Entire contents copyrighted 2005 by Jack Sanders. Reproduction without permission is forbidden.
RAILROAD AVENUE I
The earliest of the town's two Railroad Avenues is what we today call Branchville Road, a name itself of railroad origin.
The railroad from Norwalk to Danbury was established in 1852. Since it generally followed the Norwalk River Valley northward till it reached Simpaug Turnpike, the railroad line touched only a small piece of Ridgefield in the extreme southeast corner of the town.
The road to that part of town was little used in the 18th and early 19th Centuries. The southeast or Copp's Corner of town was mainly a farming area with not even a major mill. When the railroad came through, village merchants pressed for major improvements to the road so that heavy freight wagons, as well as passenger stages, could get to and from the new station. The then-existing route, over what's now Old Branchville Road, was too hilly in some places and too swampy in others.
So in 1852 or 1853, the town built a new road - the section that bypasses Old Branchville Road - and by 1856 the bypass was being called Railroad Avenue. For example, that year, when William B. Thomas mortgaged his property (including 22 acres, two houses and outbuildings), he described the premises as having "Railroad Avenue" running through it.
Soon, however, the whole length of Branchville Road became known as Railroad Avenue; it was, after all, the road from the village to the railroad. Maps in 1867 and 1893 label Branchville Road at Main Street as Railroad Avenue.
Exactly when it fell out of use is not clear, but the replacement - Branchville Road - retains the railroad connection since Branchville was named after the branch railroad spur to the village that started at Branchville Station (q.v.).
An interesting early reference to Railroad Avenue occurs in 1862 when George B. Grumman bought an acre and a half in the "10th School District...and being on Railroad Avenue...said land to be used for a burying ground, but not for tillage." That represented the establishment of the Branchville Cemetery, which has served the Georgetown area ever since.
RAILROAD AVENUE II
The more recent Railroad Avenue was what is now called Sunset Lane, the short road between Grove Street and Prospect Street Extension.
The property along the road was subdivided in 1923 by Mrs. Mary Walker and the road was probably called Railroad Avenue soon after. The reason was obvious to the people then; it paralleled the railroad tracks as they came into the village to the station where Ridgefield Supply Company is now (the station house is now a warehouse). Service on the branch line was abandoned in the early 1960s.
Probably because the name seemed to them to be rather unattractive, residents of Railroad Avenue petitioned the selectmen in April 1957 to change the name to Sunset Lane, a classic meaningless name. The selectmen approved the change in January 1958.
There is evidence that this road existed in the early 1700s and extended into and across the Great Swamp, coming out in Farmingville.
Rainbow Drive is a private road at the Ridgefield Lakes, so small that it does not even show up on some official maps of the town. The dead-end lane, serving a few families, runs off Cross Hill Road toward Rainbow Lake, from which it takes its name.
Rainbow Lake is a private, man-made pond, created by damming a stream through pastures in the mid-1920s, and is one of the Ridgefield Lakes.
Rainbow Lake was originally called "Lake Number One." Clearly, "Rainbow Lake" was more colorful and better encouraged real estate sales of summer cottages or camps along its shore. The name probably come from rainbow trout, a game fish found hereabouts.
But for some reason, perhaps the more rustic spirits that moved some of the early Lakers, the pond also took on another name, Wataba Lake (q.v.). Today, some maps show Rainbow, others Wataba. Take your pick.
In 1777, the Proprietors sold Benjamin Northrup three acres "in the old Ram Pasture, so-called." At the same time he was also deeded "one rood lying in the old Ram Pen, so called."
Research done by the late Glenna M. Welsh indicates the Ram Pasture was situated along West Lane (then called Bedford Road) in and about the triangle created by Parley Lane, High Ridge and West Lane.
In the 17th and 18th Centuries, sheep were extremely valuable animals, providing wool for clothing, meat for food, and fat for candles and soap. "Every farmer had about 30 sheep which kept him in light, clothes, mutton, and partly in soap," one Vermont farmer recalled about the 19th Century.
In Massachusetts during the 1600s, reports Alice Morse Earle, sheep were allowed "to graze on the commons; it was forbidden to send them from the colony; no sheep under two years old could be killed to sell; if a dog killed a sheep, the dog's owner must hang him and pay double the cost of the sheep. All persons who were not employed in other ways, as single women, girls, and boys, were required to spin."
In the early days of Ridgefield's settlement, the town itself owned a sizable flock of sheep, pastured on common land and probably tended by a town-hired shepherd or by volunteers. These sheep provided not only food, clothing and lighting, but also fertilizer and education for the town's children.
Periodically, a "sheep meeting" took place. One on Dec. 24, 1742, voted that "the money coming for the hire of the sheep last year shall be given as bounty to help maintain the Town School forever, and when the money is gathered it shall be delivered to the committee that is appointed to take care of the bounty money given by the Government to support ye School..."
"The hire of the sheep" meant that twice a week, a farmer could bid to take the sheep to, as Ridgefield historian George L. Rockwell delicately put it, "lay in his ploughland during the night, which method was used toward enriching the land."
Apparently the rams for the flock were kept at the Ram Pasture while the sheep were probably held nearby, perhaps in the vicinity of Olmstead Lane.
Ramapoo Road is an old highway, probably the original route from town to West Mountain, that meanders from Gilbert Street westward to the intersection of West Mountain Road and Barry Avenue.
Evidence is that Gilbert Street was originally considered part of Ramapoo Road. Indeed, a 1900 map of the village labels Gilbert Street as "Ramapoo Road." And there are also indications that West Mountain Road was called the same thing; a 1907 property map in the town hall uses "Ramapo Road" for West Mountain Road in the vicinity of Old West Mountain Road. (Ramapo, incidentally, one of at least two valid spellings of the word, is used by the Rockland County, N.Y., town.)
In the mid-18th Century, someone who wanted to go from the village to Round Pond had to take a route that covered today's Gilbert Street, Ramapoo Road, Oscaleta Road, and Rippowam Road. Barry Avenue wasn't built until the mid-19th Century and most of West Mountain Road didn't exist until sometime after the Revolution.
The name "Ramapoo" recalls the reported name of one of the Indian groups that lived in Ridgefield. In his Ridgefield in Review, Silvio Bedini says that "the Indians who inhabited the Ridgefield area were members of the Ramapo and Titicus villages in the Tankiteke sachemdom of the Wappinger tribe."
Theories vary as to what Ramapo or Ramapoo meant. John C. Huden, an Indian place names expert, translates the word as "they are in route" or "temporary dwellers," but admits that "other sources give 'stream formed by round ponds' and 'river which empties into round ponds.' "
George R. Steward, in American Place Names, has a simpler, more basic translation: "round pond."
Is it possible that our "Round Pond," to which the old Ramapoo Road led, was originally called Ramapoo, and that our Indians took their name from it? Round Pond is never called Ramapoo in the early land records, but the fact that English and Indian names may mean the same thing and are connected geographically makes it seem a strong possibility.
It's possible that the application of the name stemmed from early Ridgefielders' knowledge that the word meant "round pond" and referred to an Indian village, Ramapoo, at our Round Pond. However, Ridgefielders had always known the word as a tribal name because it appears in the first Indian deed to the new settlers, which begins: "Know ye that I, Catoonah, sachem of Ramapoo Indians..."
Ridgefield's Indians were, incidentally, of a type that would match with Huden's translation of "temporary dwellers." They changed camps with the seasons.
RAMAPOO HILL ROAD
Ramapoo Hill Road is part of the Ramapoo Hills subdivision, developed in the mid-1950s by Judge Joseph H. Donnelly (see Donnelly Drive). The dead-end road and the subdivision are so-called because they are along Ramapoo Road.
The development is on the old Conklin Farm, whence Farm Hill Road, another of the subdivision's roads, gets its name.
Certainly among the more colorful of Ridgefield's old place names, Rattle Holes was an 18th Century locality on the west side of town.
A 1753 deed in which David Northrup transfers his house, barn and land to his son, describes the three acres as "lying at the Rattle Holes, so called, near the West Mountain." The name is probably a variation of one of the following names.
RATTLE SNAKE SWAMP
"Ye Rattle Snake Swamp" is a name which appears in only one deed dated 1718 from the proprietors to Nathan St. John. There is no clue as to the location.
However, in 1733, another deed from the proprietors to Jonathan Rockwell's heirs mentions three acres "lying by a swamp below West Rattle Snake Swamp, north of Bedford Rhode."
Bedford Road is today's South Salem Road - or, in those days, Old South Salem Road in this vicinity.
West Rattle Snake Swamp, also called West Rattle Swamp, was in turn connected with "ye West Rattle Hole," mentioned as early as 1717. West Rattle Hole appears fairly frequently in the land records of the early 1700s. The name's form varies, too, as in the 1721 deed mentioning "ye West Rattleholes." These holes or dens, according to the deed, were "under ye West Mountain." A "West Rattle Rocks" is also mentioned in a 1753 deed.
All these locations, including Rattle Holes, were probably in the vicinity of and west of Peaceable Street and Peaceable Hill Road.
Place names in Connecticut recalling the once common rattlesnake are not unusual. There are many Rattlesnake Hills and Brooks, a Rattlesnake Mountain, etc. The shortened form, "rattle," is not common, however; New Canaan had a Rattle Hill Rocks and Rattle Hole Rocks, and Winchester has a Rattle Valley. No "Rattle Holes" are reported in Hughes and Allen's Connecticut Place Names. California has some 200 place names recalling the rattlesnake. As George R. Stewart says in American Place Names, "Since the meeting with a single rattlesnake is often impressive, many of the names are doubtless so given, though such incidents are rarely recorded."
The timber rattlesnake, this area's only rattlesnake species and one now probably extinct in town, was once common in the rocky ledges and hillsides, as well as at the edges of swamps. It is a shy snake and not aggressive, and it takes some bit of disturbing to get the critter to even sound its rattles.
Rattlesnakes are known to still live in hilly parts of Kent, Conn., and may be living in remote sections of Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in nearby New York State.
Raymond's Court is a short, dead-end private road off the north side of lower Old Branchville Road, so called for Raymond L. Kirsch Jr., who developed it in the early 1960s.
The road was never completed to town standards, and the Planning and Zoning Commission once tried without success to collect an $8,000 road bond that was supposed to guarantee money to finish the job. The issue was never pressed too firmly, probably because the state announced around then that Raymond's Court would disappear if and when a "New Route 7" expressway were built. The new highway's path runs right over Raymond's Court.
READ'S MILL POND
Read's Mill Pond was another name for Mamanasco Pond, and the term appears in a 1791 deed.
Elias Read (or Reed) was an owner of the gristmill at the outlet of the lake (at the end of today's Pond Road). The mill is the famous "first grist mill" in Ridgefield, built around 1716 by Daniel Sherwood.
Read started buying shares of the mill in 1781 and continued buying and selling percentages of the business for some years.
Read died in 1795 and his widow or daughter, Hannah, sold her interests in the mill very soon after. It is probable that Read was the chief miller, for in 1783 he bought a house near the mill. And it would seem unlikely that the pond would take the name of a silent financial backer of the business, although several other men were partners.
In 1830, Timothy Wheeler sold Joel Gilbert 13 acres "in the 'Red Brook tract' so called." Subsequent deeds through 1869 mention Red Brook, sometimes as "at Red Brook," suggesting that it was a locality that consisted of more than just a brook and encompassed a small neighborhood.
Several deeds say the brook was on West Mountain. Based on property owners in the neighborhood of the brook, it appears to have been somewhere along Barrack Hill Road, perhaps near Old West Mountain Road.
The origin of the name is uncertain. A Red Brook in Armonk, N.Y., is so called because of the red clay on the bottom. It may have referred to a color of the water, picked up seasonally, perhaps from iron ore in the ground.
One deed, dated 1845, mentions land in Ridgefield "on the top of Red Hill." The seller was from Southeast, N.Y., and the names of the buyers and adjoining property owners suggest that Red Hill was in a section of upper Ridgefield, north of Mill Plain, that was ceded to Danbury in 1846. The name may refer to the color of the soil
RED OAK LANE
Red Oak Lane, a dead-end road off Pumping Station Road, is part of the Colonial Heights subdivision, developed starting around 1965 by Lewis J. Finch and others.
Other roads in the subdivision have colonial-type names, and one was originally planned to be used for this road. However, said Mr. Finch, the name selected was too much like another in town, and Red Oak Lane was chosen instead because of the many red oaks in the area.
The red oak, so called for its reddish brown bark and wood, also has leaves that turn a deep red or orange in the fall.
Deeds in 1721, 1725 and 1726 mention "ye Reed Swamp" or "ye Ready Swamp." One deed describes land "lying southerly from the Ready Swamp, so called, on yet east side of ye Great Swamp." Another talks of land "over ye Great Swamp, southerly of ye Limestone Hill, lying partly in ye Reed Swamp."
A 1730 deed mentions land that "lyeth over ye West Mountain, northeasterly of ye Ready Swamp."
The name was a common one, describing the appearance of the swamp - i.e., it had a lot of reeds growing from it. These were also called flags, and there were a couple of Flaggy Swamps and Bogs (q.v.) around town, too.
Often misspelled Reagan, Regan Road was named for the Regan family.
Jeremiah and Mary Driscoll Regan moved in the early 1850s to a small farm whose house stood on the site of the present Ridgebury Firehouse, opposite at the east end of the road. Mary Regan used to wash the family clothes in the brook that runs by the firehouse, reports Richard E. Venus, whose wife, Marie Bishop Venus, is descended from the Regan family. Jeremiah died in 1902 and Mary in 1886 - only 45 years old. Both are buried in St. Mary's Cemetery.
The road is an old one, appearing on mid-19th Century maps. Town records indicate it was laid out by the selectmen in 1852.
The road was built through a swamp and when the town tried to improve it in the early 1960s, it had considerable difficulty filling in the bed, which would often sink deep into the muck of the swamp.
The most sensational problem occurred on the night of Sept. 23, 1963 when a 400-foot-long fissure, between five and six feet deep, opened along the road. First Selectman Leo F. Carroll said at the time that quicksand or humus under the road must have led to the earthquake-like break, which cost more than $50,000 to repair.
At one point state highway officials were thinking of recommending that the town build a log base to the road, similar to that found along sections of the Alcan Highway. An extensive drainage system was eventually put into the base, and seems to have worked.
"We spent a lot of money on Regan Road," Mr. Carroll recalled some years later, with a note of disappointment in his voice.
A 1990 deed for land along the road mentions "Reagan Road, sometimes known as Nancy's Lane." The origin is unknown.
Remington Road runs between Barry Avenue and Peaceable Hill Road, part of the Westmoreland subdivision of the mid-1960s. The road was originally to be called Holmes Road, a name subsequently applied to a different Westmoreland roadway.
For years, townspeople had wanted a road recalling the noted American artist, Frederic Remington, who had died in 1909 at his home on Barry Avenue after moving here only six months earlier. From shortly after his death well into the 1950s, various movements tried to have Barry Avenue changed to Remington Road. In fact, a 1927 map of property along Barry Avenue called the highway "Remington Road."
The new road at Westmoreland gave the town a perfect opportunity to commemorate Remington: it intersected Barry Avenue not far from Remington's house. So in 1966, the Planning and Zoning Commission agreed to change the old Holmes Road to Remington Road.
Of the many artists who have lived and do live in Ridgefield, perhaps none has gained more fame than Frederic Remington. The following is his obituary as published on the front page of The Ridgefield Press on Thursday, Dec. 30, 1909, under the headline: "Celebrated Artist Dies at His Home in Ridgefield."
Following an operation for appendicitis, Frederic Remington, the foremost of American artists in depicting army and Western life, died Sunday morning between 8 and 9 o'clock in Loral Place, his home in this place. He had been ill for several days. The operation was performed last Thursday by Dr. Robert Abbe of New York, assisted by Dr. Lowe of Ridgefield, and Dr. Stratton of Danbury. The artist rallied after the operation and it was believed he would recover. Complications, however, entered into the case on Saturday and the patient sank rapidly during the night.
Mr. Remington was one of nature's great artists. With his brush and his pencil, he depicted men, animals and things as he saw them and not as a fanciful artist would do such work. He pictured things as he knew they were in all their details.
To his intimate acquaintance with the subjects of artistic treatment and his earnest desire to keep close to human or to animal nature, his great success as an artist was largely due. Nothing seemed to big or too small to escape his artistic eye. That held good, whether he was painting cowboys, Indians or ponies, which he had seen in the West, or soldiers, horses and cannon, which he had seen as a war correspondent.
"When I die," he said not long ago to a friend, "I want my epitaph to be, 'He knew the horse.'"
Mr. Remington was not Western born. In 1861 he was born in Canton, N.Y. He spent most of his boyhood there, and, when he was old enough, was sent to the Vermont Episcopal Institute, in Bennington. After that he attended the Highland Military Academy in Worcester, Mass.
In these two schools he acquired a love for the army which he afterward portrayed so vividly. As a boy he showed a marked aptitude for art, although his father at first desired him to devote himself to literature and become an active newspaper man. He spent a year in the Yale Art School, and went from there to a political clerkship in Albany.
Then, well grounded in the fundamentals of art and possessed of great natural artistic ability, which had been strengthened by a course in the Art Students' League, he went West and lived on a ranch. Yale University conferred on him the degree of master of fine arts, and he was elected an associate member of the Academy of Design.
From drawing and painting he extended his work to sculpture. His statuettes, "The Bronco Buster" and "The Wounded Bunkie," won instant recognition.
The Wounded Bunkie
"The Wounded Bunkie" is regarded by many as Remington's most effective and characteristic efforts. The "bunkie," as all know, is, in the language of Uncle Sam's troopers, the comrade who will share with his friend, and with whom his one particular friend will share the last drop of water in the canteen, the last danger, and the last hope. There is thus a strongly sympathetic interest in the group Remington portrayed.
Nor did Remington content himself with art work as it is generally understood. He began writing word pictures of life in the West and illustrating them with almost inimitable skill. "Pony Tracks" in 1895; "Crooked Traits" in 1898; and "Sundown Leflare" in 1899, were read and appreciated by tens of thousands of book lovers. Nowhere were they read with greater appreciation than in the West, where the scenes and the characters for the stories had been selected.
During the Cuban War, Remington was a war correspondent. His sketches added to his already enviable reputation as an artist, sculptor and writer. He came honestly by his facility for writing. His father, Pierre Remington, was an editor. After the son had begun his studies in the Yale Art School in 1878, he manifested such sturdy qualities that Walter Camp selected him to be one of his football players.
Remington spent a year in Yale and then left to become confidential clerk for Governor Cornell in Albany. That work was too confining to suit his spirit. He resigned and went to Montana, where he "punched cows" and roughed it four years. That was followed by ranching and raising mules and sheep in Kansas. He traveled from Mexico to Hudson Bay, making drawings which appealed to everyone for their naturalness and fire.
It was on that tour he took part in several Indian campaigns, including the one against the Apaches. From the West he was sent by Harpers to Russia with Poultney Bigelow. They were ejected unceremoniously from that country and went to Germany. There Remington made many sketches bearing on the German army life.
He established a handsome home and studio in New Rochelle, calling it Eodion, or in Chippewa, "the place where I live." It was rich in collections of articles bearing on Indian and cowboy life. He rarely worked from models and denied vehemently accusations made by his detractors that he drew from snap-shot photographs.
"I drew only two women in my life," he said yeas ago, "and both were failures. A woman is too soft and delicate for my brush or pencil to portray."
On Oct. 1, 1884, Remington married Miss Eva A. Taten of Gloversville, N.Y., who survives him. A brief prayer service was held in Loral Place and the body was taken to Canton for burial on Tuesday.... The services at the house were conducted by Rev. John H. Chapman, rector of St. Stephen's Church, and were attended only by the immediate relatives and close friends of the artist, some of the latter having come up from New York....
Remington moved to Ridgefield, partly to be closer to his lifelong friend, A. Barton Hepburn, who also came from Canton. Mr. Hepburn, president of the Chase Bank in New York City, lived at Altnacraig, the mansion on High Ridge that burned to the ground in the winter of 1994.
In the 1970s, Mr. Remington's house was declared a national historic landmark. The studio Remington had in the house has been reproduced in detail at the Remington Art Museum in New York state.
Probably the largest collection of Remington's work is at The Whitney Gallery of Western Art at Cody, Wyo. Although Remington lived here and died here, not one of his paintings or sculptures is known to exist here.
Resseguie's Lane is an old and unusual place name - old in that it dates back more than 240 years and unusual in that it was among the very few 18th Century road names that made use of a family name.
The term appears first in a 1754 inventory of the estate of Alexander Resseguie (pronounced ress-sik-kee) which mentions "two acres of land yt lies below ye lane called Resseguies Lane." In the same year, two of Mr. Resseguie's sons, Abraham and Isaac, divided up the estate and mentioned the same parcel and lane.
The next and last mention appears in a 1787 deed in which the proprietors gave the heirs of Benjamin Keeler 132 rods "lying at the southeast end of Ressigues Lane, so called."
The lane was probably near the homestead of Alexander Resseguie, a home that stood near the Wilton line, quite possibly on Nod Road. Resseguie's Lane might be what we today call Pelham Lane.
Alexander Resseguie may have been Ridgefield's wealthiest settler. According to The Resseguie Family by John E. Morris (Hartford, 1888), "Alexandre Resseguie was a settler at Norwalk, Conn., in 1709. Tradition has it that he was the younger son of one Alexandre Resseguie, a Huguenot refugee from France, who brought with him from the mother country a small, hair-covered trunk, studded with iron nails, containing all of the family wealth he was able to secure, consisting largely of title deeds to property in France.
"Hoping to some day regain his abandoned possessions, he educated his eldest son to the profession of the law, intending when the time was ripe, he should return to France and establish a claim to the family estates. This hope was destined never to be realized, for the son died just previous to the time of his intended departure on this mission, and the father, disheartened, abandoned the undertaking. The trunk and papers passed into the possession of the younger son, and at a subsequent period, the latter were, the most of them, destroyed by fire." The fire was said to have been set by the wife of Timothy Resseguie, a grandson, "during a fit of temporary insanity."
Tradition notwithstanding, Mr. Morris believed that an "Alexandre de Ressiguier" of France was a silk manufacturer in London in 1696, but there is no evidence of his having come to the colonies. Thus, he lists Alexander of Ridgefield as head of the American family.
Alexander Resseguie was in Ridgefield in 1709, the year of the town's incorporation and the year of his marriage to Sara Bontecou of New York City, also a native of France. He was a farmer.
Alexander managed to amass sizable holdings in Ridgefield and in Norwalk (no doubt in the part of town that is today Wilton). His inventory at his death in 1752 listed more than 4,000 pounds of value in real estate, mostly in Ridgefield, and included a couple of farms. His homestead alone totaled 2,200 pounds in value, a hefty sum, and he owned parcels of land throughout town, as well as "a Negro wench and child" valued at 350 pounds. Total value of his estate was 10,514 pounds.
For 200 years, the name of Resseguie was well known in Ridgefield and Wilton, and was one of the few French names in a territory settled almost solely by the English. Among the most noted of Alexander's descendants was great-grandson Abijah Resseguie (1791-1887), who for 60 years ran the Keeler Tavern, called then Resseguie's Hotel. Mr. Resseguie had married Anna, the daughter of Timothy and Esther Keeler. Squire Timothy Keeler had long operated the inn, taken over by his son-in-law. (Their daughter, Anna Marie Resseguie, kept a diary, which was turned into a fascinating book, A View from the Inn: The Journal of Anna Marie Resseguie, 1851-1867, published by the Keeler Tavern Preservation Society in 1993.)
Samuel G. Goodrich wrote in 1856 that "he who wishes to eat with a relish that the Astor House, or Morley's, or the Grand Hotel de Louvre cannot give, should go to Ridgefield and put himself under the care of Mrs. Resseguie. When you go there - as go you must - do not forget to order ham and eggs, for they are such as we ate in our childhood. As to blackberry and huckleberry pies, and similar good gifts, you will find them just as our mother made 50 years ago, when these bounties of Providence were included in the prayer, 'Give us this day, our daily bread," and were a worthy answer to such a petition."
At Abijah Resseguie's death at age 96, The Press noted that he had started out in life as a carriage maker and eventually had his own firm of Resseguie and Olmstead, which shipped hundreds of wagons to points around the country. He served in various town offices, represented Ridgefield in the General Assembly, and was an official of St. Stephen's Church for many years.
He was fond of telling anecdotes of life in years past. "He was a witness of the last flogging which took place in Ridgefield - that barbarous punishment of the whipping post, and of the rejoicing of the people when that relic of barbarism was abolished," The Press said in 1887.
"He was always ready to enjoy a witty story and as a story-teller, he was always popular on the long winter evenings...There was no end to his humor...To show how sturdy he was in his old age, it may not be amiss to state that he attended the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876, and that at 80 years of age, he tired out the younger members of his party sight-seeing in Washington."
Revere Drive, with twin dead-end legs off Minuteman Road, is part of the Colonial Heights subdivision (q.v.) on West Mountain. The town accepted the road in 1970, but should not have accepted the name since it is so easily confused with Revere Place, several miles to the east.
Revere Drive was named for Paul Revere who, since he had nothing directly to do with Ridgefield and is well enough known nationally, will not be described here.
Revere Place, another road named for Paul, is situated off Standish (as in Miles) Drive. It is part of the Meadow Woods subdivision (q.v.) developed by Harry Richmond and Bill Connors in the mid-1960s. The road, a dead-ender, became a town road in 1968.
Richardson Drive, a dead-end road off Ashbee Lane, is part of Heart Brand Estates (q.v.), developed in the 1960s by Everett Lounsbury Jr.
The road was named for Robert E. Richardson, who worked for many years for the First National Bank of Ridgefield (later Union Trust, now First Fidelity). He was a former Board of Education chairman, served as state grand master of the Connecticut Order of Eastern Star, was on the Board of Tax Review, and was a popular man about town. He died in 1962.
Richardson Park, a 29.5-acre recreational area on North Salem Road opposite the high school, is named for Anne S. Richardson, who bequeathed the land to the town.
Miss Richardson built her home on the property in 1915 and lived there until her death in 1965. By her direction in her will, the house was torn down.
The site of Ridgefield High School, purchased inexpensively from her estate, was part of her property, and the school's auditorium is named for her.
A native of Bridgeport, Miss Richardson was independently wealthy and had traveled widely with her companion and friend, Miss Edna Schoyer, who died in 1946. Like the unrelated Bob Richardson above, she had been a chairman of the Board of Education. She also helped organize the League of Women Voters here, was active in the Ridgefield Garden Club and its Village Improvement Committee, helped found the Ridgefield Boys Club, and was one of the first members of the Park Commission, which was formed in 1946 and on which she served until her death.
Richardson is one of the town's most attractive parks, bordering on Lake Mamanasco and including the high rock cliffs along its shore. The many gardens of Miss Richardson had not been well maintained for many years, but in recent times, restoration efforts have taken place. There are still many specimen plants at the park and each spring many Ridgefielders delight in the thousands of daffodils that have gone wild in a field there.
When Reuben Rockwell II and Urania Rockwell sold Amos Baker one-fifth interest in an 11-acre parcel in 1804, the deed described the land as being "on the Ridge so called."
Based on the names of people who owned land in the vicinity of the parcel, it appears that "the Ridge" was East Ridge or Prospect Ridge.
Calling the territory "the Ridge" in a deed suggests that the name was well-established, probably a shortened version of East Ridge, a term that was in use by then. Even today the territory known as East Ridge and Prospect Ridge is often referred to simply as The Ridge. High Ridge, on the other side of Main Street, is rarely called The Ridge, probably because East Ridge-Prospect Ridge is better known because it has so many landmarks, such as the old high school, the middle school, athletic fields, police station, skating center, tennis courts, and housing for the elderly.
RIDGE ROAD I
It's not surprising that a hilly town named Ridgefield would have many names using the word "ridge" singly or in combination with other words. What is surprising is that there is no "Ridge Road" currently in use, though it is a common road name elsewhere (this writer grew up on Ridge Road in Danbury, a town with two active Ridge Roads).
Ridge Road was an old highway leading into the present-day Silver Spring Country Club and through lands to the south. Its north end joined Silver Spring Road at or near the present country club entrance, went west, and then south, paralleling Silver Spring Road, to a point below and opposite St. Johns Road.
In the old days, it served mostly fields owned by the Bennett, Meeker, Olmstead, Nash, and other families who lived along Silver Spring Road. It also led to a stone quarry, owned by James Dunlap, a well-known stone mason around the turn of the century.
The name, which appears on a 1907 property map filed in the town clerk's office, probably came from a shortening of Silver Spring Ridge, which the old road traversed and which term was in use as early as 1789.
RIDGE ROAD II
Ridge Road or Ridge Avenue were informal names for High Ridge Road. The 1902 minutes of the Village Improvement Society used the term Ridge Road.
Ridgebury is the territory generally held today to be north of the Aspen Ledges and west of the Ridgefield Lakes. It has over the years been a hamlet, a school district or two, and a parish. Once, it almost became a town.
It is difficult say precisely when the first settlers of European descent came to Ridgebury, but they were there before the territory officially began to be purchased by the proprietors of Ridgefield in the 1720s and before the governor of the colony awarded the proprietors a patent for the territory in 1731.
The lands that were to become "Ridgebury" began to be purchased from the Indians in 1721. The biggest acquisition occurred on Dec. 19, 1739 from three Indians - Betty, Jacob Turkey and Mokquaroose - and was sometimes called the "Betty Grant." The deed describes the land as "lying within ye New Pattent bounds called in ye Township of Ridgefield as it is butted and bounded on ye east by Danbury township, north by New Fairfield, on ye west by ye Government Line, southerly by our former purchase made of Jacob Turkey."
This deed completed dealings that had begun a decade earlier when Ridgefield lost a large chunk of its holdings in a trade between Connecticut and New York colonies. "The Oblong" (q.v.) was a long slice of land along the Connecticut west border, one and three quarters mile beyond the existing state line, that was given to New York in exchange for Greenwich and some other territory.
Ridgefield's proprietors gained nothing from the deal and only lost land. To compensate themselves for the loss, the proprietors sought title to a huge unclaimed tract north of Ridgefield and west of Danbury. The first petition was made in 1727 when it became clear that the Oblong deal was going to occur. The petition was rejected. But when the Oblong transfer did take place in 1731, the proprietors petitioned again, they fared better, and Governor Joseph Talcott, representing King George II, issued a patent to Ridgefielders for the land that year. In 1732, the patent was endorsed by the General Assembly, and the territory became known as "New Patent."
Part of the standard wording of such patents was an interesting list of things that the patent-holders gained rights to: "all woods, timber, underwood, uplands, arable lands, meadows, pastures, ponds, waters, rivers, brooks, islands, fishings, fowlings, huntings, mines, minerals, quarries, and precious stones upon or within said tract..."
But even before these transactions, a few people owned land in Ridgebury, obtained by direct patent from the colony, usually for services rendered. The Benedict and Taylor clans of Danbury had 300 acres parallel to the north and south sides of George Washington Highway almost to Ridgebury Road. Being Danburians, they wanted this territory to be part of Danbury. For a while, it was annexed to Danbury, but eventually was returned to Ridgefield (see The Crank).
Dr. Isaac Hall had 150 acres around Old Stagecoach and Ridgebury Roads by direct grant from the colony in 1697, more than a decade before Ridgefield was event settled. This tract was later known as Knapp's Farm for a subsequent owner.
In 1742, soon after the patent of Betty's land, the proprietors subdivided the land into 29 lots, ranging from 29 acres (of prime land) to 120 acres (of poor land). Most of these parcels, distributed to the proprietors or their heirs, were in what is now Danbury. The subdivision was called the Fourth 20 Acre Division.
The section of Ridgebury that is now in Ridgefield began to be parceled out around 1732-33 and continued to be handed out by proprietors' grants into the 1740s, according to exhaustive research done by Edwin Liljegren, a former Ridgebury historian. Mr. Liljegren even mapped out the first grants and the first settlers, a difficult, puzzle-filled task.
His research indicates that there were settlers in Ridgebury by 1734 when Recompense Thomas erected his house, still standing on the east side of Ridgebury Road, just north of Shadow Lake Road. Most of the settlers came in the 1740s, constructing their houses along what is now called Ridgebury Road.
By the time of the Revolution, Ridgebury was a populous little hamlet, with taverns, stores, two churches, and even some modest industry, including a comb factory and some mills. Farming, of course, was the chief occupation.
The area had developed quickly. In 1738, tradition says, there was a mission church of the Congregational society, and the Town Meeting in 1742 said that residents of "New Pattent" - as the territory was called and spelled - could hire their own preacher.
The new name
But the trip from Ridgebury over the hills to Ridgefield for services at the official church proved too much and, in 1761, upon petition of Ridgeburians, New Patent was made the "Second Ecclesiastical Society." It was at that point that the new name for the territory was chosen: Ridgebury, using the Ridge of Ridgefield and the bury of Danbury, the two Connecticut towns that virtually surrounded the society.
The first mention of "Ridgebury" in the land records was in 1762 when John Whitlock gave land for a church building "for and in consideration of love and respect that I have and do bear unto ye Dissenting Society in Ridgebury and to promote ye same."
The first mention in the town government records occurs in 1765 when the Annual Town Meeting "granted to ye inhabitants of Ridgebury Parish the liberty of making use of ye yard of Samuel Gates for a pound."
The society was formally organized a few years later and a church building erected around 1769, a year after the first minister, Samuel Camp, was hired. Camp is buried at Ridgebury Cemetery beside his three wives, who have matching - but smaller - gravestones.
A new town?
Now that they had gained the status of a government-sanctioned religious society or parish, Ridgeburians sought independence from Ridgefield, too distant and difficult to reach for such business as voting. At various times the people of Ridgebury petitioned the General Assembly to be made a separate town. This was not at all unusual; many of the towns of Connecticut were once parishes of other towns - Wilton of Norwalk, Redding of Fairfield, Bethel of Danbury, and Brookfield of Danbury and Newtown (it had been the parish of "Newbury.")
Ridgefielders at first opposed, but soon supported the idea. The Town Meeting of March 8, 1787 was asked "whether they (the voters) are willing the parish of Ridgebury should be incorporated into a distinct town." Townspeople responded by voting "unanimously that the town will not make any opposition to the parish of Ridgebury (which, incidentally, included land in Danbury) being incorporated into a distinct town; and they are willing their memorial (request to the General Assembly) should be granted."
Again, in 1792, the voters showed willingness that "the society of Ridgebury should be incorporated and made a distinct town." And a similar motion passed in 1816. So why did it not become a distinct town? Possibly because of opposition from Danbury, which would lose some land. But a clue to one problem appears in the record of the 1816 Town Meeting at which Ridgefield voters were unwilling to give up one of their two state representatives to the General Assembly if Ridgebury were made a town. An 1822 Town Meeting also voted against giving up half Ridgefield's voice in Hartford.
In 1816, the grand list valuation of the First Society (Ridgefield parish) was $40,175 while Ridgebury was $15,181. Evidently, the territory was still largely undeveloped and included much poor, hilly, rocky land of little value. Even today, the extreme western portions of Danbury - once part of Ridgebury - are among the last to be developed.
The Rev. S. G. Goodrich reported in 1800 that the First Society had 16,000 acres while Ridgebury had 11,000. Thus, Ridgefield property, including buildings, was worth about $2.50 per acre while Ridgebury was running about $1.38 per acre in assessed value.
The movement for a free town ended by about 1846 when Danbury annexed most of the land purchased from Betty more than a century earlier. It was a reasonable move. The residents were tied geographically more closely with Danbury than Ridgefield, and many of the northern Ridgebury settlers were Danburians who'd moved westward from their town.
Mill Plain, the most populous and industrialized settlement in Ridgebury, was mostly in Ridgefield, but its residents had to traverse three ranges of hills over eight miles to get to Ridgefield center while it was less than three miles over one small hill to Danbury center.
Ridgefield apparently got nothing in exchange for this transfer - except for fewer headaches. Tax collecting in the upper reaches of Ridgebury - as far as 12 miles away - must have been difficult. Oddly enough, no mention of the transfer has been found in Ridgefield's town or land records.
It is not known precisely when a schoolhouse was established in Ridgebury, but it is likely that the number of residents was enough by the 1740s to support a school.
By the mid-1800s, there were two Ridgebury school districts:
* South Ridgebury District, whose schoolhouse was on Ridgebury Road at the intersection of Old Stagecoach Road, extended south to the Ledges, west to New York State, north to a line through the Ridgebury Cemetery, and eastward to just beyond the present-day Ridgebury School.
* North Ridgebury District, whose schoolhouse was on the west side of Ridgebury Road just below Turner Road, encompassed everything north of Ridgebury Cemetery and also served scholars from the southern area of Mill Plain in Danbury. (Children who lived along eastern George Washington Highway, Briar Ridge Road, and Pine Mountain Road went to school in Danbury at the Miry Brook District schoolhouse.)
Originally, the south boundary of the territory called Ridgebury was south of the Ledges and passed by the north tip of Lake Mamanasco. It included the land on which Ridgefield High School now sits, an area once called "New Purchase." At one point in the Indian purchases, the north end of Mamanasco was the uppermost limit of the town.
Although the name "Ridgebury" had been created in 1761, deeds as late as 1787 still used the old term, "New Patent."
Ridgebury Farm is a small subdivision, served by Schoolhouse Place, off northern Ridgebury Road. Attorney Paul S. McNamara subdivided part of the former Lee B. Wood property in 1980. This area was once used to rest circus animals (see Turner Road).
In 1794, Matthew and Mary Barnum of Danbury sold Peter Starr of Ridgefield an acre and a half "in Ridgebury Hollow, so called." This is the first mention of the locality in the land records.
The next mention is in 1811 when Ebenezer Starr, representing an estate, sold David Meeker of Ridgefield land in "Ridgebury Holler so called." This tract was bounded on the south by a highway and the north by a pond and river. Other deeds mentioned only "the Hollow." One 1824 deed describes land "in the Hollow at Ridgebury." The location was almost certainly the valley along the north side of Route 6, Mill Plain Road, in Danbury near the New York State line - part of Ridgefield before 1846. The pond was Sanford Pond (also called Whiting's or Andrews Ponds on various more modern maps) that is right on the state line. The pond is 456 feet above sea level while the hill to the north is 780 feet high and the hill to the south (the Union Carbide site) is 782 feet. Between them, you have a hollow.
Ridgebury Mountain is the hill on which the Twixt Hills and Ridgefield Knolls developments are situated. It is north of Pierrepont Pond and Ledges Road, and south of Reagan and Bennett's Farms Road. At its highest point the mountain appears to be about 930 feet above sea level, making it one of the higher places in Ridgefield, but hardly a "mountain" by upper New England or Western standards.
The name first appears in town records in 1838 when the Annual Town Meeting voted that Harvey Smith Esq. "be an agent to sell the land lying on or near the Ridgebury Mountain, lately set off to the town of Ridgefield in execution." In 1860, the mountain, virtually uninhabited, formed a part of the south boundary of the Ridgebury School District in a description of those boundaries in the town records.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the mountain's history was in the mid-19th Century when a portion of it was mined for coal. In 1850, William Barhite gave the Cedar Mining Company a 99-year lease on six acres near Ledges and Ridgebury Roads. The mine was in operation in 1860, but it is not known how long the operation lasted nor how much coal was actually obtained from the property.
RIDGEBURY ROAD I
Ridgebury Road is the main highway from Ridgefield to Ridgebury. The name comes from the same informal system of nomenclature that gave us North Salem Road, Danbury Road, Farmingville Road, Florida Road, etc. - i.e., it is a shortened form of the phrase, "the road leading to Ridgebury" or "the road to Ridgebury."
Since settlement of Ridgebury began in the 1730s, it is likely that Ridgebury Road existed by then, or that at least northern parts of it existed.
The road was called "the highway from Ridgefield to Ridgebury" in a 1797 deed. But its first name was "New Pattent Road," which appears in a 1750 deed. New Pat(t)ent was the first name of Ridgebury and referred to the document from the King that allowed the proprietors to possess the territory as part of Ridgefield.
The modern name first appeared in an 1844 deed which mentions "the Ridgebury Road." By the turn of the century, many deeds and documents mention "Ridgebury Street," particularly as the road passed through the village or hamlet of Ridgebury.
Then, in 1933, during the celebration of the Connecticut Tercentary and a year after the 200th anniversary of our first President's birth, the road was officially renamed "George Washington Highway" because General Washington had traveled part of its length in September 1780.
This apparently caused confusion. Many people still insisted on calling it Ridgebury Road and newcomers didn't know the old name. Finally, in 1959, First Selectman Leo F. Carroll had the name returned to Ridgebury Road, a name that is more accurate and suitable, though less showy. (The road eastward from the Congregational church at Ridgebury to Danbury's Miry Brook District is still called George Washington Highway.)
The original route of Ridgebury Road from North Salem Road probably ran along Sherwood Road, which is much older than the section of the highway alongside the high school property. The rest of the route is much the same as it was 200 years ago.
There has been confusion over the naming of the upper end of the road. Maps for years have referred to the road going to Saw Mill Road in Danbury as Ridgebury Road or North Ridgebury Road. But Ridgebury Road veers to the right at the fork north of Shadow Lake Road and heads into Danbury, where it is called Old Ridgebury Road. The highway to the left (west) of the fork should be called Turner Road, after Aaron Turner, the circus man, who lived up there.
An 1893 map of the town calls Ridgebury Road "SH 14," meaning "State Highway 14." If the state ever owned any title to this road, it long ago gave it up. In the early 1970s, however, town officials tried to get the state to take over Ridgebury Road in exchange for the town's taking over Barry Avenue and West Mountain Road (the west leg of Route 102). The state said no dice, not surprising since Ridgebury Road is nearly four miles long and Route 102 west is about three miles long. And the latter was in much better shape.
Ridgefield Road has even been the subject of a poem, penned by Anton Anderson in the 1990s.
Ridgebury and Ledges
How you go down Ridgebury Road depends on
your angle of intention. Ridgebury straight
is not Ridgebury at all, but rather Ledges Road.
Ridgebury right is Ridgebury. There is no Ledges left.
In fact there is no Ledges at all, once you
reach Ridgebury but there is a Ledges if you
go straight until you reach Barlow Mountain
This is Ridgebury down.
Ridgebury up is a different matter.
Ridgebury up is straight, across the
stop sign at Ledges (and don't go into
the middle of the intersection and
stop - this only allows you to get hit
on the left, right and from
behind.) Straight up and don't
angle left at Spring Valley
[I call it Hidden Valley, but that
is only confusing, so forget it.
Actually, my family knows what
I mean, or thinks they do.
What I mean is, you don't think
there's really a road there, but
there is. You have no idea how long
it is when you first get on it -
it's plenty long. Also, there are
mainly very wealthy people living
on it who are hidden away from us
behind big long drives. But, I digress.]
And go up to Pope's Corner
(How long it will remain
Pope's Corner before it becomes
for-it corner ((and while we're on
the subject, how come she hasn't called
me up and said, I know how talented
a poet you are and I have a lot of money
so how much do you want)).
And go around the still Pope's
Corner, which is 170 degree turn
and really, very, very hard to get
up in the winter (please, God, don't
let that fool in front of me get stuck)
and just as bad going down
(please, God, don't let me slide
off the side and roll down the
and don't go right at the top by
the old barn because that's not really
Ridgebury either, but Regan Road,
and so go left up Ridgebury and
eventually you'll get to the end of
the Road and the poem (actually, almost,
but did you know that Regan once fell into
the swamp next to it? Jack Sanders
knows that. The town quickly fixed it
which is more than they did for my
basement foundation, which they also
accepted as correct before it started to
fall in on itself.)
So, anyway, that's how you get up and
down Ridgebury Road, if you know
where you're going. It's all in the
RIDGEBURY ROAD II
In 1855, Charles Benedict of Danbury sold Henry L. Bates 40 acres through which passed "the old road leading from Ridgefield to Ridgebury."
This may have been today's Bennett's Farm Road, which is still a road leading from Ridgefield to Ridgebury (via Danbury and Limestone Roads).
The phrasing of the deed suggests that it was once the only road to Ridgebury. However, it is also possible that the road was a once-popular alternate that was no longer popular. Or, the reference could have been to a short section of Bennett's Farm Road, abandoned in favor of a new strip of road.
Henry L. Bates, incidentally, was probably the source of the Bates Farm of Bates Farm Road.
Ridgecrest Drive is part of the Stonecrest subdivision of Irving B. Conklin Sr., dating from the 1950s. It was so called because the road ran along the crest of a ridge - see discussion of "Ridgefield" below.
Ridgefield is one of those straightforward, combination names so commonly applied by the English settlers to New England localities. It is an original name, not a copy of a location in England, and was probably dreamed up by someone or ones among the 32 pioneers who purchased the new territory from the Indians in 1708.
The name follows the same system of nomenclature that was used to come up with place names like Springfield, Longmeadow, Deerfield, Stockbridge, Brookfield, Northfield, Norwood, and Medfield, all found in Massachusetts. They represent a description of the territory, whether it be of terrain (Brookfield), wildlife (Deerfield), or location (Norwood or "north wood").
Many were copies of names used in England. So far as we can tell, however, Ridgefield was not named for any English locality and there is no "Ridgefield" in England. In fact, it is quite likely that Ridgefield represented the first application of that name to a town, although there are at least four other Ridgefields in the United States today.
The source of the word is obvious. The new territory was largely high land. Moreover, the proprietors - the first landowners - selected one of the highest ridges for the settlement of the village. In fact, it is said that the village of Ridgefield has the highest elevation - up to 800 feet above sea level - of any other settled village near the coast between Boston and Washington. I'm not sure how this can be proven, or how far from the sea one can go in search of a higher village, but it can be reasonably said that Ridgefield village is pretty high up for this part of the country.
The Indian word for the area also reflected the loftiness of the locality; caudatowa was said to mean "high place."
New England villages were frequently situated on ridges. In his book, Norwood, or Village Life in New England (1886), Henry Ward Beecher mused over this:
"Did the New England settler alight upon hill-tops like a sentinel, or a hawk up the topmost bough, to spy danger at its first appearing?" he asked. "Or had he some unconscious sense of the poetic beauty of the scriptural city set upon a hill - some Jerusalem, lifted up, and seen from afar in all its beauty?
"Or was he willing to face the sturdy winds of New England hill-tops rather than to take the risk of malaria in the softer air of her valleys?
"Whatever the reason, the chosen spot in the early days seems to have been a high and broad backed hill, where the summer came last and departed earliest; where, while it lingered, it was purest and sweetest; where winter was most austere, and its winds roared among the trees and shook the framed houses with such awful grandeur, that children needed nothing more to awaken in their imagination the great Coming Judgment, and the final consuming storms when the earth should be shaken and should pass away."
Of course, when the name was dreamed up, there were few "fields" here, the surface of the land being covered chiefly with trees. But the proprietors no doubt envisioned the thousands of acres of fields that would be tilled where so many trees stood. They, in fact, called the new settlement a "plantation," a word that was used to describe other, earlier Connecticut settlements, such as Norwalk.
"We find it to be accomodated with upland considerbly good & for quantity sufficient for thirty families, or more, and as for meedow & and meedow Land something (more or less) surpassing (both for quantity as well as quality) what is comon to be found in many larger plantations," wrote John Copp and John Raymond upon surveying the Indians lands of Ridgefield in 1708 for a report to the colony legislature.
In 1709, the legislature granted permission for the creation of a new town and in so acting, first used the name of "Ridgfield." That spelling was common for a few years, but "Ridgefield" soon took over.
Of the four other Ridgefields (Washington, Illinois, New Jersey, and Ohio), at least two are probably named after our town.
Ridgefield, Ohio, is a township situated near such localities as Norwalk, Lyme, Groton, Hartford, Norwich, Oxford, and Sherman, all Connecticut town names. These towns are in what was called "The Firelands," a territory that was once part of Connecticut's Western Reserve and which was given to Connecticut residents whose houses were burned by the British during the Revolution. (Ridgefielders claimed 65 losses worth 1,736 pounds.) The huge territory granted to the state in compensation was on and south of Lake Erie, between Cleveland and Toledo.
Ridgefield, Wash., was definitely named for our town. A small place near Oregon, it was founded by the Rev. Aaron L. Lindsley, a Presbyterian minister who had served from 1852 to 1868 as minister of the nearby South Salem (N.Y.) Presbyterian Church. He then went to Oregon, establishing missions and churches.
"When the little missionary community in the wilderness of Clarke County along the Columbia River was established, Dr. Lindsley's two sons, George and Addison, were among the original settlers," wrote Ridgefield historian Silvio Bedini. "When a name for the community was being selected, it was their suggestion that it be called Ridgefield in memory of the pleasant little town in Connecticut which they remembered from their childhood..."
In 1953, when the dial telephone system was finally installed in Ridgefield, Wash., the first call made over the new equipment was to Ridgefield, Conn., for an exchange of greetings.
RIDGEFIELD AND DANBURY TURNPIKE
The Ridgefield and Danbury Turnpike is another name for the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike (q.v.). While the latter is the correct name, "Ridgefield and Danbury Turnpike" was also commonly used, perhaps by Ridgefielders who thought their town should be mentioned first. At any rate, the backward title first appears in 1848 and was still in use in the early part of the 20th Century when a map filed in the town clerk's office used this label.
There had been talk of building a new road to Danbury as early as 1787. At that time, the route from Ridgefield to Danbury went up Danbury Road, across Haviland and Picketts Ridge, north through Starrs Plain, and then over a now-abandoned highway across Moses Mountain to Wooster Heights in Danbury. This route was a hilly and not very direct, and the valley of Sugar Hollow was an inviting alternative. Unfortunately, it was very swampy and running a reliable road through it would require a lot of earth moving, particularly at the Danbury end. It would be an expensive undertaking that no government was interested in. However, private enterprise came to the rescue.
"The Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike Company" was established in May 1801 by an act of the state legislature. The new company consisted of Joseph M. White and Ebenezer White of Danbury, "together with such other persons as shall associate with them." It is not clear when they built the road, but Rockwell in his history said it was constructed in 1812 by Sturges Selleck who lived at Fox Hill - what is now the IBM property - along eastern Bennett's Farm Road.
The turnpike began at the intersection of Haviland and Limestone Roads and headed north through Sugar Hollow to the intersection of Old Sugar Hollow and Miry Brook Roads (at the south end of Danbury Airport). For most of its way it followed the modern path of upper Danbury Road (Route 35) and Route 7.
Although it ran through Sugar Hollow, it was not the "Sugar Hollow Turnpike" or the "Sugar Hollow Road" that it's called today in Danbury. The Sugar Hollow Turnpike, built some years later, followed the path of today's Route 7 from Norwalk north to the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike - joining the same at today's intersection of Routes 7 and 35.
Northbound travelers then used the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike to Danbury. But the Sugar Hollow Turnpike then continued across what is now Danbury Airport and went over to Mill Plain, then northwesterly to New York state.
The tollhouse for the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike was situated on the Danbury-Ridgefield line, opposite the old Yellow Shutters and just south of Bennett's Farm Road (Maplewood Road). Its stone foundation is still visible.
To this day, Route 7 from Route 35 to the Danbury line is called Danbury Road instead of Ethan Allan Highway - the name used for the rest of Route 7 in Ridgefield. This goes back to the days when that section of modern-day Route 7 was the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike, existing some 20 years before the Sugar Hollow Turnpike that became today's U.S. Route 7.
The company that built the road had to get its back its investment. The act establishing the turnpike company set up the following toll schedule:
For every loaded ox-cart 12 5
Every empty do 6 2
Every empty wagon 8 0
Every empty do 4 0
Every loaded sled 8 2
Every empty do 4 0
Every loaded two-horse sleigh 8 0
Every empty do 4 0
Every one-horse sleigh, loaded 6 0
Every empty do 3 0
Every pleasure sleigh 8 0
Every four-wheel pleasure carriage 25 0
Every chair, chaise, or sulkey 12 5
Every drift or led horse, neat cattle or mule 2 0
Every man and horse 4 0
Every sheep or swine 0 5
"Cts." are cents and "mls." are mills, the latter being equal to a tenth of a cent. "Do."was an old-fashioned way of abbreviating "ditto."
As was part of the turnpike law back then, the special act also provided that "all persons going to or returning from funerals, all persons going to or returning from public worship, and their traveling to and from mills, and all officers or soldiers on days of military exercise on command, who must necessarily pass through such gate, and all those who live near the place where such gate is erected, whose necessary daily calling requires their passing through such gate, shall be exempted from paying any toll."
The turnpike company was allowed to earn a profit of 12% per year. Once the tolls charged had earned enough income to pay for the construction of the road, "said turnpike road shall be free and said company shall receive toll no longer."
The turnpike company was closely watched and controlled by the state. It had to submit annual reports to a court, and it could not make changes in the route of the road without state legislative approval. For instance, in May 1832, the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike Company received approval to make changes in the path after "shewing that their road passes over several difficult hills, one near the northern extremity of said road in Danbury and another near the southern extremity thereof in Ridgefield." The special act set up a committee to select better alternate routes and to determine fair compensation for persons whose land would be taken for the road.
Just when the road became free is not clear. By 1870, it was called the "old Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike," indicating the toll gate was gone by then.
Ridgefield Brook is another name for the upstream portion of the Norwalk River. The name is usually applied to the river as it leaves Great Swamp at Farmingville Road, travels past Fox Hill condominiums, crosses Danbury Road and heads northward west of Danbury Road. By the point the river veers eastward from Taylor's Pond off Limestone Road toward Route 7 to head south to Long Island Sound, it is usually known as the Norwalk River.
The name probably originates from this century - it does not appear in any 18th or 19th Century land records through 1880. The name may have been first applied by a mapmaker who, for some reason, didn't identify this north-flowing stream with the south-flowing Norwalk River, though it's pretty clear they are the same.
"Ridgefield Brook" appears on U.S. Geological Survey maps.
Ridgefield Gardens is the name applied to a 1956 subdivision of 46 lots off Limekiln and Haviland Roads. It was designed by Gustave W. Iser, an architect, and developed largely by Armando Salvestrini, who continued developing in the neighborhood well into the 1980s.
The original map showed Poplar Road, Hawthorne Circle, Willow Lane, and Linden Road.
The name reflects the fact that the property was once part of the huge Outpost Nurseries and has numerous trees that were once nursery stock.
Ridgefield Hills is a 19-lot subdivision, centered around Woodchuck Lane, developed by Lewis J. Finch and John F. Coyle. The subdivision off Wilton Road West was approved in 1961, and was so called because, from thereabouts, one can look over the hills of Ridgefield as well as Wilton. On a clear day, from the right spot, one can see Long Island Sound.
RIDGEFIELD HILLTOP ACRES
Ridgefield Hilltop Acres is a 1950 subdivision that resulted in the creation of Nutmeg Ridge. The developer was Ridgefield Hilltop Acres Company, whose vice-president was Dr. Frank Rossi. On the subdivision map, the 37 lots line Nutmeg Ridge and one side of "Washington Street."
The development was so named because it was at the top of Biddle Hill (q.v.), called that because the Biddle family once lived there. In fact, the original subdivision map labeled its main road as "Biddle Lane," which was changed to Nutmeg Ridge, probably because someone found the name "Biddle" unattractive.
Ridgefield Knolls is one of Ridgefield's largest subdivisions - 238 houses had been built on some 300 acres by Oct. 1, 1975.
The subdivision was designed in 1959 on the former Todd brothers dairy farm (see Todds Road) and includes Knollwood Drive, Senoka Drive, Bob Hill Road, Summit Lane, Aspen Ledges Road, Fox Drive, Rolling Ridge Road, Short Lane, Spire View Road, Partridge Drive, Quail Drive, Todd's Road, Sugar Loaf Mountain Road, Virginia Court and the southern half of Old Stagecoach Road.
The name came from the several small hills - or "knolls" - that make up the top of Ridgebury Mountain, site of the Ridgefield Knolls.
The subdivision was designed and built by the Topstone Development Company, whose president, Robert Kaufman, lives near Topstone Mountain in Redding. He had planned to name Knollwood Drive "Topstone Drive," but was dissuaded from doing so to avoid confusion with Topstone Road in eastern Ridgefield.
Mr. Kaufman still operates the private water company that serves part of the Knolls.
Much of the development was surveyed by the late Edgar P. Bickford of Danbury, whose office was in town from 1956 to 1963. He was a partner in Henrici's Surveying, and named most of the roads for wildlife or scenic qualities, although some (Bob Hill Road, Virginia Court) were named for people.
The property was acquired by Mr. Kaufman in 1959 from Gustave Ross and Harold Goldsmith, who had once entertained thoughts of subdividing it themselves. Mr. Goldsmith developed the nearby Skytop Estates at Lake Windwing.
The Ridgefield Lakes is without a doubt the town's largest development. Although Eight Lakes Estates at Mamanasco and West Mountain may cover more territory, the Ridgefield Lakes has more houses, owing to the fact that many homes are on tiny lots. More than 450 houses had been built at the lakes by the early 1980s, and more were being added yearly.
The development of the Ridgefield Lakes was begun in the 1920s by the Pequot Real Estate Development Company. The principal mover in this firm was Andrew C. P. Christensen, a native of Denmark who came to Ridgefield in 1917, buying the old Higgins house (which burned in 1954) on Bennett's Farm Road. With it came 600 acres, much of which later became the Ridgefield Lakes. The late Judge Joseph H. Donnelly recalled that the land was mostly old farms in the Bennett's Farm District, including the Barhite, Johnson, Selleck, and Bates places.
Mr. Christensen and Clarence Sturges of Southport dredged what is now Rainbow or Wataba Lake and began subdivision planning. The late Harold Iles, who grew up in the Bennett's Farm District, believed work on the lake, including construction of a dam, began as early as 1924. Paul Morganti reported that, in 1923, his father built the four dams used to create lakes.
Pequot later sold its holdings. Mr. Christensen continued to live here until 1949 when he returned to his native Denmark, where he died in 1954. In their later years here, Mr. Christensen and his wife operated a restaurant on the east side of Main Street, in a small space now partly occupied by The Athletic Shoe Factory. The Christensens paid a rent of $1 a day to landlord S. S. Denton. Mr. Denton collected daily when he arrived for his morning cup of coffee.
William Lawrence Winthrop (1895-1971), known locally as Willie, acquired the property in 1932 and for a while called the development Fox Hill Lakes.
According to his obituary in The Press, Mr. Winthrop "maintained a fairly consistent battle with the zoning and planning authorities over the years, maintaining their policies were keeping the little people out of Ridgefield and making it more difficult for the poor to find places."
Yet, there was no zoning when the area began to be developed on lots of less than a tenth of an acre. That was probably enough land to satisfy the original intent of the Ridgefield Lakes - to provide summer camps for New York City residents. There were no sewers and the water system was designed for limited summer use.
As the economy changed and as suburban life became more popular, the summer camps were converted into year-round houses and winterized new houses were erected. Cottages that 40 years ago could be had for less than $10,000 now command prices of more than $400,000.
This, in turn, has put a strain on the neighborhood. Many homes at the lakes have suffered over the years from inadequate water supplies as too many houses have been hooked up to private community water systems originally intended for summer use. At one point residents there pressed for the town to take over the water systems, a move government officials avoided for economic reasons. However, over the years improvements have slowly been made to the systems.
Another problem connected with the dense development is the eutrophication of the lakes, caused by the overabundance of nutrients that end up in the water from septic systems - some of which had been designed for only seasonal use. The nutrients feed the aquatic plants, causing them to grow in abundance in a process that would, if not checked, eventually clog up the lakes and convert them to swamps and, ultimately, pastures - which is what they were decades ago.
To serve the hundreds of homelots, Pequot and Winthrop installed dozens of narrow dirt roads - most of them still private roads today. Though technically not obliged to do so, the town gives these roads basic maintenance - plowing in winter and oiling in summer - so that emergency equipment can reach the houses. The town has avoided any major repairs or paving because the roads are private and most don't come close to meeting Ridgefield's highway standards.
Over the years many lakes residents have preferred their rustic roads while others, wanting more police protection, better access for fire trucks, and faster plowing, have asked the town to take over the roads and improve them. The cost of major improvements would be sizable and the town shies away from all but modest improvements.
The lakes roads, in all but a few cases, were named for scenic qualities of the neighborhood. Those named for people were developed later by persons other than Mr. Winthrop. The roads include Clearview Drive and Terrace, Crescent Drive, Crest Road, Cross Hill Road, Greenridge Drive, High Cliff Terrace, Lake Road, Lakeside Drive, Lookout Drive and Road, Madeline Drive, Marie Lane, Midrocks Road, Rainbow Drive, Ridgeway Terrace, Rita Road, Rustic Drive and Road, Sylvan Lane, Water's Edge Way, Woodlawn Way, and Woody Place.
In addition, land along such town-owned highways as Great Hill Road, Bennett's Farm Road, Limestone Road, Mountain Road (called Mountain Lake Road by Ridgefield Lakes Inc. in an old map), and Bates Farm Road were developed as part of the project. Several roads were laid out on maps but never built, such as Newlyn Road along the north shore of Rainbow Lake.
More roads might be built in the neighborhood as land still exists for development. Now, however, instead of being zoned for 2,500 square foot summer cottage lots, as that area was in 1946 when zoning was established, lots must now be at least 20,000 square feet (about a half an acre).
An interesting brochure, published in the late 1940s or early 1950s, gives an idea of how the Ridgefield Lakes was marketed as a community.
"The Ridgefield Lakes...(has) all the scenic grandeur of the Berkshires, the peace and quiet that is typical of old New England," the brochure cover says. Inside, it observes: "Ridgefield Lakes comprise more than 600 acres of rolling countryside and is considered one of the beauty spots of New England. The chain of lakes were created by nature and are not artificial (a statement that is incorrect in both syntax and fact). Thus, they are spring-fed by crystal clear waters.
"Only 46 miles from New York, it affords the opportunity for a year-round home at amazing low costs. It is close to the shopping center of the lovely old colonial town of Ridgefield and but a few minutes from the city of Danbury.... If one is seeking an ideal summer retreat or a winter home as well, they could not do better than to choose this glorious location."
Captions under pictures continue to tout the idyllic-life theme: "The lakes' enchantment is not alone their natural beauty, but the many picturesque lodges and homes... Be among those who will own a 'castle' in which to live an enchanting life...just one of the many beautiful home sites you might choose for a lodge. The sloping banks to the lakes assure you of a commanding view at all times. Peace and tranquility are yours for very little money.
"The Ridgefield Lakes offer a veritable paradise for relaxing and to enjoy the endless number of recreation facilities. How wonderful to leave the hub-bub of city life, the heat, and fatiguing noises. Yours is the choice - a refreshing swim in the lake or merely lazing in a deck chair to revel in the scenic beauties that surround."
The brochure points out that there is "fishing right at your door - trout, pickerel, and lake bass are plentiful," and that golf, tennis, and hunting may be enjoyed nearby. There are also "fine roads, electricity, unsurpassed schools, library, movies, store delivery, mail delivery."
A paradise, right? And, in the biggest typeface of the brochure, you learn that "lodges and homes can be erected on the plot of your choice under our budgetary plan and paid for at the rate of $30 per month and up."
Why, you can't even rent a room for $30 a week today.
RIDGEFIELD MANOR ESTATES
Ridgefield Manor Estates, a neighborhood with an unusual history, is a subdivision of a portion of the former Lewis estate on West Lane. A map showing 46 one-acre lots on 66 acres was filed in 1955 by developers, and included three new roads - Manor Road, Fairfield Court and Lewis Drive - plus lots bordering West Lane, Golf Lane, and Shadow Lane. In recent years, portions of Ward Acres farm, bordering "the manor" on the north, have also been subdivided, adding more homes to the neighborhood.
The development sits at the center of what was once one of Ridgefield's largest estates, Upagainstit (also spelled Upagansit or Upagenstit - it was reportedly a play on "up against it"), built around 1908 by Frederic E. Lewis. The wealthy New York businessman was never active in the community, but his younger son, Wadsworth R. Lewis, established a trust in his will that has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to Ridgefield students and gifts to civic and charitable organizations in and about town.
F.E. Lewis bought much of the property from Henry B. Anderson, but tore down Anderson's house to make way for his own huge mansion. He is reputed to have spent several million dollars on the house, elaborate landscaping and sundry outbuildings - including the town's first natatorium, or indoor swimming pool.
He also owned many houses for his caretakers, gardeners and other staff, some of whose offspring still live in the neighborhood. His land on West Lane, Olmstead Lane, and Silver Spring Road is said to have amounted to several hundred acres.
Mr. Lewis died around 1925 and in 1934, the house was purchased from Mary Russell Lewis, his widow, by Ely Culbertson, the then famous bridge player and expert. Culbertson quickly gained a local reputation as a character, declaring once that "all bridge players are a little nutty - I have yet to meet one who is not, and I think I'm the nuttiest." As if to prove his point, when summoned to Superior Court in Bridgeport in 1937 in a foreclosure case, Mr. Culbertson spent much of his time playing pinochle in the sheriff's office with court officials. He soon declared that the pinoche deck was marked and amazed a judge, deputy sheriff, and court clerk by proving it.
The estate then became Gray Court Junior College, a school for women. The school opened in September 1941 with about 100 students and 15 faculty members. The greenhouses were used for classrooms and the glass walls were praised in a college brochure for having the "obvious" advantages "to sight and health." One section of greenhouses was called "Crystal Hall."
The house, containing more than 40 rooms, was called Lewis Hall, and served as the main dormitory, the library, dining room, and offices for the administration. Gray Court taught liberal arts, but also had courses in becoming kindergarten or nursery school teachers, secretaries, and journalists - about the only professions women readily entered then. The tuition the first year was $875 and included room and board.
In reporting the razing of the glass-roofed natatorium in 1970, The Ridgefield Press observed that the pool had not been used for 30 years when "the damsels of Gray Court Junior College romped within its well-secluded walls." The school lasted until the late 1940s.
By 1949, the place had become the Ridgefield Lodge and Health Resort, aimed at elderly visitors. It was a source of much controversy. First, the Zoning Commission got after the operators, alleging that they were running an illegal home for the aged, rather than a resort or hotel. Then, when it was the Ridgefield Country Club, the New York state insurance commissioner maintained that the corporation that owned the place was using it as a secret Communist Party headquarters for underground "indoctrination" and "propaganda." He went to court in 1954 to take the resort out of the hands of the Jewish People's Fraternal Order of the International Workers Order Inc., an insurance society. A year later, the order sold the property to the subdividers. Ridgefield Manor Estates, headed by Harold F. Benel, quickly tore down the main house, which was considered a "white elephant."
Ridgefield Manor Estates still retains some of the charm of Upagainstit: fine and unusual specimen trees and shrubs from around the world, handsome stone walls and gates, and tile-edged roads.
RIDGEFIELD NEW ROAD
Ridgefield New Road was a briefly used name for the new stretch of Branchville Road between the two ends of Old Branchville Road. This section of highway was built in about 1852 to replace what is now Old Branchville Road, which was too hilly and swampy for the heavier traffic to and from the new station at Branchville.
"Ridgefield New Road," which appears in an 1854 deed, meant simply the new road to Ridgefield. It was also called "New Road." To the people of Branchville, it was also "Ridgefield Road," as can be seen below.
Ridgefield-Redding Highway is another name from Florida Hill Road, a highway that dates back to the early 1700s and was for many years a main route between Ridgefield and Redding. However, the name does not appear in the land records until the 20th Century. I first saw it in a 1978 deed.
RIDGEFIELD ROAD I
In Wilton, Route 33 leading from the center of that town to the Ridgefield town line is called Ridgefield Road, just as the two highways from Ridgefield village to the Wilton line are called Wilton Road East and Wilton Road West.
Occasionally, however, the name "Ridgefield Road" was used to refer to Wilton Road West in Ridgefield, particularly along its lower end near Wilton. Hence, we find in the Ridgefield land records references like that in a 1770 deed from Ebenezer Nash of Norwalk to Oliver Whitlock of Norwalk for 40 acres "by Ridgefield Road." Most such references were probably made by people who lived in Wilton and knew the road as Ridgefield Road. Both Ebenezer and Oliver were probably Wiltonians - in 1770, Wilton was part of Norwalk.
RIDGEFIELD ROAD II
In an 1850 deed in which Sherman Beers sells land to the new Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road, he mentions that one piece bordered "the Ridgefield Road." That was the highway to Ridgefield - what we call Branchville Road today.
Ridgefield Station was the original name of Branchville Station and, for a while, was a name of the whole southeastern corner of town. Ironically, the name, discarded more than a century ago, was coveted a few years back by town officials who wanted to revive it.
When the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad was established in 1852, a station was set up at what we today call Branchville. It was the only place in Ridgefield traversed by the tracks and, though far from the village, served the whole town of Ridgefield - hence, it was called Ridgefield Station.
However, in 1870, trains began running on a branch line had been laid up to Ridgefield village. Consequently, the station on the main line became known as Branchville - the place where the branch began - and station at the village terminus was called Ridgefield. The exact date of the change is documented. A railroad poster announcing the new branch service said "passenger trains will commence running on the Ridgefield Branch Railroad on Saturday, June 18th, 1870, at 7:05 p.m. from Ridgefield Station. Daily trains will leave Ridgefield Village for Ridgefield Station at 6:40 a.m., 12:10 p.m. and 4:25 p.m. Returning will leave Ridgefield Station for Ridgefield Village at 9:50 a.m., 2:46 p.m., and 7:05 p.m. Freight will be received for transportation over the Branch Road after June 30th, 1870, and after that date the station on the main road heretofore known as 'Ridgefield' or 'Ridgefield Station' will be called 'Branchville' and the station at Ridgefield Village will be called 'Ridgefield.' All freight must be marked and way-billed accordingly. John W. Bacon, superintendent."
The name "Ridgefield Station" first appears in the land records in an 1857 deed which mentions the "New Road toward Ridgefield Station." Earlier, the station had been briefly known as Beers Station, for the man who sold the land to the railroad and the agent who ran the station.
Beers Atlas (no relation) in 1867 calls the whole district "Ridgefield Station," noting that it was a school district and also a post office location.
In 1870, we find one deed mentioning "Ridgefield Station" and another "Branchville Station." Thereafter, Ridgefield Station disappeared as a geographical term.
In 1955 and 1956, however, First Selectman Harry E. Hull carried on considerable correspondence with the New Haven Railroad, asking that Branchville Station be changed to Ridgefield Station. He argued that train riders unfamiliar with the area wouldn't know that Branchville is part of Ridgefield. He felt that the station should reflect the name of the town it's in, not the neighborhood, when there's only one station in the town.
The railroad eventually denied the request, saying that it would cause confusion with Ridgefield Station - a name still used for the freight-only terminal in the village (passenger service to the village had been abandoned in 1925). It would also be costly to change many timetables, the railroad president maintained.
Today, the Ridgefield Station in the village is a warehouse for the Ridgefield Supply Company and iron rails were long ago removed from the branch line. Thus, that argument against the name change has disappeared. Also, there is no longer a branch from Branchville. Perhaps someone will renew the effort to have Branchville Station again be called Ridgefield Station.
Freight service on the Ridgefield branch continued until January 1964. The line was probably always a money loser. L. Peter Cornwall of Wilton, author of In the Shore Line's Shadow: The Six Lives of the Danbury & Norwalk Railroad, notes that the four-mile branch line took a year to build because of its steepness, and cost about $250,000 - as much as the entire Danbury to Norwalk line had cost only 19 years earlier! It also served a community of only 1,900 people, not much of a source or destination passengers and freight. However, railroad vice-president LeGrande Lockwood, who lived in what's now the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, built the line in part to discourage competition. At least two other companies had plans to run lines to Ridgefield - one even installed track bed - but neither came to fruition after the Ridgefield branch was built.
Ridgefield Street was a 19th Century name for Main Street. It was so called by the Rev. Daniel Teller in his 1878 history of the town.
Calling the main road in a village by the village's name plus the word "street" was apparently common practice in the last century. Ridgebury Road in the center of Ridgebury was often called "Ridgebury Street."
Main Street has also been called "the Town Street" and "the Village Street," as well as "King's Highway," all of which are covered elsewhere.
Ridgeway Terrace, a private, dead-end road at the Ridgefield Lakes off Bennett's Farm Road, a little north and opposite Bate's Farm Road. There is a ridge there.
Ridgewood Road is the main road through Florida Hill Estates, a 1964 subdivision by Harry Richmond and Bill Connors, who also did the nearby Meadow Woods development.
The road runs from Florida Hill Road to Harvey Road. The name described the terrain and what grew on it.
How did Rippowam, an ancient Indian name for Stamford, become associated with an old mountain road in Ridgefield?
The area around Stamford was called Rippowam from the river that forms a double harbor on the sound. Rippowam was also the name of the tribe of Indians that controlled this territory. Stamford settlers called their new community "Rippowam" for only two years - from the settlement in 1640 until 1642 when the town was formally named for a place in Lincolnshire, England.
The early boundaries of Stamford extended north into the town of Pound Ridge, land now in New York State, and to the border of Lewisboro, the town in which Lake Rippowam now lies.
The lake had earlier been known as North Pond, not too colorful, and is still so called by oldtimers in the 1980s. Around the turn of the century, someone - possibly a wealthy owner of land on the pond's shore - decided that Rippowam would be a better name; certainly it had more color and, unlike many Indian names, was easy to pronounce.
Why that name? Perhaps it was reminiscent of the old Stamford boundary which made it a next-door neighbor of Lewisboro in the early 1700s. Perhaps someone just liked the name. But most likely, it was selected by someone who knew the name's translation: "rocky cliff." The north shore of the lake has a spectacular rocky cliff that rises more than 400 feet above the water. Halfway up the steep incline is "Lookout Rock," the climb to which was considered a test of mettle for many generations of Lewisboro youths.
A brook that eventually feeds Lake Rippowam flowed through the property of Thomas H. Mead on West Mountain in Ridgefield. Mr. Mead named his turn-of-the-century estate "Rippowam," possibly because of the brook but probably because the estate overlooked the lake. And from the estate name, the road past it picked up the name.
It may be that Mr. Mead named the lake, which his property bordered and on which there was an estate boathouse. According to an old map glued into the land records in 1903, Mr. Mead was calling his place "Rippowam" by then and the lake was also so called. He and his wife, Anna, put together the 486-acre estate in the early 1890s, selling in 1903 to Jonathan Bulkley of New York City, whose daughter, Mrs. Bulkley Randolph, lived at "Rippowam" into the 1980s. Much of the state was recently subdivided. (The 1903 map, incidentally, shows Round Pond as "Lake Oreneca," clearly an error.)
Rippowam Road in the 18th and early 19th Centuries was, with Oreneca Road, part of the old West Mountain Road that led from Ridgefield into northern Lewisboro, then called Lower Salem. The road may have been part of an old Indian trail that ran from Mamanasco Lake to Cross Pond on the Lewisboro/Pound Ridge border.
RISING RIDGE ROAD
Rising Ridge Road at Twin Ridge runs from Indian Cave Road to Beechwood Lane. It became a town road in 1968 and was named for the geography of the land it traverses.
Rita Road at the Ridgefield Lakes is a dead-end, private road developed in the 1950s. It was named for Rita Romano, who with her husband owned several lots there.
Harold A. Ritch, whose family had owned and farmed the land thereabouts, developed Ritch Drive, which runs from Haviland Road to Danbury Road. Most of the 1954 subdivision was built on corn and potato fields.
The Ritch name was an old one in Ridgefield. A Thomas Ritch was living along North Salem Road near the New York State line as early as 1811.
Harold Ritch's land had been part of the large Haviland family farm, started in 1801 and operated by that family until 1920 when Reed Haviland sold the homestead and about 100 acres to Charles and Hulda Ritch, parents of Harold. Harold Ritch later lived in Brookfield. He died in 1981.
River Road was the original name for what we now call Tanton Hill Road.
The name was changed by the Board of Selectmen in 1957 to recognize Harvey D. Tanton, a former first selectman who lived on the road. In fact, Mr. Tanton, then a selectman, seconded Paul Morganti's motion that the road be renamed in his own honor.
River Road was so called because it runs along the Ridgefield Brook or Norwalk River. The stream is known by either name along this stretch.
Riverside Drive runs from Druid Lane to Fire Hill Road at Stonehenge Estates and was so called by developer Jerry Tuccio because it runs along the Norwalk River. It became a town road in 1964.
RIVER VIEW DRIVE
Riverview Drive is shown on some town maps as running off Limestone Road Extension. It was probably an early name for today's Charter Oak Lane that was changed because of possible confusion with Riverside Drive. It, too, has a view of the Norwalk River.
Roberts Lane is a short, dead-end road off Danbury Road, running alongside and beyond the Girolmetti Court shopping area and the Mobil station.
The road was named for Joseph Roberts (nee Roberti), who lived there and who built the first houses there around 1920.
A native of Italy, Mr. Roberts lived here many years and was a well-known general contractor. He died more than 50 years ago.
Roberts Lane was until October 1980 a private road. The development of Girolmetti Court in what was once the Ridge Bowl bowling alley and its parking lot - included improvements in drainage to Roberts Lane, enough improvements to encourage the town to take over ownership and maintenance of it.
Roberts Pond, off Saw Mill Hill Road, was also named for Joseph Roberts, who created it around 1930.
The privately owned pond is held by a wood and stone dam that, despite some concern that it would burst in big storms over the years, has held up for more than 60 years. It held in the 1955 flood while a bridge just below it over the Titicus River on Saw Mill Hill Road was washed away.
Mount Robinson was a name for a hill in the New Patent-Ridgebury territory in what's now western Danbury. The name was mentioned in 1742 and 1746 deeds and in estate inventories.
One description places Mount Robinson near "the Hemlock Hole," another New Patent locality. Edwin Liljigren, a Ridgebury historian, believes Hemlock Hole was north of New Patent Lot 18 in the "Fourth 20 Acre Division" by the Proprietors in 1741. This would place the mountain just north of Jo's Hills which in turn is north of Mill Plain in Danbury.
The name never appears in Ridgefield records after 1746 and its origin is unknown.
Rob's Hollow is a 1963 subdivision of around 25 acres that ran from Ridgebury Road, opposite the Ridgefield High School property, to Sherwood Road. Six house lots were created and the Conservation Commission purchased about 12 acres of swamp as part of the Titicus River watershed protection program. This refuge runs along the northern side of Sherwood Road near Ledges Road.
Rob's Hollow was named for the son of James Hackert who, with Lewis J. Finch, subdivided the property. The son's full name is James Robinson Hackert, and he was called Rob to distinguish him from his father. He was nine years old at the time and later became a magazine advertising salesman, living in Southbury.
Rochambeau Avenue, which runs between Copps Hill Road and Washington Avenue at Peatt Park, was named for the Revolutionary War celebrity who once - probably twice - passed through Ridgefield.
Compte Jean Baptiste Donatien Vimeur Rochambeau was born in France in 1725 and entered the army at the age of 16. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1780 and led a contingent of 6,000 men to America, disembarking at Rhode Island in July 1780. The next year, after consulting with General Washington, Compte Rochambeau led his men across Connecticut in order to join Washington in an attack on British forces in New York City. He arrived in Ridgefield July 1 and his 4,800 men camped at two sites: off the north side of George Washington Highway near Ridgebury Road, and off the west side of Ridgebury Road nearly opposite Old Stagecoach Road.
Rochambeau himself, along with his officers, was said to have spent the night at a tavern in Ridgebury, near the Congregational Church. Since July 1 was his 56th birthday, it was likely that some sort of celebration took place at the tavern.
Silvio Bedini, in his Ridgefield in Review, tells the following story of the troop movement into Ridgebury on July 1:
"At the homestead of John Norris, just within the Ridgefield boundary, the officers with Rochambeau stopped for a brief rest and for water. That same morning, according to a local story, a child had been born in the household. Rochambeau requested the parents to name the child de Lauzun after his cavalry officer. Whether the story is to be given credence cannot be determined, but it is a matter of record that succeeding generations of the Norris family utilized the Lauzun name, and it was used also in collateral branches of the family."
Duc de Lauzun had led another group of French troops, which had been encamped in Lebanon, on a more southerly route across Connecticut, camping that night along North Salem Road, about where Circle Drive is today. From this high ridge his troops could easily exchange signals with those of Rochambeau farther north in Ridgebury.
Rochambeau and his men left July 2, joined General Washington, and eventually wound up at Yorktown, where the Compte received the surrender of the British army on Oct. 19. He was presented with two captured cannon.
After the surrender at Yorktown, Rochambeau's troops marched back through Connecticut in 1782. Since they camped in "Salem" (probably North Salem) and in Danbury, it is quite likely that he and his men passed through Ridgebury at that time - no doubt to the cheers of Ridgefielders.
In 1976, Congress established the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Highway to commemorate the march to Yorktown. In Ridgefield, the route consists of George Washington Highway to Ridgebury Road to Mopus Bridge Road to the New York state line. A sign noting and explaining the designation was erected along Ridgebury Road near Old Stagecoach Road. Re-enactments of the 1781 march and visit took place in 1981, and a 225th anniversary re-enactment is planned July 1, 2006.
Back in France, Rochambeau was made a marshal in 1791, narrowly escaped the guillotine in the Reign of Terror, and in 1804, received from Bonaparte the cross of grand officer in the Legion of Honor. He died in 1807.
Rochambeau Avenue is within the 1928 Peatt Park subdivision of William T. Peatt Sr. Two subdivision maps filed that year do not list names for the roads, but Rochambeau, Washington, and Lafayette probably came into use as soon as the subdivision began to be developed.
A 1949 survey of a lot along the road labels it "Rochambeau Road."
While this history has made no attempt to cover the hundreds of different names used to label old-time farm lots, the Rock Lot is worth notice. Probably a fairly common term among farmers to refer to land never cleared of its stone, Rock Lot in this case was 10 acres in the Florida School District, probably off the south side of Florida Hill Road a little west of Florida Road - adjoining an old "saw mill pond," according to one deed.
The lot was owned until 1862 by Ebenezer Hawley, descendant of the Hawley clan that lived in the neighborhood from the early 1700s and which may have owned the lot that long; the Hawleys probably named it. Ebenezer sold to Lewis Knapp who in turn sold to Peter Johnson.
The name points out a signficant characteristic of Ridgefield's terrain and one which has been used for at least six old and new place names: Rock Road, Rockcrest Drive, Rock Spring, Rock Spring Road (Lane), Rocky Spring, and Rocky Neck.
The name brings to mind remarks made by two native sons, both penned upon return to the town after absences of many years.
Samuel G. Goodrich, the author who used the name Peter Parley, wrote in an 1855 letter to his brother: "The town, you know, was originally blessed, or cursed, as the case may be, by a most abundant crop of stones. To clear the land of these was the Herculean task of the early settlers.
"For many generations, they usurped the soil, obstructed the plough, dulled the scythe, and now, after ages of labor, they are formed into sturdy walls, neatly laid, giving to the entire landscape an aspect not only of comfort, but refinement. In our day these were rudely piled with frequent breaches - the tempting openings for vagrant sheep, and loose, yearling cattle.
"No better evidence can be afforded of a general process and improvement than that most of these have been relaid with something of the art and nicety of masonwork. The Mat Olmsteads and Azor Smiths of the past half century, who laid stone wall for Granther Baldwin and General King at a dollar a rod, would be amazed to see that the succeeding generation has thrown their works aside in digust and replaced them by constructions having somewhat of the solidity and exactitude of fortifications."
In his speech at the town's Bicentennial exercise in 1908, Cyrus Northrop, then president of the University of Minnesota, said: "I have been 24 years in Minneapolis; I have seen great changes, great growth, in every respect; I have had a delightful time there; it is a delightful place; I love it and love to live there, but I am always glad to see my native town; I am always glad to feel that it is as clean and delightful and as noble in character as it ever was.
"I am glad to feel that what God made so beautiful, these rocks, such as you can ride from Minneapolis to Branchville (on a train) without seeing, and as you start from Branchville to Ridgefield, you get the first vision of the hard, black rocks partially covered with vines and leaves; these rocks that God made so beautiful and are so beautiful all over the town, the same things that landscape architects like to put into their landscapes in an artificial way to make things beautiful; these are all here even when wealth and art had not touched them."
The Rock Lot may have been visible from the railroad track between Branchville and the village and may have helped inspire Dr. Northrop to his remarks. Of course, those rocks were more visible to Dr. Northrop than they are to us because early in this century, Ridgefield's landscape was agricultural, almost void of trees. Today, tens of thousands trees and the thousands of acres of undergrowth hide most of the rocks once so visible.
Ridgefield owes its wealth of rocks to a glacier which, some 25,000 years ago, eased its way down over Connecticut and whose southern end was a little south of Ridgefield. Geologists used to say that a glacier is at once a plow, a file, and a sled. As a plow, it churns up and moves pieces of bedrock; as a file, it rasps away the solid rock in its path; as a sled, it carries off pieces it has broken away and plowed up, plus whatever rock has fallen from the sides of hills and mountains that may rise above the glacier.
This collected rock and other material is called "drift," and the rocks deposited on the land by melting glaciers is called "till." The most rocky part of a glacier is its front edge, which both plowed up and picked up the rock. Thus, the southernmost edge of a glacier is where, when it melts, much rock is deposited.
A spectacular example of rock left by a melting glacier is the "Bolder Stone," a huge granite rock which sits on five smaller limestone rocks, just off Route 116 in North Salem, N.Y. (on land that was once part of Ridgefield). Historian George Rockwell estimated the boulder weighs more than 60 tons. Because it is blue granite, a type of rock not found hereabouts, the boulder almost certainly came from somewhere far to the north - Rockwell suspected New Hampshire or Canada - and was deposited by the glacier. There are those who believe, however, that the formation is man-made, possibly by Viking visitors many centuries ago. In either case, it's an eye-stopper.
Rock Court appears on 1952 maps of the Eight Lakes (q.v.) subdivision as a short road off the north side of Rock Road. It is a private way.
Rock Road is part of the Eight Lakes development of the early 1950s, but its basis is an old highway. On some old maps, it runs from Mamanasco Road to Old Sib Road and beyond.
When Eight Lakes was laid out, the developers planned to use "Rock Road" as the name for what is now Caudatowa Drive (q.v.), which begins on the opposite side of Old Sib from the planned Rock Road connection. Apparently, when it was decided not to connect Rock Road to Old Sib, "Caudatowa" was chosen instead.
Rock Road, so-called for the rock outcroppings in the neighborhood, dates from the 19th - maybe the 18th - Century, and appears on Beers 1867 map of the town and on the Clark 1856 map of Fairfield County. In fact, a highway following exactly or very closely the present route of Rock Road, Caudatowa Drive, and Blue Ridge Road is shown connecting modern Mamanasco Road to modern Barrack Hill Road.
This old, steep, direct route from upper West Mountain to Mamanasco Lake may have been part of an old Indian trail. It evidently fell out of use by the 20th Century, probably because it was too much steeper than alternate, though longer routes. That, however, did not bother the developers of Eight lakes, who revived the path as three roads.
Rockcrest Drive at the Ridgefield Knolls runs from Knollwood Drive to Bob Hill Road. According to Edgar P. Bickford, who surveyed the Knolls for subdivision in the late 1950s, the road was named for the rock outcroppings thereabouts.
Two mid-19th Century deeds mention Rock Spring, a neighborhood locality in the Florida District.
In 1847, Amelia Gilbert sold Russel B. Keeler five acres "adjoining the Rock Spring lot." Nine years later, in 1856, Jesse K. Keeler sold Russel Keeler 45 acres, "the Rock Spring land so called."
From these two deeds it appears that the Rock Spring was off Florida Hill Road, somewhere in the vicinity of Cooper Hill Road.
ROCK SPRING LANE
Rock Spring Lane is a short, dead-end road off the east side of Limekiln Road, below Haviland Road. It was developed and named by Earl S. Miller, who filed a 16-lot subdivision of one-acre parcels on 22 acres in 1957. The name presumably refers to a rock spring in the area.
Rockwell Road is a very old highway that runs from Main Street to Branchville Road. It predates by more than a century the western end of Branchville Road (q.v.), and used to be the main route from the village to the southeastern part of town. In fact, it could be considered the original western end of Branchville Road.
Its replacement by the modern western end of Branchville Road in the late 1820s or early 1830s probably came as a great relief to people who had to traverse the steep hills leading down to the street just west of Perry Lane. A bridge over this stream was probably one of the earliest built in Ridgefield and one that had to be periodically repaired. For example, the Town Meeting in 1811 voted to compensate Joshua King for "timber, planks and labor" used in repairing the bridge in the road leading east from "Dr. Perry's dwelling house."
Rockwell Road has had several names, including DePeyster Street and Cushman Lane, both recalling people who lived on the corner of Main Street and Rockwell Road. Early in the century, it was commonly called "Lover's Lane" because that's where the town's sweethearts went to "spoon."
The road was named for the Rockwell family, two of whose members probably were responsible for the naming in the late 1920s or early 1930s. They were George L. Rockwell, historian and postmaster, who probably pressed his cousin, First Selectman Winthrop Rockwell, to make the designation. According to some sources, the name originally applied only to the section from Perry Lane to Branchville Road; the western segment of the road was still called Cushman Lane for a while before the Rockwell name took over for the whole length of the road.
While neither George nor Winthrop Rockwell lived on or near Rockwell Road, a family member says than at least one old Rockwell clan once lived there. Whether or not there was a close family association with the road, George Rockwell probably wanted his family remembered through a place name. Perhaps confusion over the name of this road prompted him to suggest it as a good candidate for Rockwell Road.
Ironically, it is George himself who has assured the family's name being remembered through his History of Ridgefield, the largest and most extensive history of the town. Published in 1927 and reprinted in 1979, "Rockwell's History" contains more than 600 pages of information, some of it based on articles he had written for The Press over the years and all based on more than 35 years of interviewing old-timers, inspecting old papers, and sifting through town hall records.
George Lounsbury Rockwell, a descendant of Jonathan Rockwell, one of the first proprietors of Ridgefield, was born in New Haven in 1869 and came to Farmingville as a boy to live with an uncle and grandmother. He attended local schools and later joined his uncle's firm, Lounsbury, Matthewson and Company, shoe manufacturers, where he worked for 22 years.
Mr. Rockwell was a state legislator, held town offices, was active in the Republican Party, and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1938. He served as deputy U.S. Consul at Montreal in 1911 and was postmaster of Ridgefield for two terms (1912-16 and 1924-35). He was a nephew of two Connecticut governors, George and Phineas Lounsbury, both of Ridgefield.
Mr. Rockwell died in 1947 at the age of 78.
Jonathan Rockwell and his brother Thomas, sons of John who were born in the 1660s in Stamford, were among the town's earliest settlers. Jonathan was one of the first proprietors of 1708 while Thomas came in July 1711. Seven Ridgefield Rockwells fought in the Revolution. Descendants of this family still live in Ridgefield today.
ROCKY NECK, SPRING
Rocky Neck and Rocky Spring were apparently related localities on West Mountain.
In 1728, the proprietors transferred 10 acres to Timothy Keeler "lying northwest of the spring called and known by ye name of Rocky Spring." A year later, the proprietors granted Joseph Lees 12 acres "below Rocky Spring" and Joseph Keeler, 12 acres "on Rocky Neck."
Neither deed located the land and 1728 was the last mention of Rocky Spring. However, a 1733 grant from the proprietors to Joseph Keeler described the 28 acres as "on ye west and east sides of his land at Rocky Neck," and bounded on the "west by ye Oblong." The Oblong was the colony line with New York.
A 1751 deed mentions "Rockey Neck" and in 1770, the selectmen laid out a highway "at Rocky Neck," running from the New York line northeasterly, and north of Gamaliel Northrup's saw mill. Other records indicate this mill was on West Mountain somewhere around Oscaleta Road.
A 1773 deed mentions 57 acres "lying on the south side of the highway from Salem to Rocky Neck and...in the line that divides the governments." Salem was South Salem, and the road was either today's Pumping Station Road or the old West Mountain Road - Oscaleta Road. And thereabouts must have been the location of Rocky Neck.
A neck is a narrow projection or connection of land, and the term is usually used for land projecting into or through water. However, just as Ridgefield had "islands" in the 18th Century, it had necks - probably high land that jutted into a swamp. In this case the swamp was most likely Pumping Station Swamp, traversed by Pumping Station Road and off the west side of Oscaleta Road. The neck was probably one of the several projections of land into that swamp.
Rocky Neck is not an unusual name and it's found in many Connecticut communities. One of the most popular of our state parks, Rocky Neck, is situated on Long Island Sound in East Lyme.
The last mention of Rocky Neck in our land records was an 1805 deed.
ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, ROAD
Rolling Hills Road is a short, dead-end road off Nursery Road and was part of Rolling Hills Estates, a subdivision of 25 one-acre lots on 35 acres off Still Road.
Lewis J. Finch, a Ridgefield builder and real estate broker who subdivided the property in 1964, said he named the place for the "gently rolling hills" thereabouts. Mr. Finch has often used the characteristic of elevation in subdivision titles: Ridgefield Hills, Chestnut Hills, Colonial Heights, and Franklin Heights, for examples.
Rolling Hills Estates also includes Mill View Terrace.
ROLLING RIDGE ROAD
Rolling Ridge Road is a dead-end road off Old Stagecoach Road and is part of the Ridgefield Knolls subdivision, developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Robert Kaufman.
According to Edgar P. Bickford, the surveyor of the project, the road was named for the terrain.
Rolling Hills Road and Rolling Ridge Road are more examples of road names that cause problems - sometimes serious - because of their similarity. They are easily confused, a fact that can be deadly if an ambulance is mistakenly sent to Rolling Hills Road, nearly five miles away from Rolling Ridge Road.
Roscoe Road is a previous name of today's Pin Pack Road, an old highway dating from before 1850.
The name reflected a family that lived many years in that vicinity and perhaps specifically to the family of Harry Roscoe, who lived there early in the 20th Century.
It's an old family name in Ridgefield and one with several variations. A "Jane Rusco" lived in town by 1783, according to the land records. An "Allan Rasco" lived in that part of town in 1850 and the name Rasco appeared in 1870s deeds.
It is not clear when the road began being called Roscoe, nor is it clear why it was changed to Pin Pack Road, reportedly to reflect the fact that a peddler - who carried his wares in a pin pack - lived along the road.
A 1952 deed involving the Le Grand estate uses "Roscoe Road," but another deed for the same land in 1954 says "Pin Pack Road."
One of the least known roads in Ridgefield is Ross Lane, a little, private, dead-end lane off Griffin Hill Road (which in turn runs off Fire Hill Road) in the extreme eastern part of town on the Redding line.
Virginia Mulligan subdivided that area into tiny lots in the 1920s. In 1925, Frederick W. Ross bought six of the lots (for a total of $374). His ownership is probably the source of the name.
Years ago Round Hill was a well-known locality in the southwestern part of town. Today, it's a barely known name.
Round Hill appears as early as 1726 when the proprietors gave Lt. Samuel Saintjohn two acres "on or near ye Southwest Ridge Road by ye Round Hill so called..."
In 1739, Saintjohn sold an acre to John Joyce, describing it as "lying near ye Round Hill, so called, southeasterly of ye road leading to ye Southwest Ridges."
Two years later, Nathan Saintjohn took out a mortgage with the colony government on seven acres "near a place called ye Round Hill," bounded on the west "by ye Oblong line so called." He could get a government loan because he planned to use the land for something badly needed by the colony: he promised to produce "hemp, duck, or canvass." Quite possibly, he would be growing a close relative of what we today call marijuana - or perhaps Cannabis sativa itself.
These and other deeds suggest that Round Hill is the hill now occupied chiefly by the Silver Spring Country Club, situated between lower West Lane (Southwest Ridges Road) and Silver Spring Road, and atop which stands the country club's clubhouse.
The name continues to appear in deeds until 1799.
ROUND LAKE ROAD
Round Lake Road runs from Barrack Hill Road to near the shore of Round Pond where it dead ends. It was developed in the 1950s.
The road was named for Round Pond by someone who apparently felt that "lake" sounds better than pond and perhaps that lake would sell houses better than pond. Or perhaps the name was more consistent with the name of the subdivision: Eight Lakes Estates.
Ridgefield has had two - perhaps three - Round Mountains, but only one remains in town.
The name appears in many 18th Century deeds for land in the New Patent. The "mountain," about 1,025 feet above sea level and equal to Ridgefield's highest hills, is situated in western Danbury, north of Bogg's Pond and about a mile north of I-84, and west of Middle River Road.
The term was in use as early as the 1730s. In 1786, Ebenezer Craw paid 35 pounds to Thomas Kellogg for 38 acres "southwest of Round Mountain together with the house standing thereon, reserving only the privilege of raising and keeping a pond of water on the premises for the purpose of carrying on a saw mill for the space of 30 years."
According to a 1798 deed, there was an "Upper Round Mountain" near Corner Pond at the extreme northwest corner of today's Danbury.
Both of these localities were in territory acquired by Ridgefield in the early 18th Century, but which became part of Danbury in 1846.
Nonetheless, we still have a Round Mountain in town. According to the U.S. Geological Survey maps published since 1946, the site of Scotland School and the Ridgefield Recreation Center is called Round Mountain. The name, applying to this 620-foot-high hill, is not found in 18th or 19th Century deeds.
Round Pond is one of the few natural bodies of water in Ridgefield and, at 32 acres, is the second largest. At 778 feet above sea level, it is also the highest.
The pond was so-called at least by 1721 when it was mentioned in the settlers' third purchase from the Indians. Its early uses included being a source of stored water for at least one saw mill, and as a place to fish.
Apparently, however, by 1817, the pond was being fished out. In the Ridgefield's first recorded effort at conservation, the Town Meeting that spring voted "that no person or persons shall draw any sein or seins, use or employ any hook, pot, or other implement by which fish are or may be caught or taken, in the Round Pond, so called...for the term of two years from and after the 1st day of April, AD 1817, under penalty of $10 for every fish so taken or caught." A year later, the fishing ban was extended indefinitely.
Early in this century, the pond was one of several used as a source of ice for the community's ice boxes. An ice house existed on its shore as late as 1927.
It was in the early 1900s that the spring-fed pond became a reservoir for the Ridgefield Water Supply Company. At that time virtually no houses stood in its watershed. Today, there are plenty, most of them built in the Eight Lakes subdivision.
Of course, Round Pond is so called because it is rather round in shape. It is a typical new England place name, using a terrain characteristic as its inspiration.
That shape comes from the geologic formation that created it. Round Pond fills a "kettle." Kettles are created when a glacier recedes, leaving occasion large isolated masses of buried ice. As the ice gradually melts and the ground above it slowly sinks, a bowl-like depression forms. Here, a spring and a relatively small watershed has filled it with water.
At the turn of the century, someone tried to take the Round out of the Pond, renaming it "Lake Oreneca," apparently feeling "Round" lacked class. Fortunately, the effort didn't succeed and Ridgefielders stuck to the age-old name.
There has also been no luck for those who would call it "Round Lake." At 32 acres, a "lake" it's not.
Deeds in 1750 and 1807 mention "Round Pond Brook," evidently the outlet stream that flows southwesterly across the New York state line and into Lakes Rippowam and Oscaleta. From there the water travels westward and into the New York City water supply at Cross River Reservoir.
Thus, a single pond serves water needs of two communities: one a huge metropolis and the other a comparatively tiny country suburb.
Rowland Lane, a short, dead-end road off East Ridge, was named for Joseph Rowland, who lived there and who developed the houses along the road. He began building in that neighborhood around 1940. The lane became a town road in 1951.
Joseph Samuel Rowland, who died in 1962, was a contractor who during the first half of this century, built many houses in town. "He was able to put up a house much cheaper than others," said the late Leo F. Carroll, a former first selectman.
He was a native of Weston where he met his wife, Alice, who was a school teacher. They married and moved here in 1913. (The old Rowland homestead in Weston was later owned by Eva LaGallienne, the actress.)
Better known, perhaps, than Joseph was his wife, Alice V. MacSherry Rowland, who served in the state House of Representatives from 1931 to 1935 and in the Senate from 1943 to 1951. She was Ridgefield's first female legislator in the General Assembly and was also the state of Connecticut's first woman deputy sheriff.
Mrs. Rowland was active in many political and civic organizations and once ran for secretary of the state at a Republican convention. She died in 1971.
ROYALL OAK RIDGE
Royall Oak Ridge is a fascinating name that appears in one deed and on one early map.
The deed, from the very early 1700s, was from the proprietors and said: "Granted to Ebenezer Smith...on account of yet Five Acre Division, lying in yet Southwest Ridges, ye 12th Lott, lying on ye lower end of ye Royall Oak Ridge..."
The map, drawn sometime in the 1700s, shows the above-mentioned Five Acre Division, a subdivision of lots handed out to the proprietors or founders of the town. Royall Oak, in big bold letters, appears right alongside Ebenezer Smith's lot.
Most of the Southwest Ridges is in what is now Lewisboro, N.Y. - Ridgefield lost this territory to New York in the 1731 "Oblong" exchange in which Connecticut got Greenwich. The Southwest Ridges included land along Route 123 and Elmwood Road in Lewisboro, and west of Silver Spring Road in Ridgefield. It is quite likely that Royall Oak Ridge is now in New York State.
But where did the name come from? We have found no record of a species of oak being known years ago as royal oak. More likely the name had to do with the trees on this ridge being set aside by the British government for government use, such as for planks or masts on naval ships. Thus, the trees belonged to the king and were often identified by a "king's mark" cut into the bark. However, aside from the appearance of this name, there is no local record of such reserved trees being located here.
The name is unusual. Among the 25,000 localities listed in Hughes and Allen's Connecticut Place Names, not one has a "royal" in it.
RUSTIC DRIVE, ROAD
Rustic Drive and Road are part of the Ridgefield Lakes community. Rustic Road runs from Bennett's Farm Road to Mountain Road while Rustic Drive goes from Rustic Road to Madeline Drive. The name reflects the character of the territory.