Entire contents copyrighted 2005 by Jack Sanders. Reproduction without permission is forbidden.
SADDLE RIDGE ROAD
Saddle Ridge Road is a short, private accessway that shows up on some maps as running off Regan Road to a dead end. It was apparently created by Joan, Carrel and Grace Conley in 1964 when it first shows up in the land records.
ST. GEORGE'S SPRING
St. George's Spring, reported the Rev. Adelmar Bryon of Shady, N.Y., is off the north side of Barrack Hill Road in the valley of what is now Levy Park.
Around the turn of the century, his father, Dr. B. A. Bryon, a physician, used to bottle and market this spring's water, which he called St. George's Water - perhaps because it made one feel dragon-slaying strong. Dr. Bryon, as in Bryon Avenue - a neighborhood he developed, built a springhouse over the water source, which came to be known by the name of his product.
ST. JOHNS ROAD
St. Johns Road is an old highway that runs from Wilton Road West southerly to Silver Spring Road. It probably dates from the 18th Century and may have originally been a farm path to skirt the east side of Silver Spring Swamp (then called the New Pound Bogs). As such it would have served as an access to not only the backs of the lots of Wilton Road farms, but also to the swamp, an important source of wildfowl and wild flora, such as cranberries.
The road was named for the St. John family that lived along it. At first, it was probably known as "the road to the St. Johns," but it was simpler to say just St. Johns Road.
Incidentally, the "s" at the end of St. Johns is not possessive. The St. John clan probably never owned the road and certainly doesn't today; it is a plural, indicating more than one St. John lived along it. It is St. Johns Road, just as the road to Ridgebury is Ridgebury Road, not Ridgebury's Road.
In the mid-1800s, the St. Johns of the neighborhood included J. N. St. John, whose home and farm included the present Table Rock Estates subdivision on the east side of the road north of Donnelly Drive.
Just when the St. Johns came to the neighborhood has not been ascertained, but they were probably there in the 1700s. The were certainly there by 1815 when Samuel St. John of Wilton bought land "near Flat Rock" and bounded by property of several people who lived in the St. Johns Road area.
Although it no longer appears on voter lists or in telephone books, St. John is an old Ridgefield name and its members were among the first settlers of Ridgefield. The proprietors included Captain Samuel, Matthias, and Matthew "Saintjohn."
The St. Johns came to this land from London in the early 1600s, settling first in Dorchester, Mass., and then in Windsor, Wethersfield, and Norwalk, Conn. It was a big family in Norwalk, where most of our early settlers came from and where St. Johns were living by 1640. Norwalk records list the name variously as "Sension," "Sention," "Senchion," or "Saintjohn" - giving, incidentally, an excellent indication of how it was pronounced in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
One historian of Norwalk believes that the St. Johns of Norwalk were related to the British Attorney-General St. John, who married a daughter of Oliver Cromwell and followed his fortunes during his reign.
SALEM VIEW DRIVE
Salem View Drive runs off the east side lower Spring Valley Road, serving a 23-acre subdivision approved in 1990, called Highview Farm.
Developer Colonial Homes Inc. of New Canaan selected the name to reflect the fact that the property looks across the Spring Valley to North Salem, N.Y.
Back in the 18th Century, the towns of North Salem and Lewisboro were one community, called Salem. The word, Salem, ultimately stems from the Hebrew for "peace," so the name might be said to have a double meaning.
Salem was first used in this country as the name for the place where the Pilgrims settled. The Indians had called the place Naumkeag, meaning "comfort-haven." The Pilgrims believed one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel had left the Indian name behind. "This suggestion of a Hebrew original may have led to the adopting in 1629 of a Hebrew name of commendatory quality, taken to mean 'peace,' though also a shortening of Jerusalem," wrote George R. Stewart in his American Place Names. "The fame of the original town and the commendatory qualities from a religious point of view have resulted in about 35 towns so named."
Sanfords' Pond is situated in the southwestern corner of Danbury, just north of Interstate 84 and very near the New York state line. This territory belonged to Ridgefield from the 1740s until 1846.
The name appears on the current U.S. Geological Survey maps, although it has had many names over the years, including Andrews Pond and Whiting's Pond.
The current official name stemmed from ancient adjoining landowners. In 1824, while the territory was in Ridgefield, the estate of the late David Meeker sold Daniel Sanford of Redding land "in the Hollow at Ridgebury." A year later, Daniel Sanford sold David Sanford a half interest in 30 acres and buildings in Ridgebury, bounded on the north by a pond and river.
Thus, two Sanfords were the source of the pond name, which explains the "s" spelling which is apparently not a corruption of a possessive "s." However, the name could probably also be spelled Sanfords' Pond.
Sanford Station was a mid-19th Century railroad stop on the extreme western edge of Redding at the Ridgefield line. Consequently, the neighborhood - including some territory in Ridgefield - became known as Sanford Station or just plain Sanford.
The 1934 Ridgefield assessors' map says that Simpaug Turnpike, which runs from Route 7 in Ridgefield up to and past this locality, was once called Sanford Station Road.
Sanford Station, which appears as Sanfords Station on the Beers 1867 map, was probably so called because many members of the Sanford family lived in that neck of the woods. Beers shows at least three Sanford houses nearby.
A Sanford in Redding was like a Kelly in Dublin. The Sanfords were no doubt the biggest clan in the long history of Redding, and many still live in the town. They stem from an early American family. Thomas and Dorothy Sanford of Gloucester, England, arrived in this land by 1634, settling near Boston, but soon moving to Milford, Conn., where Thomas died in 1681. His eldest son, Ezekiel, was living by 1665 in Fairfield, parent town of Redding. His son, Ezekiel Jr., had many children, three of whom - Lemuel, Samuel and Ephraim - had settled in Redding by 1734.
Over the years, Sanfords held every office imaginable in town. The first selectman from 1962 to 1967 was J. Bartlett Sanford, who was succeeded by Jesse Sanford, literally Bart's "16th cousin, once removed," who was in office until 1977.
As a station name, Sanford, was a loser. According to Herbert Bronson and his aunt, the late Emma Goeppler, oldtime residents of that area, the title was changed to Topstone Station around 1910 after years of the station's being confused with Stamford. Mail, freight and even people often got off at the wrong stop.
"Imagine riding a train and expecting to get off in Stamford and winding up in the wild country," said Jesse Sanford in a 1980 interview.
SARAH BISHOP ROAD
Sarah Bishop Road at the Chestnut Hills subdivision in Ridgebury runs off Parley Road in two directions to two dead ends.
The road was named for Sarah Bishop, the hermitess, who lived nowhere near Chestnut Hills. Lewis J. Finch, developer of the 1959 subdivision, said he selected the name because, like Parley Road, it recognized an interesting character from Ridgefield's past.
Sarah Bishop lived in a tiny cave in the side of West Mountain in Lewisboro, N.Y., just across the Ridgefield line westward of Oreneca Road and the old Girl Scout camp. She arrived during the Revolution, no one knows why. Several legends explain her appearance. One said she was in love with a sea captain who deserted her. Another said that shortly before her wedding day, British troops invaded her Long Island home and a soldier raped her. Full of shame, she ran away to this cave from which, on a clear day, she could see Long Island and the place where she spent her girlhood days.
Sarah Bishop subsisted on gifts of food, on wild plants, and on a small garden she kept near her cave, which was little more than a hollow in some rocks. A reporter who visited her in 1804 said a few peach trees, some hills of beans, cucumbers and potatoes grew in a nearby clearing. There were also said to be many grape vines nearby.
She also got some necessities from kind-hearted people on West Mountain and in Ridgefield and South Salem, whose villages she periodically visited.
A religious woman, Sarah Bishop sometimes attended services at the First Congregational Church here or the Presbyterian Church in South Salem. At the home of Jared Hoyt in South Salem, she kept some fine dresses from her youth. She would come down from the mountain, dress at his house, attend church, and return to the house to change back into her "rags."
One of the few places she visited in Ridgefield village was the home of the Rev. Samuel G. Goodrich of the First Congregational Church. The house still stands on High Ridge at the head of Parley Lane. His son. S. G. Goodrich (whose pen name was Peter Parley) remembered as a boy seeing her. "This strange woman was no mere amateur recluse. The rock - bare and desolate - was actually her home, except that occasionally she strayed to the neighboring villages, seldom being absent more than one or two days at a time. She never begged, but received such articles as were given to her.
"She was of a highly religious turn of mind, and at long intervals came to our church and partook of the sacrament. She sometimes visited our family - the only one thus favored in town - and occasionally remained over night. She never would eat with us at the table, nor engage in general conversation.
"Upon her early history she was invariably silent; indeed, she spoke of her affairs with great reluctance. She neither seemed to have sympathy for others, nor ask it in return. If there was any exception, it was only in respect to the religious exercises of the family; she listened intently to the reading of the Bible and joined with apparent devotion in the morning and evening prayer.
"I have very often seen this eccentric personage stealing into church, or moving along the street, or wending her way through land and footpath up to her mountain home. She always appeared desirous of escaping notice, and though her step was active, she had a gliding movement, which seemed to ally her to the spirit world."
Sarah Bishop died in 1810. According to George L. Rockwell, "the generally accepted story is that one stormy night, she left the house of one of the neighbors, who lived on the corner of the road leading up to the mountain. Wending her way up the steep mountainside to her cave, she fell, and too weak to continue her way, perished from the cold.
"She was found among the rocks a short distance from her cave. Joseph Knapp, who lived near the state line, has related (sometime before 1927) to his grandson, Eben Bouton, that he was one of those who discovered her lifeless body."
She was buried in an unmarked grave in North Salem.
In 1908, Dr. Maurice Enright, a physician who maintained a summer place here, wrote a paperback novel, The Ridgefield Tavern, A Romance of Sarah Bishop, Hermitess, During the American Revolution. The novel cast Sarah Bishop as the daughter of the operator of the Keeler Tavern ("Ridgefield Tavern"), a photograph of which appears in the book. The account is, of course, fictional.
While it took until 1959 to get a place name recalling the hermitess, an old, albeit very local, name related to her. In 1869, James and Henrietta Thompson and others sold to their Mother, Charity Knapp, and sister, Dulia Knapp, several parcels, including "one situated wholly or in part in the state of New York, called 'Sarah Bishop's Lot.'"
The land records may also have recognized the existence of the cave, which was once within the boundaries of Ridgefield (before the Oblong was ceded to New York in 1731). In 1730, the proprietors subdivided the land of Tapporneck, an Indian who had sold his holdings to the Ridgefielders. In the division, Benjamin Benedict got 60 acres "west of ye cave." Quite possibly, it was the cave that Sarah Bishop was to find a half century later.
Much has been written about the hermitess in histories, newspapers and literature. Perhaps the most literate or, at least, entertaining work came from the pen of S.G. Goodrich, who as Peter Parley, published the following poem in a Hartford newspaper in 1823. Read it aloud on Halloween night.
For many a year the mountain hag
Was a theme of village wonder,
For she made her home on the dizzy crag
where the eagle bore its plunder.
Up the beetling cliff she was seen at night
Like a ghost to glide away;
But she came again with the morning light
From the forest wild and gray.
Her face was wrinkled, and passionless seem'd,
As her bosom - all blasted and dead -
And her colorless eye like an icicle gleam'd,
Yet no sorrow or sympathy shed.
Her long snowy locks, as the winter drift,
On the wind were backward cast;
And her shrivel'd form glided by so swift,
You had said 'Twere a ghost that pass'd.
Her house was a cave in a giddy rock
That o'erhung a lonesome vale;
And 'twas deeply scarr'd by the lightning's shock
And swept by vengeful gale.
As alone on the cliff she musingly sate -
The fox at her fingers would snap;
The crow would sit on her snow-white pate,
And the rattlesnake coil in her lap.
The night-hawk look'd down with a welcome eye
As he stoop'd in his airy swing;
And the haughty eagle hover'd so nigh
As to fan her long locks with his wing.
But when winter roll'd dark his sullen wave
From the west with gusty shock,
Old Sarah, deserted, crept cold to her cave
And slept without bed in her rock.
No fire illumined her dismal den,
Yet a tatter'd Bible she read;
For she saw in the dark with a wizard ken,
And talk'd with the troubled dead.
And often she mutter'd a foreign name,
With curses too fearful to tell,
And a tale of horror - of madness and shame -
She told to the walls of her cell!
Saunders Lane is a dead-end road off Farmingville Road nearly opposite the Farmingville School.
The road was named by and for P. K. Saunders, a well-to-do Englishman who was president of the Saunders Valve Company of America, in whose name he subdivided the property.
A former British naval officer, member of Parliament and an author, Mr. Saunders bought the Starr estate, whose house is at the corner of Farmingville and Lounsbury Roads, in 1949. Almost immediately, he began plans for the 14-lot Saunders Lane subdivision. The name of the road was in use by 1950 when houses were being built there.
Oddly enough, one of the Saunders Lane housebuilders in the 1960s was William Saunders of Brookfield, no relation to P. K. Saunders Lane became a town road in 1961.
SAW MILL BROOK
Saw Mill Brook, mentioned only once in the 18th and 19th Century land records, is one of several "saw mill" names in Ridgefield and one of many in Connecticut and New England. All recall a common feature of an earlier life that has almost but not quite disappeared in the modern suburbs.
In 1775, the town records noted that a road was laid out through Joseph Jackson's land, a little south of David Hayt's house, "running on the east side of the Saw Mill Brook," and on down to the Norwalk (Wilton) line, where it met a highway recently laid out by the Norwalk selectmen.
In return for the confiscated land, Jackson received 19 acres on the east side of "the river" and east of his farm. The road was probably what is now Route 7, more or less, and Saw Mill Brook was probably somewhere in today's Branchville. It could have been a local name for the Norwalk River or for a little side spur off the river leading to a mill sluice. It could have referred to the Cooper Brook, which comes down from Florida District and meets the Norwalk River opposite the east end of Branchville Road. Cooper Brook had an old and widely known saw mill operation upstream, but it's generally a west-to-east stream; it is hard to imagine land being described as on its east side.
Quite possibly the first "industry" and first "factory" in Ridgefield was a sawmill. Certainly lumber was needed before almost anything else in the settlement of the new town and while big structural pieces like beams and posts could be hewn by hand and clapboards could be "riven" (see under Sturdevant's Clapboard Tree Ridge), floorboards and wallboards and clapboards had to be sawn. Milling wood on or near the construction sites was a lot easier than hauling it long distances.
The earliest sawing arrangement here was probably a pit and a long pit saw, held on each end by a man or "sawyer." One man would be in the pit and one standing over it, slicing up and down as the log was fed into the long, band-like blade. This was slow and hard work and it was probably not long before a mechanized version of this set-up was in operation, quite possibly at the south end of a pond that formerly existed at the intersection of Wilton Road East and Whipstick Road.
The earliest mechanical mill would have had a single blade moving up and down, powered by water flowing through a sluice and turning a wheel which, through gears and a piston-like arrangement, moved the saw. These "up-and-down saw mills," as they were known, later improved their production several fold by using four or five blades together in a "gang," slicing several planks instead of one.
Eventually, the faster, longer-lasting and more efficient circular saw blade replaced most of the up-and-down blades.
Mills of these types needed water for power and since Ridgefield was gifted with many streams, good sites were available for mills. Just upstream from most mills was a pond, used to store water and provide an even, powerful flow of it.
Inspection of the land records between 1708 and 1880 indicates that at least 20 saw mills were operated here for varying lengths of time during those 170 years. Virtually every neighborhood had a mill at one time or another, although in later years, most of them had gotten farther from the center of town as the sources of wood became limited to remoter sections of West Mountain and Ridgebury.
By the mid-1800s, there may have been some mills that made use of the new marvel, steam power. Possibly the first steam engine in town was in operation in 1834 in the Main Street furniture-making shop of Samuel Hawley and Rufus H. Pickett, but it was used to power lathes. Just when steam power arrived at saw mills here is unknown, but water power continued to be used into the early 20th Century.
In the late 1800s, "portable" saw mills, usually steam powered, became popular in New England. They could be set up right at the woodcutting site.
Today, several saw mills are still in the area - one in Bethel and one at the Ridgefield-Redding line on Route 7. They are powered by that new-fangled energy source - electricity.
SAW MILL HILL ROAD
Saw Mill Hill Road runs from North Salem Road at Titicus to Pin Pack Road and Mulberry Street. While it is an old highway with an old-fashioned name, neither Saw Mill Hill nor Saw Mill Hill Road predates 1880 as names in the land records, and they were probably 20th Century creations.
The road was named for a sawmill which was once operated, possibly by Will F. Hoyt, a carpenter, at a point near where the Titicus River crosses under Saw Mill Hill Road. Several mills, including a cider mill and a gristmill, were operated farther downstream near North Salem Road.
The road was laid out in 1772 when the proprietors took land from Epenetus How(e) so the road ran on "ye west side of ye brook near Daniel Brown's house and runs eastward across ye old stone dam that was built across sd. brook, and then sd. highway turns southeast about 16 rods, then east six rods to ye top of ye hill, then 24 rods a northeasterly course down ye hill to Tittecus so called at the bridge yt crosseth Tittecus River near sd. How's land."
It is one of the few old roads in town whose date of official creation is known - although it's quite possible that the proprietors' action was making official an informal path that had existed for a while.
SAW MILL POND
Saw Mill Pond was a common term, having been applied to almost any body of water that had been associated with a sawmill. Among the references to Saw Mill Ponds found in the land records are:
* Lewis Knapp to Peter Johnson, "the Rock Lot...in the 11th (Florida) School District," bounded on the south by highway and "Saw Mill Pond" (1866). This was probably John's Pond (q.v.) along Branchville Road.
* John Sherwood to Jabez Mix Gilbert, land on West Mountain, bounded westerly by "the Saw Mill Pond" (1839). This was probably Lower Pond (q.v.). In Lewis Stuart to Jabez Gilbert (1852), Gilbert gets use of "Upper Pond and the Saw Mill Pond." The accompanying mortgage says he gets the "privileges of drawing water from the Upper and Lower Ponds." Lower Pond, now a third the size it was then, is situated along Saw Mill Hill Road below Robert's Pond.
* Bradley H. Hull of Bridgeport to George Hull of Danbury, 17 acres bounded easterly by the Sugar Hollow Turnpike Road and the Saw Mill Pond (1862). This is probably the pond along Route 7, just north of Cain's Hill Road and south of New Road. A Bradley Hull was operating a sawmill thereabouts by 1802.
SAW MILL RIVER
The Saw Mill River, really little more than a brook, flows out of a swamp west and south of Turner Road in the northwest corner of Ridgebury, then runs northward into Danbury along Saw Mill Road (q.v.) and into New York State and its reservoirs.
SAW MILL ROAD
Only a few feet of Saw Mill Road, which goes from Turner Road in Ridgebury to Routes 6, 302 and I-84 in Danbury, are in the Town of Ridgefield. The sawmill for which it was named was near Route 6, built sometime between 1767 and 1799 and operated by William Nickerson in 1801.
SAW MILL SWAMP
When Samuel J. Hoyt sold Ebenezer Hoyt four acres in 1824, he said it was "in the Saw Mill Swamp...subject to its usual pondage." This stipulation indicates that the swamp was seasonally filled, possibly to support the old sawmill. This pond may have been John's Pond, mentioned above.
In 1728, the proprietors transferred to minister Thomas Hauley 11 acres "lying on ye north end of Saxifax or Sassifrage Ridge, so called..."
The grant was "on account of ye 3rd 10 Acre Division," which was a subdivision among the proprietors of land purchased from Tapporneck, the Indian, on West Mountain (see Tapporneck Court). This territory is now mostly in New York state and undoubtedly so is the ridge.
What is "saxifax" or "sassifrage"? Saxifrage is a common wildflower that inhabits rocky places and likely existed in this area. However, saxifrage was of little or no value as a herb and was noted chiefly for its habit of growing out of cracks in rocks (saxifrage means "rock breaker," though the plants don't actually break the rocks). Thus, it was not a significant plant and the naming of a ridge after it seems unusual, especially since our early settlers rarely employed plant names - except those of trees - to identify localities.
More likely, the deed-writer was trying to spell sassafras, also common in our hilly woods, but a tree which had considerable value years ago.
"Sassafras is a tree very closely associated with America, although few are now aware of its history," wrote the late Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood. "As the early American wonder drug, it was our first money crop and object-in-trade of the first American cartel. In 1622, the Jamestown Colony was committed by the Crown to produce 30 tons of sassafras, with a penalty of 10 pounds of tobacco on each man who did not produce 100 pounds of it."
How had this native tree become so popular in England so early in this nation's history? That is probably traceable to an event in the 1580s involving an unhappy group of colonists. Reports Sloane:
"An incident occurred in Roanoke that really captured the public imagination. It concerned a group of Virginians who had traveled far beyond the camp where their food was stored and were, therefore, reduced to eating their dogs, cooked in a soup of sassafras. When their dogs were all eaten, the Virginians lived on sassafras soup alone, which was reported to give them a strange new vitality.
"When Sir Francis Drake visited Roanoke in 1586 and brought some half-starved colonists back with him, he also brought back a load of sassafras, livened by the tale of 'the wondrous root, which kept the starving alive and in fair goode spirit.'"
The bark of the root of this medium-sized, deciduous tree became a popular tonic tea in England and trade reached its peak when rumors were spread that sassafras retarded the onset of old age.
The American Indians, of course, had discovered it long before the English, and had employed sassafras as a fever reducer. They also carved out trunks of the trees - which usually run about 80 feet high but can go to 125 feet - for dug-out canoes.
Colonists and Europeans used the bark to treat rheumatism, gout, arthritis, skin problems, and a host of other ailments. They made spoons and mugs from its wood, believing they would impart a fine taste to drinks. Bible boxes and cradle walls were fashioned from it in the hopes of keeping away evil spirits. Women of the 17th and 18th Centuries obtained a yellow dye from the tree's flowers.
The Pennsylvania Dutch used to stir their soap with a sassafras stick, probably in the hope that the product would smell more like sweet sassafras and less like rancid fat and lye. In more modern times, safrole, an oil found in sassafras, was used in making root beer - until the Food and Drug Administration banned it as a carcinogen.
SCHOOL HOUSE MEADOW
From 1840 until at least 1866, several references appeared in the land records to the "School House Meadow," two acres at the northwest corner of Florida Hill and Florida Roads.
The meadow, now woodland, was near the old Florida Schoolhouse, the town's only 19th Century brick schoolhouse, which stood a little west of this parcel.
School House Meadow is an example of some of the delightful place names of a bygone era, names that couldn't be concocted today. Not only have most of the meadows disappeared from our landscape, but so have the little neighborhood schoolhouses - now represented by an occasional restoration or a building converted to another use.
Schoolhouse Place is a dead-end road off northern Ridgebury Road, serving Paul McNamara's 1981 seven-lot subdivision of the former Lee B. Wood property.
When he proposed the subdivision to the Planning and Zoning Commission, Attorney McNamara suggested that the road be called Woods Court, a double-meaning name that zoning officials thought would be too easily confused with roads like Woodland Way, Woodlawn Drive, Woodstone Road, and Woody Place.
This writer was asked for his thoughts and he reported that Circusman Aaron Turner used to own that property in the 19th Century and, some say, kept elephants and other wild animals on or near the tract. In fact, elephants are supposed to have been buried on or near the Wood property.
So, half in jest, "Pachyderm Place" was suggested.
Too ponderous, came the reply.
Maybe "Three Ring Circle"? someone else suggested.
A zoning official suggested Big Top Lane, but that sounded too much like a loaf of bread.
Finally, Commissioner Daniel M. McKeon, a longtime Ridgeburian and student of its history, came to the rescue with Schoolhouse Place. Mr. McKeon noted that the new road would connect to Ridgebury Road very near the site of the old North Ridgebury Schoolhouse, then represented only by the ruins of a foundation.
So Schoolhouse, it was. In 1985, the 690-foot-long road was accepted as a town road.
North Ridgebury was probably one of the last school districts to get a schoolhouse. Beers' 1867 map shows no schoolhouse there, although there were district lines, suggesting that for a long times, residents of this district had sent their children to a schoolhouse to the north in nearby Danbury (until 1846 part of Ridgefield).
In 1871, the estate of Aaron Turner, who had died by then, sold to "School District Number 15 of Ridgefield" an eight-by-10 rod (half acre) tract on the west side Ridgebury Road with the proviso that the school district make and keep forever "a tight stone fence five feet high" between the Turner land and the schoolhouse land.
It is not clear whether the fence was supposed to keep school children off the Turner land or Turner animals away from the school children. It was probably the latter so the Turner estate would not be liable for one of its farm animals' hurting a child. If ever the fence were not maintained, the land was to revert to the Turner estate or its heirs.
This deed probably represented the purchase of land for the schoolhouse, which was probably built shortly thereafter. The schoolhouse was used until early in this century.
Determining the true and clear owner of the now-fenceless parcel might take a passel of lawyers years to uncover.
Scodon Drive runs from George Washington Highway to Sophia Drive, taking the name from the development of which it is a part.
Scodon is a 1958 subdivision of 57 lots on the south side of George Washington Highway. The developers and namesakes were the Carleton A. Scofield and Joseph H. Donnelly. Mr. Scofield was a former president of the Ridgefield Bank while Mr. Donnelly was the first man to set up a full-time practice of law in the town, starting in 1931. His firm is now called Donnelly, McNamara, and Gustafson.
Judge Donnelly, a former judge of probate, was involved in several subdivisions, the last of which was along North Salem Road at the New York line includes O'Neill and Tapornick Courts. His name is already on two other road names: Donnelly Drive and Marcardon Avenue (Mar is Francis D. Martin and Car, Arthur J. Carnall).
Scodon was developed in two sections that include Scodon, Langstroth and Sophia Drives. A third section, called Scodon III and situated west of the original development, was subdivided in the early 1970s by Jerry Tuccio and developed largely by Carl Lecher. It includes Pheasant Lane and Evergreen Place.
Between Scodon and Scodon III lie about 30 acres of open space, now owned by the Conservation Commission, the result of Mr. Tuccio's subdividing Scodon III under the then-new "Planned Residential Development" regulations of the Planning and Zoning Commission, which allow smaller than usual lots if sizable tracts of open space are preserved.
In fact, Scodon III was the first commercial subdivision of any consequence to be approved under the PRD provisions. The town got and long known to be a habitat for wildfowl - especially the pheasant for which the nearby road is named.
An easement connects the Scodon III open space to the nearby western end of the town-owned Hemlock Hills refuge (former Lippolt land). Hemlock Hills in turn connects to the Pine Mountain refuge, which connects to Wooster Mountain State Park in Danbury. Thus, one can enter the Scodon III open space near the western end of George Washington Highway and hike through more than 500 acres of public lands for more than three miles over some wild terrain, ending on Route 7 in Danbury.
Scotland is a section of town whose names has little or nothing to do with the British Isles nation. Once also called Scotts Ridge, Scotland consists generally of the neighborhood around Lake Mamanasco and Pierrepont Pond.
The earliest reference to its present name occurred in an 1835 deed in which Phebe, Mary, Ann, and Laura Burt of New York City sold James Scott two acres "in Scotland District so called."
The name Scotland may just have been coming into use by the 1830s. Another name, Scotts Ridge, was more widely used. From 1843 to 1864, at least six references to Scotts Ridge are found in the land records, but not one mentioning Scotland District. Indeed, Beers atlas in 1868 labels the school district as "Scotts Ridge." However, in 1878, in his History of Ridgefield, the Rev. Daniel Teller is calling it Scotland District. Scotts Ridge was specifically the ridge traversed by North Salem Road between the northern end of Tackora Trail and Ridgebury Road, but a wider area picked up the name.
The Beers map defines the boundaries of Scotts Ridge District (also long called District Number One) as running along the east side of North Street from around today's Mimosa, northward to Twixt Hills, then westward along the north side of Ledges Road and on to the New York State line. The south boundary, starting from the state line, ran southeasterly along the old Barrack Hill Road to Old West Mountain Road, then cut easterly across Tackora Trail and North Salem Road, a little north of their southern junction, and on over to North Street.
This map also shows four houses still owned or occupied by Scotts in the district: Hezekiah Scott and "Mrs. Scott" on Barlow Mountain Road, T. O. Scott in the little old pre-Revolutionary house still standing on the corner of North Salem and Barlow Mountain Roads, and a house a little north on North Salem Road, labeled as belonging to the estate of D. (David?) Scott.
Scotts came to Ridgefield in 1712 when David Scott I of Fairfield bought lot number 13 on Main Street. It is believed that David came from Ireland, for in 1719, Mary Scott, his wife, described as coming from Londonderry, Ireland, was suing her husband in Fairfield County Court. (However, at least David's family may ultimately have been from Scotland. As early as 1612, many Scots had begun migrating from Argyleshire, Scotland, to the Londonderry area to settle land recently made available by James I. By the early 1700s, many of these Scots were tiring of Ireland, where religious and language differences were causing difficulties. Shiploads began heading for New England.)
Silvio Bedini, the Ridgefield and Smithsonian Institution historian, uncovered the lawsuit involving Mary Scott. He hints that David may have abandoned his wife to come to America, and that Mary and the children came after him. Mary eventually got some land from the suit and settled in Ridgefield - sans husband, who apparently lived in another part of town. Mr. Bedini suspects she was the first person named Scott to live in what was to become Scotland District.
Whether or not David lived with them, his children went on to found a large Ridgefield family that still has members living in town. It included four men who fought in the Revolution, among them Captain James Scott and Ensign David Scott; many prominent Ridgefielders, including Judge Hiram K. Scott, who was town clerk 46 years (from 1852 to 1909 with a break from 1861 to 1872); and Hezekiah "Uncle Kiah" Scott, a distiller and miller for whom Kiah's Brook is named.
The fact that Scotts settled so early - probably by the 1730s - in the eastern Mamanasco area and stayed there so long made them a "first family," so to speak, and probably contributed to the Scotland name. But as early as 1750, land records were making reference to "Scots land" (with only one T). A 1751 deed of the proprietors to Job Smith describes 4 1/2 acres "lying west of Scots land on ye Great Hill." One can see how easily the transition from Scots or Scott's land to Scotland could occur.
Various Scotland localities in Connecticut include a town of that name, but it appears that Ridgefield's Scotland is the only one to take its name from a Scott family. The town of Scotland was named by one Isaac Magoon for his home country. (Scotland, incidentally, did not originally refer to the country north of England. Ireland was called Scotland or Scotia before 1000 AD. The name is variously said to mean "tattooed," or "aborigines," or "rulers.") There are 13 towns called Scotland and eight Scotia in the United States, probably all named for the country.
Scotland District probably had a school at the time of the Revolution and certainly did by 1799, says Mr. Bedini. The earliest known schoolhouse stood at the northern intersection of North Salem Road and Tackora Trail.
Around 1815, a second schoolhouse in the district was established. According to legend, related by Mr. Bedini (a native of the Scotland District), this second school was built near the present Ridgefield High School by the Hunt and Howe families, who lived out toward the state line. They were reportedly dissatisfied with the member of the Scott family who taught at the schoolhouse. This second school eventually became known as Number 13 and lasted until around 1850.
Scotland families had built a new schoolhouse around 1815 on North Salem Road, nearly opposite Farrar Lane. Perhaps the Howe and Hunt families felt this new location was too far away. Sometime after 1866, the school was moved to the site of the first schoolhouse (the original building became a woodshed for more than a century, and fell to pieces in the 1950s.)
After the town's district schoolhouses were abandoned in 1939, Douglas Main, a former Scotland pupil, had the school moved about a mile south on North Salem Road to a point a little north of Tackora Trail. Situated on the west side of the road, it was converted into a house, long owned and occupied by members of the Main family.
The district name is kept alive today in the name of Scotland School, which opened in 1965 and whose district includes most of the mid-1800s district.
Scotland Knolls is a mid-1950s subdivision of about 23 lots that is served by Hobby Drive and Circle Drive. The former is so called because the land was once Jackson Hobby's farm.
Scotland Knolls was so called because it is situated on Scotts Ridge (q.v.) in the heart of the Scotland District.
Scott Road was an informal name that was applied to what is now called Silver Spring Park Lane and that never caught on. This neighborhood of small lots, once just about the least expensive homesites in town, was developed starting around 1926 by Daniel Scott.
Scotts had owned land in this neighborhood since the 18th Century. For example, William Scott 2nd of Norwalk (Wilton) bought land "at a place called New Pound Ridge" in 1794. New Pound Ridge (q.v.) was the old name for the ridge just to the west of nearby Silver Spring Road.
SCOTT RIDGE ROAD
Scott Ridge Road is in Scotts Ridge, but not on it. Although some people may see a road so called and naturally think it is on Scott Ridge, Scotts Ridge is actually quite a bit to the east.
The road, running from Blue Ridge Road westward to Barrack Hill Road at Eight lakes Estates, takes its name, albeit s-less, from the old Scotts Ridge school district (see below). On Beers 1868 atlas, the label "Scotts Ridge" was placed near what is now Eight Lakes on West Mountain and perhaps the developer of the early 1950s subdivision figured that the Eight Lakes land was once called Scotts Ridge or even Scott Ridge. Not so, either.
However, it is nice that the road name keeps alive an old place name. It's too bad that it is misspelled.
Scotts Ridge, the "other" name for the old Scotland school district, was so named because so many members of the Scott family lived in the neighborhood.
The ridge itself runs along the east side of Lake Mamanasco and includes North Salem Road, Hobby and Circle Drives. This was formerly called Mamanasco Hill or Mamanasco Ridge.
The name Scotts Ridge first appears in 1843 when Clark Smith sold Lyman Reynolds land "at Scotts Ridge so called," and was in common use through the 1850s when Scotland, an earlier but initially less popular name, began taking over.
An 1845 deed refers to "the District of Scotts Ridge" and an 1864 deed mentions "Scotts Ridge District."
A 1908 road map of Ridgefield calls North Salem Road near Lake Mamanasco "Scotts Ridge Road."
When the town's second middle school opened in 2003 (?), this writer was asked about a name and recommended Scotts Ridge since it followed the schools' tradition of naming schools are geographical regions in town and it accurately resurrected an old name for the area.
SCOTTS RIDGE II
Judge Joseph H. Donnelly used "Scotts Ridge" as the name of his 1982 subdivision of 17 lots that includes O'Neill Place and Taporneck Court. The land is along the east side of North Salem Road at the New York State line, in the westernmost part of the Scotts Ridge or Scotland District.
Scotts Brook flows out of the southwest part of town, just east of lower Silver Spring Road, running southward into Wilton, then westward and into Lewisboro, N.Y., joining the West Branch of the Silvermine River, just below Scotts Reservoir.
Since the brook does not flow directly into Scotts Reservoir, the identical names is probably a coincidence. It is more likely that the brook took its name from Scotts who owned land at New Pound Ridge (see Scott Road) or from the Scotts who owned much of the land in the northwestern part of Wilton in the 19th Century.
For such a little pond, this one has had plenty of names. The small body of water on the north side of Old South Salem Road, near the South Salem Road intersection, was created in the 1920s by Reginald M. Lewis, wealthy son of F. E. Lewis, whose huge, showy estate on West Lane is now the "Ridgefield Manor Estates" subdivision. Reginald Lewis had a farm he ran as a hobby, and the pond - aside from serving as a watering hole - was a popular source of ice in the days before refrigerators.
At that time, it was known as Hopper's Pond, for Richard Hopper, Mr. Lewis's estate superintendent, who lived in the house near the pond owned in 2005 by Mrs. James M. Blackwell.
Robert Paine Scripps bought the farm in the 1930s. A partner with Roy Howard in the Scripps-Howard newspaper empire, Mr. Scripps died in 1938 aboard his yacht off California. During the 1930s and 1940s, the pond was known by his name - and still is, to oldtimers.
Mrs. Blackwell calls the pond Lacha Linne, Gaelic for "duck pond," which is about all it is today.
Sear Hill is a variation of Seir Hill, a locality once in Ridgefield and now in Danbury. The name first appears in 1767 as Seir. A 1799 deed spells it Sear.
Neither may be correct since Seir and Sear are both obsolete variations of the word, sere, which means "dry" or "withered." This may have been a reference to the condition or aspect of the hill.
However, it is more likely that Seir is a Biblical reference to a mountain that is now in southwestern Jordan, near Israel. A song that appears in Judges 5 says: "Lord, when thou didst go forth from Se'ir, when thou didst march from the region of Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens dropped water." According to one author, Seir and Mount Seir were often referred to in the Old Testament and frequently in an unfavorable light.
Stowell Rounds, in his 1958 booklet "A Connecticut Town Names Its Roads," believes that the Seir Hill in Wilton was a Biblical reference. He notes its frequent misspellings - from Ceare Hill in 1715 to Sier Hill in 1953.
Whether the origin is sere or Seir, it appears from the name that the locality was not fondly looked upon, possibly because it was steep or rocky.
The hill was situated about a mile north of the village of Mill Plain and probably near the New York line. This territory belonged to Ridgefield from 1731 until 1846.
Second Lane is one in the series of First through 12th Lanes that run southwesterly off Mamanasco Road. It is, like most, a dead end and, like most, a private road, developed as part of the huge Eight Lakes (q.v.) subdivision of the old Port of Missing Men (q.v.) property.
Second Patent, usually spelled "Pattent," was another term for New Patent (q.v.) or Ridgebury (q.v.). This section of northern Ridgefield and western Danbury, for which the proprietors of Ridgefield acquired a patent in 1731, wasn't purchased from the Indians until 1739.
The patent was the official permission of the Colony of Connecticut for Ridgefielders to take possession of the land as part of the town of Ridgefield. A patent had been issued to the proprietors for the original settlement of Ridgefield (the original framed document is in the town clerk's vault). The one for Ridgebury being next, it was sometimes called the Second Patent and the land it covered sometimes took the same name. (The whereabouts of the original document is unknown.)
The name appears occasionally in very early deeds, the first being in 1733.
There are several references in the mid- to late 1700s to a Second Pond. In a 1766 deed, Daniel Nettleton sold Thomas Frost two parcels "in Ridgebury Parish, eastward of ye Second Pond so called." One of them, containing a rood of land, was "near ye above s(ai)d place, on ye north side of ye highway where ye school house now stands."
Indications are that this pond was in what is now the Mill Plain (q.v.) section of western Danbury. Which pond it was is not clear, but the name is interesting. Was it the second pond downstream from some source? Was it the second pond upstream from a dam, mill or confluence? Was it the second pond to be created to store mill water? Was it the second pond discovered by someone? Probably no one will ever know. And, of course, few will care.
Just as Ridgebury was once called the Second Patent, so it was also the Second Society in town.
As mentioned in earlier columns, a trip from Ridgebury to the village of Ridgefield in the 1700s was no easy task. To attend services or Town Meetings required lengthy journeys. Thus, soon after settlement of Ridgebury, mission Congregational and Episcopal churches were set up and served by traveling parsons.
But eventually, in the 1760s, the population of Ridgebury became large enough to support a full-time minister of a Congregational church. So the Ridgeburians petitioned the state and got permission to set up a second parish or "society" of their own - the first, of course, being centered in Ridgefield village around what is now called the First Congregational Church. (The old church still standing in Ridgebury could have accurately been called the Second Congregational Church, as it is in some towns with two congregations.)
The Second Society was a common term in the last third of the 18th Century and the first half of the 19th Century. "Ridgefield Second Society" also appears here and there in the early 19th Century records.
As noted in a recent column, Seir is a variation of "sear" or "sere," which either means "dry" or refers to a locality in Jordan often mentioned in the Bible in an unfavorably light.
Seir Hill, appearing only in 1700s deeds, was a place north of Mill Plain in Danbury, territory that belonged to Ridgefield from 1731 to 1846.
Road names are not often the subject of battles, especially roads that have only three or four residents on them. Serfilippi Drive, however, has been an exception.
Serfilippi Drive runs between South Olmstead Lane and St. John's Road and was created in the mid-1950s by Mario "Mike" Serfilippi, who also named it. The land thereabouts had belonged to the Serfilippi family since shortly after the turn of the century, and several Serfilippis still live nearby. The road became a town road in 1957.
In the late 1960s, William Cuddy, a member of one of only two families then on the road (the other being Mario Serfilippi), began asking the selectmen for a new name for his road. He had no luck.
Mr. Cuddy took up his case again in September 1978, writing the Board of Selectmen with a request that the name be changed. The selectmen once again dismissed the plea, saying there was "insufficient reason."
"It's a good town name, Serfilippi," observed Selectman Raymond Fox.
In jest, First Selectman Louis J. Fossi suggested that perhaps the road be changed - to please both its residents - to "Cuddyserf Drive."
Mr. Cuddy continued to press the case. He felt the road name was difficult both to spell and pronounce, and told Mr. Fox that it would be difficult to sell a house on a road with such a name.
He also maintained that the name was illegal in that it constituted a second name for the same road. He reasoned that Serfilippi Drive, a through street, was only a continuation of Cranberry Lane, a dead-end road.
"I don't know what grounds he has," said Mr. Fossi at a December 1978 selectmen's meeting. "Serfilippi Drive is no more a continuing road than King Lane is to Peaceable Street."
"Or Farmingville Road is to Copp's Hill Road," said Selectman Lillian Moorhead, who added, "I like the historical significance" of the road name.
Mr. Cuddy solved his problem, sort of, by placing his mailbox on St. Johns Road, even though his house fronted on Serfilippi Drive and his driveway lead to it.
SETH LOW MOUNTAIN ROAD
Seth Low Mountain Road at Twixt Hills directly recalls a Ridgefielder and indirectly, a mayor of New York City.
The road is a dog-leg, connected at both ends to Twixt Hills Road on the south side of Ridgebury Mountain. The subdivision was developed starting in 1961 by Jerry Tuccio on land that had been Seth Low Pierrepont's Twixthills estate.
Mr. Pierrepont, who died in 1956, was a nephew and namesake of Seth Low, his mother's brother, who had been a New York mayor. He had also been president of Columbia University, from which Mr. Pierrepont graduated in 1907. (It's the second road in Ridgefield to bear the name of an Ivy League college president; Conant Road at Westmoreland was named for a Harvard president.)
Mr. Pierrepont, who worked for a while in the U.S. government and foreign service, spent most of his life in volunteer service to the town, county, state, and nation (see Pierrepont Drive).
The original plans for Twixt Hills labeled this road "Sky High Drive" or "Sky High Ridge," but the Planning Commission changed the name in 1962.
Settlers Lane, which forms the "cross" of a "T" at the end of Wooster Heights Drive, is one of many roads whose names have changed. Developed as part of a 1963 subdivision, the road was originally called Ormar Drive, for Orrin and Marion Beers, the subdividers. People who lived there didn't take kindly to the name and asked the town for a change.
The Planning and Zoning Commission in 1971 selected Settlers Lane, one of those meaningless "colonialish" names that suburban New England towns seem bent on using, apparently in an effort to give an antique flavor to the community. There is no known connection with that land and early settlers - other than settlers owned it, just as they did the rest of the town.
Many Connecticut towns started as parishes within other towns and, when the parishes grew large enough, they split off as new towns. Wilton, Redding, Bethel, Brookfield, New Fairfield, New Canaan, Darien, Weston, and Easton are a few area examples. Ridgefield was different, however; it started as a wilderness settlement.
In the late 1600s, Norwalk residents were investigating the possibility of acquiring the Indians lands above the northern limits (now the Wilton-Ridgefield line) of their town and southerly of recently settled Danbury. Norwalk had, by standards of those days, become "crowded." Most of the town had been divided up for farm, pasture and wood lands, and the population of Norwalk, founded in 1653 as a plantation, was growing.
In 1697 a group of Norwalk people was appointed to walk the Indian territory and see if the land was good for farming and if the water supply was adequate for mills.
It is not clear what happened then, but in 1706, John Copp was appointed to "view" the land. Mr. Copp, who eventually laid out Main Street, was apparently satisfied that the territory was good, and in 1708 Norwalkers petitioned to create a new town.
Legend says that when it became time to move up from Norwalk into the new territory in the woods, five of the first proprietors spent their first night at Settlers Rock, situated along North Salem Road at the Ridgefield Cemetery, nearly opposite New Street. "The howling of wolves and the cry of the wild-cat filled them with terror, and one can imagine that daylight was greeted with much joy," speculated historian George L. Rockwell.
Silvio Bedini, another Ridgefield historian, says "they built fires around the base of the great boulder to protect them against wild animals."
There is no contemporary written record of all this, but Mr. Bedini also speculates that even before the arrival of the proprietors, the huge rock was well known to explorers and may have sheltered John Copp and others who ventured into the territory on surveying or perhaps hunting missions. The rock was near the center of the Indian lands and was large enough to have stood out as a landmark.
In 1958, during the town's 250th anniversary celebration, a plaque was mounted on the rock, stating "On this rock the original settlers scouting party spent their first night."
Seventh Lane is another in the First through Twelfth Lane series of mostly dead-end, mostly private roads off the west side of Mamanasco Road. They are part of the 1950s Eight Lakes development.
SEVENTY ACRES ROAD
Seventy Acres Road is actually a misnomer in Ridgefield. It occurs on some maps and in some deeds for what, in Ridgefield, should probably be called Old Redding Road.
This highway runs off Route 7 into Redding and is an 18th Century extension of Florida Hill Road, a very old and winding highway from Ridgefield to Redding.
In Redding, however, the highway turns into Seventy Acres Road. Since there is only a short distance of roadway between Route 7 and the Redding line, the Ridgefield strip often assumes the Redding title of Seventy Acres Road.
The name apparently refers to a tract of woodland. Albert E. Moss, in "A Forest Survey of the Town of Redding, Conn.," done by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, wrote in 1917 that "the Seventy Acre Tract" was "on the ridge to the north of Georgetown and to the east of Branchville, extending north to a point near Topstone Station."
SEWER BED ROAD
Sewer Bed Road was the old and probably informal name for what we now call South Street, a cow path converted to a roadway sometime after the town put the sewer beds off Danbury Road.
Paul Morganti, who built the road and whose family owned it for many years, said in 1975: "I didn't like the name - I lived right across the road" from it. So he had the name changed to South Street, probably while he was a selectman in the 1950s.
The sewer beds were the end of the line for the town's sewer system, which both in date and in symbol represented the town's entering the modern era.
At the turn of the century, a group of 12 of the town's wealthy summer residents met at the Hotel Manhattan in New York and decided that the village needed a sewer system. Two and a half years later, in June 1902, the system, complete with treatment plant and beds, was completed, to be paid for by a separate taxing district. At around the same time, the village water system - done by a private company - was established.
"It was the for the installation of the town sewer and water systems that the first Italian immigrants were brought to Ridgefield, sponsored by H. B. Anderson," notes Silvio Bedini. "When the water and sewer projects had been completed, Anderson employed the Italian laborers to build roads for the Port of Missing Men," a resort and retreat for the wealthy on West Mountain. Many of those roads - such as Old Sib and upper Barrack Hill - are now town highways.
In the early 1970s, the old sewage treatment plant was torn down, and a new, much larger one was built, only to be replaced by an even bigger one in the 1990s. The old beds, which allowed solids in the treated water to settle out before the water was discharged into the Norwalk River watershed, are no longer used, but are still there, just west of the trash transfer station.
Seymour Lane, a dead-end, L-shaped road off upper South Olmstead Lane, is one of the few town highways that keep alive names of the original settling families of Ridgefield. Of the 18 surnames among the first proprietors, only St. John, Olmstead, Keeler, Rockwell, and Seymour are current place names. Settling families like the Smiths, Benedicts, Whitneys, Wilsons, Hoyts, Sturdevants, and Browns are forgotten in our geography.
Oddly enough, four of the roads that do recall settlers - St. John, Olmstead, Rockwell, and Seymour - are in the same neighborhood, and three are interconnected.
"Seymour" is quite appropriate. The road serves a subdivision by Rudolph Seymour and other members of his family, and the 10-lot development is on land that was for some two centuries in the Seymour family.
It is known that Matthew Seamore owned land in this neighborhood by 1760, perhaps long before. But in 1759, he bought two houses on Wilton Road West, then called "the way to Norwalk," and the purchase may well have included backlands that are now the Seymour Lane house lots.
Rudolph Seymour's brother, Robert, was living in one of those two houses in the 1950s. The house later burned to the ground, and a new one, owned by the Pambianchi family, was built on the site.
The Seymour name, incidentally, appeared in many forms in the early years. In the first deed (1708) between the settlers and the Indians, it was Seamor. In the town's patent (1714), it was Seamore, which became the common spelling for several decades. It was not until 1765 that the first deed using "Seymour" appeared.
Seymours were long prominent in town, though they were not as numerous as the Keelers, Scotts, Smiths, and some other early clans. Matthew may have been one of the non-natives to set foot in town, for he established one of two trading posts for the Indians. It sat on or about the site of a house on the west side of Main Street, four doors north of West Lane. Some say old portions of the old trading post were incorporated into this structure, which is a combination of at least two buildings.
Among more modern Seymours, William O. Seymour, who built the Victorian house on Parley Lane, was one of the most prominent Ridgefielders at the turn of the century. A Ridgefield native, he became a civil engineer who designed railroad bridges in the Midwest. He returned to town, became probate judge, a state representative, and one of three members of the Connecticut Railroad Commission, predecessor of the Public Utilities Control Commission.
William O. Seymour was chairman for the town's bicentennial celebration in 1908. Fifty years later, his great grandson, Karl Seymour Nash, former editor and publisher of this paper, was chairman of the town's 250th anniversary celebration.
Today there are still descendants of Matthew Seamore in town, but none bears the surname.
Matthew and his family were large landowners in Ridgefield, particularly in the 18th Century. The neighborhood that includes Seymour Lane had long been considered Seymour country, but this was especially true in the 19th Century. Three or four houses along Wilton Road West, including the early homesteads, were occupied by Seymours in the mid-1800s. Land along South Olmstead Lane was part of their agricultural holdings, and in the middle of this, they established their family cemetery, which still exists on the east side of South Olmstead Lane. Most of its stones date from the middle 1800s.
Seymour Lane became a town road in 1959.
SHADBLOW HILL ROAD
Shadblow Hill Road, which also appears on many maps as Shadblow Lane, is a short, uphill, dead-end road off Florida Hill Road. The small subdivision was developed in the mid-1950s by Olavi Havnoja.
Shadblow is a somewhat uncommon term for the juneberry or shadbush plant (Amelanchier Canadensis and others), common shrubs or small trees that belong to the rose family and are native to our forest underbrush. They are so called because their attractive flowers bloom in the spring when the shad are running in the coastal streams. Presumably, shadblows were found in these woods before they were subdivided.
The plant produces berries, not unlike blueberries, that have been used for jams, jellies and pies, but which are so popular with birds and other forest wildlife that they are hard to find in large enough quantities to make collecting them worthwhile.
Shadow Lake is a small body of water south of the eastern section of Shadow Lake Road and west of Briar Ridge Road in Ridgebury.
The pond was probably built and named by Harry B. Mallory, whose house on the other side of Shadow Lake Road has been incorporated into the Boehringer-Ingelheim complex as a guesthouse. The pond does not show up on a 1912 map, suggesting that it was created later - perhaps on the site of a smaller pond or a swamp.
Shadow Lake was used by Mr. Mallory, a sportsman, for fishing and to encourage wildlife to live on his property. It was also called Mallory Pond.
In October 1996, to avoid the threat of a huge, multifamily development, the town paid Peter Friedman $17.5 million for 252 acres between George Washington Highway and Shadow Lake Road, including land around Shadow Lake. Most of the acreage was sold off as single-family lots in the Stoneridge Estates subdivision, but land around Shadow Lake was kept as open space and recreation. In 2005, the town approved building a Little League practice field there.
SHADOW LAKE ROAD
Shadow Lake Road took its name from the pond, but it's not clear when.
The road itself is much older than the name, and was in existence by 1781 when it was shown on one of Berthier's maps, prepared for Rochambeau's troopers, who encamped south of the road and east of Ridgebury Road.
Today, Shadow Lake Road is, comparatively, still a narrow country road, even though since the arrival of Boehringer-Ingelheim along its northeastern edge, some of the old-fashioned flavor has been cut away by the bulldozer's and road scraper's blades.
Shadow Lane is a narrow, dead-end road off High Ridge. Running behind the High Ridge mansions, it originally served the backlands of these estates, often for delivery entrances. In recent years it has been considerably developed.
Early in this century, this was part of an old path that extended northward to Peaceable Street, paralleling High Ridge and serving the backlands and caretakers' cottages of the main-road mansions. The Peaceable Street end was sometimes called Herrick Lane because it passed by the Herricks' property.
Shadow Lane, a name in use by 1930, may refer to shadows created by trees in the evening or perhaps the shadow cast on the west side of High Ridge as the sun rises from the east.
Shapley Stretch is included in this history as an example of a place name that was well known and in common use among a small group of people - in this case, the police - and which, from the group, gained a limited circulation around town.
The term referred to the straight strip of Route 35, Danbury Road, in front of today's Fox Hill condominiums.
The police came up with this slang term because patrol cars frequently stopped speeders there. The name was used in radioing the car's location to headquarters.
The name came from the fact that the Fox Hill property in the 1960s was the site of The Shapley School, a private, co-educational prep school operated by Carl Shapley, son of the famous Harvard astronomer, Harlow Shapley. The school was small and not financially successful, suffering from - among other things - a bad reputation after some drug-related arrests there in which undercover officers posed as students. Thus, the police knew it well in the mid-1960s. It closed in 1968.
"Shapley Stretch" continued to be used, by the police at least, into the 1980s.
Another example of this phenomenon is still in use. The curve on northern Route 7 between Pamby Motors and Ridgefield European Motors has been called the "Carvel Curve" since the 1960s when Carvel opened the ice cream shop there. Even though Ridgefield Ice Cream took over the operation in 1977, some police officers were still calling the area "Carvel Curve" in 1996.
Hill is an old name for the curve on West Mountain Road near the intersection of Ramapoo Road and Peaceable Ridge Road.
The term appears as early as 1833 when it was used in describing the southwest corner of the boundaries of the Titicus School District. This description is found in a contemporary book of minutes of meetings of the Titicus School Committee.
The term cropped up from time to time in the 1800s and was still in use well into this century. The improvement of the curve probably helped with the demise of the common use of the name. However, as noted below, there's been a revival.
SHARP HILL LANE
Sharp Hill Lane is one of two dead-end roads at Carl Lecher's 1980 subdivision, West Mountain Pines. The subdivision is on the north side of West Mountain Road on property that had belonged to the Minor family. Earlier, James M. Doubleday, a well-known personality in the community, owned it and before that, Joseph H. Conron (see Conron's Pond).
The property is a little west of Sharp Hill and Mr. Lecher selected the name at this writer's suggestion to keep alive the old name. The subdivision's other road is Doubleday Lane.
The 625-foot-long Sharp Hill Lane became a town road in 1985.
Mount Sheppison is mentioned in a single deed in 1746 and is shown on one map. Both its name origin and its exact location are unknown today.
The name appears on a very early map, copied in 1787 from a 1741 original by the proprietors' clerk, Benjamin Smith. The map, bound into the land records, shows the plan of the Fourth 20 Acre Division - northern Ridgebury territory that ran up to New Fairfield and which the proprietors had gotten in compensation for the loss of land in The Oblong (q.v.).
The map shows lot 26 as a 100-acre grant to Joseph Crampton and as being "Mount Sheppison," situated on the New York Colony line and not too far south of New Fairfield. This area now belongs to Danbury, which no longer uses the name.
Sherman Colonial was the name of a 1960s proposed subdivision for what is today called Ridgebury Estates.
The name's use became commonplace in the mid-1960s because the Sherman Colonial Company got into a fight with the old Planning Commission over the size of the lots there and the planning authorities went to court to fight for what they believed should be allowed at the subdivision.
However, the planners did not get permission from the town officials who would have to pay the lawyers' fees for defending the planning position. Although the planners won the case, it was years before the Board of Finance finally agreed to pay the commission's lawyers in the "Sherman Colonial case," a punishment of sorts for the planners because they had spent money without the financiers' permission.
Eventually, Jerry Tuccio bought and developed the land in line with planning standards.
The Sherwood Farm was a successor to Knap's Farm (q.v.), and was big enough in its heyday to be a local place, one that could have gone on to be a modern name such as Bennett's Farm did.
Deeds in the mid-1800s mentioned "land at Sherwood Farm," referring to territory around the intersection of Ridgebury, Regan and Old Stagecoach Roads - much of which was for the second half of the 20th Century, the Arigadeen Farm of the McKeon.
Sherwood Farm was probably named for Nathan Sherwood who had bought part of Moses Knap's farm in 1747. The name was in use more than a century later - as late as 1868.
There was another Sherwood Farm, which, like Knap's Farm, was laid out by grant directly from the Connecticut colony before Ridgefield even existed as a town. It was situated on the hillside that slopes to Mill Plain, territory that was once part of Ridgefield and is now part of Danbury.
One of the more interesting deeds in the Ridgefield land records involves Nathan Sherwood and his son. Filed in 1792, it reads: "James Sherwood of Freehold in Baalstown District, in ye County of Saratoga, State of New York, do for the consideration of the love, duty and respect I have for and do bear unto my honored father, Nathan Sherwood, and my mother, Lois Sherwood, of Ridgefield...as well as for divers other laudable considerations, in particular and especially for one pepper corn, all of which is to my full and complete satisfaction, do farm, lett and lease out unto my father and mother 20 acres..."
One wonders whether James was exercising a sense of humor or a sense of sarcasm in his list of considerations.
Sherwood Road was probably named for descendants of Daniel Sherwood, the town's first miller, whose 1717 mill was nearby at the old outlet of Lake Mamanasco, at the end of Pond Road.
Amos Sherwood owned 60 acres opposite the north end of the road in the early 1900s and it is probable that he was the immediate origin of the name, for the path could have been considered the "road to Sherwood's" and thus became "Sherwood Road." Daniel Sherwood left four sons and Amos was probably descended from one of them.
There is reason to believe that this road, hardly a major thoroughfare today, was the original south end of Ridgebury Road. The present south end, by the high school, was probably built in the first half of the 19th Century because Sherwood Road was seasonally too wet and swampy.
In 1723, Thomas Hyatt sold Timothy Canfield 15 acres "lying eastward of Sherwood's Ridge, over ye Great Swamp, lying on a Ridge called Walnutt Ridge."
Sherwood's Ridge, mentioned only this one time, was probably the ridge traversed by Blackman Road. It may have been so-called because Daniel Sherwood, the first miller, was given land here - and elsewhere in town - in compensation for moving to Ridgefield to set up and operate the gristmill at Mamanasco. The land grants were part of his becoming the 29th proprietor in 1716.
In his will in 1749, Daniel Sherwood gave his son Isaac "my land behind the Grate Swamp adjoining Benjamin Stebbins and Thomas Hawley..." Isaac, however, was already living thereabouts in 1747, suggesting that his dad had given him other land earlier or that he was already living on the land his father had just given him.
Shields Lane, a dead-end road off Limestone Road, is one of three roads named for attorneys active in the real estate scene in the 1950s and 1960s. Part of the 23-lot "Limestone Acres" subdivision by Jerry Tuccio, town-approved in 1960, it was named for Reed F. Shields, who was at the time attorney for Mr. Tuccio.
Son of the Rev. Hugh Shields, longtime minister of the First Congregational Church here, Attorney Shields is a Ridgefield native who graduated from Ridgefield Boys School on North Salem Road in 1938 and served in the US Air Force during World War II. He graduated from Butler University and from New York University School of Law in 1950.
About the same year, Mr. Shields opened a practice in Ridgefield. Active in town government, he served as town attorney from 1951 to 1955, on the school board in the late 50s and early 60s, and as judge of probate from the late 1960s until his retirement in 1974. He was active in scouting, Rotary Club and the Community Center.
Later in life, he moved to Redding and then to North Carolina where he still lives. Clayton Place, in another Jerry Tuccio development, was named for his son, the late Clayton Shields.
Other attorneys with their names on roads include John E. Dowling of Dowling Drive and Joseph H. Donnelly of Donnelly Drive, Scodon Drive and Marcardon Avenue. Both were also former probate judges.
Short Bridge is a locality mentioned in only two deeds and whose location is uncertain. The first appearance occurred in 1787 when the proprietors granted Thomas Hawley, son of the first minister of the Congregational Church, three roods "joining the east end of his lands lying at Short Bridge, so called." A 1788 deed involving Benjamin and Nathan Smith mentions 18 acres "at Short Bridge."
There are no hints as to where Short Bridge was situated, but it might have been in or about Great Swamp. The "bridge" may have been only a natural or man-made strip of dry land that allowed passage through a wetland and did not necessarily refer to a wooden or stone structure.
The division of the estate of Samuel Smith in 1787 mentions "land lying at and near the Short Brook, ye west side of the Great Swamp." This could be any number of little brooks leading to the Great Swamp, including the one that runs out of Casagmo (see Steep Brook). Many of them have been moved or eliminated due to the extensive development along Danbury Road north of the village.
Short Hills is an old and abandoned place name, one of two to use "short" in ancient senses that it tends to lack today.
The earliest mention of the term is a 1747 Town Meeting at which was' 'laid out to Samuel Lobdell in equivalency for ye land taken for ye highway three acres of land lying on ye easterly side of ye Short Hills, so called, near Limestone Hill."
Nearby was land of Ebenezer Lobdell who, also in 1747, sold one-eighth shares in three and a half acres at "ye Short Hills lying near Limestone...with all my right and title to one-eighth part of all ye mines and minerals lying on or within said tract." This land, which bordered Samuel's, was probably being set up for a joint venture at mining limestone, and may have been the tract later called Mine Hill (q.v.), situated around the intersection of Danbury, Haviland and Limestone Roads.
In 1753, Ebenezer got 10 more acres "north of Norren's Boggs," bounded north and east by "ye Mine Lott," probably at Mine Hill.
The indications, therefore, are that Short Hills was the hilly territory around Haviland, Limekiln, Still, and Stonehenge Roads - possibly also Poplar Road and that neighborhood. But why "short" hills? Possibly because they weren't tall. The Oxford English Dictionary devotes more than six full pages to meanings of the word "short," but only very briefly mentions short as descriptive of a hill. In that case, the dictionary says the use was both rare and obsolete, and cites only one example - from Scotland in 1596.
Clearly, the term was in common use long afterward in this colony, for Short Hill or Hills as a place name occurs in at least six Connecticut towns, probably more. However, George Stewart in American Place-Names (1970) says of Short: "As a descriptive for features, it is comparatively uncommon, shortness not being something easily seen. " Except, perhaps, in hills.
In Ridgefield, the last appearance of the term was on the 200th anniversary of the dictionary's citation -1796.
As we will see under Short Woods (q.v.), "short" can mean low-grade. In this case it may have described the quality of the soil.
Short Lane, running between Rolling Ridge Road and Partridge Drive at the 1958 Ridgefield Knolls subdivision, was so-called because it is - you guessed it, short, having but three houses on it.
Short Woods is an old name, applying perhaps to two different locations in the northern part of town.
The more commonly mentioned location began appearing in the land records in 1755 when John Wildman sold Daniel Wildman land at the New Patent "at ye Short Woods." In 1761, Thomas Starr Jr. sold David Benedict his house and farm, plus 35 acres "in ye Short Woods, east from Bear Mountain." All four persons mentioned in those deeds were Danburians.
In 1781, the Rev. Samuel Camp, the wealthy minister of the Ridgebury Congregational Church, acquired 81 acres "on the Spruce Mountain and Short Woods." Later deeds mention Short Woods as being bounded on the east by Danbury and near Buttonwood Swamp, which is north of Fox Hill near Route 7.
All this points to Short Woods' being a large area north of Bennett's Farm Road and the Ridgefield Lakes, west of Route 7, and east of Pine Mountain Road, probably including most of the northeast comer of town - that is, generally north of the Bennett's Pond state park land. This is territory that is still woods and now mostly town-owned open space.
However, an 1806 deed mentions eight acres "in Ridgefield Short Woods," bounded on the west by "Bogus Road, a highway so called." Other deeds indicate that this "Ridgefield Short Woods" was at Bogus, which is south of George Washington Highway - somewhat distant from the other, older Short Woods to the east. However, it's possible that everything east of Bogus Road to the Danbury line (at Wooster Mountain State Park) was considered part of Short Woods.
The "Ridgefield" Short Woods tends to suggest that there was a nearby Danbury Short Woods, possibly adjacent to Ridgefield's. (There was also a Short Woods in New Fairfield, a town bordered by Ridgefield during this period.)
Why Short Woods? Perhaps the trees weren't tall. Maybe, however, the name reflected the quality of the trees; short sometimes meant low-grade, and this was rocky, rough terrain. Whatever the meaning, the name was in use at least until 1844.
SILVER BIRCH LANE
Silver Birch Lane is a short, dead-end road off New Street, developed by Cleveland Bassett around 1952. The Bassett family lived in this neighborhood for much of the 20th Century.
Calling it "Silver Birch" gave the road a more "colorful" name than the true name of the tree, white birch. (It also thereby possibly avoided confusion with the two other roads in town that were to be named for the white birch.)
The white birch is probably the most easy-to-recognize native tree because its bark is mostly white - unusual in trees - and it stands out in woods and fields. It is one of the birch species from which the Indians peeled bark to manufacture canoes and wigwam covers as well as boots, cups and boxes. The leaves were used for tea.
The lumber is not too valuable, its use in the past being limited pretty much to making wooden bowls and utensils. However, white birch finds some use as a pulpwood.
SILVER BROOK ROAD
Silver Brook Road, a dead-end road off White Birch Road, was developed by the late Bartholomew T. Salerno, a local real estate man and entrepreneur, between 1964 and 1967.
Mr. Salerno, later the founder of WREF radio in Ridgefield, named the road because there is "a very rapid brook going through there," he said in a 1982 interview. He borrowed the" silver" from other nearby roads. It's a bit confusing, however, with no fewer than five different "silver" roads in the same neighborhood (see next).
SILVER HILL ROAD
One of them is Silver Hill Road, which runs from Wilton Road East across Wilton Road West to St. John's Road. It undoubtedly got its name because it led up a hill (from the two Wilton roads) to the Silver Spring neighborhood.
Silver Hill Road is an old highway, dating from the 1700s - probably before 1750, since this area was settled very early.
SILVER MINE, the
For decades there have been neighborhood legends of a lost silver mine in Farmingville. The stories are apparently more than legend. Silver was probably once mined there.
Evidence of this first shows up in a deed drawn in 1790 when Daniel, Elija, and Seth Lee, plus other heirs of William Lee, sold Stephen Field of Dutchess County, N.Y., one fifth right "in and unto the mine or mines of gold, silver, copper, or other metals that are or may be discovered or found on or in the land that joins the homestead and dwelling house where our father, William Lee, lately dwelt, on ye east side of the road." For five pounds, Mr. Field received permission "to enter...to break ground...to dig, blast, raise up, and carry away and convert..." those minerals that were mined.
Mr. Field seems to have suspected the Farmingville earth bore something of value - more valuable than limestone, the only other mineral mined thereabouts to any extent in the 18th Century. He may have been a speculator who offered his services at opening up and operating mines for that 20% fee. The five pounds, not much considering the money that could have been made, was probably just a good faith offering to seal the deal.
Perhaps Mr. Field wanted just one mineral, but the Lees, suspicious of this New Yorker, added on other metals of value to cover all bases. Maybe it was a standard format for an agreement of that type. But it's unlikely that any gold or copper was found. Silver, however, has occurred in Wilton and Norwalk, in quantities worth mining.
The late Robert A. Lee, who was a member of this same Lee clan and who was a landowner in Farmingville for three quarters of a century, said his family had long talked of the silver mine that was there. "My great grandfather, Edwin Lee, helped fill in that (mine) when a boy," Mr. Lee said in 1976. "I've tried to find it. It isn't where I was told it was."
Mines were filled in mostly to prevent anyone from falling in or getting lost or buried in them. Some people may have filled in old mines so the whereabouts could be hidden in case at some future date, when the working it might become profitable, a mine could be reopened without risk of thievery.
Mr. Lee said he suspected that the old silver mine is north of the western side of the Little League field at Aldrich Park. The late Stanley Walker, another Farmingville oldtimer, searched those woods along the west side of New Road, using even a metal detector in an attempt to locate buried mining equipment, and found nothing.
As a place name, Silvermine in Ridgefield was very limited, unlike the Silvermine in Norwalk (below). However, Mine Hill Place (q.v.), a recent subdivision off New Road, was named for the old, elusive silver mine.
The Silvermine Brook, which feeds the East Branch of the Silvermine River, rises near the center of town off southern Main Street, possibly in a swamp and pond around the end of Hayes Lane.
The stream flows southerly, generally east of Wilton Road East, into Wilton where it joins the Silvermine River's east branch, which flows into New York State and then down into New Canaan. There, it passes the Silvermine Hill and flows into Norwalk, where its waters join the Norwalk River and head for the Sound.
Silvermine Hill and the Silvermine district of Wilton, Norwalk and New Canaan were all originally part of Norwalk. The area has been so-called since before 1700, undoubtedly because a mining operation took place there. No one has been able to pinpoint the mine's location with certainty.
The Silvermine River also has a West Branch, fed by streams from Ridgefield, Wilton and Lewisboro.
Silver Spring is one of the more colorful of the old Ridgefield names that have survived, and one of the most frequently used. Aside from place names using Ridgefield, those employing Silver Spring or its variants like Silver Hill and Silver Brook are among the most common.
That may be because, unlike such old names as Toilsome, Peespunk, Nisopack, or Asoquatah, Silver Spring sounds nice. In fact, it's nice enough that a modern subdivider, with a friend on Madison Avenue, could have devised it.
However, Silver Spring is old, one of the oldest surviving place names. Its earliest appearance in the town records is a December 1722 entry, referring to "ye Silver Spring" while describing a highway being laid out (quite probably Silver Spring Road).
Over the years citations are common in land records. Land "at Silver Spring" was often mentioned, referring not necessarily to the spring itself but to the region. However, the swamp associated with the spring was bigger and more noticeable, and in the early years, most references to the neighborhood used "New Pound Boggs" as a locator. Eventually, that name died out - it's not very pretty - and Silver Spring took over to represent the southwestern section of town.
Oddly enough, unlike most long-lasting and widely used Ridgefield neighborhood place names, Silver Spring was never associated with a schoolhouse, as were others like Florida, Scotland, Farmingville, Limestone, or Flat Rock. Silver Spring children went either to the West Lane or Flat Rock schoolhouses. However, it's a sign of the name's popularity and attractiveness that it survived so long and strongly without that "official" help.
Certainly, the spring itself is no massive landmark. It is situated on a quarter acre of wooded, town-owned land along the east side of Silver Spring Road, about 2,000 feet north of St. Johns Road. The spring emerges from the ground in several spots, mostly covered with boulders - apparently put there as protection. There is a small, sandy bottomed pool where Ridgefielders for more than two centuries had stopped to water themselves, their horses, or livestock. Even until the late 20th Century, people visited the spring to collect in bottles some of the fresh, clear water for use at home, a practice that has probably ceased because of all the runoff from the neighborhood and the nearby golf course that may make the water somewhat less than pure.
The Rev. S. G. Goodrich wrote in 1800 that Silver Spring was "most remarkable... The water is very cold and heavy. It discharges about one-fourth water sufficient to carry a grist mill and is not materially affected by freshet (i.e., flood) or drought."
It is the crystal-like clarity that probably led to the naming of the spring. As oldtimer John Mullen (1898-1985) said in a 1975 interview, "You look down and watch the water coming up. It looks like silver."
Indeed, most Silver Springs around the country - most notably in Maryland, Florida and Nevada - have been named for the appearance of the water and not for the metal itself, which may or may not be found nearby. At least 14 states have places called Silver Spring or Silver Springs.
The spring has not always led a quiet, peaceful existence. In 1954 and 1955, the most recent controversy occurred.
"Should the town's famed Silver Spring be cleaned up and modernized or should it be left as the early settlers fixed it up when they discovered its bubbling water more than 200 years ago?" began a front-page story in the Dec. 22, 1954 Press. First Selectman Harry E. Hull had proposed the face-lift "in the interest of greater utility... Several times a year the selectmen have the town crew clean out the muck and leaves around the spring and this year, Mr. Hull had them put in a tile so the water would run off and the spring would stay cleaner. This is the part of the improvement plan which stirred the objection of neighbors." The neighbors eventually won out and the spring remained untouched.
It wasn't the first controversy over the Silver Spring. Back in 1931, the Flat Rock Corporation, which was then building the Silver Spring Country Club on the west side of Silver Spring Road, asked the town for permission to draw from the spring in perpetuity for drinking water. The Town Meeting rejected the idea after strenuous opposition from the public.
Later, two Silver Spring neighbors, both of whose cattle drank from the spring, became involved in an old-style feud over its use, leading on one occasion to police intervention and eventually a lawsuit.
"Its water," the 1954 Press said, "is reputed to have medicinal qualities. It is a fact that its waters are clear and cold."
Although many people mistakenly call the road and especially the country club along it "Silver Springs," Ridgefield's name is not like the place in Florida or Maryland, and is singular. However, the mistake is not a new one. An 1858 deed also speaks of Silver Springs.
SILVER SPRING BROOK
The Silver Spring Brook is a small stream that flows out of a dammed pond on the Cullerton property on the north side of St. Johns Road, a short distance east of its intersection with Silver Spring Road. The pond is at the south end of the Silver Spring Swamp.
The water flows south into Wilton where it joins the east branch of the Silvermine River, an interesting confluence of two unrelated "silver" names.
Silver Spring Brook is so called because it comes out of the Silver Spring Swamp, one of whose water sources is the Silver Spring.
SILVER SPRING LANE
Silver Spring Lane runs from St. Johns Road near the beginning of the Silver Spring Brook south to Silver Spring Road, and was so called because it's in the Silver Spring neighborhood.
The northern part of this road, plus Silver Spring Park Lane, were once called Scott Road (q.v.), for Daniel Scott, the developer. However, the selectmen in October 1958 voted to change the names to Silver Spring Lane and Silver Spring Park Lane, acting at the request of residents who apparently didn't like the Scott name and didn't mind the confusion of having more Silver Spring names.
One of the most famous residents of Silver Spring Lane was comedienne Imogene Coca, who lived near the curve at the south end in the 1950s.
SILVER SPRING PARK LANE
Silver Spring Park Lane, yet another road with Silver Spring as its name, is at Silver Spring Park, one of the town's earliest small-lot subdivisions outside the village.
Daniel Scott started development around 1926, and it has always been a place where one could buy a house at a price more modest than the average price in town.
SILVER SPRING RIDGE
Silver Spring Ridge is the ridge on the west side of Silver Spring Road, now chiefly occupied by the Silver Spring Country Club.
The name is an old one, first appearing in 1789 when Daniel Smith 2nd sold Daniel Smith 4th 17 acres "of the northwest corner of my farm lying on Silver Spring Ridge." The name was in use into this century, appearing on a 1907 property survey on file in the town clerk's office.
SILVER SPRING ROAD
Silver Spring Road, an ancient town highway, runs two miles from West Lane south to Wilton. So called because it passes the Silver Spring, the road was laid out probably in December 1722 when the selectmen mentioned establishing a road near "ye Silver Spring."
In the 18th and 19th Centuries, Silver Spring Road was one of several routes used to connect Ridgefield with Norwalk, Ridgefield's parent community. The route runs south through Wilton, where it is also called Silver Spring Road, and then into the Vista section of Lewisboro, N.Y., where it loses its pavement. Back in Connecticut, it's called Bald Hill Road for a while in New Canaan, but soon connects with Valley Road, which brings the route down to the Silvermine section of Norwalk, and on toward the center of that city.
In Ridgefield, the route has changed little over its nearly three centuries, gaining only pavement. The road was long an unusual one in Ridgefield because the land along much of it has had virtually escaped modern subdivisions until the 1990s, and for much of the 20th Century had maintained a good deal of the flavor of the previous two centuries. Until recently, few modern houses dotted its sides. In places, a few fields still exist and, until recently, it was one of the few roads in Ridgefield where one can view ancient fields lined with stonewalls, much the way they looked two centuries ago.
The road maintained its charm for several reasons: the Silver Spring Country Club has preserved a long stretch of land, once fields that are returning to forest; nicely restored 18th and early 19th Century houses stand along it.
In the 1990s, upper Silver Spring Road was named one of the town's few official "scenic highways."
SILVER SPRING SWAMP
Silver Spring Swamp is the long wetland in the valley between Silver Spring Road on the west and St. Johns Road and the Olmstead Lanes on the east.
Nearly a mile long, the swamp ends at the south with a small pond, sometimes called Silver Spring Pond, and dam. This dam, over the years, has been a source of some neighborhood disputes because its height is said to affect the level of the water table over a wide area. In the past some people have maintained that the dam spillway was too high, causing the water table to surface on their property. However, the dam has remained and has helped create one of the more scenic and wildlife-rich spots in Ridgefield.
The swamp, first known as New Pound Bogs, was once the source of - among other things - cranberries. Because of the dam, it is much wetter today than a century ago, but probably not much wetter than it was 250 years ago; old deeds indicate that when the settlers arrived, beavers dammed up the swamp. In fact, deeds through much of the 18th Century mention "ye Beaver Damm" in this neighborhood as if it were a well-known Ridgefield locality then.
Needless to say, the swamp gets its name from the spring, which is one of its water sources. And while several small streams also feed the swamp, its watershed is actually rather small for a swamp of its size, suggesting that the spring - and perhaps others - provide a good deal of water. Certainly, the Silver Spring at least a steady supplier.
Silver Spring Swamp is one of the town's most interesting wetland wildlife habitats, perhaps second only to the Great Swamp, from which it differs in having more open water. Thus, it attracts many types of waterfowl as well as other kinds of birds including hawks. Wild turkeys are plentiful in the area. Many mammals visit its shores and hummocks, including coyotes, red and gray fox, deer, raccoons, and many smaller critters. Ferns and wildflowers also abound, and there has been at least one rare species of orchid found in its watershed, though recent development destroyed at least one colony.
For these reasons, the town's Conservation Commission has over the years expressed interest in the swamp's preservation. Wetland regulations prevent its being filled, but the commission is still concerned about the development along its edges and with hunting of its wildlife. What's more, the waters eventually feed the Norwalk reservoir system. Some of the swamp has been preserved by donation to the Land Conservancy of Ridgefield, but most of it remains in private ownership.
Extending from Route 7 northward into Redding, Simpaug Turnpike is probably an old Indian trail that, to the south, followed the Norwalk River. In May 1832, the Simpaug Turnpike Company of Ridgefield received the state's permission to build a turnpike across the remarkably flat route that starts in eastern Ridgefield, continues through western Redding to West Redding station and then, via Sidecut Road, to Route 53, Redding Road, which led on up to Bethel. This route was so flat that the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad used much of it 18 years later to run its tracks up to Danbury instead of through Sugar Hollow.
Little is known about the turnpike company or how long it lasted. Frederic J. Wood, in his 1919 book, The Turnpikes of New England, could find little in official record about the road. However, it was no doubt built to serve as a smooth, flat route for the stagecoaches that ran between Danbury and Norwalk, where riders could catch boats and later trains to New York.
Indian Place Names of New England, published in 1962 by the Museum of the American Indian in New York City, says that "sympaug" is possibly from an Indian word, sumhutaug, meaning beavers, mammals that were much admired by the Indians for their dam-building abilities and for their fur.
Sumhutaug is of Western Niantic or Paugusett origin; both were divisions of the Wappinger tribe, which inhabited the area from the Hudson River to New Haven. Ridgefield was popular with those Indians, possibly because it was the highest point between New Haven and the Hudson.
Simpaug appears in various forms as names of streams and ponds in Redding, Bethel, and Danbury - i.e., Syenpauge, Semi-Pog (brook in Danbury, 1795), Sympang (Bethel, 1830s). In Ridgefield, the name first appears in the land records in an 1851 deed, describing land in Redding as well as in Ridgefield. In the document, Harry Pickett sold Daniel Sanford land on "Humpaug Turnpike Road," noting that the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad ran through it. An 1853 deed mentions "Simpog" Turnpike.
The fact that it was called a turnpike indicates that fees were charged to traverse it, probably from 1832 to around when the railroad arrived in 1850 and no doubt put it out of business.
In Redding, the road passes by the western shore of a pond called Umpawaug, believed to mean "bend of the road." Perhaps this was the home of the beavers of simpaug. Note, however, that the 1851 deed said "Humpaug," which seems a cross between Simpaug and Umpawaug. Could it be that one is a variant of the other?
The road in Ridgefield was called Sanford Station Road early in the 20th Century because it led up to the old Sanford Station on the railroad, later called Topstone Station to avoid confusion with Stamford station.
Sixth Lane is another in the First through 12th Lane series of little, private, dead end lanes off Mamanasco Road at the Eight Lakes development.
Skunk Lane was another - and perhaps the original - name for North Street. It appears in only one deed, but apparently was widely known in the 19th Century.
In that single deed, Charles Smith 2nd sold Daniel S. Mead five acres near the house of Henry Smith 2nd, bounded on the east by "the Branch" (stream) and on the west by the "highway called Skunk Lane."
Historian Silvio Bedini, in Ridgefield in Review, says North Street was called Skunk Lane because "many of the residents in that area ate skunk meat, which was reported to be of good flavor when properly prepared. Skunks were commonly eaten during the pre-Revolutionary period."
The explanation is colorful, even odorful, based apparently on legend. It is also possible that the name stemmed simply from the fact that many skunks lived up North Street way. Or it could have come from some incident, involving a skunk, in the lost and distant past. For example, in New Hartford, there is a place called Skunk Hollow, purportedly because a man named Clark Rice, who lived there, once pulled "a black and white cat" by the tail from his children's trundle bed. As a result he became known as Skunk Rice and his place, Skunk Hollow.
At any rate, skunks have never been held in high regard and it can be assumed that Skunk Lane was a somewhat derogatory name. It is no wonder it did not survive.
SKY TOP ROAD
Sky Top Road, which runs from Bennett's Farm Road to the dead end of pavement, seems to have an overblown name, considering that it is one of the flattest and certainly not one of the loftiest roads in town. However, the paved road is the developed portion of an ancient dirt road that still goes up a steep hill into what is now the town-owned Hemlock Hills Refuge. Not the top of the sky, but fairly high nonetheless.
Actually, Sky Top Road is the southern end of the 18th Century highway called Bogus Road (q.v.), a name still used for its northern section. Over this road, British troops were supposed to have marched in 1777 after the burning of Danbury and before the April 27 Battle of Ridgefield.
Sky Top Road is the main road at Lakeland Hills, a mid-1950s subdivision developed by Harold S. Goldsmith (1904-1969). Mr. Goldsmith had once been the head of Popular Publications, which produced pulp magazines. He was reportedly responsible for talking Erle Stanley Gardner, an assistant district attorney, into giving up his job to write for the pulps. The result was the Perry Mason series of mystery novels, turned into a popular television series in the 1950s and 60s.
As Mr. Goldsmith planned things, Sky Top Road was to connect with Bogus Road through Otto H. Lippolt's property, now the Hemlock Hills Refuge. Mr. Lippolt planned a large-scale, small-lot development there, but never got to more than installing some dirt roads and culverts. The town acquired Mr. Goldsmith's land on the mountain as well as the property now used for Fitzgerald and Serfilippi baseball fields, and also bought Mr. Lippolt's property, stopping development to the north and producing a large and wonderful tract of parkland.
Sky Top Road became a town road in July 1956.
Skyview Estates is the name of the 1955 subdivision by Stam-Nor Holding Corporation of the neighborhood that includes Bayberry Hill Road (q.v.) off lower Branchville Road.
The name is, when you think about it, silly. One would be hard put to find a square foot of soil in Ridgefield where you could not view the sky, even though we do have a lot of trees blocking full view.
SLEEPY HOLLOW ROAD
Sleepy Hollow Road, which runs between Round Lake Road and Barrack Hill Road, is part of the 1950s Eight Lakes subdivision (q.v.).
The source of the name is not Ridgefield, but the Hudson River Valley, location of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, whose characters included Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.
It is "cute," a common subdivision road name throughout the region and Northeast. For what it's worth, the road is on West Mountain and there are places on West Mountain where one can see the Hudson River Valley. Aside from that, the name has no significance.
Irving, incidentally, is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown.
Smith Road is an earlier name for today's Still Road, which runs from Haviland Road to Route 7 past the Stonehenge Inn. This is an old highway, dating from the 1700s, and a portion was the original path of what is now Route 7.
Richard E. Venus, town historian and former postmaster, believes the Smith Road name came from the fact that William H. Smith had a farm there early in the 20th Century. William's son, Clint, was a postman in the 1920s and 1930s.
However, Smiths were prominent on this road long before the 20th Century. In 1780, Hezekiah Smith paid 260 pounds to buy Stephen and Phebe Hard's house, barn, and gristmill. The mill was situated on the north side of Still Road and, nowadays, also on the east side of Stonehenge Road. (Stonehenge Road and lower Still Road were part of the Sugar Hollow Turnpike - Route 7 - which had not been built by 1780.)
Hezekiah eventually sold out to Ezra Smith for $1,137 in 1803. At the same time, David Perry and Ezekiel Wilson sold their small shares in the mill operation to Ezra.
Ezra apparently developed the mill site further, for by the time his widow, Nancy, sold out in 1840, there was a "clothiers shop" on the property.
The mill site passed into several hands and by 1845, William Smith 2nd and Azaria Smith were owners. They sold a third share that year to the Union Manufacturing Company of Norwalk, which eventually took over operation. At this point, the property included a fulling mill, which cleaned, felted and shrank raw woolen cloth, and a dye house, which colored the cloth.
Although the mills passed out of Smith hands, the family apparently lived in the neighborhood well into this century.
SMITH'S GREAT POND
Smith's Great Pond was another name for today's Great Pond, and was so called in the 1829 perambulation of the Ridgefield-Redding border, which runs through the northeast corner of the pond.
The name stems from the fact that various Smith millers - Ezra at this time owned water rights to the pond for their milling (see Smith Road). When Hezekiah Smith bought his mill near what is now Stonehenge Inn, he did so "with the privilege of the Great Pond that was obtained of Daniel Dean," an early owner of the pond.
Smith's Pond was a shorter name for Smith's Great Pond (above), appearing in at least two 19th Century deeds.
In 1835, David Burr of Redding sold Preserved Taylor of Redding three acres on the town line "by Smith's Pond so called." In 1854, Joseph W. Hubbell of Norwalk sold the Union Manufacturing Company, operator then of Smith's mills, one-third "part of a pond called Smith's Pond."
Sophia Drive, which runs from Scodon Drive to Bogus Road at the Scodon subdivision in Ridgebury, was named for Sophia Langstroth, a former owner of the land.
She and her husband, Dr. Francis Ward Langstroth, a physician and dog breeder, bought a house and 79 acres on the south side of George Washington Highway in 1922 for $5,000.
The Langstroths began selling their property around 1957 to Carleton A. Scofield who, with Judge Joseph H. Donnelly (thus Scodon), developed the subdivision.
About the same time, the couple moved to Florida where Dr. Langstroth died in 1962 and where Sophia remarried and was known as Sophia E. Kearney until her death in the late 1970s in St. Petersburg.
Soundview Road is a name that surprises some Ridgefielders who do not think of themselves as living near the sea. Although we are almost 15 miles from the shore, the name is accurate.
First called Media Lane (q.v.) at its northern end - presumably because it was halfway between Wilton Roads East and West, Soundview Road first appears as a dirt road with no houses on it on a 1936 map of the town. It may have been an old farm path and it may also have had something to do with the old Fairgrounds where the Ridgefield Fair and Cattle Show took place between 1858 and 1881. The Fairgrounds fronted on Wilton Road West along the top of the ridge, opposite Olmstead Lane, and ran back to include the Soundview neighborhood.
Before that, in 1777 when the area was farmland, this neighborhood served as a campsite for the British troops after their April 27 skirmishes with colonials along North Salem Road and Main Street. Probably the chief reason the British chose this site was that it overlooked Long Island Sound where British ships awaited the troops. Fires from here signaled the ships that the soldiers would arrive in Norwalk the next day.
From the days of the Revolution well into this century, Ridgefield was a farming community. Consequently, there were not nearly as many trees around as there are today, and the view from here of Long Island Sound was probably sweeping. Today, glimpses of the water - and of Long Island itself on a clear day - can still be seen, especially when the leaves are off the trees.
Dr. Newtown M. Schaffer, a renowned orthopedic surgeon, owned much of the Soundview Road area early in the 20th Century and called his estate "Beacon Hill" to recall the British encampment.
Peter Lorenzini (1916-2004) later owned Beacon Hill and, much smaller than it was in its heyday, the house still stands on a lot between Soundview Road and Wilton Road West. (The house once had six chimneys, but today has only one.)
Mr. Lorenzini named and developed the road in the 1950s and 1960s. The name became official by vote of the selectmen Dec. 18, 1958.
In 2004-05, Richard Lorenzini, Peter's son, built a house at 320 Wilton Road West, on a lot that once housed the pump house for the Beacon Hill estate. The antique steam-operated pump sat in a small, round, stone building until early 2004, when the Sloane-Stanley Museum removed in Kent removed it for its steam engine collection. Mr. Lorenzini could not bring himself to raze the beautifully built stone pump house, which was retained and sits in front of the new house.
SOUTH LONG POND
A 1797 map of Lewisboro, N.Y., then called Salem, uses the name South Long Pond for today's Lake Oscaleta.
Lakes Oscaleta, Waccabuc and Rippowam (q.v.) were in the early 1700s called Long Pond and considered one body of water. As the water area became smaller - probably through natural erosion and the erosion that results from converting forest to farmland - three distinct ponds formed.
At first, these were called Long Pond (now Waccabuc), North Long Pond (Rippowam) and South Long Pond. Eventually, the last two were shortened and called just North Pond and South Pond. By the late Victorian era, when everything seemed to need an ornate name, adjacent landowners chose the titles used today. But some old-timers still used North and South Pond well into the late 20th Century.
Before 1731, most of Long Pond was within Ridgefield. Even after the Oblong was set off to New York in that year, a little bit of the pond was in Ridgefield. Today, the swamp at the east end of Rippowam and Oscaleta, within Ridgefield, is a vestige of the old and longer Long Pond.
SOUTH MIDDLE DISTRICT
South Middle District is an unusual name, appearing in a single deed that may have been short-lived because it did not fall into the usual system for naming town school districts.
In 1864, Floyd K. Hunt sold Halcyon G. Bailey five acres of woodland in Ridgebury, "in the school district known as South Middle District." The tract was bounded on the north by a highway, easterly by Elias Palmer, and southerly and westerly by Smith Keeler.
All of those people lived along either side of Ridgebury Road near the top of the hill, between Ned's Mountain Road and St. Elizabeth Seton Church. Thus, the land was probably close by, perhaps on the south side of Ned's Mountain Road.
This, in the 1860s, was School District Number 14, also called South Ridgebury District. However, Beers Atlas of 1867 gives no name to the district, calling it only Number 14. In all but four of the 14 Ridgefield districts shown on the map, names are given (Farmingville, West Lane, Flat Rock, etc.).
It may have been that earlier, one district existed to serve all of Ridgebury and was called simply the Ridgebury District. But when Ridgebury was split into two districts, 14 and 15, some disagreement or confusion may have arisen over what to call the new districts.
But why "South Middle District"? Perhaps the Scotland District, just below Number 14, had become known to some Ridgeburians as the south district because the upper parts of it were within the old Ridgebury boundaries, used for the purpose of dividing off the two ecclesiastical societies (Congregational churches) in town. Thus, Number 14 was in the "middle" of two districts in Ridgebury, but south of the north one.
What is unusual about this name is that Ridgefielders had long used old neighborhood names, such as Titicus, West Mountain and Farmingville, for their school districts. In other towns, "position" names were sometimes used - Danbury, for example, had North Centre District, South Centre District and even a Middle North Centre District - but Ridgefield had almost completely shied away from such lackluster names. It did have a plan, old "Center District" though.
SOUTH OLMSTEAD LANE
South Olmstead Lane is an old highway that runs from Olmstead Lane south to St. Johns Road. It existed before 1856 when the appeared on a county map. As a farm path, it was probably established in the 18th Century to skirt the east side of the Silver Spring Swamp or New Pound Bogs.
In the 19th Century, the road chiefly served as an access to the back pastures of the Seymour farms, whose houses were on Wilton Road West. The Seymour Cemetery still stands along South Olmstead Lane, holding the remains of Seymours, Smiths and Olmsteads who lived in the neighborhood and were often interrelated. The roadside cemetery used to be surrounded by fields and more recently by woods and the remains of an old neighborhood dump. Today, subdivision lots have been developed around it, and the cemetery is, in effect, part of the front yard of 44 South Olmstead Lane.
A little after the turn of the 20th Century, a small community of Italian immigrants established itself on South Olmstead Lane, and some of the families still live there. Serfi1ippi Drive, which runs off lower South Olmstead Lane, recalls one such family, still living on the road.
South Olmstead Lane is so called because it runs southerly off Olmstead Lane, which was named after the Olmstead family who had several houses along it in the 19th Century. It probably would have been reasonable to call South Olmstead Lane just "Olmstead Lane," and to have a different name for the leg of Olmstead between Wilton Road West and South Olmstead. In fact, many old-timers simply call South Olmstead Lane "Olmstead Lane" today.
South Pond is a shortened form of South Long Pond, an old name for Lake Oscaleta in nearby South Salem, N. Y, territory that was once part of Ridgefie1d.
Southridge Court serves a 1985 subdivision of 10 lots on 30 acres off the west side of Silver Spring Road on the Wilton-Ridgefield and New York-Ridgefield lines. The developer was Roger Petersen, and the name vaguely recalls an 18th Century name for this area, Southwest Ridges.
Some years ago, G. Evans Hubbard of Wilton, a historian of that town and founder of The Wilton Bulletin newspaper, planned a subdivision of this land and named the proposed road Evans Circle (q.v.).
SOUTH SALEM ROAD
South Salem Road is a portion of one of our earliest main highways whose dual nomenclature today causes no end of confusion to visitors and newcomers.
Back in the 1700s, the highway that went from Main Street westerly to the New York line - the present Route 35 - was called Bedford Road (q.v.) because it headed toward Bedford, N.Y., the nearest sizable New York community. It was a logical named used in a logical way for the entire road.
Eventually - and it's not clear just when or why - the road got to be called by two names: West Lane from Main Street to the West Lane schoolhouse, and South Salem Road from the school to the state line. Logically, South Salem Road ought to begin at Main Street.
South Salem is the name of a "hamlet" within the New York town of Lewisboro. It was the first major settlement in Lewisboro and, in fact, before 1729, most of the South Salem area belonged to Ridgefield and had been settled by Ridgefielders.
At first, the area that is the towns of Lewisboro and North Salem was called just "Salem," based on the Hebrew word for "peace." It is a popular name, applied to more than 30 communities in the United States.
When it was decided that the mountainous terrain between the northern and southern halves of town made communication too difficult, the town was split into North or Upper Salem and Lower Salem, eventually called South Salem. However, in 1840, the people of Lower or South Salem decided to change the town's name to honor John Lewis, who gave much money to support the common schools there.
Oddly enough, while we have North Salem, Danbury, Redding and Wilton roads, we have no "Lewisboro Road." Ridgefielders have tended to emphasize the hamlet of South Salem, a name that is probably better known than the town's name. (This is a lot like Brewster, N.Y., which is a tiny village of a few hundred acres within the large town of Southeast, but which is much between known than the town.)
The New York State extension of South Salem Road was called the Hartford Post Road on a 1797 map of Lower Salem. The post riders and stages came from New York City and followed today's Route 35 to Haviland Road, where they cut over to Pickett's Ridge Road, then veered north through Starrs Plain and over Moses Mountain to Danbury. Northern Danbury Road and Route 7 through the Sugar Hollow did not exist in the 1700s.
It is not clear when South Salem Road acquired its name. However, a 1790 deed mentions "the road leading to Salem" and an 1834 deed says "the road leading to South Salem."
The western end of South Salem Road is new, dating from the 1930s. The original route is today called Old South Salem Road (q.v.)
SOUTH SHORE DRIVE
South Shore Drive - a shoreless road named for a paper pond - is part of the mid-1950s Lakeland Hills subdivision, done by Harold Goldsmith (1904-1969). Originally, it was two roads. From Bennett's Farm Road straight eastward to the end was called Sunset Drive while the rest of the road - southerly, then easterly - was South Shore Drive.
In 1972, the Board of Selectmen under First Selectman Joseph McLinden, agreed there was too much confusion between Sunset Drive and Sunset Lane, the latter a short dead-end village road off Grove Street that had many more houses on it than did the drive. The board voted to eliminate Sunset Drive and to extend the application of the name South Shore Drive to it.
Some may wonder why it is called South Shore Drive when the south shore of Lake Windwing, part of the Lakeland Hills development, is quite a bit to the north. Developer Goldsmith, who created Lake Windwing, also planned a second pond, called Sunset Lake. Had it been built, South Shore Drive would have run right along its south shore. Why it was not built is unclear; however, the town bought much of the Goldsmith property south of Lake Windwing (now ball fields and open space) and the lack of population for the lake shores may have made creating the pond impractical.
South Shore Drive - at least the south part of it - became a town road in 1957.
South Street is a little house-less lane that leads from Danbury Road to the town's sewage treatment plant, trash transfer station, recycling center, highway department, and dog pound.
Originally a "cow path" between fields leading to the town dump and sewer plant, South Street was improved by the Morganti family. Paul Morganti said in a 1975 interview that the road was once called Sewer Bed Road because it led to the sludge drying beds (or as former first Selectman Leo F. Carroll used to euphemistically call them, the "Exposure Gardens.")
"I didn't like the name," said Mr. Morganti, who had lived right across Danbury Road from the lane. So, back in the 1950s, when he was a selectman, he got the Board of Selectmen to change the name to South Street, presumably because it runs somewhat southerly off Danbury Road.
For many years South Street ended at the beds and the old town dump. Eventually, however, as the town developed more facilities there (a highway garage, dog, pound), South Street was connected to Old Quarry Road to provide two accesses.
South Street was once called Northrup Road, possibly because some Northrup family owned the fields there.
The Southwest Ridges is a name that has all but disappeared from Ridgefield's geography. Perhaps that is because the locality itself almost completely disappeared from Ridgefield.
When they first purchased land from the natives in 1708, the proprietors acquired a sizable chunk that would today include much of Lewisboro, N.Y., north of the hamlet of Vista. At that time, this territory in the southwestern part of town bordered Norwalk to the south, and Stamford to the southwest, and extended to Lake Kitchawan, about a mile and three quarters west of the present Connecticut line.
This land consists of ridges - no big hills, just rolling and sometimes long ridges. Consequently, it quickly picked up the name Southwest Ridges, which was in use by 1717 and was mentioned often in the first three decades of the town's existence.
The first activity there was the subdivision of a portion of the ridges into five- and six-acre lots - 28 of them, representing one for each of the proprietors. This subdivision of "outer" lands was somewhat unusual because the parcels were so small and virtually all the same size. Usually, subdivisions of territory distant from the village consisted of lots of much large sizes - from 20 to 100 acres - and of varying size, with smaller parcels representing the best land and larger ones the worst. Apparently, the land in this subdivision was all super.
That might place the subdivision on or about the ridge today traversed by Elmwood Road in Lewisboro. Or it could be the next ridge over, the one traversed by Route 123. Both have fine farmland, though no farms remain today.
The list of owners of this very early subdivision reads like a who's who of Ridgefield settlers: Thomas Hauley, the first minister; Mathew Seamore, who operated a trading post and went on to be a substantial landowner; Benjamin Burt, the town blacksmith; David Scott, founder of the still sizable Scott family; and Joseph, Jonathan and Timothy Keeler, whose descendants are still here; plus names like Saintjohn, Benedict, Olmsted, Smith, Rockwell, Hyatt (Hoyt), Northrop, Osburn, and Wilson that remained the chief families of Ridgefield for some two centuries. Few settled on these lots, used chiefly for planting, but no doubt some did establish homes here.
One reason for believing that the area of the subdivision is in New York now is the fact that the two names on a subdivision map in the land records - Long Ridge and Royall Oak Ridge - occurred in the Ridgefield land records only before the Oblong was divided off to New York Colony in 1731. Probably most of the Southwest Ridges was lost to Ridgefield when Connecticut colony exchanged the mile and three-quarters wide Oblong with New York for Greenwich and some other land rights. This created some bad feelings here and some confusion over titles. The bad feelings were probably assuaged by the colony's granting Ridgefield's proprietors the right to the huge Ridgebury territory that extended north through today's western Danbury to New Fairfield.
The titles from Connecticut probably just transferred to New York, for some Ridgefielders remained on their land and became the first residents of today's South Salem area of Lewisboro.
However, old deeds showed their concern. When Joseph Hobart sold Mathew Seamore five acres "on ye Southwest Ridges" in 1728, he stipulated that "it is also to be understood that if ye dividing line of ye Governments take ye same into York Government, that I defend it not unto him, or make it good, but only give him up all my right and interest in ye grant of said lands upon him."
In 1739, Timothy Canfield, "living on ye Oblong near Ridgefield in ye county of West Chester and government of New York," reported on the Ridgefield land records "having formerly purchased 6 acres of land of James Northrop of Ridgefield...which land lyes on ye Southwest Ridges so called... which tract of land was cutt off by ye Government line, whereby my title and property unto said land utterly passed and became void..." But he adds that he subsequently "received good satisfaction" for the lost land.
The Southwest Ridges undoubtedly consisted of more than just the territory covered in the subdivision. Indications are that the first ridge remained in Ridgefield and consists of the land around the Silver Spring Country Club, bounded on the west by Silver Spring Road and the northwest by West Lane. This was later called Silver Spring Ridge.
A 1732 deed mentions property on "ye Southwest Ridge Division, part of which was cutt off by ye Government line," and another a year later refers to the "Southwest Ridge Road." In 1734, Samuel Saintjohn sold his house "on ye road to ye Southwest Ridges" - probably lower West Lane of today.
The existence of this route to the Southwest Ridges was noted as early as 1717 when the proprietors sequestered an area described as "all ye land from ye head of ye New Pound Bogg Swamp, with a direct line to ye path as it embarks upon ye going up of ye foot of ye first Southwest Ridge." This parcel of protected land ran from the top of Silver Spring Swamp, way behind the West Lane Market, over to the intersection of West Lane, Silver Spring Road, and South Salem Road.
While the road ceased being connected in name with the Southwest Ridges in the 1730s, the locality itself continued to be mentioned for many years. Perhaps because there was only one Ridgefield ridge left after the Oblong separation, a deed in 1755 spoke of "ye Southwest Ridge so called." More than a century later, an 1863 deed for land on lower West Lane mentioned "the Southwest Ridge." This is believed to be the last use of this name in Ridgefield records.
An 1840 map, found in the Probate Court records, for land at lower West Lane says the land it shows is "at Southwest Ridge."
However, old habits are hard to break, and deeds filed in 1762, 1780, 1792, and 1795 continued to keep alive the old name of "Southwest Ridges."
Today, the old name is hinted at in a new one, applied to a subdivision road at the very southwestern comer of town, off Silver Spring Road at the Wilton line: Southridge Court (q.v.).
Spectacle Brook is one of a group of old and colorful "Spectacle" names generated from a swamp in Wilton.
The brook itself rises in a swamp west of Nod Road, sc;mth of Whipstick Road and east of the Landegger estate off Wilton Road East. From there, the brook travels southerly, east of Spectacle Lane, down into Wilton, where it flows into the Spectacle Bogs and then winds up in the East Branch of the Comstock Brook. That, in turn, wanders down to the Norwalk River and into Long Island Sound.
A couple of theories have arisen over the origin of the name, Spectacle, which first appeared in 1711 in the Norwalk land records for territory in today' s Wilton. Thomas Gregory was recorded then as owning land "in ye Spectacle Bogges, so called."
David Herman Van Hoosear, in his Annals of Wilton, observes that one tradition was that the bogs "were originally bought - or sold - for a pair of spectacles. Against this legend is the fact that they were called Spectacle Bogges before the land had been sold.
More likely, said Mr. Van Hoosear, was another tradition. "They did slightly resemble spectacles, consisting as they did of an upper and lower swamp connected."
George R. Stewart, historian of American place names, seemed to agree. In Names Upon the Land, he wrote, "like everyone else [New Englanders] often called places for how they looked. In those days, eyeglasses were new and uncommon, and men were quick to note that something had two large ends and a narrow strip between. Thus came Spectacle Island and Spectacle Pond." And, presumably, Spectacle Bogs.
"Spectacle Brook" was first mentioned in a Feb. 28, 1732 Ridgefield Town Meeting description of a town road (long ago abandoned) that was being laid out, and the term is still used on U.S. Geological Survey maps of southern Ridgefield and northern Wilton. However, the term "Spectacle," applied to a ridge, was appearing in Ridgefield deeds 15 years earlier than that (see Spectacle Brook Ridge).
Eventually, the territory around the brook and the lane became known as 'Spectacle." An 1848 deed mentions "Spectacle, a place so called."
SPECTACLE BROOK RIDGE
A property map filed with the town clerk in 1947 mentions Spectacle Brook Ridge, locating it on the east side of lower Spectacle Lane, lying between the road and the Spectacle Brook. This is probably the same area mentioned in 1719 when the proprietors granted Joseph Benedict five acres of pasture and plowland "lying on ye Spectacle Ridge" - the earliest use of Spectacle in Ridgefield.
Spectacle Lane is an old highway that runs from Wilton Road East, easterly a short distance, then southerly and parallel to Wilton Road East. For many years, it connected with roads in Wilton. Then the Ridgefield portion south of Gay Road became a barely used dirt road that, in Wilton, disappeared into woods.
Back in the mid-1950s, the first selectmen of Wilton and Ridgefield discussed the possibility of reopening a connection between the two towns via Spectacle Lane, then a gravel road, which would connect with Millstone Road in Wilton. It was observed that the route was an old highway, but much of the Wilton portion had become wooded over. (The road appears on an 1856 map of Fairfield County.)
However, Ridgefield First Selectman Harry E. Hull felt that the "town should not in general reopen long-unused highways until it became satisfied that the tax revenue from construction on these highways would cover the cost of improvements."
In the years since, there were moves by developers to have the old road south of Gay Road reopened. In the early 1990s, a subdivision was developed over parts of nearly 1,000 feet of Spectacle Lane south of Gay Road and the dirt road was paved. But because areas on the Wilton side had already been developed and residents there weren't interested in a through road in the neighborhood, the resurrected south end of Spectacle Lane was dead-ended with a cul-de-sac.
It's not certain just how old Spectacle Lane is, but in a 1744 deed to Daniel Chapman, an acre was described as being "at ye Flatt Rock, east of ye road and south of ye Specktacle Road." Another contemporary deed mentions land "north of Specktacle Road, east of ye Country Road" (generally, the Country Road was today's Wilton Road West).
The fact that land was "north" or "south" of the road indicates that it was situated up at the northern end of Spectacle Lane, where the highway runs east-west. Or it could indicate that the 18th Century "Spectackle Road" was some other east-west road, long ago abandoned.
See Spectacle Brook Ridge above.
The name, Spectacle Road, besides being applied to the old highway mentioned above, was also certainly once applied to Spectacle Lane. An 1851 survey done of the route of Wilton Road East mentions its connection with "Spectacle Road."
SPIRE VIEW ROAD
Spire View Road, a dead-end off Old Stagecoach Road, is part of the late-1950s Ridgefield Knolls subdivision of Robert Kaufman.
Mr. Kaufman named the road for the spire of the Ridgebury Congregational Church, situated two miles to the north-northwest. Although this writer tried to view the spire from the road years ago, he was not been successful. Nevertheless, one longtime resident of the road confirmed in the late 1970s that he could see the spire from his property.
SPLIT LEVEL ROAD
Split Level Road, which runs between Soundview Road and Wilton Road East, seems to have a dual meaning.
On the surface, the name refers to the fact that part of the road runs along the fairly flat ridge near Soundview Road while the other part descends a rather steep hill (from around 750 feet above sea level to about 630 feet), thus being of two levels - flat and steep.
On the other hand, there are "split-level" houses built along the road.
According to Peter Lorenzini (1916-2004) who, with Norman Craig, subdivided the land in 1956, the name reflects the elevations. Called Sound View Acres, the subdivision was part of the development that included Soundview Road (q.v.)
Spring Meadow was an old name formerly applied to land at the south side of Great Pond, territory that now includes Martin Park.
The name, which appears in an 1841 deed, apparently refers to a spring of water in the meadow. Springs are not uncommon thereabouts; Great Pond (q.v.) is chiefly spring-fed.
Nor is "spring" an unusual name in any agricultural community. Many farms had a Spring Lot or a Spring Field - maybe even a Spring Meadow.
SPRING VALLEY ROAD
Spring Valley Road runs from lower Ridgebury Road, parallel to and west of Ridgebury Road, northward to Chestnut Hill Road. It is an old highway and predates 1856 when it shows up on the earliest complete map of the town.
The name is not as old and has not been found in the land records through 1900. However, it was in use by 1929 when it appears on a map of private property along the road. According to Paul Hampden, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1910, there are many springs on the hillside east of the road. And, of course, the road generally follows a valley.
Spring Valley Road was one of the last roads in town to be paved, but almost was among the earlier ones. In 1990, Ed Plaut, who lives on the ridge east of the road, offered this account of how the road was once saved from paving:
"John Wheeler was a newspaper man who entered this vail of tears about a century ago. He is credited with having invented the as-told-to and introduced it during a World Series when he wrote such daily pieces as 'How I'm Going to Pitch to Ty Cobb' by Christy Matthiewson and 'How I'm Going to Hit Christy Matthiewson' by Ty Cobb, both as told to John. He was also a pioneer in the field of syndication and founded the Bell Syndicate and the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA).
"John had a large estate on Spring Valley Road. One evening about 55 years ago, he came home from New York to find the WPA (Federal Works Progress Administration) crew paving the road. The horse people in the vicinity preferred to keep it a dirt road.
"John promptly phoned the White House and asked to speak to his friend, Harry Hopkins (head of the WP A and close friend of President Roosevelt). He explained the situation, told him that he had the foreman of the crew right there and he wanted Mr. Hopkins to tell the foreman to cut it out before any more damage was done. Hopkins did, the foreman did, and Spring Valley remained unpaved until it was vandalized with asphalt a few years ago."
Wheeler Road, which runs off Spring Valley, is named for John Wheeler.
SPRUCE HILL ROAD
In an 1862 deed, Willis Bennett sold George Bouton three acres of woodland "at Bogus...said land lying directly south of Spruce Hill Road."
Bogus is the area south of George Washington Highway, generally traversed by Bogus Road. It is possible Spruce Hill Road was today's Ned's Mountain Road.
Both black and red spruce are native to this area and were used for finishing in interiors of houses. Because it is pitchy, it was not a good firewood.
An 1813 deed in the land records mentions "Spruce Hills" while deeds from 1781 and 1850 cite a "Spruce Hill." Though both terms were reported to be in Ridgebury, they seem to have been different localities.
The Spruce Hills reference also mentions the land's being bounded by the , 'Spruce Hole Path so called. "As will be suggested below, the Spruce Hole was in a portion of Ridgebury that now belongs to Danbury.
Property owners mentioned in the 1850 deed suggest that Spruce Hill was east of Ridgebury Road and south of George Washington Highway, perhaps the same hill later called Crow Hill (q.v.).
Several deeds between 1805 and 1834 mention Spruce Hole, a depression of land that apparently existed in the Mill Plain area of Danbury, once part of Ridgefield.
The 1805 deed from Elnathan Field to Abraham and Burr Fairchild describes the land as bounded on the north "by the path which comes out of the Spruce Hole so called."
In 1813 the Fairchilds sold Smith Starr land at a place "commonly called Spruce Hills," bounded westerly by "Spruce Hole Path so called."
In 1834 two members of the Norris family exchanged land "at a place called Spruce Hole."
The hole was probably somewhere along today's Route 6 or Route 84 between Mill Plain and the state line, possibly south of those highways.
Spruce Mountain, a hill that reaches about 920 feet above sea level, is really a Danbury locality, but years ago, Ridgefielders may have considered some of its western "slope" to be in Ridgefield. (It is tough to define where one "mountain" ends and the next begins in the hilly terrain of northeastern Ridgefield.)
A 1748 proprietors deed to Nathan St. John and Timothy Benedict said the nine acres was "lying on ye Spruce Mountain" bounded on the "east by Danbury line."
It is near the peak of Spruce Mountain, west of Route 7, that Danbury Airport has its large, rotating beacon.
Sprucewood Lane is a short, dead-end road off Pinecrest Drive. Richard Mayhew, the developer, said he named it because spruces were mixed in with pines at the top of the hill there.
When Levi and Elias Godfrey sold Andrew Godfrey 25 acres back in 1867, they described the land as having "the Stage Road from Ridgefie1d Station to Ridgefie1d running through same, north of the dwelling."
This is Branchville Road, the section that runs between the two ends of Old Branchville Road. It had been built 15 years earlier as a smoother, less steep route for the "stages" - both peop1e- and freight-carrying, particularly the latter - that ran between the station at what was later called Branchville (q.v.) and the village.
This need for stages was obviated by the completion in 1870 of the branch rail line from Ridgefield Station (q.v.) up to the new station at Ridgefield village. That station is still standing and is a warehouse at Ridgefield Supply Company.
STAMFORD MILL RIVER
The Stamford Mill River is a name that has gone the way of the Great East Meadow Pond. Today, it is called simply Mill River, just as the once-wordy body of water is now Great Pond.
The river first appears in the Ridgefield records in 1716 when John Copp and Andrew Messenger "ran" the boundary line between Norwalk (now Wilton) and Ridgefield, surveying from Branchville eastward to "ye main branch of Stanford Mill River" where "by reason that ye dividing line between Stanford and Norwalk is not yet run up so high as ye wilderness, we thought meet to proceed no further..."
The spot where they gave up is in Lewisboro, above Vista, and east of Lake Kitchawan, territory that belonged to Ridgefield at the time. As this description notes, back in the early 1700s, Ridgefield's southeastern corner bordered on Stamford.
The Copp-Messenger description suggestions that there is more than one branch to the river, and Ridgefield today is the source of what was then called the "east branch" but is now simply Mill River.
The river, hardly more than a brook here, rises in the swamps around Peaceable Street, west of Westmoreland. It flows into the Mill River Pond, south of South Salem Road; for the past 25 or so years, the pond has been mostly empty due to a burst dam. The pond bed and vicinity were once a sizable swamp; a 1721 deed from the proprietors to James Northrup mentions the land's "lying in a swamp where Bedford Path (Old South Salem Road) crosses Stamford Branch."
From the pond the stream flows under Route 123 in Lewisboro, along Mill River Road and into Pound Ridge where it is a chief source of the Mill River Reservoir. From there, the water flows south into Stamford and the Laurel Reservoir. The outlet of that body of water flows via the Rippowam River into the North Stamford Reservoir and, if it is still around after escaping the intakes for three public water systems, the Ridgefield water winds up in Long Island Sound.
Down in southern Stamford, where the river meets the sound, there is a little parallel road called Mill River Street, indicating that before someone hung the Rippowam name on the river (recalling the Indians' name for the territory), it had been commonly known as Mill River. Indeed, Beers 1867 map of Stamford calls it "Mill River."
The reason was simple: many mills were along its length. There may have been a small mill, perhaps a sawmill, in Ridgefield near South Salem Road. There certainly was at least one mill, probably two or three, near the intersection of Route 123 and Mill River Road (Ridgefield territory before 1731); in 1726, the proprietors gave Moses Northrup "land lying on Stamford Branch, at ye saw mill," which was probably situated there. In 1867, between the Ridgefield line and Long Island Sound, at least 10 mills operated along the river, including those producing flour, wool, wire and lumber.
It was the "Stamford" Mill River because it met the sea there and was known to the settlers at Stamford long before its source was. Such is also the case with the Norwalk and Saugatuck Rivers, which have sources in Ridgefield.
Early versions of the name were spelled Stanford. That spelling appeared in the General Court's admission of the town of Stamford into the jurisdiction of Connecticut in 1662. Helen Earle Sellers, in Connecticut Town Origins, says "the name is commonly spelled Stanford, or Stanforde, in the early records, although the pronunciation has always been Stamford, like that of the city of churches in Lincolnshire, England, the one of the three English Stamfords for which it would seem to have been named."
The last Stanford spelling here appears in 1721. That same year, a deed uses Stamford.
When Timothy Keeler Jr. sold Jared and Abigail Northrup nine acres in 1796, he located it "on the road to Stamford." That's probably lower West Lane, which, before New Canaan was created from Norwalk and Stamford in 1801, would have led toward that town.
The Stamping Place is an unusual name that appears in only one deed, dated 1726, when the proprietors granted Samuel Saint john two acres "lying at or near ye Stamping Place, on ye Southwest Ridges."
The Southwest Ridges was the area of pre-Oblong Ridgefield that consisted of land west of Silver Spring Road into New York, and included the ridges along Elmwood Road and Route 123 in Lewisboro. It is not clear where the Saint John parcel was because "common land" surrounded it, leaving no adjoining property owners or roads as clues.
"Stamping" here could mean either the pressing of apples for cider, or a threshing. However, most likely, it was a place where wild animals habitually hung out. According to George R. Stewart in his Names on the Land, "near the licks (brackish springs) the buffalo might even trample down all the growth. Such a place was called a stamping ground... Still an American may call his own particular haunts his stamping-ground." In another book, American Place Names, Mr. Stewart explains it this way: "In the 18th Century the term 'stamping ground' was used for a place frequented by game, generally because of a salt lick, and marked by trampling."
Standish Drive, a circular road off Lounsbury Road, is part of Harry Richmond and Bill Connors' mid-1960s Meadow Woods subdivision. It became a town road in 1968. Most of its houses were built by Marty Curnan, a former New York city policeman.
The road was named for Miles Standish, the pioneer of Plymouth Colony, who had no known connection with Ridgefield or even Connecticut.
Standpipe Road is the former name for Peaceable Ridge Road. The name was in use for many years until 1960 when a group of residents decided "standpipe" just did not have enough class for them, and they petitioned the selectmen to have the name changed. The result is the stupidly confusing "Peaceable Ridge Road," easily mixed up with Peaceable Hill Road and Peaceable Street (see Peaceable Ridge Road).
The old namesake went out in style. The road was named for the tall, cast-iron water tank that had been erected off the road at the turn of the 20th Century to provide pressure for the lines of the old Ridgefield Water Supply Company. One night in the mid-1970s, the pipe, which had been leaking badly, burst open, created a deafening road and a brief flood in the area. Damage, however, was minor, and the loss of the tank did not affect the water company customers since some years earlier the water company had erected a newer standpipe next to it.
Starr's Plain is a section of Danbury whose name has sometimes spilled over into Ridgefield. In general, Starr's Plain is the area east of Route 7 just north of the Danbury line, a rolling plain cut off from Danbury proper by Moses Mountain and Wooster Mountain, and connected to it by the Sugar Hollow. Old descriptions have it extending east to Long Ridge Road, just above West Redding, but the center of the district tended to be at its western end.
The name comes from some early member of the Starr family. Shortly after Danbury's settlement by eight families in 1684, Josiah Starr moved to the town from Long Island. According to an early Danbury historian, writing in 1801, "he had six sons, from whom many families of that name have descended."
Which one owned land or settle at Starr's Plain has not been determined - early Danbury records were burned by the British. However, someone was there by 1743, for in a Ridgefield deed from Alexander Resseguie to Benjamin Willson Jr., a parcel of land partly in Ridgefield and partly in Danbury was described as touching "Stars northwest corner." Not long after Starr's Ridge (q.v.) was appearing in Ridgefield records.
The first mention in Ridgefield was in 1780 for land "near" Starr's Plain. Six years later, a deed mentioned land "westward of Starrs Plain so called." In 1843, Sturges Sellick of Danbury sold David Dauchy of Danbury three acres "partly in said Danbury and partly in Ridgefield, at a place called Starrs Plain." And an 1856 deed for land in the two towns said it was "in Starrs Plain District so called."
It seems clear that at least a little of northeastern Ridgefield - up around the tennis club and generally north-northeast of Laurel Lane - was considered part of Starr's Plain.
The area was a formal school district by 1769 when an adjourned meeting of the First Society of Danbury met "to Devide the several Districts in the Society for Schools."
Since this district was cut off by mountains and bordered west and south by other towns, its description was the briefest of the nine districts' descriptions: "That the Inhabitants living southerly of a Line drawn Heighth of Toms mountain and from thence to the Height of Spruse mountain near Capt. Taylors field be one district and called Starrs Plain or Long Ridge District."
Long Ridge is a couple of miles east of Route 7, and was never the "developed" center of Starr's Plain. The west end had several mills - including a sawmill and an iron foundry - plus at least one hat factory. It had a schoolhouse, probably a store, and certainly its own church and cemetery.
"The church at Starr's Plain was established early in the 1800s. James M. Bailey in his History of Danbury explains its founding:
"Early in the present century, James Beatys lived a few rods beyond the base of Sugar Hollow Mountain, near the corner of the present Starr's Plain and Long Ridge Roads. One cold winter day Mr. Beatys was cutting wood in his door yard when Rev. James Coleman, known as 'Uncle Jimmy,' a Methodist preacher whose circuit extended from Ridgefield to the Canada line, passed by on horseback, on his homeward journey from Canada.
"According to the hospitable custom of the day, Mr. Beatys invited the traveler in to dinner, an invitation gratefully accepted. Finding that his guest was a minister, Mr. Beatys asked him to make an appointment to preach at his house, which he did two weeks later, giving the first Methodist sermon in Starr's Plain at a house of a very strong Episcopalian.
"The sermon made a deep impression, and was followed by another a little later, the result of which was a number of conversions, including the children of James Beatys, whose distress was great when he saw his children turn from the church of their father to Methodism.
"The outcome of these meetings was the organization of the first Methodist class in the town of Danbury..."
A Methodist Protestant church was eventually organized around 1830. "Services were held for a few years in the home of Rev. Mr. (Levi) Bronson until becoming impressed with the idea that a church building was needed, he took his axe one day, went into the woods, selected a tree, and felled it. Then kneeling beside it he prayed that the work he had begun might be completed, and it was, and stands as a memorial of those faithful workers of many years ago."
That may have been the same building that stood until the late 20th Century when, long unused, it was torn down.
Today, central Starr's Plain - once well known for its fertile farmland as well as its mills - has neither industry nor farms, and is solely residential, except for a little strip at its western border along Route 7 where various stores and offices sprang up in the middle 20th Century. Those were torn down around 2000 to make way for a four-lane Route 7, a project begun in August 2005.
Starr's Ridge is the elevation of land east of Route 7 and northerly and easterly of Great Pond, running southerly to Picketts Ridge Road and a little beyond.
The locality was first mentioned in 1753 when Obadiah Wood Jr. sold Amos Monrow two parcels "at a place known by ye name of Starrs Ridge." The house lot was described as bounded on the north by the line "between Fairfield and Ridgefield" and on the south by a highway, probably Pickett's Ridge Road (also called Great Pond Road).
Those familiar with the geography of the area might wonder how Fairfield - now Redding - could form a northern boundary with any land in Ridgefield. Back at this time, however, a jog of territory came out of Redding north of and probably including part or all of Great Pond, and extended westward to the vicinity of today's Route 7. The Ridgefield Ice Cream Shop would probably be in Redding today, had not the owners of this jog petitioned in 1786 to become transferred into Ridgefield, whose Town Meeting and churches were more convenient to attend.
The last mention of Starr's Ridge, whose northern third is in Starr's Plain District of Danbury, was in 1841.
Station Hill was an old and once well-known village name, as demonstrated by the following item which appeared in the editorial columns of the Feb. 11, 1954 Ridgefield Press: "We referred to 'Station Hill' the other day while talking to a teenager. She said 'Where's that?' being totally unaware that Prospect Street or Library Hill used to be called by a name connected with its principal use.
"The last passenger trains came to Ridgefield in 1923, more than 39 years ago, and for many years now the old passenger station has been a lumber storage building. So we shouldn't have wondered why 'Station Hill' didn't register. How time flies!"
That station had been a fixture of the center of town from 1870, when the branch line was built from Branchville into the village. Between then and 1850, when the Danbury and Norwalk line was laid, passengers and freight had to go to "Ridgefield Station" at what is now Branchville.
The fact that the railway company was willing to built the branch line, which had to rise some 400 feet in elevation, indicated it thought Ridgefield would be a growing town worth the investment. While the track was used for freight into the early 1960s, the passenger service clearly was not a big money-maker if it was abandoned in the Twenties when train travel was still popular.
The station still stands on Prospect Street, opposite Bailey Avenue, and is now being used as a storage barn for the Ridgefield Supply Company. The company had once indicated it wanted to get rid of the building, but has since decided not only to retain it, but to keep it in good repair.
Stebbins Close, a private way at Casagmo, was named for the Stebbins family who had lived on and farmed the Casagmo land for more than a century and a half.
In 1714, Benjamin Stebbins of Northampton, Mass., a member of an already well-established central Massachusetts family, came to Ridgefield, apparently at the beckoning of the Rev. Thomas Hauley. Ridgefield's first minister had known the Stebbins family when he himself grew up in Northampton. Benjamin was a tanner, a trade that would be important in the new community of Ridgefield.
In 1721, the proprietors granted Mr. Stebbins a plot at the head of Main Street and six years later, he built a house there.
"In its day, the Stebbins house was one of the famous buildings for miles around," wrote historian George L. Rockwell. "The old house was scarred with cannon shot, and bullets themselves were plainly visible, embedded in its timbers."
That's because during the Battle of Ridgefield in April 1777, the house served as part of the local patriots' barricade of the British, who were on their way from Danbury to the sea at Westport. It also served as a hospital for the injured.
Samuel G. Goodrich, the famous 19th Century author, "Peter Parley," was born in Ridgefield in 1793 and knew the Stebbins family well. On a visit here in 1855, he wrote: "Master Stebbins' house - from its elevated position at the head of the street, seeming like the guardian genius of the place - still stands, venerable alike from its dun complexion, its antique form, and its historical remembrances... It almost saw the birth of Ridgefield; it has probably looked down upon the building of every other edifice in the street. It has presided over the fight of 1777. Close by, (General Benedict) Arnold's horse was shot under him, and he, according to tradition, made a flying leap over a six-barred gate and escaped.
"The old house I found embowered in trees - some primeval elms, spreading their wide branches protectingly over the roof, stoop and foregrounds; others - sugar maples, upright symmetrical and deeply verdant, as is the wont of these beautiful children of the American forest. Other trees - apples, pears, peaches and plums, bending with fruit - occupied the orchard grounds back of the house.
"The garden at the left seemed a jubilee of tomatoes, beets, squashes, onions, cucumbers, beans, and pumpkins. A vine of the latter had invaded a peach tree, and a huge oval pumpkin, deeply ribbed, and now emerging from its bronze hue into golden yellow, swung aloft as if to proclaim the victory. By the porch was a thick clambering grapevine, presenting its purple bunches almost to your mouth, as you enter the door.
One of the best known of the clan was one of Mr. Goodrich's teachers, Samuel, who taught at the Center School on Main Street (and also later at Scott's Ridge schoolhouse) when Goodrich was a 10-year-old pupil.
"He was a man with a conciliating stoop in the shoulders, a long body, short legs, and a swaying walk. He was, at this period, some 50 years old, his hair being thin and silvery, and falling in well-combed rolls, over his coat-collar... Breeches and kneebuckles, blue-mixed stockings, and shoes with bright buckles, seemed as much a part of the man as his head and shoulders. On the whole, his appearance was that of a middleclass gentleman of the olden time, and he was in fact what he seemed.
"This seminary of learning for the rising aristocracy of Ridgefield was a wooden edifice, 30 by 20 feet, covered with brown clapboards, and except an entry, consisted of a single room. Around, and against the walls, ran a continuous line of seats, fronted by a continuous writing-desk. Beneath were the depositories for books and writing materials...
"The larger scholars were ranged on the outer sides, at the desks; the smaller fry of a-b-c-darians were seated in the center. The master was enshrined on the east side of the room, contrary, be it remembered, to the law of the French savans, which places dominion invariably in the west. Regular as the sun, Master Stebbins was in his seat at nine o'clock, and the performances of the school began.
"According to the Catechism - which, by the way, we learned and recited on Saturday - the chief end of man was to glorify God and keep his commandments; according to the routine of this school, one would have thought it to be reading, writing and arithmetic, to which we might add spelling. From morning to night, in all weathers, through every season of the year, these exercises were carried on with the energy, patience, and perseverance of a manufactory.
"Master Stebbins respected his calling; his heart was in his work; and so, what he pretended to teach, he taught well. When I entered the school, I found that a huge stride had been achieved in the march of mind since I had left West Lane (schoolhouse). Webster's Spelling-book had taken the place of Dilworth, which was a great improvement. The drill in spelling was very thorough, and applied every day to the whole school. I imagine that the exercises might have been amusing to the stranger, especially as one scholar would sometimes go off in a voice as grum as that of a bull-frog, while I another would follow in tones as fine and piping as a peet-weet. The blunders, too, were often ineffably ludicrous; even we children would sometimes have tittered, had not such an enormity been certain to have brought out the birch."
Master Stebbins, who died in 1836, fought in the Revolution on the side of the patriots along with two of his brothers, Thomas and Joseph. A third brother, Josiah, chose to be a Tory, a fact that figured in the plot of "King or Congress," a play by Ridgefielder Norman Myrick performed during the town's celebration of the nation's Bicentennial in 1975 and 1976.
It also figured prominently in "The Battle of Ridgefield, " a lengthy poem or "personal narrative," by Anton S. Anderson, still of Ridgefield, also written on the occasion of the Bicentennial:
I, Josiah Stebbins, son of Benjamin
Stebbins, cowerer in the attic,
was, in my own way, responsible for
the death of these men.
I would like to say that I went
to Trumbull, a small town much bereft
of men on my account and married
the widow of one or the other
but such is not the case. I, that
fine April morning, led the British
to Ridgefield, while my brothers,
Thomas, Joseph and Samuel, fought
with the rebels.
Did I fight for my King out of a sense
of loyalty or dislike for my kin?
Did I, only loyal son, heed the urging
of a semi-senile father and run to
Compo Beach to lead the British
to our town and make it famous
for future generations?
Some secret impulse drove me,
as it drove these other men
to commit my acts of treason or
loyalty and so speed death to
These were all children of the Stebbins house, a landmark that (as Rockwell put it, "alas!") was torn down in 1892 to make way for George M. Olcott's mansion, Casagmo. Where the house stood, the Olcotts planted an American beech and an ornamental maple. The house's old hearthstone, bearing the date 1727, was placed beneath the entrance gateway and in the walls of the terrace of the gardens. The bullet-marked front door of the house is now held by the Keeler Tavern Museum.
Stebbins' Corner is a locality mentioned in a single 1738 deed from Benjamin Benedict Jr. to John Sturdevant.
Main Street used to veer eastward into Casagmo, in front of the Stebbins house, and then northerly and northwesterly to the vicinity of Pound Street. Perhaps this was the "corner." Or it may have been around the intersection of Danbury, Limestone and Haviland Roads, where the Stebbins family had farmland.
Steep Brook is another ancient Ridgefield name that has disappeared. The brook it applies to has almost done the same.
In 1719, the proprietors granted Amos Whittamore three acres "west from Benj. Stebbins home lott on ye west of ye Steep Brook, bounded east by highway." This would have been on the east side of today's Casagmo, between Main and Grove Streets.
A 1722 deed from the proprietors to Matthew Saintjohn transferred three acres "lying where ye Steep Brook empties itself into ye Great Swamp..."
The two deeds make it easy to identify the brook as the one that rises between Main Street and East Ridge, flows northerly through the Boys' Club pond, by Ridgefield Supply, through Casagmo, and under Grove Street, whence it drops down to run by the sewer plant and to Great Swamp. For a good portion of its trip nowadays, the water flows underground in pipes.
In all, this short stream drops about 125 feet in elevation - from 700 feet above sea level around its source to 575 feet at Great Swamp. However, much of the drop, from 650 to 590 feet, occurs just after it goes under Grove Street, and this 60-foot fall in a short distance probably sparked the name.
Steep Brook may have been the site of the town's first mill. At the proprietors' meeting Dec. 23, 1714, the landowners voted that Joseph Keeler, Ebenezer Smith, Matthew Saintjohn, James Benedict "and their associates... shall have liberty to build or erect a saw mill at Steep Brook or any other stream where it shall not prejudice the privileges and public interests of ye town."
There are indications, however, that the earliest mill was built on the East Branch of the Silvermine River that flows out of the village - in the same latitude, but a mile or so to the south - and was situated just south of the intersection of Whipstick Road and Wilton Road East.
According to oldtimers, the Steep Brook used to be more sizable than it is today. Development around the village, which has changed drainage patterns, has probably shrunk the stream. Before the settlement of the town, the native Indians used to have a small village along its banks near The Elms Inn backland so it must have been a steady supplier of water.
Still Road is an old highway that runs between Haviland Road and Stonehenge Road and which once continued much farther eastward.
The name has long mystified residents who wonder at its origin. There are plenty of "still" names in Connecticut, but most are applied to water, such as the Still River in Danbury and Still Pond in Farmington.
It is said most of these names reflect calmness. In the case of the Still River, the name reportedly has to do with the fact that the stream drops very little in elevation as it travels from its sources in Ridgebury and New York State eastward and then northerly through Danbury to meet the Housatonic River in New Milford.
Ridgefield's Still Road has another origin. It has long been suspected that Still Road once had a still along it. The late Harold Ritch, a native of town who grew up in that area, recalled in 1975 that a fellow named O'Brien used to go around in the 1920s, picking up apples, with which he made applejack. He lived on Still Road and it was rumored that he had a still.
Perhaps. But there's a more likely origin, the evidence for which appears in an 1873 deed. In that transfer between Hull Keeler and Philip B. Keeler of 7 1/2 acres in the Still Road neighborhood, Hull Keeler reserved "the water privilege on said land for the use of my distillery." According to Silvio Bedini, this distillery produced cider brandy. (The fact that the distillery needed water suggests that maybe some of those Still Rivers and Ponds were less placid than alcoholic in origin.)
Some might wonder what purpose Still Road serves since Haviland Road is available to take one to Route 7, the old Sugar Hollow Turnpike. I believe Still Road was the original eastern end of Haviland Road and the western end of Pickett's Ridge Road (Great Pond Road). In the 1700s, this east-west route was part of the main highway to Danbury, carrying mail and stage traffic before the road through the Sugar Hollow was built around 1800. It is likely that the original route was across Haviland till it met Still, then followed Still across modern Route 7 (which was not built until the 1830s) and up Fire Hill, crossing into Redding and meeting Pickett's Ridge via Fire Hill Road. The straighter and a little less hilly eastern Haviland and western Pickett's Ridge route was built later to replace this old route.
When the turnpike was built, it incorporated a portion of the old Still Road. That portion is today the southern leg of Stonehenge Road (q.v.). All of Stonehenge Road was originally part of the Sugar Hollow Turnpike; the present straighter path of Route 7 up the hill to the traffic light at Haviland and Pickett's Ridge was cut through, probably the 1930s, to make auto travel easier (but far less scenic).
Thus, Still Road was at first its own highway, then probably faded out when the Haviland Road extension was built, was revived as a portion of the turnpike, and is now just a tiny remnant of the half-mile long road it once was.
Stonehenge Estates is a name applied to Fire Hill Acres (q.v.), the Jerry Tuccio subdivision situated across Route 7 from Stonehenge Road and its inn (below).
Stonehenge Road is an old section of the Sugar Hollow Turnpike, later Route 7, which was bypassed sometime after 1936 by the State Highway Department in order to straighten the road. The old road picked up its new name from the Stonehenge Inn. The inn in turn was named after the stone structure in England. Inn founder Victor Gilbert saw and admired Stonehenge when he was stationed with the U.S. Army on Salisbury Plain during World War II and dreamed at the time of starting an inn back in the States.
Mr. Gilbert established Stonehenge Inn in a house that was built in 1823 and had housed families who operated grist, saw and cider mills on the Norwalk River, which flows through the property. In the 1920s, Lydia (Mrs. E.P.) Holmes lived in the house and operated "The Nook," an antiques business, describing it as being on "Norwalk and Danbury Road at Holmes Corner."
Victor Gilbert acquired the house and 65 acres in 1946. He was not only a celebrated innkeeper - he called himself a "skinker" - but also a noted collector of antique clocks, which he displayed at Stonehenge. On the second floor of the town hall, near the selectmen's office, is a large, old grandfather-style clock he gave the town when he retired in 1963 and moved to the Virgin Islands.
Under Gilbert, Stonehenge became well known, especially to the antiques buffs who journeyed up and down Route 7 to visit the highway's many shops. The inn was also a stopping place of many celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor (and then husband Michael Todd), Judy Garland, many Rockefellers, and Mrs. Thomas Edison. Perhaps the most exotic guest was Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.
During the 1960s, the inn became even more famous for its food under the renowned Swiss chef, Albert Stockli (1918-1972), who bought the restaurant in 1965 after having worked many years at New York's famous Four Seasons.
In June 1988, fire destroyed the original main building of the inn. The restaurant was rebuilt by David Davis and Douglas Seville and remains today one of the most respected restaurants in Connecticut.
Stonehenge in England was said to have been built by the Druids (whence Druid Lane nearby and the "Druid Bar" inside Gilbert's inn). However, archaeologists now believe that Stonehenge was erected 1,000 years before the arrival of the Druids on the British Isles.
Stony Brook is apparently an early name for the Titicus River as it flows along the vicinity of Saw Mill Hill Road. It was first mentioned in an 1800 mortgage deed for land near the house of Epenetus Howe, which still stands on the northerly corner of Saw Mill Hill and North Salem Roads.
The mortgage holders, prominent citizens Philip Burr Bradley and Joshua King, loaned money to the Gilbert family for a hide tanning operation, which included "the privilege of building a dam on the stream called Stoney Brook, a little south of the...piece of land on which (is) a tan yard. " Here they were to produce leather for shoes, clothing and other items.
Later, John M. Smith acquired the tan yards and deeds to him in 1820 and 1836 refer to Stony Brook.
STONY HILL ROAD, TERRACE
Stony Hill Road is a dead-end road off Branchville Road, connecting along its northerly "scorpion's tail" to Cooper Road. Easterly off Stony Hill Road runs Stony Hill Terrace, a short dead-ender.
The names, referring to the abundance of rock in the area, are often misspelled "Stoney." In fact, the official map of the 1962 subdivision by Caye Construction Inc., incorrectly spells the word.
STRAWBERRY RIDGE ROAD
Strawberry Ridge Road, a dead-end road off the west side of lower Nod Hill Road, is part of the 1960s Twin Ridge subdivision of Giles and Barry Montgomery, although it's not directly connected by road to the major portion of Twin Ridge. The road became town-owned in 1970.
The name was probably chosen because of the presence in the area of the common strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), a tasty native plant found in open places.
STURDEVANT'S CLAPBOARD TREE RIDGE
When Stephen Olmsted sold his brother John 12 acres in 1751, he described it as being at "Sturdevants Clap board-tree Ridge," certainly one of the longer names ever used for Ridgefield's geography.
The Sturdevant was John, whose name was also spelled Stirdevant and who was one of the first 25 proprietors of the town and the only one of Dutch ancestry. He undoubtedly held most of the land on the ridge from early divisions of proprietors' holdings.
The "clapboard tree" is probably the oak; a 1781 deed for land elsewhere in town mentions a "clapboard oak tree" as a boundary marker. A clapboard oak is probably a good, straight one, of the best diameter suitable for making clapboards.
This process was described by J. Frederick Kelly in The Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut (1924): "Clapboards were 'riven' or split from short oak logs, usually from four to six feet in length, by means of a special tool called a froe. This tool was very much like a knife, with a heavy broad blade about 15 inches long, except that the handle, which was of wood, was offset and turned up at the right angles to the blade.
"In making clapboards, a log was stood on end and split in half with this tool. Each half was again split into halves, and then into quarters, eighths, and so on, until a number of thin pieces had been produced.
"Owing to the radial plan of splitting, each piece was wedge-shaped in section; that is, one edge of the clapboards came to a thin or 'feather' edge while the other, or butt side, was from three-eighths to a half inch in thickness.
"Such clapboards of riven oak were, almost without exception, nailed directly to the studs, and the ends, which necessarily met upon a vertical stud, were beveled and lapped in order to make the joint more nearly weatherproof...
"In width the early oak clapboards varied considerably, different specimens measuring from 4 3/4 to 8 1/2 inches. The commonest width appears to have been about five inches, and the 'weather' or exposed surface, about four inches, so that the lap was about an inch. Wider specimens were, of course, laid with greater exposure to the weather."
(This writer's house, which dates from the 18th Century, still has very wide clapboards -- as much as eight inches of 'weather surface' -- on its north face.)
The word "clapboard" comes from a German word, Klappholt (clapwood), which originally referred to oak barrel staves. A "clap" or 'Klappe" is a flap. Thus, a clapboard is really a flapboard.
Indications are that the ridge was in eastern Farmingville, probably around the Farmingville School and/or east and south of it. The area was probably a popular place for finding oaks suitable for the clapboards to sheathe the town's first houses.
It's not surprising that a name as long as Sturdevant's Clapboard Tree Ridge would not be popular. In fact, the Rev. Thomas Hauley's heirs got a lot in 1745 in the Sixth 20 Acre Division, described as being "south of Stirdevants Ridge," and Daniel Sherwood, in his will dated 1749, mentioned "Sturdevant Ridge."
Hugh Cain, who founded a fulling mill down on the Norwalk River along Topstone Road, bought 13 acres "near the eastern side of said Ridgefield at Sturdevant's Ridge" in 1783. This may have been at the top of what we now call "Cain's Hill."
Sturdevant's Ridge was last mentioned in 1801; perhaps Cain's Hill (q.v.) had begun to take over by then.
SUGAR HOLLOW TURNPIKE, The
The Sugar Hollow Turnpike was the town's second and last toll road, a highway that ran from northern Wilton through Ridgefield mostly along what is now Route 7. It fulfilled a need for a good road - and thus good communication - between Danbury and the Long Island coast, with its shipping and, later, its shoreline railroad.
Oddly enough, although it bore the hollow's name, the turnpike did not actually run through the Sugar Hollow, a gap between Danbury and Ridgefield. The Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike, one of the nation's earliest turnpike roads, had already accomplished that task. Even odder, the Sugar Hollow Turnpike extended from each end of the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike, thus having a gap in its middle filled by another company's pike.
From the south, the Sugar Hollow Turnpike met the Danbury Turnpike at today's intersection of Routes 7 and 35. Once up in Danbury via the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike, the northbound traveler could head off into Danbury village, or could ride on the northern leg of the Sugar Hollow Turnpike, which began at the south end of Danbury Airport, ran through today's airport land, headed over to Mill Plain via Kenosia Avenue, and then continued northeasterly over Joe's Hill Road to the New York State line.
Thus, it was a road that led to - not through - the Sugar Hollow, much as Danbury Road today leads to - not through or into - Danbury.
The Sugar Hollow itself is the narrow valley between Wooster Mountain and Moses Mountain, probably so called because early settlers tapped the maples for syrup and especially sugar. Route 7 from I-84 through the valley to the Ridgefield line is today called Sugar Hollow Road.
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Turnpikes began to appear in this country in the 1790s as the need for better roads to connect towns and states became evident. We had broken ties with England and needed to manufacture more and more items that had once been imported. What's more, the industrial age was just dawning, and the nation sorely needed routes for both raw materials and people to travel in reasonable comfort.
Though there were some government-sponsored turnpikes, private companies built and operated most of them. Connecticut, along with Virginia, was a pioneering state in turnpike construction and among the earliest toll roads in Connecticut was the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike, incorporated in 1801, which provided a flat route as an alternative to the previous hilly road over Moses Mountain to Danbury. However, as the need for trade increased, still better roads were needed, especially to the south. In May 1829, the General Assembly passed a resolution incorporating the Sugar Hollow Turnpike Road Company to run a road "commencing near the dwelling house late of Azor Belden, deceased, in Wilton, in said county, on the Norwalk and Danbury Road, or at some point between said dwelling house and Georgetown bridge in said Reading [Redding], inclusive; thence running northerly or northwesterly through the Mountain gap, or by some proper route, to intersect the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike Road near the dwelling house of Thomas Sherwood, in said Ridgefie1d, on said turnpike road through Sugar Hollow, so called, across the outlet of Mill Plain Pond, by Elias Birchard's store in said Ridgefield, to the line of the State of New York south of lsaac Wixton's dwelling house."
Remember that at this time, today's Mill Plain and western Danbury were then part of Ridgefield. Thus, this road also provided a good, not-too-hilly route to connect the northern reaches of Ridgefield with the more developed southern section, using a road superior to the old, more direct combination of North Salem and Ridgebury Roads.
The incorporators - David Banks, Sturges Selleck, William St. John, and Monson Hoyt - received permission to build the road, and the power to virtually condemn land needed for its route. (However, the state had to first approve that route; consequently, land could not be recklessly confiscated.)
While the company got permission in 1829, it is not clear when the road was actually built. An 1832 deed mentions the turnpike as existing in Mill Plain and an 1835 deed speaks of the Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike Road. It is therefore possible that the northern leg was built first.
The Sugar Hollow Turnpike Company apparently ran into some difficulties with the operators of the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike. In 1835, the General Assembly passed a resolution, naming a committee to look into the "laying out of a road through Sugar Hollow so as not to interfere with the road of the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike Company except by crossing the same..."
The committee apparently found no new route, for there is no evidence that a second turnpike was ever run through the valley - it is tough enough to find room for one, what with the narrowness of the gap and the sizable areas of swamp. Moreover, building two toll roads a couple miles long and only a few feet apart would be rather wasteful as well as expensive. Thus, the two companies apparently ironed out their difficulties.
Turnpikes used gates to assure that travelers stopped to pay their tolls. Some were literally pikes - long wooden bars - that turned on a stile. The precise locations of the tollgates for the Sugar Hollow Turnpike are not known. According to historian Edward Liljegren, a tollhouse for the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike stood just about on the Danbury-Ridgefield line, on the west side of the road. In 2005, the site was being bulldozed for the widening of Route 7.
The tolls charged for travel on the turnpike are known, for they were set by the General Assembly in the 1829 resolution:
On each four-wheel pleasure carriage drawn by two horses, & on each stage 25 cents
On each two wheel pleasure carriage, drawn by one horse 12.5 cents
On each additional horse in a pleasure carriage, and on each person and horse 4 cents
On each sled, sleigh, car or wagon, drawn by one horse, ox or mule, or one yoke of oxen 6.3 cents
On each additional horse, ox or mule 2.5 cents
On horses, cattle, mules, each 1 cent
On sheep and swine, each 5 mills
In just their face value, those tolls seem low. But when you consider the relative value of money then, traveling by pleasure vehicle on a turnpike was horrendously expensive.
There were exceptions. The resolution also said that "persons travelling to and from public worship, funerals, society, town, or elector's meetings; all officers and soldiers going to or returning from military duty by order of law; all persons travelling to or from grist-mills, or in their ordinary farming business, shall not be liable to pay toll at said gate or gates, but shall be exempted therefrom."
The first Ridgefield mention of a "Sugar Hollow" occurs in a 1796 deed when Samuel and Phebe Dibble of Danbury sold Elijah Benedict of Danbury land in Ridgefield "at the Boggs so called...one piece known by the Sugar Hollow Mountain." This "piece," however, may not be at the same Sugar Hollow, for the description suggests that this locality may have been in what is now western Danbury, near Middle River District, or Boggs Pond.
Sugar Hollow Turnpike continued to be used as a name through much of the 19th Century, eventually being replaced by the informal "Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike" and then by Ethan Allen Highway or Route 7. When the company stopped charging tolls has not been determined, but in his book, The Turnpikes of New England (1919), Frederic J. Wood reports, "The Danbury and Ridgefield's charter was repealed in 1860 and, since the two roads were so interwoven, it seems probable that the Sugar Hollow became free at the same time, although no act to that effect has been found." (Wood, incidentally, misunderstood the description of the path of the road and incorrectly believed that the Sugar Hollow Turnpike came through Ridgefield center via today's Route 33 and 35.)
Clearly, the arrival of the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad killed the toll road. Built in 1850, the railroad followed much of the same route and was able to transport freight and passengers much more quickly, comfortably and probably cheaply than the toll road. Freight wagons had, after all, been among the most regular and most profitable customers of the turnpike, and loss of their business spelled doom for the turnpikes.
A curious deed was recorded in 1875 when John H. Smith of North Salem, N.Y., sold Patrick Lynch of Ridgefield land "near the 'Sugar Hollow' cart path." This land was near the New York State line "Where the state line crosses the Ponded Swamp Road so called."
According to our research, the only Ponded Swamp in Ridgefield was on Titicus or West Mountain, off Barrack Hill or Old Sib Roads. There could have been another up north of Mill Plain, where the old turnpike met the New York State line; however, this is unlikely. Moreover, Smiths had been big landowners in the Barrack Hill Road-Ponded Swamp area for many years.
What was this "Sugar Hollow Cart Path," so far from the Sugar Hollow Turnpike and seemingly off in the middle of nowhere? Probably just a local name for a path through yet another Sugar Hollow, where people went to tap maples in late winter for their sweet treats.
SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN ROAD
Sugar Loaf Mountain Road runs between Regan Road and Old Stagecoach Road at Robert Kaufman's Ridgefield Knolls, a subdivision from the late 1950s.
According to Edgar P. Bickford, surveyor on the project, the name was found on an old map of the area. It was probably originally applied to the 970-foot-high, rounded hill to the east of the Knolls. This hill has also been called Barlow Mountain (q. v.) and is within the state-owned Pierrepont Park.
George L. Rockwell mentions the name in his history, published in 1927, but the name has not been found on the Ridgefield land records through 1880. Thus, possibly of fairly modern origin, the name may have even been coined by Seth Low Pierrepont, who owned the mountaintop (see Pierrepont Pond), or by some farmer from whom he bought land early in the century.
No better explanation of this name, common in the United States, can be found than in George R. Stewart's Names upon the Land:
"Sugar was (in early colonial times)...no common food, and even in England men sweetened mostly with honey. The sugar that men knew came in the form of a large cake, sticking up to a high rounded point at the end.
"So, within two years after Roger Williams had come to Providence, men had named a Sugar Loaf Hill not far off. From the first hill the name spread until it was so common that men could even say 'a sugar-loaf,' meaning merely that kind of hill.
"As the years passed, sugar grew cheap and its form changed; it came to the table in bowls, and no longer stood in the middle, like a jutting-up mountain above a plain.
"But still men said Sugar-Loaf Hill, though they did not know why, and though the only sugar-loaf they had ever seen came in small cubes. Thus the name may outlast the thing."
In Home Life in Colonial Times, Alice Morse Earle tells more about loaf sugar: "It was purchased ever in great loaves or cones which averaged in weight about nine to 10 pounds apiece. One cone would last thrifty folk for a year.
"This pure clear sugar-cone always came wrapped in a deep blue-purple paper, of such unusual and beautiful tint and so color-laden that in country homes it was saved and soaked, to supply a dye for a small amount of the finest wool, which was used when spun and dyed for some special choice purpose.
"The cutting of this cone of sugar into lumps of equal sizes and regular shape was distinctly the work of the mistress and daughters of the house. It was too exact and too dainty a piece of work to be intrusted to clumsy and wasteful servants. Various simply shaped sugar-shears or sugar-cutters were used..."
Summit Lane, running between Bob Hill Road and Rockcrest Drive, is part of the Ridgefield Knolls, the late 1950s development of Robert (the Bob of Bob Hill) Kaufman. The road is so called because of its elevation; at its highest point, the road is 860 feet above sea level, nearly the highest location at the subdivision.
Sunset Lake is a body of water that exists only on paper - specifically, on the official town map of 1960 and on mid-1950s subdivision maps for Harold Goldsmith's Lakeland Hills subdivision (q.v.) off Bennett's Farm Road.
Mr. Goldsmith had created Lake Windwing and had planned the second pond to serve houses at Sunset Road and South Shore Drive. The second lake, however, was never completed. Nonetheless, because the lake was planned at the time the town map was being drawn up, Sunset Lake appeared thereon.
Sunset Lane, part of an ancient road, runs off Grove Street to Prospect Street Extension.
Because it paralleled very closely the old train line that ran into Ridgefield from 1870 until 1964, the road had long been called Railroad Avenue - probably from around 1923 when the west end of the road was subdivided by Mrs. Mary Walker. However, apparently not enthralled with the name, 13 residents petitioned the Board of Selectmen in April 1957 to have it changed to something they considered nicer. Their petition was approved in January 1958, thus setting up confusion with Sunset Road (below).
In the 1700s and 1800s, this road extended into and across the Great Swamp, coming out in Farmingville. This route was probably impassible in some seasons, and was most used in winter, when the swamp was frozen. It was, among other things, an access to woodlots in the swamp.
For many years in this century, Sunset Lane was a dead-end road. It was connected to Prospect Street when the Quail Ridge condominiums were built in the 1980s.
Sunset Road is the former name of a road that runs off Bennett's Farm Road opposite Ridgebury School to the entrance of the Little League fields, and to South Shore Drive.
In 1972, however, the selectmen extended the coverage of the name South Shore Drive to include Sunset Road, thus eliminating the confusion that was occurring with Sunset Lane. Sunset Road was older than Sunset Lane, and would seem to have had "seniority." However, many fewer people lived on the road than on the lane, so this change caused less inconvenience.
Sunset, incidentally, is not one of the more creative - or meaningful - names for a road (what road anywhere doesn't have sunsets?). Nonetheless, a survey a few years ago of Fairfield County towns found that Sunset names were by far the most plentiful; 21 of 23 towns has a Sunset Lane, Avenue, Road, Street, etc. Probably by now, the two stragglers have picked up theirs, too.
The road, which has also been called Sunset Drive and Sunset Lane on maps, was accepted as a town road in 1957.
Sycamore Lane is a dead-end road off West Lane near the Peter Parley Schoolhouse. It is part of a subdivision called Sunset Acres, filed in 1967 by Charles H. Daudt, who lived in the large stone house on the property. However, Morgan X. Helie developed most of the houses in the 1970s.
The road did not meet planning and zoning standards at the time of subdivision approval, and town officials stipulated that the road would always remain private. Nonetheless, in 1974, residents asked to have Sycamore Lane made a town road. The request was denied, but planning and zoning subsequently changed its road standards to allow less-wide "tertiary roads." And after a 1976 petition, the road was accepted by Town Meeting in 1977.
The road is named for the trees on the property. The sycamore is considered one of the largest tree species in the eastern United States, reaching as high as 175 feet and 600 years of age (the tulip tree is occasionally taller). Indians dug canoes from sycamore trunks - one is reported to have been 65 feet long and to have weighed 4.5 tons. The wood is hard and has been used for furniture, barrels, boxes, and even chopping blocks.
Windover, the estate subdivided for this road, once belonged to John Ames Mitchell, a novelist and editor who in 1883 founded the original Life magazine. This popular publication, which lasted more than 40 years. He and the magazine sponsored the Fresh Air Camp in Branchville on what is now the site of Branchville School, bringing New York children to the country in the early years of the 20th Century.
Mr. Mitchell, who died in 1918, also donated the stone watering-trough, which now stands in the intersection of West and Olmstead Lanes, not far from his house. An interesting feature of this trough, which originally stood near the middle of the intersection of Main and Catoonah Streets, is a small opening in the bottom, designed to allow passing dogs to have a drink. With the day of both the horse and the roaming dog gone by, the trough is now used as a flower planter.
In the 1990s, the Windover carriage barn was purchased and restored by Abe Puchall, a Mitchell aficionado who owns The Herald Square Hotel on 31st Street in New York City - a building that housed the Mitchell's Life magazine at the turn of the 20th Century. A few years later, Mr. Puchall acquired Windover itself, and restored the house.
Sylvan Drive, a short thoroughfare, runs between Lakeside Drive and Woodland Way at the Ridgefield Lakes.
The name appears on some maps as "drive" and others as "road"; the official town map of 1958 lists it as "road."
Planning and zoning regulations call for using "drive" for "local residential streets" that are not dead-end. "Road" is for a "major or collector street or a local street in a business zone." Thus, drive is probably the better version.
Sylvan means "wooded" or "abounding in trees," and comes from the Latin, sylva, meaning forest.