sound by a line that went by the intersection of Routes 7 and 35 southwesterly to where the Norwalk River (Ridgefield Brook) crosses Great Hill Road and Limestone Road, thence to Stonecrest or Barlow Mountain, then north to near the intersection of Bogus and Ned's Mountain Road, then easterly to the Danbury line. That encompassed almost all of Limestone and Bennett's Farm Roads, the whole of the Ridgefield Lakes, and most of Great Hill Road, an area now densely populated, but then mostly farmland.
BENNETT'S FARM ROAD
As it runs east-west from Route 7 through the Ridgefield Lakes to Ridgebury, Bennett's Farm Road is an old highway, appearing on the earliest map of town (1856). Probably most sections of it were in use at least a century before that.
However, the 18th Century Ridgefielder probably considered Limestone Road from Danbury Road to Great Hill, and Great Hill Road to Bennett's Farm Road to be the "road to Bennett"s Farm" since it was the most direct route from town to the farm (see Bennett's Farm). Thus, Great Hill Road was probably the original Bennett's Farm Road or Bennett's Path as it was first known.
The name "Bennett's Farm Road" was once applied to a route that extends all the way to Ridgebury Road. However, a 1961 petition to the selectmen resulted in the section from the Ridgebury firehouse to Ridgebury Road being changed to Old Stagecoach Road (q.v.).
Just the opposite happened to the east end of the road, between Great Hill Road and Route 7. Petitioners in 1973 got the selectmen to label this section as Bennett's Farm Road after it had been called Maplewood Road for years. The petitioners contented that Bennett's Farm Road was historically the correct name for this segment. That, however, is doubtful since this leg of road probably did not exist as a highway until after 1800. It had been properly called Maplewood Road because it traversed Sturges Selleck's Maplewood Farm in the 1800's.
Bennett's Farm is one of those names that has more than one common form. In fact, at least four variations occur in modern times: Bennett's Farm, Bennetts' Farm, Bennett's Farms, and Bennetts' Farms.
The Bennett's Farms verion is preferred by those who maintain that one man named Bennett (presumably James) had more than one farm. Bennetts' Farms indicates at least two Bennetts had farms.
Both versions are based on situations that may have been the case at one time or another. However, as a name, neither is historically accurate, according to town records. Not once in many dozens of 18th Century deed references to the district does the plural "farms" appear. It is always "farm." (By the 1850's and 1860's, a few references to "Bennetts Farms" begin appearing in the land records.)
Then were the references to one farm owned by one Bennett or by several Bennetts? Because early town clerks infrequently used apostrophes to denote the possessive, it's never clear. However, Town Clerk Benjamin Smith, recording a deed in 1799, writes "Bennit's Farm" and when Samuel Stebbins became clerk a year later (and until 1836), he frequently wrote "Bennitt's Farm." (In 1834, he also recorded a "Bennitt's Farms.")
So, probably the earliest references are to one large farm founded by James Bennett and the name should be spelled "Bennett's Farm." Just in case you ever wondered or cared.
BENNETT'S LONG POND
Bennett's Long Pond was another name for Bennett's Pond (below) and Long Pond (q.v.).
In early land records, Bennett's Pond is always singular, although the word pond is invariably plural on modern maps - with good reason: there are now two distinct ponds connected by a stream. The singular form in the 18th Century indicates there was only one large pond then. And a 1779 deed refers to "Bennets Long Pond," suggesting its oneness as well as its shape.
In fact, from the high ledges to the north, overlooking the ponds from 200 feet above their surface, one can get a spectacular picture of the water and a clear view of the swamp that surrounds it. Overlooking the ponds, it is easy to imagine them and the extensive swamp as a lake as big as Mamanasco, now the town's largest body of water. Undoubtedly, the Bennett's Ponds are a dying body of water, the remnants of a small lake.
Some of the water for these ponds, now owned by the town, arrives from the hills to the north, some from the Fox Hill Lake and other Ridgefield Lakes, interconnected by streams. Because of this, the Bennett's Ponds are dramatic examples of the effects of 20th Century development on our waterways.
The outlet streams of Fox Hill Lake and Rainbow Lake flow into the lower of the Bennett's Ponds. Fox Hill and Rainbow Lakes are surrounded by densely developed houses, and their waters receive runoff from fertilizers and from poorly functioning septic systems. Consequently, the water at the lower Bennett's Pond has become murky and full of algae, duckweed, and other vegetation that feed on the incoming nutrients. The plant life is clogging its waters and gradually helping to turn the pond into a swamp. The upper Bennett's Pond, on the other hand, is virtually crystal clear - all of its incoming water is from the undeveloped, unpolluted hills. Not a house is within its watershed.
The outlet of the Bennett's Ponds sends water southeastward into Danbury, crossing Route 7 and filling the pond across the highway from the end of Maplewood Road (the eastern most leg of Bennett's Farm Road). From there the water wanders northward to the west branch of the Saugatuck River, which flows through Redding into the Saugatuck Reservoir in Redding and Easton, supplying water to Aquarion, the company that provides water to a half dozen communities from Bridgeport to Ridgefield (and that was long known as Bridgeport Hydraulic Company or BHC). Thus, the Bennett's Ponds - as well as the Ridgefield Lakes behind them - are part of the Aquarion's vast watershed, and the firm periodically checks them for potentially harmful levels of pollution.
For nearly three centuries, most Ridgefielders never saw the ponds since they were not accessible by any modern paved road - both the Bennett's and Great Ponds are the only sizable, natural ponds that can't be seen from a car (and maybe from a house). Two centuries ago, at least one highway led to the wood lots in the mountains to the north, passing very near the pond. Today, of course, many Ridgefielders use their feet or bicycles to visit the shores of the pond via the trails installed by the Friends of Bennett's Pond.
The first use of the term "Bennits Pond" was found in a Town Meeting record for 1745, and the singular "pond" continued to be used into the 1860's. The name, of course, refers to the Bennett family of Bennett's Farm, who owned much or all of the land around the pond in the mid-18th Century. Land records indicate that Bennetts still had land at the pond or ponds in 1815.
By the mid-1700's, a saw mill operated on the outlet near the present Route 7 (see below). An iron works (q.v.), using water power, was built in the same neighborhood by the Peck brothers in 1792.
A Town Meeting in 1818 banned fishing on the pond with "any sein or seins, use or employ of any hook, pot or other implement by which fish are or may be caught or taken." It is not explained why, but the record book did note later the same year that one David Blackman was fined $10 for fishing at Bennett's Pond. Round Pond was under the same restriction.
As part of the late Col. Louis D. Conley's Outpost Farm early in this century, the Bennett's Ponds were used for swimming and fishing. At the end of Devil's Run Road, a rough dirt path that leads from Bennett's Farm Road to the lower pond, there are cut granite steps leading into the water, a reminder of the days when this was a playground on one of Ridgefield's largest and wealthiest estates.
BENNETT'S POND STATE PARK
In the 1990s, IBM gave up on putting a corporate facility on its land north of Bennett's Farm Road - the old Fox Hill Inn site (q.v.). It offered the land to the town, but for reasons never clearly explained, the town leadership did not pursue purchase. IBM then sold to Eureka, an arm of a major Northeastern developer, which submitted plans for a huge housing development on the 458 acres north of the road.
An organization composed mostly of people who lived in the area was formed to convince the town to buy the land. The Ridgefield Open Space Association (ROSA) launched petition drive in October 2000, and in September 2001, voters agreed to take the old IBM land by eminent domain. On Dec. 20, 2001, the town took title to land north of Bennett's Farm Road, and in 2004, it turned title over to the state. The result is Bennett's Pond State Park. (This entry will be expanded when Ridgefield Names undergoes revision soon.)
BENNETT'S SAW MILL POND
An 1877 deed for a small parcel "in Ridgebury Parish" describes the land as being "at the west part and in a pond known as Bennett's Saw Mill Pond." Whether this is the same pond mentioned above or one in Ridgebury proper has not been determined.
A short, dog-leg, dead-end road in Ridgebury, Benson Road was developed by William Mannion in the 1960's and accepted by the town in 1968.
Frank Benson came to Ridgefield from North Salem in 1908, buying the house an the southeast corner of the intersection of George Washington Highway with Ridgebury Road. He farmed land across the road where Benson Road is.
His daughter, Ruth Benson Heller, lived in the house from the age of three until her death in January 1976 at the age of 70. Her brother, Clifford, who moved to Vermont in 1946, had died several years earlier.
BEST DIVISION or MEADOW
The Best Division was a very early subdivision of meadowland and, as the name suggests, was prime property, deeded out to lucky proprietors. Most of it was along Danbury Road, from the vicinity of Fox Hill condominiums northward.
On April 22, 1709, the proprietors laid out 21 lots on both sides of the "branch or run of water that vents itself northeastward out of ye Great Swamp on ye east side of Copps Mountain." This area, or part of it, was also called the Great Island because it was virtually surrounded by either swamps or streams. Because it was the first subdivision of meadowland outside the village, it was also called the "First Division."
A 1712 proprietors' deed assigns "a certain lottment of meadow called ye Best Division lying in ye township ... on both sides of the branch that runs out of ye Great Swamp." In the same year, a proprietor received 2.5 acres "on ye Great Island, being some, part of ye Great Swamp, lay'd out on yet account of ye grant of ye Best Meadow Divsion."
A couple of Best Meadow division lots were also laid out at Titicus and on Chestnut Ridge, but the term came to be used chiefly for the Danbury Road meadows. It was not long lived, however, and the term does not appear on the land records after 1760.
In 1739, an Indian named Betty sold Ridgefield settlers a chunk of land that extended from modern-day Ridgebury north to the New Fairfield line. Much of this land became annexed to Danbury in 1846, and Danburians apparently called it "the Betty Grant," according to Connecticut Place Names.
The deed of sale was also signed by Jacob Turkey and Mokquaroose. Jacob Turkey had been involved in an earlier sale of Ridgebury land.
The late Daniel M. McKeon of Ridgebury maintained that Betty's Corner is an old name for the intersection of Ridgebury and Old Ridgebury Roads in the very northern part of the town.
Pamela Colgate, who once did some study of Ridgebury history, reported that she was told by a member of the old Benson family of the Danbury section of Ridgebury that Betty's Corner is up in Danbury, a little south of Interstate 84, near the Danbury entrance to Boehringer Ingelheim.
In any event the name is supposed to come from Betty, the Indian who sold to the settlers the northern tier of old Ridgebury (see above).
Though Betty's Corner was mentioned in George L. Rockwell's History of Ridgefield, it never appeared in any 18th Century deed, so its origin may be more 19th Century tradition than 18th Century fact.
Biddle Hill, the rise along the "top" of Branchville Road near the western intersection of Old Branchville Road, was named for the Edward R. Biddle family who lived in a large house atop the hill in the early 20th Century. The Biddle farm, formerly owned by Ebenezer W. Keeler, extended southward into much of the modern Twin Ridge development. The Biddle sisters - daughters Harriett, Christine, and Edna - were all active in St. Stephen's Church and Edna did much work for the Ridgefield Library. Their brother went by the rather colorful name of H. Wilmerding Biddle.
According to the original subdivision plans, dated 1950, Biddle Lane was the proposed name for what is now Nutmeg Ridge on the northern slope of Biddle Hill. Although Biddle Lane may not sound as fine and fancy as Nutmeg Ridge (which is often mixed up with Nutmeg Court, more than a mile away), it is certainly more suitable and less confusing. When someone from Nutmeg Ridge someday calls in an emergency and finds that the police car, fire truck or ambulance arrives late because it went to Nutmeg Court, then maybe the neighborhood will petition for a return to Biddle Lane - or, if they want to go further back into town history, Pompion Ridge or Pumpkin Ridge, both of which were used for this area in the 18th Century.
BIG SHOP LANE
An old road, only the ends of which is readily distinguishable today, Big Shop Lane extends from Main street between the Finch building and the Gap at 440 Main Street eastward to lower Bailey Avenue.
While it does not appear on 1856, 1867, 1893, or 1900 maps of the village, an engraving called "View from East Ridge," drawn by someone named Kelsey in 1853, seems to show a path extending from Main Street to East Ridge in this vicinity.
In 1948, a developer asked town officials about putting up commercial buildings along Big Shop Lane. He maintained that it was town-owned road and as such would have to be improved and maintained by the town if he went ahead with development plans. What the town told him is not clear, but his plans never came to fruition anyway.
Responding to several inquiries over the years, First Selectman Joseph J. McLinden commissioned a 1972 investigation into whether the town owned any of Big Shop Lane. The study concluded that the town held no title whatsoever and that several parties privately own the lane.
The path, today largely hidden by parking lots, received its name because it passed by the Big Shop, the large 2 1/2 story building at the north end of the Bailey Avenue municipal parking lot. This structure, built around 1830 on the site of the present First Congregational Church, housed a carriage factory and other small industries in the 19th Century.
It was also a community meeting place, and Hannibal Hamlin, vice-president under Lincoln, once spoke there. The shop was moved around 1888 to make way for the church. It continued to house businesses until fairly modern times when it was converted into apartments. The building was condemned as a dwelling around 1971 and remained vacant and deteriorating until 1977 when Bartholomew T. Salerno purchased it from the G.M. Zandri family. Much to the relief of historical preservationists, Mr. Salerno renovated and restored the building as a location for restaurants, shops and offices (for a while the upstairs was to be the studios of WREF, the Ridgefield radio station whose license Mr. Salerno spent 15 years acquiring a license).
Mr. Salerno has been among those who claim the town owns Big Shop Lane, but officials continue to treat it as private property.
Two deeds in 1869 meantion "the Big Swamp so-called," situated on the Titicus River. From bordering property owners, this was no doubt the sizable wetland north and northwest of Ridgefield High School, an area that had earlier been called New Purchase Swamp (q.v.).
Birch Court, a short lane off Walnut Hill Road, is one of four roads in town named after the birch. All are a source of great confusion.
Birch Court, for example, is more than two miles from Birch Lane, over by Haviland Road. And White Birch Road is more than two miles from White Birches Road. One has to be careful when using any of those names in addresses.
Such names are popular not only here, but throughout the area. As of 1981, 21 of the 23 towns in Fairfield County had roads named after either the white birch or black birch - usually the former because of its distinctive and attractive bark. Both are common in our woods.
The black birch, used in making furniture, is also a source for the flavoring using in birch beer. Some Indian tribes used white birch bark for making canoe skins and shelter coverings.
Birch Court, which was accepted by the town in 1964, part of the Eight Lakes development (q.v.).
This dead-end road of Poplar Road was developed and named by Armando Salvestrini in the early 1960's. The area was once part of the huge Outpost Nurseries and the birch trees in this area may have been planted as nursery stock (see Outpost Pond).
Birch Pond is a name of interesting origin. It has no connection with the tree, but instead is a mispronunciation of Burt's Pond (q.v.), an old name for Lake Mamanasco. The Burt family once owned the mill at the outlet of the lake and long held much land in the neighborhood - although some of it was confiscated during the Revolution when some members of the family took sides with the British.
The name was used early in this century and late in the last, mostly in conversation. However 7 a legal notice in an 1896 issue of The Press speaks of "Mamanasco Pond or Birch Pond."
As if our birch-name problem were not confusing enough, consider Birch Road. According to the 1958 Directory Map of the Town of Ridgefield (as revised in 1960), today's Birch Lane was called Birch Road.
Maybe Birch Lane should be mispronounced as Burt's Lane (see above). Benjamin Burt, the town's first blacksmith, did own some land out in Limestone District in the early 18th Century and his name is nowhere to be found on modern maps.
BLACK FRANK'S CORNER
Black Frank's Corner was a late 19th and early 20th Century name for the intersection of North Salem and Ridgebury Roads.
According to Beverly Crofut, Black Frank was a Micmac Indian who had a shack in the triangle of the intersection of those two roads in the 19th Century. Mr. Crofut learned the name from his grandparents, Sturges and Jessie Keeler Selleck. The shack stood there for "years and years," Mr. Crofut reported.
Triangles at road intersections were publicly owned land - schoolhouses were often built in triangles so towns wouldn't have to spend money buying land. With no interest in putting a school there, apparently the town fathers did not mind Black Frank's squatting an this tiny island of land. (See also Black Man's Corner.)
BLACK MAN'S CORNER
Catherine Wettingfeld reports that her mother, Edith Douglas Wettingfeld, who was born here in 1900, recalled a Black Man's Corner somewhere off North Salem Road. This is probably the Black Frank's Corner discussed above. The late Harold lIIes also recalled a Black Man's Corner in this vicinity. He reported that a notorious bandit from New York State, who was supposed to have raped and killed several women, was found by sheriff's deputies sleeping in his car in the triangle of Black Man's Corner. Mr. IIes did not recall when the incident happened, but it was probably sometime before 1940.
An old highway traversing what was once called Hawley's Ridge, Blackman Road extends from Farmingville Road south to the intersection with Ivy Hill Road where the Blackman family had a sizable farm or farms.
A Blackman was first recorded as owning land in Ridgefield in 1805 when John Blackman of Fairfield paid Ebenezer Burr $1,700 for a 54-acre farm in the Hawley's Ridge area. Life in Ridgefield was apparently not good for the new settler, for he died only a year later. However, his family stayed on, and by the mid-1800's, there were several (check number[MSOffice1]) Blackman family houses near the intersection of Blackman, Ivy Hill, and Lounsbury Roads. At least two are still standing. One, on the west side of upper Ivy Hill Road, owned for many years by the Donald Thomas family, is said to date from before 1783, possibly having been built by a member of the Hawley family, descendants of the town's first minister. The other house is on the east side of lower Blackman Road.
The name of Blackman remained on the town's land records into the 20th Century. But by 1922, the family members had moved elsewhere and the town filed tax liens against the last few pieces of Blackman-owned land, and then confiscated them for auction. (More on this neighborhood is covered in the discussion of the Hunter Heights subdivision.)
Blacksmith's Ridge is a very old name that had long ago disappeared from use, but was recently resurrected for a subdivision road.
The first of many 18th Century references occurs in a 1717 deed in which the proprietors granted David Scott 13 acres "lying on both sides of ye highway (perhaps Peaceable Street or Ramapoo Road) leading to ye Blacksmiths Ridge."
The deed mentions one of the adjoining landowners as Benjamin Burt, the town's first blacksmith and probably the source of the name. A transaction involving land in this vicinity, recorded in the town's first record book in 1716, mentions land "laid out to ye blacksmith right." Thus, it is probable that Burt was given a sizable tract on the ridge as an inducement to move to Ridgefield, which was in need of his craft, a situation described under Burt's Lane (q.v.)
Blacksmith's Ridge was used throughout the 18th Century into the 19th Century (an 1853 deed calls it "Black Smith Ridge"). Early deeds did not make its location clear, though one in 1760 mentioned four acres at "ye west end of ye Blacksmiths Ridge, under ye West Mountain so-called." Deeds in the 1850's and 1860's mentioning Blacksmith's Ridge seem to pinpoint the location to the vicinity of today's Westmoreland development, particularly the Barry Avenue end.
Blacksmith Ridge Bridge, a name that appears occasionally in mid-1700's deeds, may have referred to Peaceable Street as it crosses the swamp near Golf Lane.
BLACKSMITH RIDGE ROAD
Blacksmith Ridge Road serves a 1981 subdivision, created by Lewis J. Finch, his son Barry Finch, and Dr. Robert Mead. The development on 59 acres consists of 18 lots running off the east side of Peaceable Ridge Road and the north side of Peaceable Hill Road, overlooking the old Blacksmith's Ridge or possibly being part of the area originally included in the area known as Blacksmith's Ridge.
The developers chose the name on the recommendation of this writer, who is sometimes asked by the town to advise subdividers on suitable road names.
Extending from Old Branchville Road to Branchville Road, Bloomer Road was named for Thomas S. Bloomer, who in 1890 acquired a 35-acre farm there. Bloomer was born in 1858 in nearby North Salem, N.Y., headquarters of a large family of Bloomers who migrated there from Long Island, which they helped settle in the mid-1600's.
Although he was a farmer, Thomas Bloomer also worked for the town highway department and because of this and his living along the road, the selectmen chose his name for the road. He died in 1916.
His son, Frank J. Bloomer, lived at the homestead until his death in 1966, and built the stone base for part of the road by hauling rocks by horse from nearby fields. It is said to be one of the best-built minor roads in town.
BLUE RIDGE ROAD
One of those roads with pretty but meaningless names, Blue Ridge Road runs from Old Sib Road to Barrack Hill Road. It was built for the Eight Lakes Estates (q.v.) and was accepted as a town highway in 1957.
Bobby's Court is a dead-end road off Riverside Drive at Stonehenge Estates, named for Robert Tuccio, son of the subdivision's developer, Jerry Tuccio. It was accepted by the town in 1964.
Robert Tuccio, a boy when the road was built, became a Ridgefield builder himself in the 1980s, and developed many of the lots that his father subdivided in the 1960's, particularly at Eleven Levels (q.v.).
BOB CREST DRIVE
Shown only on paper (town clerk's map 2428), this road at the Ridgefield Knolls was never built, or the name was later changed to something else.
BOB HILL ROAD
Accepted by the town in 1961, Bob Hill Road extends from Knollwood Drive to Rockcrest Drive at the Ridgefield Knolls (q.v.) atop Ridgebury Mountain: It was named for Robert Kaufman of Redding, developer of the Knolls, who for many years continued to operate the Topstone Hydraulic Company, the water firm that serves the 250 or so houses at the Knolls.
Bob's Lake was a neighborhood name for Lake Windwing (q.v.) off Bennett's Farm Road.
According to Jon M. Elkow, a former Board of Education chairman, "when we moved to town back in 1964, Lake Windwing was locally know as 'Bob's Lake,' the Bob being Bob Kaufman, developer of the Ridgefield Knolls development that surrounds the Ridgebury School. Bob and/or his corporation owned much of the land now owned by the town. The lake is an apparent source of the water for the knolls as the wells owned by the Topstone Hydraulic Company are located a short distance from the lake.
"Each spring Bob would bring down a load or two of sand and put out a float that created a nice little bathing area for those of us in his houses. Nothing official, but much less crowded than the alternatives. We swam and fished in the lake up until the early 70's, even though the beach had begun to deteriorate without Bob's annual fixing up.
"I can remember bringing our new canoe down in the summer of '73 to practice the 'what do we do if it tips over' drill. That same summer was the end of my swimming in the lake when I caught - snagged, really - a snapping turtle that was bigger than any dinner plate in our house."
An 1840 deed from Ira Stevens to James Stevens, both Danburians" mentions land at "Bog Meadow... a place so called in the town of Ridgefield." The locality was probably in today's western Danbury, once part of Ridgefield.
In 1833, Ezra Pearce Benedict of Danbury sold his 42-acre farm to Abraham Moffet, describing it as being "at the Boggs so-called."
This locality" mentioned in some late 18th and early 19th Century deeds, was in what is now upper Danbury (see Boggs Pond below).
It is probably the last mention in Ridgefield records of this locality, although in the first half of the 19th Century there are also references to "the Boggs" for an area in northwestern Ridgefield around Turner Street. One occurs in an 1832 deed, another in 1833.
An 1835 deed mentions Boggs Mountain, which is probably the hill just south of Boggs Pond (see below). With an elevation of 1,067 feet it is one of the highest places in Danbury.
The term could also have been applied to what is now called Round Mountain (q.v.), just north of Boggs Pond.
Boggs Pond in northwestern Danbury on the New York State line was once within Ridgefield when our town boundaries extended north to New Fairfield through western Danbury.
"The Boggs" as a term crops up in the Ridgefield land records in the late 18th Century when the section of upper Ridgebury was being settled. What may have been mostly a swamp was turned into Boggs Pond, probably in the early 19th Century; for an 1826 deed in which Ezra Pearce Benedict and Edmund Price, both of Danbury, give up their interest in a saw mill, the mill is placed at "the Boggs so called on the outlet of the Boggs or Benedict's Pond." Thus, the pond served to store water to power the mill.
An 1822 deed speaks of land at the "outlett of the Middle River Boggs Pond." The Middle River, still called that, flows from the pond into the center of Danbury where it joins with the Still River and heads northeastward to the Housatonic River.
A large school district in Danbury, just east of the old Ridgefield line, was called Boggs in the middle 1800's; Ridgefield deeds in 1843 mention "Boggs School District" and "Boggs District." There was also a Middle River School District.
The body of water is still called Boggs Pond today.
Bogus is a genuinely peculiar name whose application here predates by nearly a half century its first officially recognized appearance in print.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the most comprehensive of English dictionaries, Bogus is a distinctly American word which first appears in print in 1827. Following is the dictionary's report: "Bogus (is) a cant word of US about the origin of which many guesses have been made and 'bogus' derivations circumstantially given.
"Dr. S. Willard of Chicago, in a letter to the editor of this Dictionary, quotes from the Painesville (Ohio) Telegraph of July 6 and Nov. 2, 1827, the word bogus as a substantive applied to an apparatus for coining false money. Mr. Eber D. Howe, who was then the editor of that paper, describes in his Autobiography (1876) the discovery of such a piece of mechanism in the hands of a gang of coiners at Painesville in May 1827; it was a mysterious-looking object, and someone in the crowd styled it as a 'bogus,' a designation adopted in the succeeding numbers of the paper.
"Dr. Willard considers this to have been short for tantrabogus, a word familiar to him from his childhood, and which in his father's time was commonly applied in Vermont to any ill-looking object; he points out that tantarabobs is given (in another dictionary) as a Devonshire word for the devil. Bogus seems thus to be related to Bogy." (Bogy, which can be traced back in print only to the early 1800's, means an evil one, and is apparently derived from the Slavonic, "Bog," meaning god.)
Even the relatively new and highly touted Dictionary of American Regional English fails to mention "bogus," much less cite an earlier use.
Although bogus started out to mean a counterfeiting device, it became more commonly used to describe what was counterfeited - such as a "bogus bill."
Bogus as a place name turns up in our land records 45 years before the incident in Painesville. The first reference appears in a 1782 deed from the proprietors to John Rockwell's heirs, in which two acres are described as "on the northwest part of Daniel Rockwell's land at Bogus so called."
Where did the word come from and precisely what did it mean to those who used it? The answers to both questions may never be more than conjecture.
Inspection of 18th Century land and tax records in Ridgefield and Danbury uncovered no family by the name of Bogus, which seems to eliminate that possibility as a source.
But it is worth noting that the US Geological Survey maps record a "Bogus Mountain" in Bethel near the Danbury line and another in New Fairfield, showing that the ward had been in common use hereabouts.
George R. Stewart, who wrote two books on American place names, cites two Bogus localities - Bogus Creek, Calif., and Bogus Hollow, Iowa - as places where counterfeiters operated. However, he observes that Bogus is "a name applied to features, especially in the California mining districts, to indicate some deception or humbug."
My guess is that the word is somehow connected with Dr. Willard's "tantrabogus," which was used in Vermont, a state which many Connecticut people helped to settle (and which was once called New Connecticut).
It is interesting to note that in 1783, Nehemiah Keeler sold Eliphalet Brush "eight acres in my farm called Bogus." Later, the same deed refers to "such Bogus Farm." The references sound personal, almost as if it were Mr. Keeler who first applied the name as descriptive of his farmland.
That terminology seemed to have stuck; in 1807 Obil Rockwell sold Benjamin Lynes land at a corner "of the Bogus Farm so called." An 1826 deed also refers to "the Bogus Farm."
By 1855 deeds were referring to land "in Bogus."
According to research done by Edwin D. Liljegren, who lived on George Washington Highway, "Bogus" consisted of the area we now call Ned's Mountain. Anyone who has trekked through this region knows that it is rocky, steep, rough terrain and would be extremely difficult to use as farmland. When Keeler refers to "my farm called Bogus," he may be applying an almost sarcastic title for property that he may have accepted earlier in the 1700's without knowing its rough nature.
It would have, in effect, been "counterfeit" or "worthless" land, suitable perhaps only for woodlots - and even then woodlots of questionable quality since most of the trees in the area may have been evergreens, a poor fireplace fuel.
Bogus Road is, oddly enough, one of the town's oldest road names still in use. The term first appears in an 1806 deed which describes land at "Ridgefield Short Woods" as being bounded on the west "by Bogus Road, a highway so called."
Today, the name applies chiefly to the road running between a point near the end of Sophia Drive south to the intersection of Ned's Mountain Road. However, according to Historian George L. Rockwell, Bogus Road at the time of the Revolution was a well-defined highway, extending from George Washington Highway, south across Ned's Mountain Road, through modern-day Hemlock Hills refuge, and coming out on Bennett's Farm Road near the Ridgebury School. This path is said to have been used by some of the British troops on their way from Danbury to Ridgefield on April 27, 1777 when the battle with colonial troops occurred.
Later, this old road seemed to fallout of use, and virtually disappeared. Neither Clark's 1856 map nor Beers' 1867 atlas shows the road. In fact, it does not appear on any early 20th Century maps of the town. It may, however, have remained a driftway for moving livestock or an access to woodlots throughout the 19th Century. An 1864 deed refers to it as "the old Bogus Highway."
The section of Bogus Road north of Ned's Mountain up to George Washington Highway appears as a road on the town's 1946 zoning map. The present-day Bogus Road also appears in name on a map for the late Otto H. Lippolt's subdivision, Hemlock Hills, drawn in 1959. Mr. Lippolt, a well driller and land collector, had planned to develop small house lots along the whole length of Bogus Road down to Lake Windwing. He went so far as to improve the old path of Bogus Road, where he installed drains and culverts that still exist in the park.
Mr. Lippolt managed to develop only part of the upper half of the road, and land around the southern end was forever preserved when the town in 1967 purchased 570 acres from his widow for the park (see Hemlock Hills).
In 1957, as he was preparing his development, Mr. Lippolt engaged in some debate with town fathers over whether or not Bogus Road was a town road. Apparently it was eventually agreed that the roadway was public land. At any rate, most of it - from the paved portion at the north to the dirt section through the park - now belongs to the town.
It is not clear who owns the unused northern connector between Sophia Drive and George Washington Highway, though a case could probably be made for its being an old town road.
Though it ranks among our most unusual place names, Bogus has stuck around for nearly two centuries - one of the few old names to do so. Its long life is all the more unusual because the neighborhood to which it refers was probably not inhabited until well into the 20th Century. Perhaps we have Mr. Lippolt to thank for rebuilding the road and regenerating the name.
Bogus Lane was apparently another name for Bogus Road. The term shows up first in an 1841 deed and was rarely used.
Bogus Woods appears in an 1863 deed.
Boswen Drive is the original name for the circle now called Bayberry Hill Road (q.v.), and was a creation of the developers, George Bossert and Raymond Wennik, making use of the first syllables of their last names. A little lane of the circle was called Wenbos.
The names didn't go over well with residents who successfully petitioned the selectmen to change them.
BOULDER HILL LANE, ROAD
Boulder Hill Lane and Road, which run off Rockwell Road and Perry Lane, were named for the estate of the turn-of-the-century artist, Frederick Dielman (1847-1935), whose house there was called "The Boulders."
A noted artist of his time and a president of the National Academy of Design, Dielman took the name from the rocky terrain.
When Jerry Tuccio developed the property in the 1950's, he made use of the estate name - as he also later did with Mimosa, Westmoreland, and Twixt Hills. The roads became town highways in 1957.
Local legend says that the British engaged in a small skirmish with the colonists atop this hill during the Battle of Ridgefield in April 1777.
Frederick Dielman was a celebrated artist of his era, especially known for his murals, both painted and mosiac. The mosaic panels in the Library of Congress, entitled Law and History, are often cited in biographical dictionaries on artists as being his best-known works.
BRADLEY'S MILL POND
Bradley's Mill Pond is one of many names used over the years for what is today Miller's Pond on the west side of Route 7, just above Florida Hill Road. It first appears on the land records in 1818 when Ebenezer Hawley 2nd sold John Couch of Redding one acre bounded on the west by "Bradley's Mill Pond."
That same year Sturges Bradley had purchased Sarah Couch's "grist or corn mill" and her adjacent saw mill there. She had owned the mill since 1782 while her husband, Thomas, had operated it until his death around 1817.
Bradley owned the mill only four years, selling both mills to Stephen Jackson in 1822.
Peter Burr had established the gristmill and pond in 1737, and they went through 12 owners before Bradley bought it. The gristmill was probably an important one, serving the needs of southeastern Ridgefielders and those in the northwestern part of Fairfield (later Redding).
Branch means a stream of water that feeds into a river, analogous to a tree branch connected to a trunk.
Many early deeds refer to "the Branch" almost as if it were the stream's only name. For example, land northwest of the Ridgebury Congregational Church was bounded, according to a 1790 deed, "east by the Branch, so called, as the same now runs." The phrase "so called" appears frequently in early deeds, indicating the name is an accepted title, established at least in the neighborhood. Deeds repeated said "West Mountain, so called," "at Limestone, so called," etc.
Branchville, first applied in 1870 to the southeast corner of town, was named for the "branch" rail line from the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad to Ridgefield village. The first recorded use of the term appears in an 1870 deed for four acres "lying in the town of Ridgefield at Branchville."
It was the very same year that the branch line was built, suggesting that the railroad rather than neighborhood residents had invented the name to distinguish the station from the new one at Ridgefield center. Previously, the station at Branchville had been known as Ridgefield Station (q.v.)
Passenger service on the branch line was available into town until 1925; freight service lasted until 1964. Most of the track bed, complete with gravel but missing its rails, is today the path of the Northeast Utilities high-voltage line and the town's "Rail-Trail," developed in the 1990s for walkers (no bicycles, alas, allowed). Some of the other sections along southern Florida Road have been sold to adjoining landowners.
To the Indians, the southeast corner of town was known as Wheer Cock (q.v.). Later it was called Copps Corner (q.v.). When the railroad line from Norwalk to Danbury was completed in 1852, the neighborhood was at first called Beers Station (q.v.) or Ridgefield Station, after the stop there.
While this area had been mostly farmland and a mill or two, the coming of the railroad sparked the development of a booming, albeit small-scale, industrial community. It included mills, stores, a hotel, a machinery factory, a noted mineral quarry, a post office, and a school. (Still standing on Old Branchville Road, the schoolhouse has in recent years been used for storage.)
Branchville had its own school district at least since the middle 19th Century - it was known as the "Ridgefield Station District" before it was called Branchville. Its schoolhouse was used until around 1927 when children started being "bused" to Garden School on Bailey Avenue in the village.
A new Branchville School opened in 1969 on lower Florida Road, remaining in use until in 1983 when it was closed due to declining enrollments and used as Board of Education offices. In 1994, faced with increasing enrollments, voters agreed to reopen the school.
An 1893 atlas labels this territory as "Plattsville," which is undoubtedly a mapmaker's error.
The US Geological Survey map uses "Branchville Hill" for the ridge along Old Branchville Road at Bruschi Lane.
BRANCHVILLE HILL ROAD
A map prepared for the town assessors in 1934 labels as Branchville Hill Road what we today call Nod Hill Road. This suggests that the ridge traversed by this road was at some time called Branchville Hill, a more likely possibility than the Branchville Hill situation cited above.
Branchville Road, the main route between the village and the southeast corner of town, changed several times in name, path, and purpose over its many years.
It is probable that the village end of the road - different from today's east end - was laid out before 1725 as a route to the fields to the east of the settlement.
The eastern half of the road was not formally established until 1744 when the selectmen defined the path as "beginning at Fairfield line at ye south end of Cedar Mountain, at ye northeast corner of Abraham Bennits land, and so running westward between ye said land and Matthew Seamores till it comes to ye west side of ye land at ye Wolfpitts, and from there westward eight rodds wide till it comes to ye Pompion Ridge to Smiths Lott and Osburns, and thence onward as ye way is now to town..."
Most of the above-described route is the present Old Branchville Road. Note the unusual breadth of the right of way - 132 feet - which evidently allowed the roadmakers flexibility in determining the exact path of the road through some pretty rocky and hilly terrain. If a rock outcropping or a swamp made one route unusable, the road might be moved 70 or 80 feet over to flatter or drier ground.
The eastern half of the road was of no great significance locally in the 18th and early 19th Centuries. It served primarily as access to the handful of families living in the southeastern region of town and to a saw mill on Cooper Road. It may have seen limited use as a route to Fairfield, the county seat, though the main highway south was today's Route 33 to Wilton and Norwalk. The main road east to Redding (originally upper Fairfield) was over either Florida Hill Road or Haviland Road.
However, when the Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road began Feb. 22, 1852, the track ran through less than 4,000 feet of Ridgefield's southeastern corner. Only one road from the village served this neighborhood, and the station was placed almost exactly at its junction with the tracks.
However, the road was a poor one. Almost immediately after the tracks were laid, there were cries for a better highway for the carts hauling freight and the stages carrying passengers to and from trains. Soon after 1852, the "new road," as it was sometimes called in the mid-19th Century, was built from Pompion Ridge to just west of the station. Its hills were less steep and it avoided the wet lowlands that the old highway - today called Old Branchville Road traversed.
The town acquired land for the new road in 1851, buying strips three rods or just under 50 feet wide from 13 different property owners. Most of the owners sold the segments through their property for only $1 - ranging from Bradley Beers' 100 feet to Russel B. Keeler's 948 feet. However, others either held out for more money or had better land of more value. For instance, Stephen Jones was paid $100 for his 330 by 50 feet, and Benjamin and Lydia Godfrey received $45 for a 922-foot strip.
The western end of Branchville Road, as we know it today, was probably not built until sometime before 1831 when the section from Main street eastward to the East Ridge Middle School was being described as "New Lane" in several deeds. Until that time, the main road from Main Street to the Branchville area was via Rockwell Road, which is a very old highway.
At its western end, the "new" Branchville Road ran into the Village Green of the 18th and 19th Centuries. For a while it was called Railroad Avenue, especially in the village, because it was the way to get down to the Branchville Station. The road became known as Hawley Street after the spur line to the village was built. The Hawley family had owned the house on the northeast corner of Main Street since Thomas Hauley, the town's first minister, arrived around 1713.
Today, many people know Branchville Road only by its state-applied number - Route 102. As a state highway, it was one of the first in the area to be paved - the western end, at least. The pavement was experimental, and was done before 1920 - even before Main Street lost its dirt top.
Brewster's Pond off the southeast side of Lounsbury Road is named for the Brewster family which has owned it since 1936 when Carroll H. and Dr. Blandina Worcester Brewster bought the Farmingville farm as a weekend and vacation retreat.
Mr. Brewster was a New York City attorney who died in 1952. Dr. Brewster, a pediatrician, died in 1984.
Their son, Carroll W. Brewster, also a lawyer who returned to the home in the 1990s, had been president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York. A former dean of Dartmouth College, he had earlier been president of Hollins College in Virginia. He had once served as the assistant to the chief justice of the Sudan, where he wrote legal opinions for the court.
Another son, the Rev. Gurdon Brewster, was a missionary to India in the 1960's and has been the Episcopal chaplain at Cornell University.
BRIAR RIDGE ROAD
Briar Ridge Road is an old highway that today runs from the intersection of George Washington Highway and Miry Brook Road in Danbury almost straight north to the extreme northeast corner of Ridgefield in Ridgebury. There, it turns into a dirt path and continues northward, then westward, emerging in civilization in the Danbury industrial district where it is also called Briar Ridge Road.
In 1985 Ridgefield tried to get Danbury to improve the dirt section of this road. Ridgefield officials felt this road could handle traffic between 1-84 and the Danbury Fairgrounds mall as well as people using back roads to get to the Danbury industrial area that includes Union Carbide. Traffic would then avoid the more rural roads of central Ridgebury. Danbury just laughed.
The paved portion of Briar Ridge Road, which straddles the Ridgefield-Danbury town line, is a small segment of a very old route that extended from Starrs Plain to Mill Plain. Part of this route, described in an 1866 deed as "a mountain road leading from Miry Brook to Starrs Plain," began at its south end along modern-day Route 7 in Danbury, a short distance north of Bennett's Farm Road (formerly Mapleshade Road) and about opposite West Starrs Plain Road. From there, it ran northwesterly across lower Wooster Mountain into what are now the uninhabited wilds of northeastern Ridgefield. The road eventually came to Pine Mountain Road, which brought travelers north to Miry Brook, then to Briar Ridge Road, and up to Mill Plain village (which until 1846 was part of Ridgefield - see Mill Plain).
The name, Briar Ridge, was in use by 1936 when a map uses that title. The name is probably descriptive of fields allowed to grow wild; briars would be among the first wild vegetation to establish itself in unmown fields.
In the late 18th Century, the Briar Ridge area was known as the Fox Hills or Fox Hill, according to 1802 and 1803 deeds. This was long before today's Fox Hill - along eastern Bennett's Farm Road - was so called.
A dead-end road off Hawthorne Hill Road in Ridgebury, Bridle Trail was designed by the Connecticut Land Company, headed by Richard Conley (son of Col. Louis D. Conley, owner of Outpost Farm, Inn, and Nurseries - see Outpost Pond).
According to Richard Owen Carey, who took over the Connecticut Land Company, the road was originally planned to connect to Spring Valley Road. Probably because of the rough terrain, this plan was abandoned.
Bridle Trail - so-called because the area has many bridle paths - was developed in the late 1950's and accepted as a town road in 1961. The name suffers from errors. It's sometimes misspelled Bridal, as if it were a honeymooners' spot, and even Bridge - an easy-to-make typing mistake for Bridle. In fact, the 1986 Kaiser Handi-Book map of town listed it as "Bridge Trail," though the index had the correct spelling.
A single 1841 deed mentions four acres in Ridgebury "on Briggs Mountain." Judging from names of adjoining property owners - Abbott, Pierce, Stone, and Weed - the mountain was in western Danbury north of Mill Plain, possibly near Aunt Hack Ridge Road, an area once part of Ridgefield.
Brimstone Swamp, a colorful name reminiscent of the "fire and brimstone" religions of the 17th and 18th Centuries, was applied to wetlands at the south end of town as early as 1717 when the proprietors deeded "four acres in ye Brimstone Swamp, so called" to Ebenezer Smith, a newcomer from Milford. Subsequent deeds in the early 1700's identify the swamp as the lower end of Miller's Ridge.
For example, the proprietors note in 1729 that a highway was laid out "beginning at ye east end of Matthew Benedicts lot at ye Millers Ridge and ... running southeast four rods wide till it come on to a small brook that runneth out of Mr. Ressequies land, then southerly to John Osburns Brimstone Swamp."
The location is probably one of two swamps at the lower end of Nod Road - either the one along Nod West Drive that's part of the Woodcock Nature Center, or one to the east of Nod Road and north of Pelham Lane, off Comstock Court.
The name may have described the color or the odor of the swamp. Or perhaps it was descriptive of the bubbling so often seen in swamps and similar in the imagination to burning, bubbling brimstone or sulfur.
It could also have referred to the swamp's tendency to generate methane gas which, under some circumstances, will self-ignite to form what are variously called will-o'-the wisps, jack-o-lanterns, or ignes fatuus.
The term last appears in a 1777 in deed which James Ressigue sells Mathew Keeler 30 acres "at a place called Brimestone." The land was bounded on the south by the Norwalk (later Wilton) town line.
This very early name typifies the many simple, straight forward descriptive terms applied by the early English settlers to geographical locations. Like the town's name itself (a field on a ridge), it described the main attributes of the locality - a hill that was broad.
Broad Hill was in use before 1725 and apparently referred to either the ridge traversed by Peaceable Ridge Road, or the hill just to the south where Yankee Hill Road, Minute Man Road, and Revere Drive are.
The term was in use as late as 1794.
Brook Lane, a short dead-end road that does little but serve an entrance to the Branchville Cemetery and one house, was for over two centuries a portion of Branchville Road.
In 1955, a flood washed out the Branchville Road bridge over the Cooper Brook. After that the state installed a new bridge just to the south and, in the process, straightened and widened the eastern end of Branchville Road, abandoning the old road, which is now Brook Lane. If it still crossed the brook, Brook Lane would be exactly opposite Old Branchville Road - of which it was a part in the 18th and 19th Centuries.
The Board of Selectmen chose the name on Nov. 20, 1958, and ownership of the road was transferred from the state to the town on June 25, 1959.
This bridge, identified in the land records as early as 1752, crossed the Titicus River at either Sherwood Road or Ridgebury Road. Since there are indications that the lower portion of Ridgebury Road near the Ridgefield High School is a post-Revolutionary highway, it is probable that Sherwood Road was the original route to Ridgebury (via Ledges Road) and that it crossed Brook's Bridge.
The last deed reference to it was in 1793.
Brookside Pines, a 1969 subdivision off the east side of North Salem Road, opposite Barrack Hill Road, borders the Titicus River. William and Lina Oexle created the four lots from nine acres of their homestead - the house being on one of the lots. Armando Morales developed the lots in 1973. Mr. Morales, who later moved to Florida, was a Cuban who left his homeland when Fidel Castro took over.
Sometime after 1955, the Brookside Development Corporation developed Brookside Road off southern Great Hill Road. The road is so called because it parallels the Norwalk River - sometimes called the Ridgefield Brook in this area. It became a town road in 1961.
Brookview Estates, a 1958 subdivision, includes Aspen Mill Road. The brook that's viewed is the Titicus River.
Bruschi (pronounced Broo-ski) Lane is a 1,300-foot, dead-end road off Old Branchville Road, named for Luigi Bruschi who developed it. The town accepted the road in 1967.
A native of Ancona, Italy, Mr. Bruschi was a building contractor who was also the superintendent of an Old Branchville Road estate in this vicinity, owned at various times by the Greims, Gerli, or Petri families.
Over the years, particularly in the 1930's, Mr. Bruschi acquired and sold a great deal of land in the Branchville and Florida districts. He died in 1974 at the age of 83.
Brushy Ridge, another of those simple, descriptive names used by early settlers, was applied to at least three places in town in the 18th Century:
* On the southwest corner of town, near Silver Spring Road. In 1717 the proprietors gave Richard Osborn 31 acres "lying on ye Brushy Ridge" bounded southerly by "Norwalk (now Wilton) line." This ridge was described in a 1774 deed, transferring land at "the lower end of Brushy Ridge so called," bounded south by Norwalk line and west by "Colony line." This area was subdivided in 1985 as Southridge Court.
* Near, perhaps west of, Lake Mamanasco. The proprietors in 1741 deeded Gideon Smith six acres "on ye Ridge called ye Brushie Ridge, west of ye road yt leads up back of ye mill pond." The mill pond was probably Mamanasco.
* Near Long Swamp, whose location is uncertain. This Brushy Ridge is described in 1744, 1753, and ,1763 deeds as east of Long Swamp, which may have been the swamp east of Long Pond, just over the Ridgefield line in modern-day Lewisboro. That would place this Brushy Ridge in the vicinity of Rippowam Road on West Mountain near the New York State line. However, based on landowners named in the deeds, it may also have been along North Street.
BRYON AVENUE, PARK
Bryon Avenue, running from High Ridge to Fairview Avenue, is part of an early 20th Century subdivision on the corner of High Ridge and Barry Avenue.
Dr. B. A. Bryon, a physician who dabbled in real estate, owned the land. The land had been informally called Bryon Park because, before its development, it was used as a playground, even though it was privately owned. The town's first football team played there around 1905-06.
The road, some of whose houses were erected by the late Ernest Scott, was built between 1908, when it doesn't show on a map, and 1912, when it does.
Dr. Benn Adelmar Bryon, a general practitioner, came to Ridgefield around the turn of the century. While caring for the town's medical needs, he also sandwiched in a sideline of real estate development and investment, subdividing not only Bryon Park, but also Lake Kitchawan in Lewisboro, N.Y.
His large house on Main Street stood where the CVS parking lot is today. In the mid-1930's, he moved to Norwalk where he died just before Christmas in 1949 after more than 50 years as a physician.
BUCK HILL ROAD
Buck Hill Road was designed and named by Richard Conley, head of the Connecticut Land Company, and was once the home of the controversial actor-comedian Godfrey Cambridge.
Mr. Conley's firm was formed chiefly to disburse or develop portions of the huge estate of his father, Colonel Louis D. Conley, operator of Outpost Nurseries (see Outpost Pond). Land along this road was part of those holdings.
According to Paul Morganti, the contractor who built the road for Mr. Conley, the name came about at Mr. Morganti's suggestion. He and Mr. Conley were ruminating over what to call the road when Mr. Morganti offered "Buck Hill" because Mr. Conley had frequently hunted deer in that area.
The road runs between Danbury Road (Route 35) and Great Hill Road. Route 35 in the vicinity of this intersection is the scene of many auto accidents, more than a half dozen involving fatalities - including that of a popular Ridgefield police sergeant, George Kargle, in 1980.
Many accidents have been blamed on high speed, which, mixed with the unusual hill-and-curve combination of Danbury Road, causes motorists to lose control of their car. Because so many accidents occur there, the police identify that strip of Danbury Road to one another by simply calling it "Buck Hill."
One of Buck Hill Road's most famous residents was Mr. Cambridge, who shortly after moving into his house there in the early 1970's, nearly fell through the living room floor, which he charged had been rotten. He subsequently filed various suits and made sundry accusations that the town was racist in its attitude toward him and his family.
Maintaining he was in danger from locals who didn't like him, he once erected a high, chain-link fence along Buck Hill Road. However, the town officials said he built it on town highway property and made him move it, prompting more charges of harassment.
Mr. Cambridge died of a heart attack in 1976 while on the set of a movie about the Israeli raid on Entebbe. He was playing Idi Amin, the former head of Uganda. The house was later sold under foreclosure.
Perry Scott built many or most of the houses in the neighborhood in the early 1950's. The road was accepted as a town road in 1954.
Buckspen Lane is an 850-foot road off the west side of Limestone Road, serving a 1977 subdivision by Albert Gaeta. A small portion of the road was earlier known as Corbin Drive (q.v.)
In his capacity as a road name consultant, this writer suggested the name to recall an old Ridgefield name that had fallen out of use (see Buckspen Swamp).
Buckspen Road is an old name mentioned only once in the land records before 1890. In 1855, Stephen and Ezekiel Burr of Redding sold Richard Osborn of Danbury three acres bounded on the west "by the Buckspen Road so called."
This may be an old path on what is now the Bennett's Pond State Park, perhaps the trail that goes north from Bennett's Farm Road past the old site of the Fox Hill Inn and up to Bennett's Ponds - possibly passing Buckspen Swamp (below).
Buckspen Swamp is a peculiar name first occurring in 1741 when John Sturdevant sold Ephraim Bennit three acres, then eight acres, "lying in Bennits Farm at Buckspen Swamp."
Israel Mead, whom one 1741 deed mentions as a neighboring property owner, is known to have had land in the area of the Bennett's Ponds. When Mead's estate was broken up in 1830, Robert and Sally Lamoreaux (his son-in-law and daughter) sold Hanford Sellick six acres "situated in the Buckspen, bounded on the east by highway." Another piece in the same transfer was near Bennett's Ponds.
For some time, the precise location of the Buckspen remained a mystery to us until we came across a map, drawn in 1914, of Colonel Louis D. Conley's property north of Bennett's Farm Road. The map describes "Bucks Pen Meadow," a 15-acre tract west of Bennett's Ponds, east of today's Shady Lane at Ridgefield Lakes, and north of Fox Hill Lake.
This swamp lies wedge-shaped within three hills, and is probably the Bucks Pen referred to so many years ago. But what was a "buckspen."
There are at least two possibilities. The late Harold IIes, who used to live near this neighborhood, offered one suggestion. He noted that in severe winters, deer would "barn up" - that is, gather in groups in a sheltered part of the woods, stamping down the snow and using their collective body heat to stay warm. It is possible that this protected area was a frequent gathering place for deer and was tagged the "bucks pen" for that reason.
Daniel M. McKeon reported that an oldtimer once told him of the existence - in woods off Great Hill Road - of a form of corral into which the Indians used to drive deer to trap and kill them for food and hides. Indians - or settlers, for that matter - could have driven deer toward a swamp thereabouts in order to get them mired and make the animals easier to kill.
Bucks Pond is another name for Roberts Pond (q.v.).
A 1976 deed from the Edelman family to Bruno and Joy Bulfo for five acres includes rights to use the waters of "Roberts Pond - or Bucks Pond as it was formerly called."
Joseph Roberts built the pond off the west side of New Street and not visible from a road. "Bucks Pond" probably reflected frequent visits by deer who live in the woods bordering the pond.
Today a virtually unknown right-of-way, Buell Street was laid out, from North Street, opposite Mapleshade Road, to Rochambeau Avenue with the aim of serving the Peatt Park development. The road was never built.
The name was selected by developer William Peat Sr. to honor his wife. Alice J. Buell, born in 1897, was a schoolteacher in 1920 when she married Mr. Peatt, then a carpenter. Always interested in education, Mrs. Peatt was a president of the Titicus School PTA and served on the Board of Education from 1929 to 1942. She died in 1968, 23 years after having moved to Florida with her husband.
Two Ridgefield historians report that Buffalo Creek is another name for the Titicus River, known in the 17th and early 18th Centuries as the Mutighticoos River or variations thereof. The stream flows from Saw Mill Hill Road near the village north along Route 116, North Salem Road, into New York State where it helps fill the Titicus Reservoir, part of the New York City water supply.
George L. Rockwell writes in 1927: "Tradition tells us that Mutighticoos River was at one time called Buffalo Creek. Van der Donck, a historian of Yonkers, writing in 1656, says: 'Buffaloes are also tolerably plenty; these animals mostly keep towards the southwest.'"
Silvio Bedini says that Mutighticoos "may have meant 'Buffalo Creek.'"
However, according to the late John C. Huden, a professor and expert on Indian languages and place names, Mutighticoos or Titicus probably meant nothing so colorful. He translates it as Mahican for "place without trees."
Moreover, the term "Buffalo Creek" - or any term mentioning buffalos - never appears in any Ridgefield land records before 1890. Nor does it appear on today's maps, except perhaps in the name of James B. Franks' subdivision, Buffalo Creek Acres, the development served by Hessian Drive.
"Buffalo Creek Acres" was dreamed up by Munson and Lizzie Wade, who built their house on a 20-acre spread there in the 1920's. According to historian Richard E. Venus, a subsequent owner of the property was Jan H. Huton, who operated a sportswear store in New York City. On Oct. 28, 1942, his house caught fire and firemen fighting the blaze discovered huge quantities of foods, like sugar and canned juices, stored in the house, a pile of tires out back, and several tanks of gasoline and fuel oil - one holding 3,000 gallons! Mr. Huton denied he was hoarding during rationing, and instead maintained that the items were stock for a cruise ship, which had to be sold before they could be used.
Silvio Bedini, in Ridgefield in Review, tells two stories that may explain the origin of this curious name, once applied to the region along North Salem Road, east of Lake Mamanasco.
One tradition has it that a child, on his first visit to Isaac Keeler's grist mill near the corner of North Salem and Sherwood Roads, was frightened by the noise, which the youngster described as "Bung! Bung! Bung!", emanating from the machinery.
The other legend relates that when Keeler's mill was burned by the British on their retreat from Danbury in April 1777, the barrels of flour stored in the mill heated up and caused the bungs (stoppers) to shoot out with a noise like gunfire.
Still another explanation, less colorful but perhaps more likely, is that one or several people in the neighborhood were noted as part-time bungmakers. Cutting bungs from wood or cork was probably a winter activity, set aside for a time when the work schedule - for the men, at least - was less hectic and burdensome. However, no record of a cooper or barrel maker in this vicinity has been uncovered.
The first appearance of Bung Town on the land records is in a 1798 deed for property near the Mamanasco grist mill.
The name appears very infrequently in subsequent years, usually as two words, and is last noted in 1853, appearing as one word, "Bungtown."
Burt Road is an old name for Old West Mountain Road, according to a 1941 deed. The name stems from the fact that some members of the Burt family (below) lived along it in the 19th Century.
Burt's Lane is the earliest name for what we today call Catoonah Street. Laid out in 1721, the road's eastern end was situated between the homes of James Scott (the block where Addessi's, Ridgefield Office Supply, Liberta's package story, and Neumann realty is) and Benjamin Burt (now the Carnall building).
Benjamin Burt came to Ridgefield from Norwalk in 1712 to serve as the community blacksmith, a trade so needed in town that the proprietors had reserved a homelot and one-28th of the outlying land for a smith. He agreed to serve in that position for at least four years to gain full title to the land. Burt soon amassed a considerable quantity of property throughout the town, including tracts at Blacksmith's Ridge, which was named for him.
Burt, who probably arrived in America in 1706 (his son was named Seaborn because of the situation of his birth), was more than a blacksmith, and was probably more noted later as a miller. According to one deed, he operated a sawmill on the west side of Danbury Road under Copps Mountain by the 1730's. He sold it in 1746 to David Osburn.
Meanwhile, in 1742, Burt purchased the gristmill at Lake Mamanasco. The mill, probably the major wheat- and corn-grinding mill in town, had been built around 1716 by Daniel Sherwood, the town's first miller. (Like Burt, Sherwood had entered into a contract with the proprietors over his acquiring free land to live and work here.) Sherwood sold the mill in 1721 to Samuel Saint john, who later sold it to Nathan Whitney, who sold to Joseph Keeler, who sold to Burt.
The name, Burt's Lane, is mentioned only once in the land records. In 1746, James Scott of Bethlehem, N.J., sold his house on the south corner, describing the property as "two acres of land ... lying on ye south side of ye lane commonly called and known by ye name of Burt's Lane." It was one of the earliest recorded road names taken from a person's name.
Benjamin Burt's death is not found in the town records, but it probably occurred in the late 1750's.
BURT'S MILL POND
Burt's Mill Pond is the less common of two versions of names for Lake Mamanasco in the 18th Century (see below). "Burts Mill Pond" first appears in a 1771 deed and was also cited in 1798. No 19th Century references to it are found; by then people were using the shorter "Burt's Pond."
With a cumbersome name like Mamanasco (some natives still call it "Manamasco"), it's not hard to understand why this lake was often called by a simpler name, Burt's Pond.
As mentioned above, Benjamin Burt acquired the Mamanasco mill in 1742. With it came the right, owned by the proprietors, to the water in the pond as a source of power. The pond had been sequestered in 1716 by the proprietors for mill power, and they held that sequester until 1797.
In 1759, after Benjamin's death, his children - Daniel Burt, Sarah Burt Caldwell, and Daniel and Thankful Burt Whitney - sold their inheritance in the mill to Benjamin's eldest son, Seaborn.
Seaborn Burt operated the mill until his death shortly before the Revolution. His passing and the politics of the period prompted an unusual controversy among the proprietors, the "land barons" who had originally commissioned the building of the mill. At a gathering April 2, 1778, "the question was put to said meeting whether the proprietors of said town had best commence a suit in order to know whether the property of the grist mill and ye appurtenances thereof, claimed by the heirs of Seaborn Burt, decd., belongs to said heirs or to said proprietors? Resolved in the affirmative."
The issue might sound like a simple question of title, but many members of the Burt family were noted Tories. Thus, it was not surprising to find that on Oct. 5, 1779, the proprietors sold their interest in the mill, apparently after they had seized the property - or most of it - from the Burts. Then, "for the consideration of a mill covenant," the proprietors on Dec. 27 sold the mill to Benjamin Chapman of Salem (Lewisboro), New York, for 3,130 pounds - a whopping sum, though one probably inflated by war. In the covenant, Chapman agreed to maintain the mill and grind the proprietors' meal, and rates were specified (see under Mamanasco Lake).
When he came to town, Benjamin Burt was given land at Mamanasco. He may have eventually moved his home there. Seaborn Burt probably lived near the lakeshore. Christopher, another son of Benjamin, bought 23 acres near the mill at the same time his father purchased the mill. Some of the Burts were living at the lake when the Revolution began - and most of them were Tories who departed for Loyalist territories like Long Island and Canada when hostilities broke out.
One of the dissenters was Theophilus, son of Seaborn Burt. In the 1770's, the state confiscated all his property. An acre of it was sold by the state in 1781 to Joseph Stebbins in a deed that explained that "whereas Theophilus Burt" late of Ridgefield ... hath absconded and taken side with the British troops against the United States of America" and his real estate been adjudged forfeited to the ... state by the county court," the General Assembly ordered the probate court to dispose of enough land to discharge the debts against the property. Theophilus's brothers, David and Benjamin Burt, also fled to the cloak of the King.
But like a few other Loyalists, Theophilus decided to return after the war and petitioned the General Assembly for title to his old land. The assembly in 1792 restored title to what was left of his property, and probably in the process, Theophilus got a share in the Mamanasco mill that his father and grandfather had owned. And the proprietors, deciding to give up any connection with the mill, granted for the modest sum of $50 the remainder of its title in the building and pond to Burt and his partner, Thomas Hyatt, in 1797.
Susanna Burt, widow of Seaborn, remained in Ridgefield throughout the war in a home near the mill. Whether she was loyal to the cause or the crown is not known; the fact that four of her sons were Tories seems to suggest the latter, and that she was too old to leave. She died in 1803 at the age of 94. Theophilus, who had been born in 1756, died in 1822.
The first use of "Burt's Pond," a shortened form of the earlier Burt's Mill Pond, occurs in a 1793 deed in which Joseph DeForest sells Elias Reed and Isaac Munson 37 acres "near Burts pond (so called)." An 1802 deed confirms the identity of the term, citing "Mamanasco or Burt's Pond." Although the name Mamanasco was used almost exclusively in the first 50 years of the town's settlement and is the name in use today, Burt's Pond - or its variant "Birch Pond" as a much more common term in the 19th and early 20th Century. Members of the Burt family continued to live in the neighborhood until the early 1900's. And Burts continued to have interests in the mill - Joshua Burt was one of several owners in 1817, and Epenetus Burt had grist and saw mills at the lake in 1865.
The Burying Ground, a term frequently found in old land records, usually refers to the town's first cemetery, situated off the southerly side of Wilton Road East near lower Main Street.
There would be little left today to tell that the Burying Ground was a cemetery, were it not for the marker erected there in 1931 by the Village Improvement Society. The monument reads: "Ye burying yard lay'd out ye Nov. 25, 1708, by the first settlers of the town of Ridgefield," and goes on to list 40 pioneers who are buried there as well as "an unknown British soldier killed at the Battle of Ridgefield."
When he was writing his History of Ridgefield in the 1920's, George L. Rockwell found only two tombstones still standing in the old Burying Ground. Sxty years later, nothing remained of the stones except a small portion of one slate marker that says: "54th year of his age." It belonged to the grave of Capt. Matthew Benedict, "who departed this life July 7, 1757" and who was born five years before the town was settled.
Perhaps because it was so small, or because nearby land was too wet, the settlers soon went to the north end of Main Street to establish a larger - and still used - cemetery, situated in the triangle created by today's North Salem Road, North Street, and Mapleshade Roads. That cemetery was laid out in 1735, and many of its old stones remain intact.
Probably fewer than a couple of dozen Ridgefielders have seen the secluded Buttonwood Swamp, and it is likely that those who have never knew its name. And yet it's an antique name that has remained around long enough to appear on modern day deeds.
In 1763, Nathan Sellick of Danbury sold James Betty and David Sturges Jr. of Danbury seven acres "lying on ye Pond Mountain," bounded southerly by his own land "running a long ye brook running out of ye Buttonwood Swamp, westerly by ye (Bennett's) pond, east by ye line between Danbury and Ridgefield."
The 1778 perambulation (boundary survey) of the Ridgefield-Danbury line mentions the swamp. An 1866 deed describes nine acres "westerly of Buttonwood Swamp" and bounded on the east "by a mountain road leading from Miry Brook to Starrs Plain. A 1940 deed uses the exact same words to describe the same nine-acre parcel.
Buttonwood Swamp is tucked deep in the woody, rocky hills of Bennett's Pond State Park. It is a half-mile from the nearest highway - north of Bennett's Farm Road and west of Route 7, about opposite the road to Starrs Plain.
Buttonwood is the correct name for what many people erroneously call the sycamore. The tree is called buttonwood because the fruit looks like an old-fashioned button.
BYPASS ROAD I
Bypass Road, an old highway no longer in use, connected Barry Avenue with Peaceable Hill Road. It served the same purpose as Peaceable Ridge Road, which is parallels to the east. It may have been built to be a less steep route between the two roads, easier to traverse in horse or ox-drawn carts. Hence, the name.
Bypass Road met Barry Avenue in the vicinity of Woodcock Lane, and connected to Peaceable Hill a short distance east of Peaceable Ridge. A 1970's survey, unusual in that it is of a long-abandoned road, is on file in the selectmen's office.
The road may have fallen out of use because it traversed some land that tended to be wet and other land that was pretty steep. Unless the road were frozen or very dry, it was probably muddy and rutty. It may also simply have been a farm road that came into common neighborhood use, especially in the winter.
A portion of the road was a part of the Rem Ridge subdivision of 1984 or 1985. It remained undeveloped and was deeded to the town in July 1985.
BYPASS ROAD II
The modern Bypass Road is the highway built around 2000 east of and parallel to Danbury Road between South Street and Farmingville Road. It bypasses Danbury Road, making use of Old Quarry Road and Grove Street.