Entire contents copyrighted 2005 by Jack Sanders. Reproduction without permission is forbidden.
CAIN'S HILL and ROAD
Cain's Hill is the ridge across which winds the steep and narrow Cain's Hill Road, a throwback to roads of old. What today is hardly wide enough for one car was once part of a major route from Ridgefield to Redding. Its popularity was reduced somewhat in the mid-19th Century when New Road - much less steep - was built as a bypass. Cain's Hill Road was not paved until the 1960's and is one of the few roads in town over which through truck traffic is banned (few would wish to dare to take a sizable truck over it!).
Cain's Hill, originally known as Sturdevant's Ridge or Sturdevant's Clapboard Tree Ridge, did not pick up its current title until the mid-19th Century. "Cain's Hill" made its first appearance in a deed in 1855, long after its source had died. The deed mentions land "on Cain's Hill so called. (An 1899 deed spelled it "Kain's Hill.")
Although Biblical names were popular as place names in Connecticut, Cain's Hill has no connection with Abel's murderer.
Hugh Cain of Redding decided to build a fulling (spinning and weaving) mill in Ridgefield at what is now the northeast corner of Route 7 and Topstone Road (directly opposite Cain's Hill Road). He did it in a somewhat unusual fashion.
In 1770, he and Thomas Hays of New Milford purchased an acre "including the river" from Silas Hull for 35 shillings. A year later, Hays quit-claimed his interest in the property for 70 pounds in a deed that noted the existence of a "shop and a fulling mill" on the property.
Hays was apparently hired to build the mill and held half of the title to the land and improvements only to guarantee that he would be paid the 70-pound cost of construction when the job was done.
The land, incidentally, was described as bounded on the south by a highway (Topstone Road), but westerly by land of Silas Hull, suggesting that the path of modern Route 7 had not been established by then. This conclusion seems to be borne out by 1792 map of major roads in town which shows no north-south highway in this vicinity, but does show Topstone and Cain's Hill Roads. The main north-sound route between Danbury and Norwalk followed Simpaug Turnpike at this point.
Cain continued to operate the mill for many years, at least until 1794 when the following advertisement appeared in The Farmer's Chronical in Danbury:
Hugh Cain, of Ridgefield, announces that he can full in the driest season, has now begun, and can continue to full, provided there should be no rain for six weeks to come. He makes all colors made in America (scarlet excepted).
His boast of being able to work in the "driest season" is probably the result of his having located his mill on the largest stream in town, fed by the springs of the Great Swamp and the drainage from a watershed covering sizable section of northeastern Ridgefield. The Norwalk River virtually never runs dry, and has several upstream ponds for storage.
However, the curious part of Cain's ad in the newspaper is the fact that he was not the owner of record of the mill at the time it was placed. In 1789, he had sold the mill, house, and other property to David Banks for 250 pounds.
Banks probably had same tie to the family, for on Jan. 11 of the same year, Cain's daughter, Ann, married Thaddeus Banks Jr., whose relation to David has not been ascertained.
Cain took time out from his fulling duties during the Revolution to serve the patriot cause. He was an ensign in the First Battalion under General David Wooster from 1776 to 1777, and was a sergeant in Capt. Isaac Hine's company. He fought the British in Fairfield in July 1777 and probably was at the Battle of Ridgefield in April of that year, when his general was mortally wounded in a skirmish on North Salem Road.
Over the years Hugh Cain took out quite a few mortgages. Some students have speculated that he was having business difficulties, but that is unlikely. He had the only fulling mill in the town at the time, and was probably busy. As George Rockwell observed in his History of Ridgefield: "Nearly every housewife had her spinning wheel and was independent of the mills and the outside world for clothing. The mill relieved these women of much labor, as people would shear their sheep, take the wool to the mill to be spun into yarn, and then it was ready for the knitting of socks, gloves, or tippets, which was done at home."
Thus, it seems mare likely that Cain was taking out loans to add to and improve his property and his business. He started with only an acre in 1770. In a 1775 mortgage, he listed property as a house and mill "with my sheers, copper for dying, and all and singular of the remainder of my clothiers tools and utensils." And by the early 1780's, his mortgage deeds listed the house, mill, several shops, barn, pig shed, and more than 20 acres.
Hugh Cain died on April 11, 1806. David Banks died in 1847 at the age of 82. The mill was subsequently operated by Elias N. and John S. Glover for some years (at least through 1867), and later by Henry F. Lawton, an Englishman (which would perhaps have surprised the patriot soldier Cain).
By modern times, the mill had disappeared. Cain's house burned down in the early 1960's, killing its elderly owner. Portions of the stone foundation of the mill still exist and were declared a town landmark in the late 1960's. However, many of the stones have been stolen by people who have used them for walls, fireplaces, and garden displays. In the early 1980's, state archaeologists did a study of the site, searching for artifacts of the old mill and writing an extensive, technical report of their finds.
An 1850 deed mentions the "Camp land at Short Woods." The term was referring not to campsites, but to land owned by the Rev. Samuel Camp, minister of the Ridgebury Congregational Church.
The Rev. Samuel Camp, minister of the Congregational Church in Ridgebury from 1769 to 1804, was a man of fairly considerable wealth, owning a large amount of land in Ridgebury and having enough cash on hand to issue mortgages to people who weren't even in his parish.
Mr. Camp is buried in the Ridgebury Cemetery, a few doors north of the church. Alongside his tombstone are the identically designed headstones of the three wives he survived: Hannah, who died in 1777, aged 34; Lucretia, died 1782, aged 35; and Mary, 1800, aged 55.
The minister resigned his office in 1804 because of failing health. Although he did not die until 1813, he did not remarry, perhaps fortunately for the women of Ridgebury. His own gravestone is of the same design as his wives, but about 50% larger in size.
Canada Land is an intriguing name that appears for the first time in 1825 when Reuben and Susan Trobridge of Danbury sell Israel and Caleb Pearce 66 acres "known and called by the name of the Canada Land." Another deed of the same year transfers 30 acres "called the Canada Land."
This territory was near Boggs Pond in the northwestern part of modern-day Danbury, then part of Ridgefield.
Based on an admittedly sketchy investigation into ownership records, this territory appears to be the 120-acre grant to Benjamin Benedict in 1741. The town had just received title to the huge wedge of territory from Ridgebury north to New Fairfield in exchange for having given up land to New York Colony (see Oblong). It was subdivided into large tracts among 29 Ridgefield proprietors, most of whom eventually sold off their shares. However, some Benedicts owned land in or adjacent to the Canada Land in the 1820's.
Why was it called Canada Land? There are a half-dozen theories, none thoroughly researched. The term had long ago disappeared from use, and was discovered in the 1970's during research for this work. Ridgefield and Danbury historians make no mention of it.
Here are some possibilities:
* The land could have belonged to a Tory who absconded to Canada, as quite a few did, during the Revolution. As a result the land may be been abandoned, or may have been confiscated by the state. "Canada Land" then could have been a nickname referring to the whereabouts of its last owner.
* The land could have been owned at one time by an immigrant from Canada.
* The property could have belonged to a member of the Kennedy family (though because there is no land record evidence, more likely it would have been leased, rented, or squatted upon by a Kennedy). According to Imogene Heireth of the Danbury Scott-Fanton Museum, the name Kennedy was sometimes spelled Canaday or Canada in early Fairfield County records. A John Canada was living in Stamford in the late 1600's, and since many 18th Century families came to northern Fairfield County from Stamford, a connection is remotely possible.
* It could have been called Canada because it was in the northern end of Ridgefield, just as Canada is in the northern portion of North America. This may be stretching possibilities a bit, but then again, Ridgefield's Florida District is in the extreme southeastern part of town.
* Canada in the Mohawk tongue meant "group of houses" or "village." There may have been an old Indian village thereabouts.
* Someone could have received land here as a grant for service in the French and Indian War, which involved fighting in Canada. Such grants in lieu of cash or in reward for exceptional service were common in the 18th Century - one such grant existed around Ridgebury and Old Stagecoach Roads long before the town was founded (see Zack's Ridge).
Take your pick!
According to the Rev. Samuel G. Goodrich, writing in 1800, Candoto was the Indian name for High Ridge. The word may be a variation of Caudatowa (q.v,), which also appears sometimes as "Candatowa," and which meant "high mountain." One Indian language authority says the word may be related to kodtuhkoe, which meant "at the top of a hill" or "highest place" in the language of some Massachusetts tribes.
The name never appears in the land records, so the word may have been passed on to Goodrich by word-of-mouth tradition, and may be badly corrupted from the original.
CANFIELD'S MILL RIVER
A very old and short-lived term, Canfield's Mill River was applied to today's Stamford Mill River, or just plain Mill River, which rises in the swamps of western Ridgefield in the West Lane-Peaceable area, flows into New York State, and winds up in a Stamford reservoir.
In 1728, the Ridgefield proprietors granted William Truesdale and Solomon Tuttle land in modern-day Lewisboro, then part of Ridgefield, described as "beginning at ye place where ye 20 mile line goes down ye West Mountain between ye Cross Pond and Stanford or Canfields Mill River." (The 20 Mile Line was the eastern boundary of New York Colony, incorrectly supposed to be 20 miles from a point on the Hudson River.)
Two years earlier, Timothy Canfield had bought Moses Northrup's saw mill, "standing on Stanford Branch, so called, near ye Southwest Ridges," whence the name.
This mill was situated near where Route 123 in Lewisboro crosses the river in the valley about a half-mile south of Route 35.
It was probably one of the first sawmills serving Ridgefield, and consequently was an important one in the early history of the community. There is no telling how many early Ridgefield homes were framed and finished with lumber from this mill.
CANOE BROOK, GUTTER
When Jacob and Elijah Keeler sold 10 acres to John Chapman near Lake Mamanasco in 1789, they described the land as northeasterly "from the place where Canoe Brook crosseth the road," and near the Titicus River. Thirty-five years earlier, in 1754, a deed called this the "Canoe Gutter."
Both deeds - and others - refer to the outlet stream of Lake Mamanasco, which flows into the Titicus River. Gutter is an old word for a small brook or stream.
It appears from the name that the Indians had used this stream as a route to the Titicus from the lake, possibly on fishing or hunting expeditions. The native Indians maintained a seasonal village or campsite at the south end of the lake.
Candee's Pond is the fairly sizable body of water on the north side of lower Branchville Road, west of Florida Road and near the Branchville Cemetery. Its waters have been gazed upon by the like of Elizabeth Taylor and Dwight Eisenhower.
The pond takes its name from Mr. and Mrs. Howard S. Candee, formerly of Scarsdale, N.Y., who bought the property, including a house, from Mr. and Mrs. John P. Auer in 1928. The deed says the pond was already in existence by then. Elizabeth M. Candee sold the place in 1938 to C. R. Dashiell of Miami Beach, Fla.
Mr. Candee, who had worked in real estate in New York City, had been a frequent participant in town meetings here during the 1930's. He moved to Vermont for about 10 years, ,and returned to Ridgefield in the late 1940's, then living on New Street. Mrs. Candee died in 1953; he in 1956 in Princeton, Mass.
A subsequent owner of his Branchville Road estate was S. Howard Young (1878-1972), one of the world's wealthiest art dealers. A savvy businessman, he started out in the field of lithography and by the age of 18, had amassed a fortune valued at $400,000.
He spent most of his career as an art dealer. For many years his partner was his nephew, Francis Taylor, the father of actress Elizabeth Taylor, and Miss Taylor visited the Branchville estate on occasion.
One of Mr. Young's closest friends was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who visited there often. It has been reliably reported that General Eisenhower, then president of Columbia University, made his decision to run for the presidency while staying at the Young place in 1952. According to one writer, Mr. Young was at least instrumental in Eisenhower's deciding to enter the 1952 presidential race. He arranged a reception for the Eisenhowers with Scripps-Howard newspaper executives at which the general obtained their support. Without this backing, Mr. Eisenhower probably never would have entered politics, Lakeland historian Joyce Laabs wrote in 1978.
Mr. Young enjoyed vacationing in the north woods of Wisconsin, near Lakeland, where he had been a patient of a local doctor to whom he once promised to donate to the Lakeland Memorial Hospital. After Mr. Young's death in 1972 at the age of 94, it was discovered that he had more than kept his promise: He left the bulk of his $20-million estate (more than $90 million in 2005 dollars) in a trust to build a new hospital. In 1977, the Howard Young Medical Center opened its doors in Woodruff, Wisc. It is today considered one of the top orthopedic hospitals in the nation.
It has not been ascertained whether Candee's Pond was built for decoration or to serve a mill. However, the former purpose is more likely since the pond is not shown on an 1867 map of Ridgefield, and few new water-power mill sites were established after that time.
In his will, written in 1749, Daniel Sherwood, who had been the town's first miller, gave his daughter, Hannah, "about 300 rails lying east of the Candle wood, so called."
This may have been a woodland from which candlewood (below) was obtained, and the name was shortened from "Candlewood Wood."
The location was probably near Candlewood Hill in Farmingville.
Candlewood Hill, a term found only in the 18th Century, first appears in the land records in 1749 when Daniel Sherwood gives son-in-law John Lobdell 12 acres at "Reedy Swamp," bounded "east by ye Candlewood Hill." Other deeds have described Reedy or Reed Swamp as "over ye Great Swamp, southerly of ye Limestone Hill." The references seem to place Candlewood Hill near what is today called Pine Hill, northwest of the intersection of Farmingville and New Roads and near Aldrich Park.
These two terms - pine and candlewood - for the same place make sense since to the settlers, candlewood was what we call pine. "The first and most natural way of lighting houses of the American colonists, both in the North and South, was by pineknots of the fat pitch pine, which, of course, were found everywhere in the greatest plenty in the forests," wrote Alice Morse Earle in Home Life in Colonial Days. "Governor John Winthrop the younger, in his communication to the English Royal Society in 1662, said this candlewood was much used for domestic illumination in Virginia, New York and New England. It was doubtless gathered everywhere in new settlements, as it has been in pioneer homes till our own day (she was writing in the 1890's). In Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, it was used till this century."
Mrs. Earle quotes a 1642 author: "One of these pines is gotten the candlewood that is much spoke of, which may serve as a shift among poore folks, but I cannot commend it for singular good, because it droppeth a pitchy kind of substance (tar) where it stands."
Another author, writing in 1633, said: "They are such candles as the Indians commonly use, having no other, and they are nothing else but the wood of the pine tree, cloven in two little slices, something thin, which are so full of the moysture of turpentine and pitch that they burne as cleere as a torch."
Candlewood was usually burned near a corner of the fireplace so the fumes and smoke would go up the chimney and the droppings would fall on stone. "Every family laid in a good supply of this light wood for winter use, and it was said that a prudent New England farmer would as soon start the winter without hay in his barn as without candlewood in the woodshed," Mrs. Earle said.
In 1796, Abner Gilbert sold Thomas Wilson 13 acres "at Bennitts Farm, on a point of a ledge of rocks commonly called the Candlewood Ledges." This is the only reference found in the land records through 1890, and the precise location is unknown, although it was possibly north of Bennett's Ponds.
Canterbury Lane is a recent and locally meaningless name for an old road - at least a portion of an old road. The lane begins at Ridgebury Road opposite George Washington Highway, extending westward. Originally, the road was called West Lane and went all the way west to the New York State line, probably beyond.
The name "West Lane" was first mentioned in a 1799 deed. By the 20th Century, people were terming it "Old West Lane." In 1969, when Mutual Land Management and Development Inc. (often called MLM&D) subdivided its eastern end, the Planning and Zoning Commission decided that Old West Lane was either too plain or too likely to be confused with West Lane (lower Route 35), nearly 10 miles away. The commission renamed the road Canterbury Lane, perhaps because it sounds pretty elegant; certainly there is no historical or geographical significance to the name, unless someone might liken the nearby Ridgebury Congregational Church, the town's smallest church, to a British cathedral.
Cardinal Court is a tertiary road off the south side of Peaceable Ridge Road, serving John Maggio's 1979 subdivision, Peaceable Ridge Manor. The 12.7-acre parcel was cut into five lots of from 1.3 to 3 acres.
Mr. Maggio named the road for the bird, popular here as well as in at least 10 of the 22 other Fairfield County towns with similarly named roads. At the time, a local wag suggested that the name might spark church-and-state lawsuits, charging the town named a road after a tribunal of Roman Catholics.
Carpenter Close, one of the lanes at Casagmo condominiums off Main and Grove Streets, was named for the Carpenter family, ancestors of the Olcotts who built the estate named Casagmo (q.v.).
The Carpenter family was among the first in New England and Rhode Island. William Carpenter, a friend of Roger Williams, helped found Rhode Island and was a large landowner and an official in the colony government.
Carroll's Folly was a slang term used to described the old intersection of Routes 7 and 35. According to former first selectman Leo F. Carroll (1900-1985), "some damn Democrat started it to hurt me politically."
Years ago Routes 7 and 35 intersected with a 90-degree junction at which many accident occurred. Around 1940, Mr. Carroll, a state police lieutenant commanding Troop A in Ridgefield, asked the state highway department to improve the intersection, resulting in a semi-rotary arrangement that lasted until around 1984 when the state returned the T, but this time with traffic lights. Mr. Carroll claimed that the old rotary was "the safest intersection in New England. There hasn't been a single (serious) accident out there."
However, the seeming complexity of the town's first "clover-leaf" gave rise to some complaints, most of them half teasing. One day soon after the intersection was completed, the Rev. Hugh Shields, pastor of the First Congregational Church, called Lt. Carroll at the barracks and said: "Lieutenant, I'm up here at 35 and 7, and I don't know which way to go to get to Danbury."
Mr. Carroll, knowing the minister never touched a drop of liquor, nonethless replied: "Listen, you sober up and you'll find your way," and promptly hung up.
CARVEL CORNER, CURVE
"Carvel Corner" or "Curve" is an example of police slang coming into outside - though somewhat limited - use. The term refers to the curve in Route 7 about a quarter mile north of the Route 35 intersection.
The police coined it as a quick way to describe a location where auto accidents rather frequently occur. The name came from the fact that the Carvel company used to operate the nearby ice cream stand, now called Ridgefield Ice Cream.
In 1976, the Police Commission began a campaign to have the curve straightened or at least improved by the state. In 1987, 11 years later, the state began to improve the curve in conjunction with widening the road.
The 300-unit condominium complex, construction of which began in the late 1960's, was named for the 30-acre estate of George Mann Olcott, a wealthy drug company owner and bank executive, who built an elaborate mansion there in 1892. The estate's name came from the combination of casa, the Italian word for "house" (the architecture was Italianate), and Mr. Olcott's initials, GMO. In other words, it was the "house of George M. Olcott."
An old saltbox house, torn down by Olcott to make way for his new place, had served as a hospital for soldiers wounded in the Battle of Ridgefield, the main skirmish having take place just to the west of the house along Main Street. Sixteen mortally wounded British soldiers and eight patriots are buried at the south end of the Casagmo property - the burial grounds are now town-owned - with a marker in the streetside stone wall noting: "Living their enemies, dying their guests." The plaque, erected by Olcott's daughter, Mary (see Olcott Way), adds, "In honor of service and sacrifice this memorial is placed for the strengthening of hearts."
The old saltbox had been built in 1727 by Benjamin Stebbins and the property remained in the Stebbins family until the Olcotts' purchase (see Stebbins Close). Mary Olcott's heirs sold the property in the early 1960's to Jerry Tuccio, the homebuilder, who received the rezoning for the town's first large-scale apartment development.
However, he sold the land to David L. Paul, a New York attorney and apartment builder, who razed the mansion in 1968 after years of neglect and vandalism had taken their toll. Paul later also built Fox Hill Village an Danbury Road. There, under the strong recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission, he included a section of condominiums. When these turned out to be quite popular, he began converting all of Fox Hill, and then Casagmo, to condominium ownership, a process completed in the early 1980's.
Casa-Torch Lane is a dead-end road off upper Branchville Road, named for the late John Casavecchia and for Donald and Gina Torcellini, who bought and subdivided the property into five lots around 1953.
"Torch" or "Torchy" are nicknames that have been applied to some members of the Torcellini family.
Casey Lane, which runs off Ramapoo Road, was named for the William E. Casey family, which lived in the fine little saltbox at the corner of the two roads.
In 1860, Thomas W. Casey of North Salem, a shoemaker, moved to Ridgefield, buying property on what is now Rippowam Road. Eleven years later, his son, William, also began buying land here, but it was not until 1878 that he bought the little house on Ramapoo Road. He was said to have been a farmer, and the road probably led to his fields.
William Casey died in 1908, aged 68, but the homestead remained in the family for some years thereafter. The house is one of the few genuine saltboxes - with long-sloping rear roof - left in town.
Catoonah, as many a Ridgefield schoolchild knows, was the Indian sachem, sagamore, or leader who sold the settlers the first and largest of eight tracts of land that made up Ridgefield.
"I Catoonah sachem of Ramapoo Indians and Associates within her majesties province of New York in America" begins the 1708 deed in which he turned over title to an estimated 20,000 acres for a mere 100 pounds.
As the deed suggests, Catoonah's home or home-base by 1708 was in New York. And, indeed, he was in the real estate business there long before he was selling to Ridgefielders. In 1680, Catoonah (also spelled Catona or Katonah) sold 22 Stamford residents a tract called "The Hopp Ground" which subsequently became the town of Bedford, N.Y. He sold other parcels in the Bedford-Pound Ridge area around 1701-2, and the village of Katonah within the township of Bedford is named after him. It is believed that Catoonah was the grandson or greatgrandson of Ponus, the powerful chief who sold Stamford to its settlers.
"The grave of Catona is said to be in Katonah's Woods in the triangle formed by Beaver Dam, Cantitoe, and Girdle Ridge Roads in Bedford," says Jay Harris in God's Country, her history of Pound Ridge. Silvio Bedini says he was buried on a farm beneath two boulders.
While Catoonah figured prominently in the establishment of the town, Catoonah Street was apparently not named in honor of the Indian, directly at least, but for a building.
The roadway from Main Street to High Ridge was laid out in 1721 and was known by the 1740's as Burt's Lane. Clark's 1856 map of Fairfield County labels it New West Lane, an extension of the same name that was by then applied to Barry Avenue. By the 1860's, however, deeds and maps were calling it Catoonah Street.
Around 1859, something called the Catoonah Building Association was formed, and issued capital stock to a group of shareholders. According to a share made out to Zalmon S. Main, dated 1859, and signed by Russell B. Perry, president, and Hiram K. Scott, treasurer, one share equaled $100. When Scott sold his share in 1868 to Russel B. Keeler for $500, the deed recorded in the land records described it as representing 5-17ths of "the Catoonah Hall building and land belonging to the same, being five shares of capital stock of the Catoonah Hall Association."
The land and buildings were described as being on Catoonah Street. The hall itself had been completed by 1860, according to a related deed. Thus, it appears that the building was named for the Indian, and the street for the building.
Catoonah Hall would have to have been of some importance to have generated a street name. Little mention of it is found in town histories. However, in a chapter on Ridgefield industries, George L. Rockwell gives us a clue:
"The candlestick factory was conducted by the brothers John W. and Francis A. Rockwell. It was operated first in the building afterward the Bailey Inn (on Main Street), then moved to Catoonah Street in a building which stood on the site of Sperry's Livery Stable. A political rally was held in the hall over the shop one evening in September 1868 and that night the building burned, and with it the old Catholic church," which stood next to it.
Thus, this building was opposite the firehouse (which, unfortunately for Catoonah Hall, did not exist then).
It's interesting to note that Hiram Scott, town clerk and probate judge for many years, sold his interest in the property just before the building burned.
The Catoonah Hall Building Association seems unique in the history of the town in that shares were sold to build it. It appears from what few records we have of it that the association was formed among local businessmen to erect a structure sizable enough for large gatherings - such as the fateful political rally.
It also seems that at the time, the town had only one other large hall - the Big Shop at Main Street and West Lane (now located on the north side of the Bailey Avenue municipal parking lot - see Big Shop Lane).
Catoonah Hall was probably also used for social functions, such as dances, as well as for manufacturing and sales enterprises. Judge Scott's deed indicated it cost about $1,700 to build, and the return on investment may have been chiefly through rents.
CATTLE PEN LANE
Here's a road that, having once belonged to Yale, could have been named for a bulldog. Instead, it's named for cows.
Cattle Pen Lane is a 1,300-foot dead-end road off lower Nod Road, serving the 1983 "Nod Hollow" subdivision of nine lots.
The land had been owned by Walter H. Cook, a Yale University alumnus who bequeathed it to the university upon his death in 1978. Mr. Cook came to Ridgefield in 1941 after retiring from the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company.
Yale sold to the developers, John J. Murren and Robert J. Kane. When Mr. Murren asked this writer for a name for his new road, something to do with Yale - such as Yale Lane - was suggested since the sale of the land had benefited Connecticut's oldest university.
The developer immediately rejected the idea.
"I went to UConn," he said. "We always hated Yale."
He chose to name the lane after an old stone-walled cow enclosure alongside the road. Like most of Ridgefield, this was once farmland.
Cattle Pen Lane became a town road in 1985.
Various authorities translate Caudatowa as "high ground" and report that it was the native Indians' name for Ridgefield. The name does not appear in early deeds and grants, but is mentioned in Teller's history of the town, published in 1878.
Bolton's History of Westchester County (1881) repeatedly mentions the word as "Candatowa" as do other authorities, including John C. Huden, an Indian language expert, who said Candatowa is "a greatly modified" version of the Paugusset word for "great mountain."
Candoto, a word said to apply to High Ridge, may be another form of these words.
Caudatowa Drive is a short road between Blue Ridge and Rock Roads, part of the Eight Lakes development (q.v.). It's name comes from the supposed Indian name for Ridgefield and, if translations are accurate, is a most suitable name for a road that is between 850 and 900 feet above sea level.
Caudatowa Drive was accepted as a town road in 1961.
Cavalry Place on West Mountain is part of a 53-acre, 18-lot subdivision developed by Termont Development Company. The 1979 development includes Armand Road, off which Cavalry Place runs.
The name "Cavalry Court" was suggested by this writer to recall the fact that a French cavalry unit was stationed in nearby barracks during the Revolutionary War (see Armand Place).
The name caused some problems for people who found "Cavalry Court" somehow difficult to pronounce, and who opted for Cavalry Place instead. "Cavalry" itself is a tricky word, and many people tend to mix it up with "Calvary," the place where Jesus Christ was crucified.
The dead-end road is situated off Armand Road. The most recently built section of it - some 500 feet - was accepted as a town road in 1985.
In 1730, the proprietors granted Lt. Benjamin Benedict 60 acres lying "west of ye Cave." The grant was part of a subdivision of land that had been purchased from Taporneck and other Indians in 1727 and 1729.
The Cave may be what later became known as Sarah Bishop's Cave (see Sarah Bishop Road) on West Mountain in adjacent North Salem, N.Y. - then part of Ridgefield - or it may have been a cave in a hill off southern Ned's Mountain Road.
Running between South Salem Road and West Lane, Cedar Lane is a very old Road, shown on both Clark's (1856) and Beers' (1867) maps of the town. The name was applied as early as 1912 when it appears on the Whitlock map.
Historian Richard E. Venus, a native son, reports that years ago, many cedars grew in this neighborhood. Cedars often appear in fields that are left unmown, but are usually eventually crowded or shaded aut by the faster growing and taller deciduous trees, such as the maples.
Cedar Mountain is a tall rocky ridge, reaching an elevation of about 630 feet above sea level, that runs north south just the west of Route 7 and east of Florida Road.
The locality was first mentioned in the colonial General Assembly's grant of Ridgefield first-purchase land to the proprietors in 1709, when it was called the "West Cedar Mountain." On the east side of this hill stood a tree that marked the eastward bend in the boundary between Ridgefield and Fairfield (later Redding). West Cedar Mountain may have been a name first applied by Fairfielders, for the mountain is in the easternmost part of Ridgefield. That is probably why the settlers began dropping the "west" and calling it Cedar Mountain or Mountains by the 1720's.
The 1970 US Geological Survey map uses "Cedar Mountain" as the official name.
CEDAR MOUNTAIN ROAD
Cedar Mountain Road was apparently the original name for today's Florida Road. In a subdivision of common land in 1745, Benjamin Willson received 29 acres "lying west of ye Cedar Mountain Road."
An unusual map of this subdivision, placed on the town records in 1787 from an original drawn in 1744, locates Willson's lot just west of Florida Road. The highway was formally laid out on Dec. 6, 1744 by the selectmen, who described it as starting at the Wilton line, running north to Florida Hill Road, then called Abbott's Mill Road.
This path probably predated the modern-day Route 7, and was thus was part of a main route between Norwalk and Danbury in the 18th Century. Neighborhood tradition says that at least one tavern or inn stood along Florida Road to serve as a stagecoach stop in the 1700's.
CHARTER OAK COURT
Charter Oak Court is a dead-end road off Limestone Road Extension. It serves the 19.5 acre subdivision of Dennis and Linda Moore, approved in 1975 as one of the earliest of the "Planned Residential Developments."
Under "PRD" smaller than usual house lots are permitted if substantial open space is set aside. In this case, seven lots - one with an existing house on it - were created at about one acre each in a two-acre zone, and 9.3 acres along the Norwalk River was declared open space.
An earlier plan for the property called the road Riverview Road, a name that appears on some maps.
Charter Oak Court, a name selected by Town Planner Oswald Inglese, recalls Connecticut's most famous tree, which once stood in Hartford. It is said that colony officials hid the state's charter in a hollow of the trunk to prevent English Governor Edmond Andros from seizing it and control of the colony in 1687. Andros had been attempting to reorganize the New England Colonies and New York into a royal dominion under his leadership. He was unsuccessful in gaining control of Connecticut, which kept the charter that had protected what has been called the most democratic system of government in the colonies.
The tree fell in a storm in 1856 and tiny pieces of furniture and other mementos were carved from much of its wood. The tree was so old and large that it had been revered by the Indians before the coming of the English in the 1630's. A tree said to have grown from an acorn taken from the Charter Oak stands in Putnam Park in Redding.
Hagstrom's Atlas of Fairfield County (1966) labels the private driveway to the Martin farm on North Salem Road as "Chekhov Drive."
At what had been the Ridgefield Boys School at the end of the driveway, Michael Chekhov trained actors at the Chekhov Theater Studio from about 1938 to 1941. In the 1950s, the late Francis D. Martin (see Martin Park) razed most of the school building, erected in the early 1900's, and the remaining one story building was sold as a dwelling in 1976.
Mikhail Alexandrovich Chekhov, nephew of playwright Anton Chekhov, was born in Russia in 1891 and by the age of 21 was already a noted actor in his homeland. By 1923, he was a director at the Moscow Art Theatre, but his innovative methods eventually led the Communists to label him "alien and reactionary" and a "sick artist." Mr. Chekhov emigrated to Germany and then England, establishing a well-respected method of training actors. In 1939, as war was breaking out, he moved his Chekhov Theatre Studio from England to Ridgefield. While here, Mr. Chekhov made his first appearance in an English-speaking role on the public stage - a Russian War Relief dramatic program on the stage of the old Ridgefield High School (now the Ridgefield Playhouse), performing in each of the three short plays presented. By 1945, he was in Hollywood, where he taught and acted in films - his portrayal of the psychoanalyst in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound won him an Academy Award nomination. Among his students were Marilyn Monroe, Jack Palance, Anthony Quinn, Yul Brynner, Gregory Peck, and Akim Tamiroff. He died in 1955, but his school lives on today as the Chekhov Theatre Ensemble in New York City.
Cherry Lane, a short dead-end dirt road off Tanton Hill Road, was developed by the Connecticut Land Company in the early 1950's.
The name was suggested by George Grunig Jr., who lived on the road and who asked the selectmen in 1957 to register Cherry Lane as the name. However, despite repeated requests, the town refused to accept the road for many years because it failed to meet town road standards.
There are cherry trees in this neighborhood, probably planted for Col. Louis D. Conley's Outpost Nurseries (see Outpost Pond), which extended along both sides of Danbury Road from Copps Hill area to Route 7 in Danbury.
CHESTNUT HILLS ESTATES
Chestnut Hills Estates, the large one-acre-lot subdivision north of Chestnut Hill Road (q.v.) in Ridgebury, was developed by Lewis J. Finch, beginning around 1958. It includes Parley Road, Twopence Road, Harding Drive, Finch Drive, and Sarah Bishop Road.
CHESTNUT HILL ROAD
Chestnut Hill Road runs from Ridgebury Road to the New York State line where it connects with Finch Road in North Salem. It is an old highway, predating 1856.
The first use of the term has not been uncovered, but the name does not appear by 1880 in the land records, but was in use by the 1930's. The name was taken from the American chestnut (Castenea dentata), which years ago was probably common in this neighborhood - as it was throughout the hills of town before the chestnut blight of the early 1900's all but wiped out the mature trees of this species from North America.
Experiments are being conducted by state scientists near New Haven and elsewhere in North America to produce a subspecies or hybrid of the American chestnut that will withstand the blight.
Despite the blight, there are still chestnuts in our woods, young ones growing from the stumps of dead trees. They usually wind up dead after a few years, rarely reaching more than 20 feet in height. However, scientists occasionally come upon an American chestnut that has somehow escaped the blight and grown to maturity. These are studied carefully to see if they have some unusual ability to withstand the fungus that attacks the inner bark or whether they are simply so far separated from others of their kind that they have escaped the illness.
The North Salem part of Chestnut Hill Road was named for the family of the late William R. Finch" prominent for years in that town and often called the "Mayor of North Salem." He died around 1930.
CHES(T)NUT RIDGE I
In 1710 Town Clerk John Copp (he was called the "register" then) drew in the town record book a map of the division of "plow lands" into 25 lots for the 25 settling families. Two such lots were shown on "Chesnut Ridge."
Copp was the chief surveyor of the new settlement" and his map - not very accurate in scale or detail - is the earliest known map of Ridgefield.
It is interesting to note that he first wrote "Chesnut Hill," then scratched out the "hill" and replaced it with "ridge."
Pinpointing this locality is like playing with a combination crossword and jigsaw puzzle. But it appears from the loosely drawn map and from many deeds referring to the area that Chesnut Ridge was in the vicinity of Ramapoo Road, Overlook Drive and Farm Hill Road.
The term is used throughout the 18th Century and well into the 19th Century. It is almost always spelled "chestnut," which appears to be the common spelling here and elsewhere two centuries ago (a "chesnut tree" was described as a boundary marker in an 1839 deed).
CHES(T)NUT RIDGE II
Philander Camp, son of a noted Ridgebury minister (see Camp Land), sold John Taylor eight acres "at a place called Chesnut Ridge" in Ridgebury. This 1810 deed is for land south of George Washington Highway and east of Ridgebury Road, quite probably in or around the Scodon development.
The deed, incidentally, notes that the northern boundary of the property was "the line between Ridgefield and Danbury." It might surprise people who live east of Ridgebury Road and between George Washington highway and Shadow Lake Road that this rectangle was a part of Danbury between 1736 and 1820 (see The Crank).
Chestruin is a peculiar word, as best as can be deciphered from the old records, that occurs in a 1752 deed.
Theophilus Tayler of Danbury sold Theophilus Benedict of Danbury eight acres "scituate in Ridgefield North Pattent lying westerly from ye Bare Mountain lying in ye hollow between said Bare Mountain and ye Chestruin so called."
Although my transcription of the word may be in error, I cannot get any better reading of it, and the word seems to make no sense. The Oxford English Dictionary, the most complete dictionary of the language, could shed no light, nor could the new Dictionary of American Regional English.
It is possible that the recording town clerk - or the author of the original deed - erroneously wrote down a term such as "Chestnut Run" (brook) or "Chestnut Ridge." Anyone who'd like to play around with trying to decipher the word can find it on page 31 of Volume Four of the Ridgefield Land Records.
Chicken's Rock, a name pretty much forgotten now, is the large rock on the southwest corner of Great Pond at the western edge of the bathing beach of Martin Park. Those who are aware of the name usually think it has something to do with people being "chicken" to jump off the top of the 15 to 20-foot-high rock and into the pond. Chicken, however, was a person, not a condition.
Writing in the 1920's, George L. Rockwell said: "An interesting Indian character who spent some time in the eastern section of our town was Chicken Warrups, or as he was often called, Chickens. Chickens came from Redding. His original home was in Greenfield Hill (Fairfield)... A large rock on the shores of Great Pond ... is still called Chicken's Rock, as it was a favorite spot where the old warrior used to sit.
"In 1749, Chickens exchanged his one hundred acres in Redding with John Read for two hundred acres in Schaghticoke in the town of Kent. The land in Kent was bounded on the east by the Housatonic River and west by the Kent Mountains. It was near the Indian Reservation, which is familiar to the tourist passing up the Housatonic Valley (west of Route 7).
"Chicken Warrups died about 1765. His son, Tom Warrups, served faithfully with the American forces in the Revolutionary War, enlisting from Redding."
In his Ridgefield in Review, Silvio A. Bedini says that Chickens was "notorious among the red men of this area," and that he committed a murder in Greenfield Hill just before moving to present-day Redding (then part of Fairfield).
D. Hamilton Hurd, in his History of Fairfield County (1881), reports that "the tract of land embraced within the bounds of the present town of Redding was claimed by a small and unimportant tribe of Indians, composed of a few stragglers or disaffected members of the Potatucks of Newtown, the Paugusetts of Milford, and the Mohawks of New York. This motley tribe "was presided over by a chief bearing the euphonious name of Chicken Warrups, or Sam Mohawk, as he was sometimes called. It is supposed that he was a sagamore or under-chief of the powerful Mohawks, one of the tribes of the celebrated league of the Iroquois which inhabited New York, and who for some reason fled from his tribe and settled an Greenfield Hill. Here he killed an Indian and fled to Redding. He was a shrewd, cunning and important character in the early history of the town" of Fairfield.
In the early 18th Century, Chickens owned considerably more than the 100 acres he sold in 1749. Most of these holdings, in the Lonetown area of Redding, were sold in 1724 to Capt. Samuel Couch of Fairfield: The deed included the provision which reserved "in the whole of same, liberty for myself and my heirs to hunt, fish, and fowl upon the land and in the waters, and further reserving for myself, my children, and grandchildren and their posterity the use of so much land by my present dwelling house or wigwam as the General Assembly of the Colony by themselves or a committee indifferently appointed shall judge necessary for my or their personal improvement, that is to say, my children, children's children and posterity."
On a page of an old account-book kept in Redding in 1815 is a charge made by the selectmen against the state for boarding Eunice Warrups: "To paid Lewis Deane for boarding her from 1st Nov. 1815 to 16th Jany. 1816, being 11 wks, $13.75." And on another page, it says: "Eunice Warrups, an Indian woman, was born in this town, is upwards of seventy years old; has been absent fifty years; came from New Milford, she says, 1st day of Nov; came to this town; was "warned to depart."
This rather harsh-sounding treatment of an old woman, possibly one of Chickens' wives or children, seems strange, and one wonders whether she or the selectmen were aware of her "rights" under the Samuel Couch deed. Towns in the 18th Century were finicky about whom they admitted as residents. They feared indigents of any race because, under law, once an indigent had established himself or herself in the community, the selectmen would become responsible for her welfare and would have to payout money for same. Hence, indigents were told to leave before they could become permanent welfare cases, not people the tight-fisted New Englanders were interested in supporting.
A short dead-end road off Beaver Brook Road in Ridgebury Estates, Chipmunk Lane is named for the rodent so populous in this territory. Though the creature is cute and popular, only four other Fairfield County towns deemed it worth honoring with a road name by 1985.
Chipmunk Lane became a town road in 1970.
Christopher Road, a short, dead-end road off Tackora Trail, was named in 1959 for Christopher Franks, son of James Franks, the developer. Lisa Lane, another road in the subdivision, was named for his daughter.
CIDER MILL LOT
Names of lots - tracts of land within farms or estates owned by one family - are not in most cases covered in this history (see Lots). However, Cider Mill Lot - and a few others - deserve mention, in this case because it's one of the first references in the land records to the existence of a cider mill in Ridgefield.
In 1806, Elias and Eunice Smith leased to Benjamin Barberry nearly 10 acres "called the Cider Mill Lot (which formerly belonged to the estate of Daniel Coley esquire, late of said Ridgefield, deceased)." This suggests the mill, probably located an lower Ridgebury Road below Regan Road, existed for some time before 1806.
The fact that references to cider mills start in the beginning of the 19th Century suggests that these devices for obtaining cider and apple butter were not common or perhaps non-existent during most of the 18th Century. By the mid-19th Century, there were several cider mills operating here, perhaps reflecting a changing attitude in town toward booze - for cider back then was not the "juice" we today call cider, but an alcoholic beverage, often with quite a "kick" to it.
Cider making, a Connecticut and New England tradition in late summer and early autumn, was an important and not an easy task. It did not consist simply of squeezing apples. The fruit was crushed in a certain way so that the meat was deliberately bruised, usually at a cider mill -- such as Gilbert's Mill on Saw Mill Hill Road in Titicus. Bruising and then exposing the crushed apples to sunlight, or at least the air, for the proper amount of time turned the pomace -- or apple cheese -- a brown color, a change that added a great deal of sugar and richness to the juice. The cheese was then layered on rye straw or on cloth, and squeezed in a wooden press.
True cider was then allowed to ferment in barrels; what we call cider today is actually just apple juice. Cider was an alcoholic beverage that was a staple in most households, much as beer and wine are today.
Although cider making was carried on commercially to some degree, it was usually a small-scale operation, with neighborhood cider mills and presses serving a community rather than big factories mass producing for sale through stores. Ridgefield had at least a half dozen cider mills by the mid-1800s, enough to serve the town's needs.
Circle Drive is taken from the layout of the road, roughly a circle. Developed in the late 1950's by Dominick Cadelero of Brookfield, the two segments of the road off North Salem Road were accepted by the town in 1957 and 1963.
An 1848 deed between members of the Thomas family mentions 39 acres "in the 'City District' so-called." The land was apparently in the Branchville area, but why it was called "City District" is a mystery.
The area around the northern corner of Main and Gilbert Streets was, more than a century ago, known as the Clayholes, according to Rockwell's history.
Clay was dug from this then-swampy area, possibly for use as mortar patch in such places as stone foundations and chimneystacks. The resulting "holes" would fill with water and freeze over in winter, making good skating ice. Bedini says the holes were filled in during the 1860's.
Since the Clayholes were across Main Street from one of the campsites of the area's Indians, it is quite possible that the natives used the clay here for making pottery.
A 1,000-foot-long, dead-end road off Barlow Mountain Road, Clayton Place runs along the north side of Pierrepont Pond.
The road was named for Clayton Shields, son of former Probate Judge and Mrs. Reed F. Shields. Attorney Shields was representing Jerry Tuccio, the developer, at the time of the Twixt Hills subdivision (q.v.), of which Clayton Place is a part.
The road was accepted by the town in 1964.
CLEARVIEW DRIVE, TERRACE
Clearview Drive and Terrace are private roads at the Ridgefield Lakes (q.v.), presumably with a good view.
COAL MINE, the
Among the sundry mines operated in Ridgefield during the 18th and 19th Centuries was a coal mine in the ledges along southern Ridgebury Road.
According to an 1850 document in the land records, William Barhite leased the Cedar Mining Company, headed by David Hurlbutt, the right to do "examinations for coal and other minerals and metals" for 99 years. The description of the six-acre tract, "it being a cedar hill or mountain," places it near the intersection of Ridgebury and Mopus Bridge Roads.
Ten years later, when they were describing the boundaries for the South Ridgebury School District, the selectmen mentioned that the southern line went by "the coal mine at the foot of Ridgebury Mountain," so Hurlbutt apparently was successful in mining coal from this locality. Not for too long, however, since he died in 1858 after a cow he was about to slaughter stabbed him in the head with a horn.
Hurlbutt, who had been trained as a hatter, was a butcher who founded Hurlbutt's Market at the corner of Main and Market Streets. His house, much enlarged over the years, still stands on the corner, but the market was removed long ago.
A man of many interests, Hurlbutt had also operated an ice business, cutting blocks from a pond he had created just west of East Ridge, across from the middle school.
Cobbler's Lane, a short road off South Salem Road, serves seven lots, developed in 1963 as Cobbler's Knoll by John W. Huffer and Paul G. Widman on land belonging then to Mr. and Mrs. Ward W. Green. It became a town road in 1964.
A cobbler had probably once owned the property. According to the 1820 census, there were 40 shoemakers in town, half of whom lived in the West Lane Distirct - in which this subdivision is situated. "C. Northrup" owned Land in this vicinity in 1867 and the estate of J. Northrup owned land nearby. James Northrup was one of the cobbers mentioned in the 1820 census, so perhaps there's a connection there.
COLD SPRING & LANE
Cold Spring, common among Connecticut place names, appears first in an 1810 deed for land on West Mountain, described as "beginning at a heap of stones on the highway commonly called Cold Spring Lane."
In the same year, a deed mentions land of Elnathan Holly (a version, I think, of Hauley or Hawley) as being "near the mill pond, so called, at the outlet of Cold Spring." An 1818 deed mentions property "west of Mamanasco Pond," including a parcel at Cold Spring.
These deeds seem to refer to land along a road which, in the 1800's, ran a route approximately the same as Blue Ridge Road, Caudatowa Drive, and Rock Road. Just where the Cold Spring was is unclear, but perhaps some reader familiar with the neighborhood knows of a strong spring thereabouts that could be what being referred to.
It may have been, perhaps, what is now Turtle Pond (q.v.), before it was dammed up for the Port of Missing Men (q.v.). The pond's waters are west of and flow into Lake Mamanasco.
With "Cold Spring" being a place name in at least 20 Connecticut towns, it is not strange that there would be more than one of them in Ridgefield. Deeds recorded in 1819 and 1827 mention a "Cold Spring Meadow" near the "east part of Long Pond Mountain," placing this Cold Spring near the intersection of Rippowam and Oreneca Roads in the vicinity of Girl Scout Camp Catoonah, west of Round Pond.
COLD SPRING LANE II
A 1960 subdivision plan by Clifford A. Winton and Wayne Hicklin for land in Ridgefield and Wilton describes a road off the east side of Nod Hill Road, about 850 feet north of the Pelham Lane intersection, as "Cold Spring Lane."
Although Leo F. Carroll, then first selectman, gave tentative approval to the road's plan, the subdivision, called Thunder Lake, was never developed in this part of Ridgefield. Portions in Wilton were subdivided, however.
There is no record through 1880 of a "Cold Spring" in this vicinity, although - since any good spring is cold - the name could reasonably have been a neighborhood name for almost any spring in town.
Calls Point is found in town records as early as 1717 when a map drawn by the Rev. Thomas Hauley, town clerk, notes "Colls Poynt" near the very south end of Great Swamp.
It is the area north of Ivy Hill Road east of where it crosses the old railroad bed, and east of Prospect Ridge. The term was used as late as 1851 and probably later.
Coll is an old word with several meanings. One is a simpleton or fool. Another is a cock or bunch of hay. But perhaps a third meaning - a pile of wood - was the most probable one.
From the earliest time of settlement and until the early 20th Century, Great Swamp (q.v.) was a source of wood for the fireplaces of the village homes. It may have been that wood was cut from the swamp and dragged to Colls Point to await sawing into logs and splitting. Wood may also have been stored there to season.
There is an interesting deed connected with land at Colls Point. In 1792, Benjamin Smith and David Olmsted, described as the "donation committee to take ye oversight and management of the benefits appropriated for the use of the schools in Ridgefield," sold for 11 pounds land at "Colls Point (so-called), being ye same land that said donation committee obtained of Ambrose Olmsted, late deceased of said Ridgefield, by virtue of an execution as may be seen" in an earlier deed.
Ambrose Olmsted was a debtor who apparently failed to pay his school taxes and whose estate was slapped with a suit in 1786 to recover the debt. Very few deeds involving the town's collecting school taxes exist in the land records, so early Ridgefielders must have been conscientious taxpayers. Also noteworthy about the deed is that it mentions "common land" being on the north side of the sale property.
By the 1790's, most of the common land, owned by the proprietors, had been sold off and the fact that some was left at Colls Point suggests that the point may have been still serving late in the 18th Century whatever purpose it was serving when the town was settled. (See also Colts Point.)
Colonial Green is a four-lot subdivision of 10.2 acres between South Salem Road and Golf Lane, obtained in 1969 by Czyr Construction Company. It has no road of its own, but does make use of an old railroad bed as a driveway. The Ridgefield and New York Railroad, which was never completed but was issuing stock in 1871, was supposed to go to Titicus (q.v.).
Colonial Heights is an 89-lot, late-1960's subdivision including Minuteman Road, Revere Drive, and Yankee Hill Road. Developed by Lewis J. Finch and Paul J. Morganti, it was the town's first and biggest development using three acre lots.
Colonial Lane, developed in the early 1950's, runs off North Salem Road just north of Barlow Mountain Road. The dead-end road was accepted by the town in 1963.
The name, in use by 1957, is rather trite but suitable for the area, one of the first sections of Ridgefield outside the village to be developed by the colonial settlers. The modern day developer was Harold "Pinky" Gillum, who produced custom-made rods and flies that were sold around the world. Gillum rods today command thousands of dollars.
The term "Colony Line" appears frequently in the early deeds to denote what we today would call the state line. The boundary was moved eastward by mare than a mile and a half in 1731 (see Oblong). It is interesting to note that deeds in 1819 and 1831, long after Connecticut and New York had shed the King, used the term "Colony Line." Perhaps the authors were dyed-in-the-wool Tories.
Connecticut Place Hames, a huge book published by the Connecticut Historical Society in 1976, lists "Colts Point" for "Colls Point" (q,v,). "Colts" may have been a typographical error or a misunderstanding of the script written word, "Colls." At any rate "Colts Point" was never used in the land records here through 1890, though dozens of references to Colls Point are found.
The east branch of the Comstock Brook, which eventually empties into the Norwalk River at Wilton Center, apparently has its source in a swamp north of Pelham Lane, between Nod and Nod Hill Roads, just inside Ridgefield. This source may have been once called Brimstone Swamp (q,v.).
Comstock Brook takes its name from Comstock Ridge or Knoll, a hill in Wilton (west of Route 33 and south of Deforest Road), near which the stream flows. The hill in turn took its name from Capt. Samuel Comstock, said to be the first settler on the ridge.
The name appears on US Geological Survey maps.
Comstock Court is a dead-end road at the south end of Nod Road at the Wilton line. It serves a 1979 subdivision of Barry N. Finch and Jack Baldaserini, both long-time Ridgefield real estate businessmen.
When they started going on the market in the early 1980's, the lots shocked many Ridgefielders by fetching prices of $200,000 or more, then extraordinary amounts for lots without sewer or water service.
The road takes its name from the nearby brook (above).
Conant Road is the only road in town named for a college president. Robert H. Baldwin, president of the Lincoln Development Corporation of Massachusetts, the original subdivider of Westmoreland (q.v.), graduated from Harvard College in 1952 when James Bryant Conant was president of the university. Jerry Tuccio, who later took over the subdivision, retained the name for the road, a dead-ender off Remington Road that was accepted by the town in 1969.
Conklin Court exists only on paper as a short lane serving six lots off North Street, just south of Ridgecrest Drive. The property was subdivided in 1953 by Irving B. Sr. and Ethel O. Conklin, but was never developed, having been purchased by St. Mary's Parish, which owns the nearby cemetery. Mr. Conklin was a well-known dairy farmer here.
In a way, Irving B. Conklin Sr. symbolized the changing nature of Ridgefield - from an agrarian town, to a haven for estates, and then to a bedroom, commuter community. Born in 1899, he came to Ridgefield as a young man and became superintendent of Dr. George G. Shelton's estate. From 1928 till the early 1940s, he owned Conklin's Dairy, Ridgefield's largest and last major dairy farm, and over those years had supplied most of Ridgefield with milk.
In 1944 he and Leo Pambianchi started Ridgefield Motors, which grew into Conklin Motors, which later became Kellogg and Theiss, and then Village Pontiac-Cadillac on Danbury Road (the dealership closed in the 1990s). He moved to Stonecrest, the large estate on North Street. Both the farm and the estate he owned were subdivided: the dairy farm includes Farm Hill Road, Overlook Drive and Nutmeg Court, and his later home was also largely subdivided for Stonecrest Road and Dowling Drive - though the riding stable he established there around 1953 is still in business today. A former president of the Lions Club, he died in Florida in 1966 at the age of 66.
A small body of water on the north side of West Mountain Road, a short distance west of Ramapoo Road, Conran's Pond was named for Joseph H. Conron, a wealthy New Yorker on whose estate-farm it was located. He was living there by 1910, and died sometime before 1938. The family continued to live on the property for some years after his death.
The original Conron house at the top of a hill on the 100-plus acre estate was torn down in the 1960s to make way for the present house, but various decorative pieces of it were sold at an auction and are now parts of anther homes around town.
Around 1973, an out-of-town developer planned to erect a novel project there, consisting of expensive, clustered, but detached single-family houses that would be owned in condominium fashion. While he received initial approvals from zoning officials for about 40 units, the developer had financial difficulties and abandoned the project before he could even buy the property. Eventually, it was developed into a conventional subdivision, served by today's Sharp Hill and Doubleday Lanes (q.v.).
Joseph Conran must have made at least one enemy when he came to Ridgefield. The following advertisement appeared in the April 14, 1910 Press:
ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS
Reward for information that would lead to the arrest of the scoundrel who put Paris green in my cow pasture lots, poisoning two of my cows with calves, both dying on Good Friday. The above reward will be paid by Joseph Conron, Vita Semplace Farm, Ridgefield, Conn.
"Vita Semplace" is either a typographical error or an intended pun, "Vita simplice" means "the simple life." It may have been such a place.
Part of the Barrack Heights subdivision, Continental Drive runs from Barrack Hill Road to North Salem Road. Francis D. Martin, the subdivider, named it because troops in the service of the Continental Army camped nearby during the Revolution.
As noted under Armand Place and Barrack Hill Road (q.v.), a barracks for colonial military police was situated up the hill. Most, if not all, of those troops were French.
Continental Drive, which has one of the steepest inclines of any road in town, was accepted by a Town Meeting in 1959.
Cook Close, a lane at Casagmo (q.v.), is said to have been named after distant relatives of the Olcott family, on whose former estate Casagmo was developed.
The Cooper Brook rises at the south end of Great Swamp and flows southeasterly between Florida Hill and Branchville Roads down to Branchville where it empties into the Norwalk River near the railroad station.
The stream was once important in that it provided power for one of our earlier and longest-lived saw mill sites, called Hoyt's Saw Mill, located at John's Pond southeast of Cooper Road.
In 1751, the proprietors deeded Benjamin Hoyt (Hayt) seven and a half acres "near his intended saw mill."
Benjamin apparently fulfilled his intentions, for by 1753 deeds begin mentioning "Hoyt's Saw Mill." By 1816 Hoyt family deeds were referring to "the old saw mill spat" or the "old mill site," but a new mill was erected there in 1824, lasting at least into the 1870's.
The brook takes its name from a barrel-maker who lived nearby (see below).
COOPER HILL and ROAD
Tradition tells us that Cooper Hill takes its name from a cooper - or barrel-maker - who operated a shop near where Cooper Hill Road crosses the old railroad bed. However, tradition has neglected to pass on the cooper's name and we've been thus far unable to uncover one, although a neighborhood legend says his given name was John, which is supposedly why nearby John's Pond is so-called.
Col. Edward M. Knox, a wealthy hat company owner who lived in a huge estate on the north side of Florida Hill Road (now the High Valley and Downesbury Manor subdivisions - see Downesbury Court), is said to have built Cooper Hill Road to get to the tiny railroad station which he also built and named Cooper station.
It was on the west side of Cooper Hill Road where it crosses the track bed, and once included a post office. One of the travelers who occasionally got off the train at that station was Samuel Langhorne Clemens of Redding, who was a friend of Colonel Knox. Mark Twain, as he was better known, would ride the train from West Redding to Branchville, and then taken another train up the branch line to Cooper Station, where he was met by the Colonel.
In the 1700's, five main roads went from the center of town to the eastern side. From north to south, they were Haviland Road, Farmingville Road, Florida Hill Road, Branchville-Cooper Road, and Branchville-Old Branchville Road.
As mentioned earlier, the original Branchville Road from Biddle Hill eastward to Branchville Center was over the present Old Branchville Road. What we call Cooper Road today included then the portion of Branchville Road from the western intersection with Old Branchville. And it extended all the way to Florida Road. This route is shown on a 1745 subdivision map contained in the old land records.
Today, Cooper Road extends eastward only to Stony Hill Road.
COPPER BEECH LANE
Cooper Beech Lane, a short, dead-end road off Lee Road in Farmingville, was named for the species of tree that bears copper-colored leaves.
Copper beeches are plentiful thereabouts, especially on Lee Road, because that's where the farmer Outpost Nurseries planted and grew them for stack (see Outpost Pond). Most were planted around 1940. They are not native American trees, having been imported as ornamentals, mostly for estates.
The road was developed by Richard Conley's Connecticut Land Company around 1956 and was accepted by the Town Meeting in 1959, when then-Selectman Paul J. Morganti suggested the name. Connecticut Land was started in the late 1940's as a vehicle for handling the disposition of Outpost Nurseries property, acquired by Col. Louis D. Conley, Richard's father, in the 1910's and 1920's and totaling nearly 2,000 acres.
Just in case you should happen to sight anything odd or ghastly among the copper beeches, local legend says that many years ago, a murder took place in this vicinity and that the corpse was thrown down an old well, which was then filled in and hidden.
Copp's Corner is the extreme southeast corner of Ridgefield in Branchville - the junction of the Ridgefield, Redding, and Wilton town lines.
In 1716, John Copp, representing Ridgefield, and Andrew Messenger of Norwalk, surveyed what is now the Ridgefield Wilton line, erecting a heap of stones at the corner of what then marked the joining of the lines of Ridgefield, Norwalk and Fairfield. But this action may not have been the origin of the term Copp's Corner. Norwalk land records reveal that in the 1720's, Dr. John Copp, then the town clerk of Norwalk, had a "farm" just below the Ridgefield line along Route 7 in modern day Wilton. Thus, Copp's Corner was not only surveyed by Copp, but apparently was adjacent to or near Copp's Farm. Dr. Copp probably did not live on the farm, however, for he was very active in public affairs of Norwalk village, a long distance away by horse.
The term Copp's Corner, sometimes spelled Kopp's Corner, appears only in perambulation records and not in deeds. A perambulation is a walk along the town boundaries by officials from each town to check the condition of the monuments marking the line and to make adjustments where necessary. The first reference to the term occurs in the land records describing the perambulation of 1767 when "we, the subscribers being appointed by ye select men of ye towns of Fairfield and Ridgefield, have met at Copps Corner so called and preambulated (sic) ye line between said Fairfield and Ridgefield."
The term was still in use by the 1832 perambulation. Although he was never really a Ridgefield resident, John Copp was among the most important individuals in the early settlement of the town. The following is the most complete biography of him yet published, but still lacks much information about this unusually versatile man, remembered today mostly in the name of a shopping center.
Copp is not a common name in the United States. Nor is is today in England, the nation from which William Copp, grandfather of John, set sail in 1635 bound for Boston. William was a cordwainer, a worker in leather, particularly shoes. Records gathered by the New York Genealogical Society indicate that he settled in Boston's north end and became a well-to-do businessman, owning two houses and a good deal of land. John Thoreau, grandfather of Henry David Thoreau, later occupied one of the houses.
William Copp had nine children, some of them born in England before the voyage. One was David, father of eight children, one of whom was John Copp. Even more than his father, David Copp attained a noteworthy reputation in early Boston. David followed in the vocation of his father, and expanded the cordwainer's business. He was the ruling elder of the First Church, clerk of the market, sealer of leather, and adviser to the Boston selectmen on various matters including the laying of bounds for highways and the listing of properties in town.
One of his civic enterprises perhaps gives an insight into David Copp's character. In a 1930 publication, the genealogical society reported that Copp "was designated by the selectmen to cooperate with the constable in the suppression of excessive drinking and disorders in private houses and licensed places of entertainment."
A friend of the Rev. Cotton Mather, David Copp was described as a highly respected citizen and bearer at funerals of the elite of old Boston. He died in 1713 and is buried in what is still called the Copps Hill Burying Ground, resting place near the Boston Common of many early Copps and notable Bostonians, including Increase and Cotton Mather.
Copp Comes South
John Copp was born in Boston in 1673. Apparently restless, he looked south for new territory and probably while in his 20's, migrated to Connecticut. His name first turns up in 1698 when he married the widow Mary Jagger Phelps in Stamford. Oddly enough, only three years later, he married another widow, this time in Norwalk. Neither marriage resulted in children.
The records of Norwalk report that in 1701, a town meeting voted to hire Mr. Copp as schoolmaster "in case he can be obtained." The record suggests that Copp had already been well-established as a teacher, perhaps in neighboring Stamford.
The meeting left the salary open to negotiation ("reasonable terms"), but did stipulate that part of his payment, 15 pounds, should come from a tuition charged to the pupils ("schoollers") with the payment divided equally among them. He taught both day and night classes.
John Copp was among the first medical doctors in the state, and probably the first in Norwalk. In 1705, reports Dr. George Sumner in an 1851 address on "The Early Physicians of Connecticut," Copp "obtained the recommendation of the selectmen of Norwalk and applied for a license to practice medicine."
Copp apparently received his license, for in 1710 or 1711 (sources differ), he was appointed a surgeon with a Connecticut regiment, which was to march to Port Royal in Canada to do battle with the French. Where he got his knowledge of medicine is unknown; The History of Fairfield County points out that "the sources for the acquisition of medical knowledge in the colonies were few and scanty."
As early as 1697, residents of Norwalk were becoming interested in the Indian land 15 miles to the north. Though high and rocky, the territory had fertile soils, an abundance of wood, and more than 60 miles of streams to serve future mills.
John Copp had acquired knowledge of surveying from his father. In 1706, and again in 1708, he with others was asked to survey land in Ridgefield for purchase by a group of Norwalk families. Due to various difficulties, those first expeditions never succeeded, but finally Copp alone managed to draw up boundaries for a 20,000-acre piece of land, roughly the south half of the present town.
After surveying the area in the summer of 1708, Copp reported back to Norwalk residents that "we went up to view said tract of land and upon our diligent indeavour for a discovery, we find it to be accommodated with upland considerably good and for quantity sufficient for thirty families or more, and as for meadow land it surpasses both in quantity as well as in quality what is common to be found in many larger plantations."
In September 1708, Copp and two other men, representing Ridgefield's first 26 settling families, paid the Indians 100 pounds sterling for what is called "the first purchase" (there were seven subsequent purchases).
The original of the deed is lost, but John Copp, elected as recorder (town clerk) by Ridgefield's first town meeting in 1709, set down a copy of it in the town record book which can be viewed today - as written in his own hand - in the town hall.
Although a hill in town was named for him, John Copp never really owned land in Ridgefield. I say "really" because for a short period in 1714, he did hold title to property. On April 27, John Tompkins of Bedford, N.Y., deeded him "a full half-right of land within the granted township of Ridgefield ... which being ye one half of a 29th part" of all the common lands and proprietors' grants in the town." On Sept. 23, Copp deeded that right to Moses Northrup of Milford. Both sales were for 70 pounds and it would seem that Copp was merely acting as a trustee, holding the land for one owner until he could find a buyer for it.
During the first few years of settlement, Dr. Copp probably stayed here for periods of days, weeks, or maybe months with pioneer families. He helped lay out the town and its Main Street, acted as a physician, and became the first school teacher, instructing the children in a small meeting house somewhere near the present Methodist church (part of the church's front lawn was once part of the old village green).
Schooling was probably somewhat haphazard then since Copp also had his duties in Norwalk and the first official mention of education in the town records does not occur until 1721 when the town meeting approved a school budget of eight pounds!
It is thought that early Ridgefield town meetings were held in Norwalk until the settlement here became more populated and permanent. Just how long those meetings remained out-of-town is uncertain, but they were probably not later than 1715. However, it is possible most of Copp's recording was done in Norwalk, where he was also that town's clerk from 1708 to 1740.
Entries in the Ridgefield records from that period and signed "per John Copp recorder" are often not in chronological order, indicating that he would transcribe information as he found time or as it came to him. John Copp's last entry in the town records came in 1713.
The Rev. Thomas Hauley, who had just moved to Ridgefield to become the town's first minister (Congregational), succeeded Copp at both recording and teaching Mr. Hauley's house still stands on Main Street at the Branchville Road north corner.
Commenting on Copp's four years in helping the Norwalk settlers in Ridgefield, Silvia A. Bedini writes in his Ridgefield in Review, "in view of Copp's various public trusts during the first several decades of the 18th Century, it is surprising to find that he was able to serve as town register and school teacher from 1709 to 1713."
Active in Norwalk
Before, during and after his work with Ridgefield, Copp was active in the civic and ecclesiastical life of Norwalk, of Fairfield County, and of Connecticut.
He was elected state representative from Norwalk to the General Assembly in 1706, 1716, and 1718-19. In 1711, he was appointed county surveyor and at the governor's request, assisted with a 1716 survey to determine the Connecticut-New York State boundary. In 1719, he assisted Norwalk's town fathers in clearing up confusion aver that community's boundaries. In 1726, he was appointed to a town committee to present grievances to county officials.
Copp became increasingly active in the First Congregational church in Norwalk. He was a deacon of the church, and the town records (at that time, the same as the church records) indicate in 1723 he was granted "the second pue from the pulpitt," a position of importance. His wife, by the way, was placed' "in the third pue an the woman's side."
During the mid-1720's, Copp served on several church committees that were attempting to settle a dispute between the minister and his parishioners, then most of the townspeoples The dispute had become so heated that in 1726, the town meeting voted to discontinue paying the clergyman his salary.
John Copp's name made its final known appearance in Ridgefield records in 1739 when he came to town to attend the installation of the new Congregational minister, 26-year-old Jonathan Ingersoll. Mr. Hauley had died the year before.
In his will, drawn up in 1749, Copp freed his two Negro slaves, Jack and Sarah, and provided them with support. He died two years later on May 16, 1751, aged 78.
Copp's name is kept alive in Norwalk where there is a Copps Island just off the harbor. It was once owned by John.
COPPS HILL and ROAD
Copps Hill is a modern term, not found in the early records. It probably stems from belief that "Copps Mountain" (see below) exaggerated the loftiness of the ridge to which the original name referred. The roadway is very old, and descriptions of it seem to appear in pre-1730 land records. When the name first came into use has not been established.
Copps Hill and Farmingville Roads used to be offset from each other as the joined Danbury Road. In the late 1980s, the state rebuilt the intersection to make it a symmetrical four-way junction.
People often complain about offset intersections like that of Copps Hill and Farmingville Roads at Danbury Road. They make traffic movements confusing, difficult, and dangerous. But offset intersections -- like this was and the one at Bailey Avenue, Catoonah, and Main Streets still is -- were created long before the automobile. And in those days there were no traffic problems, and no one cared whether the horse or cart had to jog a few feet over to reach the cross road. (However, people would have cared if the town tried to chop a piece of their land off for such silliness as moving a good road to make it symmetrically intersect.)
In fact, an inspection of the old road maps finds virtually no straight-on, four-way intersections in town in the 19th Century. The one exception (on Barrack Hill Road) was so unusual that for years it was called the "Four Corners" (q.v.)
When Copps Hill Plaza, the shopping center, was built in the early 1970's, the eastern end of Copps Hill Road was moved south a little to help reduce the offset. Around the same time, the town considered trying to negotiate for land to move the western end of Farmingville Road north and opposite Copps Hill Road, but nothing came of the idea until 20 years later.
Technically speaking, Copps Hill Road should be spelled Copp's Hill Road, the same format as Cain's Hill Road. However, too many years of "Copps" instead of "Copp's", especially in the commercial contexts of Copps Hill Plaza and Copps Hill Common, has destroyed any chance of the accurate form's being used.
Copp's Mountain is the ridge along the east side of North Street. It is the original and correct term for what is today occasionally referred to as Stonecrest Mountain, and what has lent itself to the name, Copps Hill Road.
The term was first used in a 1721 deed in which the settlers purchased land from the Indians. Why it was named for John Copp is not certain since, as mentioned under Copp's Corner, Mr. Copp never lived here on land he owned. However, it is interesting that along the southern end of this ridge is Settlers' Rock, the place where a scouting party that set out to survey Ridgefield is said to have encamped in 1708, before the first purchase of land from the Indians. Copp was certainly among those visitors and may have headed the party and thus have been the inspiration for this name.
The term, Copp's Mountain, also called East Mountain (q.v.) in the 19th Century, was very frequently used during both the 18th and 19th Centuries. It was sometimes called Kopps Mountain or Koppes Mountain.
COPP'S OLD LINE
Copps Old Line appears in deeds from 1748 to the end of the 18th Century, apparently referring to an old border between Danbury and Ridgefield on the town's east side, north of Routes 7 and 35 intersection and running through Spruce Mountain.
From deeds, it is certain the line was west of the present boundary between the two towns. When Levi Starr of Danbury sold 80 acres to the Rev. Samuel Camp of Ridgebury in 1781, he described it as lying in "New Pattent" (Ridgebury) "on the Spruce Mountain and Short Woods so called," bounded on the "west" by "Copps Old Line."
The perambulation of the Danbury and Ridgefield line in 1792 began at Freeholders Corner (near the end of Laurel Lane) and went north 13 degrees west for two and three quarters miles "to an heap of stones on ye south end of an high rock and from thence to an heap of stones on ye east side of an highway in ye Old Kopp Line," thence north five degrees west to Danbury northwest corner.
That places the northern end of Copps Line at Pine Mountain Road and Danbury line. The south end is unclear, but was probably near Great Pond. If so, a large triangle of land - today mostly town- or state-owned park - was apparently thought to belong to Danbury sometime before 1748.
The term Corbin Drive was once used for a private road - really a driveway - off the west side of Limestone Road that has since become a town road called called Buckspen Lane (q.v.). Corbin Drive appears on older editions of Hagstrom's Atlas of Fairfield County (such as 1966).
The "road" led to the house of Robert Corbin, a member of the town's first Zoning Commission, created in 1946 (and combined in 1965 with the Planning Commission). Mr. Corbin lived there until the early 1970's when he sold the house and more than 20 acres to Albert Gaeta, a popular Ridgefield plumber, who subdivided it in 1977 into about a half dozen lots. Mr. Gaeta was also a well-known official in town, having been a member of the Police Commission and chief of the Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department.
Cores Bogs, often spelled Kores Bogs, is believed to be the wetland on both sides of Peaceable Hill Road, west of Westmoreland. The term, fairly common in the 18th Century, appears in deeds as early as the 1720's and last shows up in 1803.
Cores is probably a variant spelling of the word "coarse," descriptive of the lumpiness of the bogs or of the vegetation that grew there.
CORN GRASS MEADOW
In 1739, John Whitlock sold Samuel Bennet six acres "at a place called the Corn Grass Meadow," probably somewhere in the Bennett's Farm district. The locality itself is of little note except that "Corn Grass Meadow" is a very early-recorded example of the use of a name for a lot within a person's or family's farm. Until the late 18th Century, names for lots (see Lots) were rarely mentioned in deeds, although they were probably commonly used in conversation among family members.
Corn grass (Panicum clandestinum), also known as deer tongue grass, is a common variety of grass that grows in moist places to a height of four feet. Its tassels or panicles resemble those found on corn, itself a member of the grass family of plants.
Cornen Avenue was an informal but popular name around the turn of the century for Danbury Road in the vicinity of Fox Hill Village, including the old Danbury Road that today is the main driveway through the condominium complex.
The following is from a biography, written by Karl S. Nash for a history of the Ridgefield Savings Bank for the bank's 100th anniversary in 1971:
"Peter P. Cornen was the only millionaire among the founders, directors and first officers of the Ridgefield Savings Bank... Mr. Cornen made his fortune in Pennsylvania oil and New York City real estate. He devoted part of it to the beautification of Ridgefield, which he called home for more than 40 years.
"The maple trees which he planted along Cornen Avenue (Danbury Road) still line parts of the highway, through present day commercialization, featuring gas stations, has diminished the air of tranquility which they provided for the northern entrance to the town.
"At Mr. Cornen's death in 1893, The Press said: 'Cornen Avenue, passing his residence, with its well-laid walls and graceful shade trees, in the future years will be a fitting memorial to the public-spirited citizen.'
"Born in New York City on March 13, 1815... Mr. Cornen lived to the age of 78, 'a sterling citizen,' said The Press. "As a boy he attended public schools in New York City and then learned the shipbuilding trade. At age 33, he joined the gold rush to California, making the trip, according to The Press, 'round the Horn to San Francisco.' For three years he 'engaged in mercantile pursuits, his energy, perseverance and keen business foresight adding greatly to his accumulations, so that he ranked with the moneyed men of those days.'
"Henry I. Beers, Mr. Cornen's brother-in-law, was also a '49er. They were later partners in the Pennsylvania oil fields.
"After returning East, Mr. Cornen began his real estate activities in New York City. Known as a 'shrewd buyer,' he acquired 16 lots on which Grand Central Station now stands. He sold them in 1872 for $65,000, a big sum in those days.
"It was during the Civil War that Mr. Cornen became a petroleum producer in McClintockville, Pa. Soon he was a millionaire. He and Mr. Beers bought the Smith Farm in Cherry Run, Pa., for $2,500 and later rejected an offer of $4 million for it. By 1864, the 50-acre farm was dotted with oil wells, each of which produced from 24 to 250 barrels a day for two years.
"The financial panic of 1873 when the savings bank was only two years old, 'swallowed a great share of his large fortune,' said Mr. Cornen's obituary in The Press. 'Thereafter he engaged in enterprises on a smaller scale, including real estate here and there, but was a wealthy man at his death. His Ridgefield property consisted. of his home of Spanish design, which he had built in 1854, on the corner of Danbury and Farmingville Roads, and about 1,000 acres of land surrounding it. Because of an inordinate fear of fire, Mr. Cornen had the walls of his house studded with brick for better protection.
"The house became part the Outpost Nurseries property in the 1930's and, having fallen into disuse, was torn down about 1942." (The house-wreckers had no idea the walls were brick-filled when they started dismantling the building, a project that consequently took longer than expected. In 1976, the Ridgefield Savings Bank - which Cornen helped establish and which is now called Ridgefield Bank - purchased the site of this house on the north corner of Farmingville and Danbury Roads and some years later, built its headquarters there.)
"Mr. Cornen had made a mark for himself here in Ridgefield even before the savings bank was formed. A Democrat, he was a state senator in 1867 and in 1871 he served in the House of Representatives. That fall he was elected first selectman and served one year. He was one of the original directors of the Ridgefield and New York Railroad Company (see Colonial Green).
"He was a director and first vice-president of the [Ridgefield Savings] bank for eight years. He was a member of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church and the Odd Fellows Lodge.
"At his death The Press said: 'Mr. Cornen, in business, through often indulging in transactions involving millions, was governed by none but the most honorable motives. His judgment was considered sound and his opinion once given was seldom erroneous.'"
Mr. Cornen also owned a house which formerly stood at the east side of the pond at Fox Hill Village. Built around 1816 by Albin "Boss" Jennings, the house was acquired in the 1920's by Col. Louis D. Conley who converted it into the Outpost Inn (see Outpost Pond). When he purchased the property from the Shapley School at a forclosure sale in 1967, David L. Paul had planned to convert the house into a community center for the apartments. But a fire about two years later destroyed the building before any work was done.
A postcard in the collection of Charles Coles, long-time head of the Ridgefield Savings Bank, shows a stream scene and labels it Cornen's Brook. Published around 1920, the card probably referred to the Norwalk River (also known in this vicinity as the Ridgefield Brook, q.v.) as it flows north out of Great Swamp across Danbury Road at Fox Hill. Much of this area was owned by Peter Cornen (above).
Corner Pond is a small body of water on the Danbury-New Fairfield town line near the New York State boundary, in territory that was part of Ridgefield until 1846. It was so called because it was in the very northwest corner of Ridgefield and is still called Corner Pond today.
The name is first noted here in a 1773 deed which mentions the "brook that runs out of Corner Pond." It is not clear whether the pond is natural or man-made, but a fellow named Zebedee Briggs had a saw mill on the pond's outlet in 1778, and ponds were frequently created an streams to serve mills.
A very short road off Barry Avenue, Cottage Street was subdivided around 1946 by the late Harold O. Davis (1905-1986), who later became the town's last elected chief assessor (from 1952 to 1975). It was called Cottage Street because modest-sized homes were built there.
George L. Rockwell reports in his History of Ridgefield that for years, Couch's Station was situated between Branchville and Topstone Station in Redding on the Danbury and Norwalk railroad line. He notes that Thomas Couch was a partner in the 19th Century iron foundry at the north corner of Florida Hill Road and Route 7.
Maps published in 1856 and 1867 make no note of a station in this vicinity, much less a Couch's Station. It may have been simply a loading platform or small freight stop, perhaps near where Old Redding Road goes under the tracks today. In that case, the station would have been in Redding.
Couch's Station could have served chiefly - perhaps only - the foundry, which received pig iron from Norwalk and turned it into agricultural tools, sleigh shoes, stoves, and all kinds of metal parts. The foundry, which operated in the middle and late 19th Century, was on the site of an old grist and saw mill, discussed earlier under Abbott's Mill Road (q.v.). The grist mill had been erected around 1737 by Peter Burr and had gone through many owners over the years: One was a Thomas Couch and his wife, Sara, who owned it from 1783 to 1818. Along with his partner, Ebenezer Burr Sanford, Thomas N. Couch, possibly the elder Couches' son or grandson, acquired the grist and saw mills around 1831. When the foundry was estabished is not known.
COUNTRY CLUB ROAD
Country Club Road, now a narrow dead-end road off lower West Lane, once extended eastward through the present day Silver Spring Country Club to Silver Spring Road. The portion still extant was once used primarily as a service road to workers' houses and outbuildings on the Swords, Grant, and Sullivan estates in this neighborhood, reported Geno Torcellini, who was golf club anager for many years.
While the eastern section of this old farm road stopped being used by the early 1930's when the golf club was built, it was not until Sept. 7, 1957 that the Board of Selectmen voted formally to abandon town title to the section through the course.
COUNTRY ROAD, the
In 1724, Joseph Benedict sold "Norwalk" Samuel Smith 14 acres "lying on ye Flatt Rock Ridge, bounded west by ye Country Road."
The term, common in the first half of the 18th Century, referred to Wilton Road West. It is frequently found in old Connecticut land records as a title for a main road that led through the "country" from one village center to another - in this case, from Ridgefield village to Wilton center (then just the center of a parish of Norwalk) or to Norwalk itself.
According to "Names and Places of Old Norwalk" by Malcolm P. Hunt, the Post Road (US Route 1 through coastal towns) was originally called "The Country Road" from as early as 1681. The term, as applied to Wilton Road West, fell out of use by the 1750's or 1760's. However, a 1772 deed mentions "the Country Road leading into New York Government." This road ran through upper Ridgebury (which at that time extended far north of its present limit) and was probably the modern-day Mill Plain Road in Danbury.
This intriguing term first pops up in a 1744 grant to Benjamin Hikcok of 52 acres "lying at ye Cradle Rock." Soon after Capt. Samuel Saint john got 64 acres "lying at ye Cradle Rock, back of Round Pond," placing it on West Mountain.
In 1790, when town officials were called upon to settle a boundary dispute involving two properties "at Cradle Rock so called," a monument between the tracts was erected "60 rods (990 feet) northwest of a maple tree, which stands at the northeast corner of Round Pond." A 1791 deed confirms the locale, saying "Cradle Rock, north of Round Pond." Thus, Cradle Rack was somewhere around Sleepy Hollow, Walnut Hill or Round Lake Roads.
An admittedly casual search of the neighborhood some years ago uncovered no rock that seemed to have any characteristics of a cradle. Presumably, the rock either was shaped like a cradle of the period or was a balanced rock that teetered like a cradle.
However, the word cradle also meant a place where young are protected or sheltered - perhaps young animals. It's thus remotely possible that the term referred to a cave or den - a previously mentioned place name, Bear Swamp, indicates those cave dwellers once lived atop West Mountain.
As an aside, it is also interesting to note another, old meaning of cradle: "a piece of silver plate, or the like, presented to the wife of a mayor whose child is born during his period of office." This unusual meaning came from an old custom of giving a miniature cradle to the chief magistrate in such a circumstance. Plates were later substituted, as they were more readily available.
Over the years Cradle Rack may have broken up with the effects of weather, have fallen off its supports, or have been bulldozed aside for the development of Eight Lakes Estates. Or it still could be standing there somewhere among the hundreds of sizable boulders so common atop this part of West Mountain. Perhaps some reader who lives in the neighborhood has come upon such a rock, a lost landmark last mentioned in an 1870 deed.
Craigmoor Pond is the name of the former body of water at the corner of North Salem and Craigmoor Roads, now mostly a swamp.
When the Solley family (see below) sold their property here in 1955, they stipulated that "within two years from the date hereof and as part of the consideration of sale, the grantors agree to construct a dam and reflood the pond formerly known as Perch Pond and to be called Craigmoor Pond." The newly flooded pond was to be used for boating and fishing, according to the deed. (See Perch Pond)
The story of this name involves a Scottish nanny and a New York City doctor. In 1909, Dr. and Mrs. Fred P. Solley Sr. bought the former Sherwood Farm of 88 acres on North Salem Road as a weekend and holiday retreat. Christina Graham, the family nanny, had come to be called upon to select titles for the family dwellings (she had named the Solleys' place at East Hampton). So one day, soon after the purchase, she stood outside the new house and surveyed the property.
In her Scots brogue, she quickly said: "Why, there's nothing but craigs and moors out here."
So the virtually treeless farm was called Craigmoor, a name later applied to the road, then only a path to Lake Mamanasco at the west end of the Solley property. Christina, who remained with the family all of her life, died in 1952 at the age of 92 and is buried in the Solley family plot at Mapleshade Cemetery.
One of the children she cared for was Mrs. George M. (Margaret Solley) Durant of New Canaan, who related this story and who, with her late husband, operated the Keeler and Durant real estate (he) and insurance agency (she) for 23 years in Ridgefield. (The agency was sold by Fred Montanari in the summer of 1987 to Coldwell, Banker, Lang.)
Dr. Solley practiced internal medicine in the city and died many years ago.
Craigmoor Road was accepted by the town in 1960. At the request of Attorney Herbert V. Camp, who has lived on the road for many years, the Planning and Zoning Commission named the lakeside wings of the road "Craigmoor Road North" and "...South."
"Craigmoors" or "Craig-Moors," a term adapted from the above, was used for the subdivision plan for 56 40x130-foot lots on the east side of the lake along this road. The plan was filed in 1952 by Margaret Durant, Robert F. Solley, and Frederick W. Solley, children of Dr. and Mrs. Solley. However, few of the lots were developed.
The name sometimes erroneously occurs in deeds as "Craig-Moore.
Richard E. Venus and Frank Serfilippi, long-time residents of the neighborhood, recall a cranberry bog years ago in the Silver Spring Swamp (New Pound Bogs), just to the west of this short dead-end road off lower South Olmstead Lane.
"It was a beautiful cranberry bog, out in the swamp," said Mr. Venus. "And," the one-man chamber of commerce added, "And better than those Massachusetts cranberries."
Mr. Serfilippi said his family picked the fruit and made cranberry jelly from it. But, he added, it took "a mountain of sugar" to reduce their tartness.
The road is part of a subdivision filed in 1956 by Elizabeth H. Simmons of an old farm that she and her pilot husband, Warren, owned at the intersection of South Olmstead Lane and St. Johns Road. The subdivision included 14 lots and the private road called Orchard Lane.
Cranberry Lane was accepted as a town road in 1959.
Among the town's earliest place names, Cranberry or "Cramberry" Meadow long ago disappeared as a term but only recently as a place.
In 1709, the proprietors told Samuel Saint John, Benjamin Willson and James Brown "to take a survey of ye New Pound Boggs and Metiticus, with ye Cramberry Meadow in ye Great Swamp."
Thereafter, small portions of this meadow were parceled out to various proprietors who probably harvested the wild cranberries evidently native to this wet land.
Although it is often difficult to trace the locations to which old but extinct place names referred, records were very specific about Cranberry Meadow. A 1751 deed places "one acre of boggy meadow land ... in ye Cramberry Meadow so called near ye end of Copp's Mountain." A 1748 deed says an acre is "west of ye Great Island, east of Copp's Mountain in ye Cramberry Meadow." An 1805 deed says the meadow is "west of Island Bridge" (which still exists within the southwest corner of the Fox Hill condominiums property).
These descriptions place Cranberry Meadow west of Danbury Road and opposite the condominiums, town-owned property where the Ridgefield Recreation Center is. Much of the centuries-old bags was filled in by the late Jordan Asketh during the 1960's in the hope of selling the property for commercial or condominium use.
Around 1985, it was acquired by Edgardo Eppoliti, who cleaned it up and planned a "life-care facility" there. In the mid-1990s, the town bought it with the thought of putting a middle school there. In 1998, the voters rejected the site for a school, which was subsequently built next to the high school, but eventually approved putting the new recreation center and Founders Hall, the senior center there.
The term Cranberry Meadow, used as late as the 1820's when it seems to fall out of general use, was almost exclusively spelled "Cramberry" Meadow. Cramberry was a common dialectal pronunciation of the word. A Ridgefield native who was in his 60's in 1975, told me that "as a boy, I said 'cramberry' and had to learn to say 'cranberry.'"
Several species of cranberries are native to cold climates and are found from the Arctic Circle south to New Jersey. The type found here by the settlers may have been Vaccinium macrocarpon, the large cranberry, which is a type grown commercially. There is also the small cranberry (V. oxycoccus) and the northern mountain-cranberry (V. vitisidaea).
The word is from the Old German, Kranbere, meaning "crane berry," so called because the long stamens of the flowers resemble the beak of a crane. By the early 1800's, before cranberries were cultivated commercially, New Englanders were harvesting the wild berries and shipping them to Europe.
Also called bearberry because that animal would feast on them, the cranberry was eated by the Indians, who probably showed it to the earliest immigrants. Settlers boiled the berries with sugar to create a sauce for meats, especially mutton. It was also said to be good for reducing fevers.
These plants are, incidentally, very closely related to the huckleberries and the sweeter blueberries.
In Lebanon, Conn., there is a parish called The Crank which, an historian of that community reports, "was so named on account of the crooked boundary lines."
"Crank," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a "crook, bend, winding, meandering; a winding or crooked path, course or channel."
The one and, it seems, only reference to a "Crank" in the Ridgefield land records occurs in 1788 when Caleb Baldwin of Danbury sold the Proprietors (in committee of Lemuel Abbott and John Benedict) "one piece of land lying in said Ridgefield near the Crank (so called) containing one acre ... being everywhere three rods wide running from north to south through my land..."
The purchase was apparently to be used as a highway since three rods was a standard width for roads. But what is this "crank" or crookedness that is referred to in only one deed among the thousands filed in the 18th Century?
In 1736, a rectangular section of Ridgebury that had belonged to Ridgefield was broken off and given to Danbury. Danburians had convinced the state legislature that since all of this Ridgefield land was owned by Danbury residents, who made no use of Ridgefield services, particularly schools, the land should be annexed to Danbury.
The parcel extended along nearly the whole length of George Washington Highway from the existing Danbury line almost to Ridgebury Road, and ran north almost to Shadow Lake Road and southward about a quarter of a mile from George Washington Highway.
However, by the early 1800's, this area had been broken up among some 30 property owners, many of whom lived in Ridgefield. They petitioned the state legislature to return jurisdiction to Ridgefield, which it did in May of 1820. The Assembly explained that it was reverting to the old boundaries "since said annexment by descent and heirship ... has been much split up and is now owned by near 30 different persons, most of whom reside in said Ridgefield; that great inconvenience arises in ascertaining the true line of said town by reason of said annexment, and that the owners of land therein are obliged to give in lists to two towns, and are often taxed by the two towns for the same land; (and) that the original lines and bounds between said towns as first laid out are well known and established..."
However, with old-fashioned New England caution to protect the community coffers, the annexment agreement noted that "such proportion of the town paupers, now supported by said town of Danbury as the lists of the tract so set off to said town of Ridgefield bears to the list of the whole town of Danbury, shall be taken and supported by said town of Ridgefield."
Edwin Liljegren, who did much research into Ridgebury history, found that this area was for many years after its annexation to Danbury a sort of "no man's land." Dwellers within it were never certain to which town they belonged. They would send their children to school in Ridgefield or Danbury, but may have been taxed by both Ridgefield and Danbury.
The fact that this territory was a jog in the boundaries between the two towns is probably the source of the name, "The Crank." Yet, with only one land record reference to the term, it is difficult to prove that the annexation territory was The Crank., a name that could also have referred to a "crooked path" somewhere in town.
However, the fact that a parish in Lebanon was called The Crank because of its jagged boundary and a place in Middlefield was called the Crank Spring for similar reasons, suggests that the term in Ridgefield was probably applied to reflect this jog in the boundary of the towns. Adding weight to this argument is the fact that the grantor in the deed was from Danbury.
Incidentally, you now know whence the device that once started car engines and churned ice cream got its name. Like the boundary in Ridgebury, a crank is crooked.
Creamery Lane is an old road, dating into the 18th Century and running between the northern ends of Wilton Roads East and West, just south of their junction, with Main Street.
Creamery Lane was the original northern end of Wilton Road East or the western end of Whipstick Road. The modern-day segment of Wilton Road East from Creamery Lane north to Main Street was cut through around 1850, according to George L. Rockwell.
The road took its name from a creamery, operated there by a cooperative of farmers in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The buildings, in which milk was either bottled or separated for the cream that would be churned into butter, was on the north side of the road nearly opposite Marcardon Avenue.
The Ridgefield Press reported in 1894 that "The Ridgefield Creamery closed its fifth business year March 1, 1894, producing 60,094 pounds of butter, against 44,157 the year before. Sales $16,402 compared to $12,500. Patrons earned $13,375 for cream and milk furnished; expenses $3,027, 5.5 cents a pound against 6.17 cents. Operators: J.W. Rockwell, John F. Holmes, W. A. Benedict, R. W. Keeler, E. W. Keeler, A. C. Keeler, J. A. Wakeman, and H. A.Barrett."
From 1942 until the late 1960's, the creamery building was owned by the Goodwill Baptist Church, a black congregation, and was used for services as well as for apartments. As the number of church members dwindled, the small congregation finally disbanded. In 1976, Robert J. Walker bought the place, converted it to apartments.
It has been rumored that the building had been moved to the site from the old Village Green, where it had served as the First Congregational Church building from around 1800 to 1888. However, Mr. Walker believed this to be impossible. In renovating the structure extensively, he found that the first floor, rotted and termite-infested, was the only portion of the three-story building that could have been the old creamery. His study of the framing - it was actually two buildings joined together - indicated that the structure was not large enough to have been the old Congregational church, photographs of which he had checked out.
At the 1911 Annual Town Meeting, Creamery Lane was referred to as "the old creamery highway."
Crescent Drive, a private road at the Ridgefield Lakes (q.v.), is so called because of its crescent-shaped route as it extends from Mountain Road to Cross Hill Road.
Crest Road, another road at the Ridgefield Lakes, was accepted as a town road by an October 1980 Town Meeting. It traverses the crest of a hill, just west of Bennett's Farm Road, to which it connects at its north and south ends.
CRIPPLE BUSH WOOD
In 1840, the estate of Russel Gorham transferred to the First School Society of Danbury "the Cripple Bush Wood Land," described as 13 acres in Ridgebury - probably in the hills east of Pine Mountain Road. The society immediately sold the land to George Benedict of Danbury, apparently to earn money for the school.
In a deed written four years later, a member of the Benedict family sold four acres "called the Cripple Bush."
The Oxford English Dictionary reports that one old meaning of cripple was "a dense thicket or low-lying ground." This use of the word is found only in the United States, the dictionary says.
Cross Highway, a rather common term in New England communities, was an early name for Topstone Road and probably Cain's Hill Road as well, and was in use until fairly recent times.
The first known reference to the name was in a 1772 deed from Ezekiel Hull to Daniel McDonald, transferring 16 acres "below Umpawaug Pond" and bounded west by Hugh Cain (the fuller) and "northerly by a Cross highway."
Cain's fulling mill was on this highway, which was then actually the eastern end of ,hat we today call Cain's Hill Road (q.v.). In the 1770's, the roadway we now call Route 7 did not exist - at least as a public highway - in this vicinity.
Cain's Hill and Topstone Roads were an extension of Farmingville Road into Redding. Thus, it was a road that "crossed" over into the next town.
CROSS HILL ROAD
Cross Hill Road, a private road at Ridgefield Lakes, extends from Bennett's Farm Road to Mountain Road and, as the name suggests, crosses a hill.
Cross Pond, today called Lake Kitchawan, is situated on the Lewisboro-Pound Ridge line in New York State. This line was apparently once the western boundary of Ridgefield, before the Oblong (q.v.) was sliced off from western Connecticut in 1731.
The pond was originally called Cross River Pond because it is a source of the Cross River, still so called. The origin of the term "Cross" is not certain. It may have referred to the fact that the colony line "crossed" the pond or that the river paralleled and crossed town boundary line.
It appears more likely, however, that it was connected with the Cross (or Craws) family, which "was living in the Pound Ridge vicinity from the 1690's or early 1700's.
The pond was the eastern boundary for the territory of the Kitchawong Indians, who roamed as far west as the Hudson River but who lived chiefly in Pound Ridge. Hence, the name of the lake, which was applied in the 20th Century, possibly by Dr. Benn Adelmar Bryon of Ridgefield, who developed land at the pond for summer cottages early in this century. The pond has also reportedly been called Lake Peppeneghek.
Cross Pond was first mentioned in the Ridgefield land records in the original 1708 purchase from the Indians. The town's western boundary met "Stanford bound line about a quarter of a mile to ye eastward of Cross River Pond." Land west of this First Purchase line, to and including part of the pond, was apparently acquired by Ridgefield in the Fourth Purchase from the Indians (the so-called Taporneck Purchase - q.v.), although the deed does not mention the pond.
Wooster Street, from North Salem Road to North Street, used to be called Cross Street early in the century. The name is certainly suitable; the road is the only connection across the Titicus River from the beginnings of North Street and North Salem Road at Mapleshade Cemetery all the way up to Scotland, where Barlow Mountain Road provides the cross road.
Crow Hill was used in the mid-19th Century for a rise along Ridgebury Road, just north of Ned's Mountain Road. The name was found in an 1865 mortgage deed in which Halcyon Gilbert Bailey borrowed money on his home "at Crow Hill so-called." The house was probably located at what is now Spruce Ridge Farm, the riding stable.
Crows were perhaps common on the hill. At least six towns in Connecticut have Crow Hills, one of which is East Hartford where the locality is so called because it had been owned by a John Crow, one of the first settlers of the colony.
It is possible that Ridgefield's Crow Hill came from a corruption of Craw, since there was a Craw family in Ridgebury in the 18th Century. Both Ammon and Reuben Craw fought in the Revolution. And so did a Ridgefielder named Edward Crow, whose name may be a variation of Craw.
However, as a long-time fan of the crow - probably the region's cleverest and most-entertaining bird, I prefer to think that it was this often-disparaged creature that was recognized, however briefly, in this name.
H. G. Bailey, incidentally, was somewhat of a town character of the 19th Century. Sometime during the 1860's, he ran a rather comical campaign, complete with posters, for the office of Hayward, a colonial-era official who apprehended and impounded errant livestock, especially swine. The office had probably long been discontinued.
Silvio Bedini, who has a short essay on Bailey in his Ridgefield in Review, describes the man as "noted for his mischievous disposition." His wife apparently didn't appreciate his carryings on, for at one point in the mid-1800's, she took possession by deed of most of his belongings, the indication being that until he shaped up and got out of debt, she'd run his affairs and own his property.
The last mention of Crow Hill was an 1873 mortgage deed, again from Mr. Bailey to a bank.
Cushman Lane is one of several names, including Lover's Lane and DePeyster Street, that have been applied to part or all of today's Rockwell Road, the narrow, winding road between lower Main Street and Branchville Road.
This route, now one of the lesser used roads in town, was almost certainly once the western end of Branchville Road. The present connection with Main Street, opposite Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church, was not installed until around 1830. And the reason for the new route is obvious: it is much flatter and more direct than the old path, which dips down into almost a gorge between Main Street and Perry Lane, and crossed a bridge that over the years had caused problems with maintenance.
Cushman Lane was so known for Dr. William F. Cushman, who lived in a house on the north corner of Main Street with this road. A New York City native, he bought the place in 1890 from the estate of Abraham Holmes and died there in 1904 at the age of 65. His widow died there in the 1930's.
One source says that the name Cushman Lane applied in the early part of the century only to the portion of the road from Main Street to Perry Lane.