Entire contents copyrighted 2005 by Jack Sanders. Reproduction without permission is forbidden.
INDIAN CAVE ROAD
Indian Cave Road at Twin Ridge is one of the few modern thoroughfares that take their names from Ridgefield's folklore or legend.
The road, which connects Twin Ridge Road to Rising Ridge Road and then continues to a cul de sac, was named for "Tony's Cave," said to be situated nearby and to the north. According to Historian George L. Rockwell, "Tony was an Indian, who, strange as it may seem, hid in this cave to escape service in the Revolution."
Whether or not his hiding was strange, Tony is not mentioned anywhere in the government or land records of the town, and the reliability of the tale cannot be determined.
The story was probably handed down by generations of the Keeler family, who farmed what is now the Twin Ridge area from the 18th Century to well into the 20th Century.
Giles and Barry Montgomery, the father and son team that subdivided Twin Ridge in the early 1960's, built and named Indian Cave Road. It became a town road in 1968.
IRON WORKS I
Deeds in the late 1700's and early 1800's sometimes locate property by referring to the Irons Works, a short-lived operation near Lake Mamanasco whose waters it used.
In 1789, Elias Reed, owner of several mills, allowed Timothy Keeler Jr., Nathan Dauchy, and Elijah Keeler "the privilege of making a dam ... and raising a pond of water for the purpose of carrying on an iron works" along the stream that flows out of Lake Mamanasco. Reed, who lived nearby, also held an interest in the grist mill at Mamanasco (see Mamanasco Lake). The rent for the land to be ponded was seven shillings, six pence per acre per year.
At the same time, the heirs of Isaac Keeler, whose grist mill here was burned by the British in 1777, sold the mill site to another Isaac Keeler. The 11/2 acres was "near the dwelling house of ... Elijah Keeler, being the old mill place where the grist mill lately stood that was burnt..." This land was to be used "for the purpose of erecting an iron works."
The operation must have been underway a year later, for two 1790 deeds locate land "near ye Iron Works."
However, by 1797, only seven years later, a deed says that a piece of land was situated "where the Iron Works lately stood..." Even as late as 1834, deeds mention places near or at "where the old Iron Works stood."
Where it stood was along North Salem Road, between Sherwood and Ridgebury Roads, in the little valley through which the stream from Mamanasco flows to the Titicus River. Across the highway - toward Mamanasco and south of Craigmoor Road - is what's left of the pond that was known for many years as Forge Pond (q.v.) because it was used by the Iron Works, evidently to operate equipment and-or to cool hot iron. This was probably the pond raised by Dauchy and the two Keelers, and after the Iron Works ceased functioning, it was used to power grist and saw mills which were erected on or near the old works site.
The Iron Works probably converted iron ore to pig iron. Whether various implements were then manufactured from the iron at that location is unknown.
The source of the ore is an intriguing question. There was no rail or water transportation to haul in large quantities of it and, so far as is known, there was no nearby mine to provide enough ore to feed an iron furnace. It is known that iron ore is among the minerals found in Ridgefield, and several references to "ore" can be found in the land records between 1717 and 1830, although the word iron is never mentioned and "ore" could have referred to any mineral deposit, including limestone, which was plentiful. In fact, limestone was often used as a "flux" that removed impurities during the refining.
However, a map of Connecticut, drawn by Samuel Huntington, Esquire, in 1792, bears the legend "Iron mines" in a section of Ridgebury north of George Washington Highway and along Briar Ridge Road. This map is not known for its accuracy in placing landmarks, but it nonetheless makes it clear that iron mines existed in northern Ridgebury at the time the Iron Works was in operation. It is quite likely that the works got its ore from there.
It would not be unusual for the works to be located so far to the south of the mines, for the location was the only section of southern Ridgebury that had enough water to support an operation of this sort. (This neighborhood near the northern end of Mamanasco was, incidentally, a part of Ridgebury Parish in the 1800's.) The works was probably not built in the Mill Plain section of Ridgebury, then part of Ridgefield, because the operators lived near the center of Ridgefield; the Mamanasco site was more convenient than Mill Plain, which also had good water sources.
The usual iron works included a 20 to 40 foot high furnace made of stone. Ore was heated to melting in crucibles inside the furnace, and the impure slag that rose to the top was skimmed off.
Water was needed to operate the huge bellows that would pump air onto the fire.
Because it wasn't easy to build up the 2,200 degree heat needed for refining, furnaces ran constantly, and were only shut down for repairs or cleaning. Workers had to be present constantly to feed the fire and "tap" the molten ore at least twice a day.
Why did the Iron Works last so short a time? Perhaps the supply of good ore was quickly exhausted.
Another possibility was problems with the availability of fuel. Iron furnaces required tremendous quantities of charcoal, obtained by slowly burning wood in closed mounds. There may have been a shortage of wood, or an unwillingness of woodlot owners to part with what wood they did have. Many hundreds of square miles of forest were cut down in northwestern Connecticut to feed the iron furnaces of Salisbury and Kent.
Yet another possibility is that a competing iron works at Starrs Plain ran the Ridgefield operation out of business - see below.
Still, it is interesting that Ridgefield once had, however briefly, its own "little Pittsburgh."
IRON WORKS II
The land records also mention an iron works at Starrs Plain in Danbury that received its water supply from Ridgefield.
In 1792, Benjamin Sellick of Danbury leased Eliakim and Abijah Peck of Danbury eight acres in Ridgefield "at Bennits Farm or Pond... for the purpose of raising a dam across the stream that leads to sd iron works and save the water for the use of sd works during the term of five years."
The stream is the one that flows out of the Bennett's Ponds and the Ridgefield Lakes, and the works probably stood on or about the pond that still exists along Route 7, opposite Bennett's Farm Road just into Danbury.
"The Island" was a shortened form for Grassy Island, the area along Danbury Road roughly from Friendly Ice Cream north to the southern entrance to Fox Hill Village.
The area was called an island because it was almost surrounded by swampland in the 18th and early 19th Centuries. Much of the swamp has since been filled in, particularly on the south and west sides of the Island.
The name Grassy Island fell out of use in the 1780's. Around the same time, "ye Island" or "the Island" began to appear more frequently in the land records. However, as early as 1709, the proprietors had described a division of meadowland north of the village as "lay'd out on ye south side of ye Island."
The term continued to be used to describe this neighborhood throughout the 19th Century.
As early as 1717, deeds were mentioning the Island Bridge, perhaps the first and most famous bridge in town in the 18th Century.
The bridge still exists, although it no longer serves a public road as it did for more than two centuries. Still stone though certainly not the original structure, Island Bridge now carries Outpost Road over the Norwalk River near the south entrance of Fox Hill Condominiums. Outpost Road is an abandoned section of the old Danbury Road.
The bridge brought the Danbury Road across the river, also called Ridgefield Brook, as the stream came out of its source, the Great Swamp. It connected the north end of Grassy Island to the south end of Great Island (see also Island River).
Among the earliest references was a 1717 grant from the proprietors to Thomas Rockwell for two acres "eastward of ye Island Bridge." Frequently, land along upper Danbury Road was described as being "over ye Island Bridge."
Toward the end of the 18th Century, references to the Island bridge become rare in the land records. It is hardly ever mentioned as a landmark in the 19th Century.
ISLAND HILL, AVENUE
People today are often perplexed by the old name, Island Hill, recalled in Island Hill Avenue. Even old-timers who lived in this neighborhood early in the 20th Century could not explain the origin of the term. (One suggested that the name stemmed from the tendency during heavy snowstorms for the area around Grove Street and Danbury Road to become a "sea of snow" with the hill to the west an "island" in the snow.)
The answer, of course, is that Island Hill overlooked "the Island." In fact, it had views of both Grassy and Great Islands.
Although "the Island" was in use at the town's very founding in 1709, the term Island Hill does not appear until 1820 when members of the Dauchy family transferred title to three acres "on the top of the Island Hill."
Thanks to Conrad Rockelein, the German barber who subdivided Mountain View Park in 1910, this old name is retained today in Island Hill Avenue. The street was so called at least by 1927.
The will of Deacon Thomas Smith, written in 1743, mentions land at "Island Meadow." By 1809, the same land was part of the estate of David Scott, probably inherited through is wife who was a granddaughter of Deacon Smith, reports Ed Liljigren, who did much research into Ridgebury area history in the 1970's.
This island was located on the bend of North Street where it curves just before meeting Barlow Mountain Road, and appears to have been about 10 acres. This area may have been earlier known as Turkey Island or Jug Island (q.v.) and Island Meadow may have been the last remnant of those names.
Incidentally, according to Mr. Liljigren, Deacon Smith was an interesting fellow whom histories of the town have ignored, "especially when compared to later Deacons Olmsted and Benedict. Records of the period indicate he was highly respected. His concern for the welfare of his two deaf mute sons, as indicated in his will, is also worthy of note."
When Richard Portman sold Daniel Bennet of Fairfield a house and lot "near Island Bridge" in 1747, he described the parcel as bounded on the north by "the Island River." And when in 1801, this same parcel, or one near it, was sold, it was also described as being bounded northward by "the Island River."
The river was the Norwalk River, also called the Ridgefield Brook or Cornen's Brook in this area, and it was so called because it separated Grassy from Great Island (q.v.).
Ives Court is a short, dead-end road off Pine Mountain Road, part of a subdivision of 11 lots by Nancy Purdy of Norwalk.
When she applied for the subdivision around 1982, Ms. Purdy suggested Laurel Brook Court as a name for the road, but Planning and Zoning Commissioner Joseph Heyman objected, saying it would be confused with Laurel Lane, miles away off Route 7. I suggested Wolf Pond Court, recalling an 18th Century name for a nearby pond, but the Conservation Commission later came up with an even better name, Ives Court.
The name recalls the Ives family, from whom the commission had recently obtained 12 acres of open space to the east of the Purdy land. The Ives piece connected two large holdings of town-owned open space - the Hemlock Hills and the Pine Mountain refuges, totalling more than 500 acres - and thus was a particularly valuable acquisition.
The Ives property is also significant because it is said that composer Charles Ives, a native of Danbury and resident of Redding, used to visit a family-owned cabin on the property for inspiration.
Ivy Hill, which reaches an elevation of about 760 feet above sea level, is northeasterly of the intersection of Ivy Hill and Florida Hill Roads on the lower end of what was called Hawley's Ridge in the mid-18th Century. The summit is at the intersection of Standish Drive and Revere Place.
"Ivy Hill" first appears in the land records in a 1797 deed in which the proprietors granted James Scott "one piece of land lying in Ridgefield on the Ivy Hill, east of the Great Swamp." Thereafter, the name appears frequently in deeds.
In interviews in the early 1970's, oldtimers told me the area was known for its ivy. Thomas J. McGlynn used to pick ivy in that vicinity early in the 20th Century, and John Mullen recalled that ivy used to cover the old coal-powered electricity generating station on Ivy Hill Road (where the railroad tracks crossed).
IVY HILL ROAD
Ivy Hill Road, the old route from town to the Ivy Hill neighborhood, runs from Branchville Road to the junction of Blackman and Lounsbury Roads. It was so called at least by 1919 when the name appears on a property survey map filed in the town clerk's office. The road dates back to the 18th Century.
IVY SWAMP BROOK
Deeds drawn in 1838 and in 1844 mention Ivy Swamp Brook as existing on the south end of "Mamanasco Mill Pond" - Lake Mamanasco.
This is probably the brook that flows out of Turtle Pond (q.v.) down the side of Titicus Mountain into the lake. This waterway may be the Punch Brook (q.v.) mentioned as a landmark in the second purchase of land from the Indians.
Ivy Swamp may have been what is now Turtle Pond, a man-made pond that, from the shape of the land, could easily have been a swamp back then.
The Burt family, which owned the land in this area for many years, probably coined the name.