Entire contents copyrighted 2005 by Jack Sanders. Reproduction without permission is forbidden.
TABLE ROCK ESTATES
Table Rock Estates is a 1974 subdivision of 10 lots by Marcelino Lavin, a Wilton developer. The 34 acres are on the east side of St. John's Road.
The "table rock" refers to a portion of the widespread outcropping of ledge for which the "Flat Rock" (q.v.) district was named in the 18th and 19th Centuries, and which has various surfacings on the property. According to a local tradition, Indians used certain flat rocks on or about this property to grind their corn or grain.
It was a table rock because it was flat like the surface of a table.
The name appears elsewhere in the state; at least two towns - New Hartford and Fairfield - have localities named Table Rock.
The development is served by private drives and thus the name of Table Rock appears only on subdivision maps and property deeds. There is no pre-1900 appearance of the name on the land records and the developer is said to have made it up to reflect the local legend that the Indians used flat rocks here.
Tackora Road, according to a 1907 property map, was another name for Old West Mountain Road. If the map was correct, the road was probably so called because it was part of an old Indian trail - see below.
Tackora Trail, an old highway, may be part of an Indian trail. Traveling across higher and drier land than the present Route 116 that it parallels, Tackora Trail is actually a straighter route than North Salem Road, and would thus seem to have been built as a bypass to swampier sections of North Salem Road. It existed by 1856 when it appears on a map, but clearly did not predate North Salem Road as a major route because there are virtually no antique houses along it while the parallel section of North Salem Road has several old houses and remains of old houses, some dating from the early 1700s.
Tackora Trail may be, in part at least, a section of an old Indian path that the settlers for some reason opted to bypass when they laid out the road from town to the mill at Lake Mamanasco. Much of North Salem Road is believed to have been based on an old Indian trail.
Whatever the road's origins, its name is fairly modem - not appearing in any pre-1890 deeds. Nonetheless, it was an excellent choice to commemorate one of the Indians who sold much of what is today Ridgefield to the settlers. On the first deed of sale, in 1708, he appears as one of nine signers, the first of whom was Catoonah, "sachem of Ramapoo Indians." He was listed as Naranoka, which, as we have seen, is one of the many versions of his name.
In the second purchase in1715, the settlers bought a chunk of land up by the Ridgefield High School and westerly into what is now New York. On this deed, the only signer was "Tackora alias Oreneca, Indian, one of the native proprietors of these tracks of unpurchased lands." In the third purchase in 1721, he was "Tackore, otherwise called Norreneca indian."
And from the record, that's all we really know about Tackora, except that he had a house somewhere in the territory of the third purchase - along the upper Titicus River. For here, says the deed, the river ran to "Tackore Old House." However, Tackora must have been a powerful Indian to have been involved in the sale of so much of the original land. Silvio Bedini says he, too, was a sachem, but of the Titicus Village, instead of the Ramapoo Village, in the Tankiteke sachemdom of the Wappinger tribe, part of the Algonquin linguistic family.
According to tradition, there was a well-established Indian trail in the west central part of town. It began at Mud Pond in Pound Ridge, went though South Salem and reports,George L. Rockwell, ran "over West Mountain, passing through what is today called Oreneca Trail. This trail led up the back road ... to Round Pond, and thence over the mountain to Lake Mamanasco." It is quite possible that the northern section of Tackora Trail was part of this path to Mamanasco, for it once connected to Old West Mountain Road and it runs very near the southern end of the lake.
Note that Oreneca Road still bears one of his other names and that at least one mapmaker had labeled Old West Mountain Road with his name - both plus Tackora Trail perhaps indicative of the traditional belief in the route as an Indian trail.
It has not been determined exactly when this road began being called Tackora Trail, but it was early in this century. Nonetheless, a 1908 map erroneously labels it Scotts Ridge Road, and other early 20th Century sources call it Lakeview Road or Lane.
A 1753 deed mentions land "lying west of Tacores Boggs," probably wetlands along the upper Titicus, named for the fact that Tackora once lived there - or at least because he once owned the boggs.
Tally-Ho Road is a dead-end road off the north side of Haviland Road, and serves Glen Acres, a 32-10t subdivision of 35.4 acres by James Franks. The land had been the Elizabeth Glendinning farm.
Tally-ho is a phrase uttered by horsebacked hunters when a fox is sighted. Probably stemming from a French phrase for the same situation, the term came into English use around the turn of the 19th Century in England.
While fox hunting has been practiced in Ridgebury for many years, tally-ho's connection with this property is unclear. Someone evidently liked horses. Or disliked foxes.
Mount Tamarack is the name for a hill in New Patent, and occasionally pops up in the Ridgefield land records. It is in territory once part of Ridgefield and now in western Danbury.
Like Mounts Robinson and Sheppison, mentioned earlier, this one appears in deeds connected with the division of New Patent land in the 1740s. A 1745 deed describes it as very near the New York colony line and other deeds p1ace it south of Jo's Hills. Thus, it is probab1y just south of today's 1-84 near the state line.
A 1769 deed mentions "Tammerack Swamp," probably a nearby loca1ity.
The tamarack or American larch is a confer that reaches 40 to 80 feet in height and was once important chiefly for making fences and, later, rai1road ties and uti1ity p01es. Tamaracks are among the few conifers that drop their need1es each fall.
Tanglewood Court is a short, dead-end road off the west side of Wilton Road West. The road serves a nine-lot, one-acre subdivision of 10.3 acres, plans for which were approved in 1967.
"The bushes and the woods were a tangle," said the late Paul J. Morganti, who with his brothers John, Joseph and Robert, subdivided the property and named the road.
For anyone who has gone hiking through a new forest that not too many years earlier was a field, the name tanglewood is nicely descriptive. Since the trees are not yet tall and dense, many varieties of shrubs live on the woodland floor along with the young trees.
In fact, one of the hazards for hikers is a variety of viburnum (V. alnifolium), found in low woods. It is such a good tripper that it's sometimes called tangle-legs or tangle-foot. And it's not difficult to understand why Tanglewood Forest in Kent is so called.
Tanglewood Court became a town road in 1969.
TANNERY HILL ROAD
Tannery Hill Road is a short road, ending in a circle, off the west side of North Street nearly opposite Mimosa. It serves a small development known as Tannery Hill, that was subdivided in 1960 by James Hackert's Arnor Corporation, and consists of 11 lots cut from about 12 acres. Tannery Hill Road became a town road in 1962.
The name stems from the belief that an old house on the road was once associated with the tanning business. According to one account in 1968 when the house was severely damaged by fire, the place had been built some 150 years earlier by Jabez Mix Gilbert, operator of the large Titicus tanning yards, and was called the last remaining building connected with the tannery operations.
Maps from 1856 and 1867 show no buildings in this vicinity (old maps usually listed all major buildings in town and their owners), so if it had been built by then, it may have been rather inconspicuous.
It is possible that the tannery recalled in the road's name was actually operated on or about the property by Lewis Smith. Silvio Bedini, writing in Ridgefield in Review, learned that Smith had a tannery on North Street at one time, and old maps show at least two Smith houses along North Street in this neighborhood.
Tanning is the process of converting hide to leather, and Ridgefield once turned out large quantities of leather, particularly for Western markets. The process involved removing the flesh and hair from the hides that had been brought to the tannery by farmers from Ridgefield and surrounding towns. The hides were then soaked for two months in oak bark "liquor" to "tan" them, after which they were split, dried and finished.
In the 1800s, when someone spoke of "The Tannery," they almost always were referring to the operation at the southwest corner of North Salem Road and Saw Mill Hill Road. Although there were several tanning works around town - and many farmers did the whole process at home as something to keep them busy in the winter - the largest operation was at Titicus.
While some sources report this operation as being founded by Jabez "Uncle Mix" Gilbert mentioned above, it had been previously established - or at least previously operated - by Philip Burr Bradley and Joshua King, two well-known veterans of the American Revolution. When Epenetus How bought a small parcel in Titicus in 1799, the deed notes "King and Bradleys Tan Yard" bordered the property on the west.
In 1806, Mr. Gilbert acquired the operation, which then included a bark house and tan vats, and it was being called "J.M. Gilbert's Tan Works" in 1849. Soon after that, Gilbert died and David H. Valden (whose elegant Victorian house on North Salem Road is now owned by the Edgardo Eppolitis) acquired the operation in 1856, by which time it included an "office, or store, currying shop, beam house, bark mill, bark shed, vats, tannery pond..."
Big factories and bigger mills, plus greater sources of hides from Western markets, probably led to the demise of Ridgefield' s relatively modest tanning business. Danbury once had many tanneries to support its huge hatting industry, and there was at least one tannery operating in Bethel until the 1960s or so.
Tannery Pond was a small pond to hold water for the Gilbert or Valden tan yards, and was situated on the Titicus River, south of Saw Mill Hill Road and a little west of North Salem Road. It is cited in several deeds from the 1830s to the 1860s.
TANTON HILL ROAD
Tanton Hill Road, both ends of which connect to Danbury Road, is the earliest example of commemorating a first selectman by means of a road name.
The road, developed in the 1950s, was originally called River Road, a not-too-colorful moniker that somewhat exaggerated the status of the brook that flows off the west side of the road. The stream is technically the upper reaches of the Norwalk River, but it's rather small here and, in this area, has also been called the Ridgefield Brook.
In 1956, the neighborhood petitioned the Board of Selectmen to change the road's name. On Jan. 5, 1957, the question came before the board, one of whose members was Harvey D. Tanton, then a soon-to-retire selectman. Selectman Paul J. Morganti moved that the road be changed to Tanton Hill Road. Mr. Tanton himself seconded the motion, and so the name was changed. Despite the seeming immodesty of the vote, the name is a suitable one, for Mr. Tanton had lived on the road for many years and had operated a nursery there.
A native of Prince Edward Island off Nova Scotia, Mr. Tanton was born in 1901 and grew up in his homeland before going off to study landscaping in Cleveland, Ohio. He came to Ridgefield in 1935 to be a foreman for the huge Outpost Nurseries, the firm that had most of the land along Danbury Road from the village north to the Danbury line, and which owned and developed what is now the Tanton Hill Road neighborhood. Mr. Tanton later became superintendent of Outpost, but in 1944 left to start his own general landscaping business.
A Republican, Mr. Tanton was elected first selectman in 1951, beating his neighbor, Harry E. Hull, one of the rare Democratic first selectmen, who had been in office since 1947. However, Mr. Hull had the last laugh, coming back in 1953 and 1955 to defeat Mr. Tanton, earning his third and fourth terms as first selectman. Mr. Tanton gained enough votes to retain a seat on the Board of Selectmen, retiring in 1957.
Mr. Tanton wasn't the only manager of Outpost to become a first selectman here; J. Mortimer Woodcock, who held the office from 1967 to 1971, had run the nurseries and later bought out what was left of Outpost, forming Woodcock Nurseries. Mr. Woodcock and Mr. Hull, incidentally, are the only other modern-day first selectmen to have roads named after them.
Mr. Tanton was also a member of the Parks Commission, predecessor of the Parks and Recreation Commission, and of the Masons, Rotary Club, and Horticultural Society. He died in 1960, aged 59, after a long illness.
Tanton Hill Road, sometimes erroneously spelled Taunton Hill Road, was subdivided by Outpost, lot-by-lot starting around 1955.
Taporneck Court runs off the easterly side of North Salem Road near the New York State line, part of the 1982 Scott Ridge subdivision by the Gavin Company.
The name comes from an Indian who once owned this land, or land south of here - see below - and was used at the recommendation of this writer to preserve the name of this American Indian, who was an important figure in the early history of the town.
The Taporneck Division was an early subdivision of land that had been purchased in 1727 and 1729 from several Indians. On both deeds the first signer was Taporneck (also often spelled Tapornick).
The 1727 deed begins, "We, Taporneck & Moses, Indians belonging to Wepack or long pond so called & Richard and Samm Indians belonging to ammawogg do for and in consideration of eighteen pounds in money or goods equivalent, two guns, eighteen shillings in hand..."
This deed was for land now in New York State beginning at a point 20 miles 305 rods from Cortlandt Point on the Hudson River, a line agreed upon by a New York-Connecticut commission as the boundary between the colonies. Only four years later, this line was revised to the present boundary, and Ridgefielders lost much land, including most of what is purchased from Taporneck.
Although they were not mentioned at the beginning of the deed, Indians named Wett Hams and Ammon also signed this deed.
The 1729 sale for "a valuable reward" was for a sizable chunk of what is now Lewisboro and southeastern North Salem. Much was apparently on West Mountain. The deed was signed by Taporneck, Moses, Sam, Ammon, Wett Hams, Pawquenongi, and Crow.
Little is known of Taporneck, although his signature's being first indicates he was a native of some stature. Catoonah and Tackora, both sachems, were also first on deeds with more than one signature.
We do know that Taporneck lived at Wepack, which the settlers very kindly translated as Long Pond, now the area of northeastern Lewisboro where Lakes Rippowam, Oscaleta, and Waccabuc are. It was an area that had been a popular fishing and hunting village for the natives.
From the time of the subdivision shortly after the purchase to as late as 1815, land in this area and on western West Mountain in Ridgefield was known as Taporneck Division or Tapornick's Division. Like other purchases from the Indians, it had been quickly divided among the proprietors (the first settlers and major landholders - the stockholders of the town, as it were). Many parcels were then sold off to new settlers.
The word Taporneck appears in several forms in the land records, including Tapornick, Tappornik, Topornick, and Tapporneck. George L. Rockwell, in his History of Ridgefield, misread the early settlers' handwriting in transcribing deeds, and called him Japorneck.
Taylor's Corners is an old name for the vicinity of the intersection of Still, Stonehenge and Haviland Roads, an area once well inhabited by members of the Taylor family.
Taylors had land thereabouts by the 1780s when deeds show Preserved Taylor owning property at East Meadows, a name for this area and land to the north. Preserved Taylor may not have lived here, for the records of the Congregational Church at Redding showed that in 1766, Preserved Taylor, son of Preserved Taylor, was baptized there. The father or the son may have moved into Ridgefield by the 1810s, however, for a Preserved Taylor is listed among 13 contributors to Ridgefield's purchase of a cannon or "field piece" for use in the War of 1812.
By 1856, when Clark's map of Fairfield County was published, four major buildings owned by Taylors were recorded in this area, including a house and mill by. "D. Taylor," across the road from today's Stonehenge Inn, and houses by "B. Taylor" and "Mrs. Taylor" on Picketts Ridge Road, just east of Route 7.
A busy period
"D. Taylor" was probably Davis Taylor who came from Redding; in 1859, Edwin Taylor is recorded as having quit to Davis Taylor any claim he had - probably by holding a mortgage - to various land and buildings, including "the store...at Limestone." The store, probably the same that later held the Limestone post office for some years, was situated along the east side of today's Stonehenge Road, north of Still Road. Stonehenge Road in 1859 was part of the Sugar Hollow Turnpike, which later became Route 7.
Joseph Taylor later ran a flour mill just south of the store and across from today's inn. Davis Taylor probably owned it before him, and perhaps other Taylors after him. It was an old mill, dating from the 1700s.
As a name, Taylor's Corners was probably popular chiefly in the last half of the 19th Century. As Taylors disappeared from the area, so did the name.
Whence the Taylors appeared cannot be determined without some more research. However, it's a good guess the family, including Preserved, was descended from Danbury Taylors who, in turn, were descendants of Thomas Taylor, one of the eight original proprietors or settlers of Danbury. He, in turn, came from Norwalk, but had been born in Windsor. His father was John Taylor, who had come from Warwickshire, England, in 1639.
We go back to John Taylor only because it allows us to retell one of the strangest tales in early Connecticut history.
Back in the 1640s, the New Haven Colony was having difficulty competing with colonies to the south in trade with England. So landowners pooled their money and had a 150-ton ship built in Rhode Island. The ship was loaded with goods for England, and sailed in January 1647, despite difficulty in getting through the ice in New Haven harbor.
For some reason, John Taylor wanted to make a trip to England and sailed aboard this vessel, which was to become known as the "Phantom Ship."
Nothing was ever heard from the vessel after it left New Haven, and it probably sank in a winter storm. But the following June, after a severe thunderstorm, many residents of New Haven were witness to an eerie apparition.
According to the Rev. James Pierpont, a contemporary, "about an hour before sunset, a ship of like dimensions with the aforesaid, with her canvass and colours abroad (though the wind northerly), appeared in the air coming up from our harbour's mouth, which lyes southward from the town, seemingly with her sails filled under a fresh gale, holding her course north, and continuing under observation sailing against the wind for the space of half an hour.
"Many were drawn to behold this great work of God; yea, the very children cryed out: 'There's a brave ship!'
"At length, crouding up as far as there is usually water sufficient for such a vessel, and so near some of the spectators as that they imagined a man might hurl a stone on board her, her main-top seemed to be blown off, but left hanging in the shrouds; then her mizzen-top; then all her masting seemed blown away by the board; quickly after the hulk, brought unto a careen, she overset, and so vanished into a smoaky cloud, which in some time dissipated, leaving, as every where else, a clear air.
"The admiring spectators could distinguish the several colours of each part, the principal rigging, and such proportions as caused not only the generality of persons to say, 'This was the mould of their ship, and this was her tragick end; but Mr. Davenport (a minister who had blessed the ship's departure in January) also in publick declared to the effect: 'That God had condescended for the quieting of their afflicted spirits, this extraordinary account of his sovereign disposal of those for whom so many fervent prayers were made continually.'"
The Rev. Cotton Mather had heard of this story, and had written to Mr. Pierpont who was a well-respected minister and a founder of Yale College. Mr. Pierpont's response by letter, excerpted above, subsequently appeared in Mather's Magnalia Christia Americani, an ecclesiastical history of New England, published in 1702.
TEA HOUSE LANE
In the spring of 1998, a new road off North Salem Road, north of Lake Mamanasco was being proposed as "Tea House Lane," recalling the old resort on the nearby Titicus Mountain (below).
TEA HOUSE ROAD
Tea House Road was a name used early in the 20th Century for what is now Old Sib Road. It is an interesting example of how an informal nickname can become formal enough to appear in deeds.
The name recalls the "Tea House," an unofficial local name for the Port of Missing Men resort-restaurant that stood on Hunt Road, the extension of Old Sib Road in New York state, on Titicus Mountain. Henry B. Anderson, who had amassed more than 1,700 acres in Ridgefield and North Salem to accompany the place, established the resort around 1908.
Though called the "Tea House" or "Anderson's Tea House" by the locals, the beverages served there were usually considerably stronger than tea - until Prohibition, at least. The name, in fact, may have been sort of a local joke.
Tea House Road was in use by about 1920 when it appeared on a post card that showed "Lake, Tea House Road, Ridgefield, Conn." Deeds written as late as 1953 used the term, which in an expanded form occasionally appeared as "Anderson's Tea House Road."
The name stemmed from the fact that the road was the main route from Connecticut to the resort.
The road - a stone-based highway built around 1908 by Italian immigrants - and its history are more fully discussed under Old Sib Road and Port Road (q.v.).
Tenth Lane is another short, dead-end road off Mamanasco Road, part of the Eight Lakes subdivision, developed on the old Port of Missing Men property (see above).
THOUSAND ACRE SWAMP
Winnie the Pooh had a 100 Acre Wood. Ridgefielders had the Thousand Acre Swamp, although its named size is probably as fictitious as the bear.
Thousand Acre Swamp is an early and long-ago-abandoned name for Great Swamp (q.v.), the huge wetland in the east central part of town. The name appears as early as 1714 when Benjamin Willson sold Minister Thomas Hauley land "lying in and commonly known as by ye name of ye Great or Thousand Acre Swamp." The name remained in use at least until 1758 when it last appears in a deed.
Clearly, the first settlers were impressed by the size of Great Swamp. If it were, in fact, 1,000 acres, the swamp would have represented one-twentieth of the original town, for the first and major purchase from the Indians amounted to some 20,000 acres.
Undoubtedly, Great Swamp was bigger then than it is today, when its major portion is bounded roughly by Ivy Hill Road on the south and southeast, Blackman Road on the east, Farmingville Road on the north, and Danbury Road, the town highway/recycling/trash transfer complex, and Prospect Ridge on the west.
While fingers of the swamp extend north of Farmingville Road to Haviland Road behind Fox Hill Village as well as along the Norwalk River west of Danbury Road, some land that was originally swamp was either drained or filled, reducing its size.
However, a close inspection of topographic maps indicates that the settlers either miscalculated the size of the swamp or used poetic licenses in naming it, for Great Swamp couldn't have been more than 600 or 700 acres at most in 1708. Today, after years of filling and other environmental changes, there are about 300 acres south of Farmingville Road and perhaps 150 to the north.
Such a name was probably not unusual - for instance, there is a Thousand Acre Pond in Co1chester - and served to express not precision but scope of size.
According to historian George L. Rockwell, the swamp was also called simply the Thousand Acres.
THUNDER HILL LANE
A short dead-end road off the northerly side of Barrack Hill Road, Thunder Hill Lane serves a subdivision of around 10 acres into five lots, developed about 1957 by Quinto Cassavechia and Mario Marcheggiani.
"We were tossing around names, trying to figure one out," said former Town Clerk Dora Cassavechia, widow of Quinto. "Lo and behold, we go up there and find a sign saying 'Thunder Hill Lane.'"
The Cassavechias had no idea where the sign came from. "We never did find out who did it," Mrs. Cassavechia said. "But we went along with it. We thought it was quite appropriate."
The name may recall a storm that someone associated with the property, which is fairly high up on Titicus Mountain. It was not based on any old neighborhood place name.
Thunder Hill Lane became a town road in 1966. In May, three years later, Mr. Cassavechia was working at clearing some land on Thunder Hill Lane when a truck hit a tree limb, which fell and hit him on the head, killing him. He was 48 years old. A Ridgefield native and veteran of the Battle of Anzio Beachhead in World War II, he had been a longtime and well-known contractor here. His wife, Dora, who died in 2003, had spent more than 40 years in town government. She was town clerk from 1979 to 1996.
TIMMY CHRISTOPHER LANE
Timmy Christopher Lane is a private driveway off Grand View Drive. Although it's not on any official map, the name appeared in some old town hall highway records because of a 1964 request by Thomas Christopher, who named the driveway after his boy - perhaps to help give it the stature of a real road. Mr. Christopher wanted the town to plow his driveway and apparently presented such a convincing argument that eventually First Selectman Leo F. Carroll agreed that the town would plow the driveway only "following heavy snowfall."
The town, which plows some private roads for the sake of the safety of their residents, avoids driveways, however, and Timmy Christopher Lane hasn't seen a town highway department truck in many years.
Titicus, an abbreviated form of an ancient Indian word, has been in use since the town's founding. While it was more common and extensively used in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the name remains alive to this day in applying to a river, a short road, a hill, and a neighborhood.
Titicus stems from a word that various sources spelled in various ways. The van Cortlandt Manor in Westchester County, N.Y., was said to have extended in 1699 from the Hudson River east to Connecticut and northerly to "the river Mutighticus." Other 17th Century sources made it Mughtiticoos, Mutighticoos, or Mutighticoss.
Thus, the origin of this word may have been in New York since it was known and used there before, possibly long before, Ridgefield was settled.
The meaning is equally subject to speculation. George L. Rockwell noted that tradition said the "Mutighticoos River was at one time called Buffalo Creek. Van der Donck, a historian of Yonkers, writing in 1656, says: 'Buffalos are also tolerably plenty: these animals mostly keep toward the southwest.'" From this, Rockwell suggests that Mutighticoos meant buffalo.
While the connection to buffalo is colorful, John C. Huden, in his Indian Place Names of New England, translates both Mutighticoss and Titicus as Mahican for "place without trees."
Needless to say, Mutighticoss in its sundry forms is a mouthful; it is then no surprise that the English settlers, unaccustomed to the native tongue, tended to shorten the word.
The first step was to simplify the spelling. In 1709, the proprietors ordered a "survey of ye New Pound Boggs and Metiticus," an easier-to-handle form of the earlier word. A 1716 deed mentions "Matiticus Hill" and deeds well into the middle of the century continued to use the word, i.e., Metittecus (1750) and Metitecus (1766), both referring to the river.
However, some settlers were also quick to adopt a shorter version. In a single deed in 1717, the Rev. Thomas Hauley, town clerk, refers to property near "Titicus Mountain" and land along "Metiticus River."
By the Revolution, Metiticus had disappeared, but even a name as simple as Titicus had its variations until the end of the 19th Century. Tyticus was sometimes used in the late 1700s. Titichus was common in the 1860s.
Whatever its origin, meaning, and form, Titicus was first associated by the setters with the river and then with the territory around it - Titicus Swamp, Titicus Hill, Titicus Mountain, Titicus Plain, Titicus Road, etc.
Eventually, the area around the intersection of North Salem, Saw Mill Hill, and Mapleshade Roads became known as Titicus or sometimes "Titicus Crossroads." However, it was not until well into the 19th Century that saying something was "at Titicus" became common. The first reference to the "District of Titicus" didn't appear until 1839.
It may be that the Titicus District took on the name of the river because the river generally rose or became prominent in this area. Since there are no references in the 18th Century to indicate that this place was called Titicus, it seems unlikely that the river took its name from the place. Mughtiticoos, the original locality, was probably in New York somewhere, and the name just worked its way up the river.
From early times there was a mill at Titicus - the river running down along Saw Mill Hill Road was ideal for turning mill wheels, and several ponds were built over the years in the area to store water for these mills. It was probably this industry that helped to create a population center at this point.
Eventually, Titicus became a small village. It supported its own school by 1761 and by the mid-19th Century had a store, post office, cider mill, saw mill, flour mill, tannery, sash and blind factory, and blacksmith - not to mention the town's biggest cemetery. At one point in the 1860s, a train line was proposed to run from New York City to a Titicus station and eventually on to Danbury. Such a developed hamlet so close to the central village is unusual; had that train line been laid, as it almost was, Titicus today might be a booming little commercial center instead of the sleepy crossroads it has become.
Perhaps the schoolhouse and its district helped to create and keep the identity of Titicus. The district, then called Number Two, was defined as early as 1784. As District Number Four in 1867, Titicus took young scholars from an area that included: Danbury Road from Main Street north to and including the area of Fox Hill condominiums; North Street up to Stonecrest area; North Salem Road to the southerly intersection of Tackora Trail; Barrack Hill Road to Old West Mountain Road; and western Ramapoo Road to West Mountain Road.
Fortunately, the most recent of the Titicus schoolhouses, at the corner of North Salem Road and New Street, is still standing and being put to good use as the American Legion Hall. It was last used as a school in 1939. Several of the old mills and a tannery building, the old Titicus Store, and other structures from the heyday of Titicus Crossroads, still stand, but most are now used as houses.
No discussion of Titicus would be complete without the story of Duncan Smith's challenge. One time a group of Ridgefield Press staffers were talking about words that had no rhymes - like orange. Someone mentioned Titicus, and Mr. Smith, a former columnist with The Chicago Daily News, took up the challenge. He offered the following in his Press column, "A Birdseye View":
I live upon the Titicus,
a river rough and raging,
where fishes to a city cuss,
will come for a simple paging.
I used to read Leviticus,
or some such ancient volume,
before I saw the Titicus
or started on this column.
And now, my dears, you might agree
it really takes a witty cuss,
a crossword puzzler (that's me)
to rhyme with Titicus.
(It really should have said 'that's l'
to show for words I have nice sense,
but for such slips, I alibi
with my poetic license.)
Titicus Brook is an old form of Titicus River. A version of the name occurs as early as 1716 when a deed mentions the Metiticus Brook. "River" was in common use by the 1750s.
Titicus Court is a short, dead-end road off the west side of North Street, overlooking the Titicus River valley. The subdivision by Richard Lorenzini consists of four lots from 8.8 acres, and was approved in 1978.
Until the creation of this roadway, there was no "Titicus" road name in town, one reason for selecting it. However, as will be seen, there was once a Titicus Road.
In most cases references to Titicus Hill meant the hill along the west side of North Salem Road, north of Saw Mill Hill Road, probably to the area of Barrack Hill Road.
The term, an old one not much used now, was employed as early as 1716 when the proprietors "laid out unto David Scott. . .29 acres of land lying on ye lower end of Matiticus Hill, so called, bounded as followeth: east by ye highway yt leads to Mamanasquag Mill (i.e., North Salem Road), north by highway, west and south by a common land."
A 1752 deed from Jonathan Olmsted to Daniel Benedict covered 11 acres at the "south end of Titticus Hill," with the house, barn, and gristmill. This was probably the first of the many mills at Titicus. In 1771, Benedict sold the property to Epenetus How. The saltbox-style house in these deeds still stands at the northwest comer of North Salem Road and Saw Mill Hill Road.
There is evidence that Titicus Hill also referred to territory on the village side of Titicus Crossroads. In 1792, Nathan Dauchy sold Jeremiah Smith eight acres "near to and adjoining the burying ground on Titicus Hill."
Titicus Mountain is the elevation of land along the westerly side of North Salem Road (Route 116) - and hence the westerly side of the Titicus River - generally from Lake Mamanasco area into New York. Just where Titicus Mountain ends and West Mountain (q.v.) begins is unclear and was, doubtless, never defined.
The name first appears in a 1721 deed from the Indians to the proprietors. In it, the tract is described as "beginning upon ye north side of the Brook at the South End of Titicus or Tomspring mountain (so called) at a great Tree marked in the Old purchase line." This beginning point was somewhere out by the state line near the Titicus River.
Titicus Mountain reaches 952 feet above sea level at a town park along Hunt Lane, the New York extension of Old Sib Road, in North Salem. The U.S. Geological Survey labels this peak as Titicus Mountain. However, parts of the same mountain in the upper Eight Lakes area of Ridgefield are higher than that, coming close to 1,000 feet.
In New York State, Titicus Mountain has also been called Hunt Mountain for the Hunt family that farmed its slopes. Tomspring Mountain is discussed in an entry of its own.
Titicus Plain is a wide, rather dry flatland in the otherwise narrow or swampy Titicus River valley, and extends from approximately Wooster Street north to Barlow Mountain Road. The term is fairly modern, first appearing in 1829. It was common by the 1840s, but tended to fall out of use by the late 1800s.
Titicus Ridge is the name of Richard Lorenzini's 1978 subdivision of 8.8 acres off North Street, served today by Titicus Court (q.v.).
The town's second longest and second largest river, the Titicus originates somewhere in a group of creeks on the eastern slope of West Mountain, gains size and speed as it flows down along Saw Mill Hill Road, and wends its way northwesterly into New York State, emptying into the Titicus Reservoir.
Because the reservoir supplies drinking water to New York City, the Titicus River has maintained an importance that the Norwalk River, the town's biggest waterway (which empties into Long Island Sound), does not have. Thus, it might be said that the Titicus is the town's most important stream.
It has long been important, but for different reasons. The Indians probably made use of the western sections of the river as a route for their canoes, for there are several mentions in very early deeds of a "Canoe Gutter" and a "Canoe Brook" connecting Lake Mamanasco with the river. Like the Norwalk, it has always been a source of fish - chiefly trout. And, of course, livestock found at its banks an ever-present flow of cool water, important to the many farmers in the river valley.
However, another chief use of the river was to power mills. At least a half dozen mills and factories along Saw Mill Hill Road at Titicus made use of the river's water. Farther along, there were a couple of mills, saw and grist, near the intersection of Sherwood and Ledges Roads.
The Titicus River, along with Lake Mamanasco, is probably what remains of a long lake, created when the last glacier melted some 25,000 years ago. When the settlers arrived, this was probably somewhat more evident than today in the many acres of remnant swamps that lined the river then.
Indications are that much of this swampland was drained or filled and that, at one point, even the course of the river was changed, apparently to drain wetland. Deeds in 1837 and 1841 speak of "the new ditch of the Titic(h)us River." This new channel was probably out in Scotland District, near Barlow Mountain Road.
Todds Road, which runs from Regan Road to Sugar Loaf Mountain Road, is part of the Ridgefield Knolls (q.v.), a 1958 subdivision by Robert Kaufman. The road was named for the Todd brothers, bachelor farmers whose land made up much of what is now the Knolls.
The Todd name first came to Ridgefield when Thomas B. Warring sold Charles Todd of Lewisboro, N.Y., 165 acres and buildings on Barlow Mountain. In 1868, Todd bought another 51 acres nearby.
The farmhouse for this spread was along an old highway, an extension of Barlow Mountain Road that ran over Barlow Mountain to Bennett's Farm Road. Today this road is a hiking path through Pierrepont State Park and a walk along it will reveal remnants of the original Todd farm, now only several stone foundations in the middle of forest. Not too many years ago, many old pieces of iron, including strap hinges, horse shoes, and barrel hoops, could be excavated here; some of these may have been made by John Barlow, a blacksmith and earlier owner of the farm.
Besides two daughters, Charles and his wife, Mary Knapp Todd, had two sons, Charles Knapp Todd, born in 1855, and Rufus Todd, 1859. Mary died in 1861 and according to the Todd Family genealogy, "during...Mrs. Todd's last sickness, she had her younger sister [Eliza Jane] come to take care of her and it was her dying request that Mr. Todd should immediately marry this sister after her decease, that she (her sister) might bring up the children. Accordingly, the marriage took place the next month after her decease." That marriage resulted in a daughter, Mary Ann, born the next year who, like her brothers, never married. "She keeps house for her two half brothers at the old place in Ridgefield," the family history reported. Charles Todd died in 1870; Eliza Jane in 1910.
Charles Knapp Todd had come to the Barlow Mountain farm with his family in April 1858 and grew up there, learning the craft of the farmer. In September 1891, he and Rufus bought another farm, northwesterly of and possible adjoining the original farm, and their farm became widely known as the Todd Brothers Farm. The main house still stands right on the hairpin curve of Bennett's Farm Road, southerly of the Ridgebury School, while the barn diagonally across the street has been converted to a house.
"It was Mr. Todd's great pleasure and pride to recall that they had built and renewed all the buildings and kept the farm in excellent state of cultivation," said the 1938 Press obituary of Charles K. Todd, whose brother had died some years earlier. An editorial in the same issue said the brothers "operated a dairy farm in Ridgebury District in the best traditions of New England dairying. The name, Todd Brothers, came to be widely known and greatly respected among people in this part of the state who made a living from the cultivation of the soil."
And on a nostalgic note, observing the turn of the town was already taking place in the 1930s, the editorial writer said: "Charles K. Todd's death this week brings sadness to his mends and a sense of loss to many who realize that farming has been gradually passing out of the Ridgefield economic scene in the past few decades."
Almost all of the farms like the Todd brothers' have gone to subdivisions, but some, like their parents', have been protected and are now parkland. Pierrepont Park is one of the town's best and - at 312 acres - biggest preserves.
Toilsome qualifies as one of the more unusual names of Ridgefield's bygone days. It also was probably one of the more accurate names describing a locality in town.
The term was in use as early as 1722 when Samuell Saint john sold Theophilus Mead of Norwalk two acres "lying on ye west side of ye Mill path, between ye saw mill and Toilsome Path." The "Mill Path" was probably North Salem Road (the road to the mill at Lake Mamanasco). Toilsome Path may have been Barrack Hill Road or some long-ago abandoned road in that vicinity.
Soon thereafter, and for more than a century and a half, deeds would describe land as being "at Toilsome," just as one today might say "in Farmingville" or "in Ridgebury." From the deed descriptions, it appears that Toilsome was on the west side of North Salem Road between Saw Mill Hill Road and Barrack Hill Road.
Anyone familiar with this territory will quickly realize how apt the name was. Steep and rocky, the land would have been toilsome just to traverse, let alone clear of stone and use for farming. Yet the latter could have been what prompted the name. For having farmland close to town was considered advantageous and thus land at such a prime location could not be "wasted" on forest, despite how rough it was. Clearing it was a backbreaking chore.
Another possible origin would assume that the "path" and its name came first and that Toilsome later began to be used for the steep lands the Toilsome Path traversed. In Fairfield, according to George C. Waldo's The Standard's History a/Bridgeport and Vicinity (1917), Toilsome Hill got its name from the fact that the early settlers laid a winding road to reach its summit, making the ascent longer than was really necessary.
The name is not widespread in Connecticut, and seems to be peculiar to the southwestern part of the state, having been recorded in Wilton, Norwalk, Stamford, and Woodbury, as well as Fairfield/Bridgeport. George R. Stewart, in his usually comprehensive American Place Names, does not list it among the 12,000 entries.
Like so many early names, this one was spelled more than one way, including Toylsome (1730), Toilsom (1737), Toylsom (1744), Toilesome (1780), and Tilesome (1850). The last variation is also the 20th Century spelling of a Wilton locality, a hill that was originally called Toilsome.
In Ridgefield, the use of the term died out in the 1850s.
A Toilsome Brook also appears in early deeds, including one dated 1756. It's location has not been ascertained, but certain must have been in the Toilsome neighborhood.
TOM'S SPRING MOUNTAIN, ROAD
Another colorful and ancient name, Tomspring or Tom's Spring lasted nearly two centuries but has, alas, disappeared from the town's geography.
The term was employed as early as 1721 when the proprietors used it in the deed for the third purchase of land from the Indians. The deed, mentioning a tree as a boundary point, said it stood "at the south end of Titicus or Tomspring Mountain (so called)."
From the description, it is clear that Tomspring Mountain runs along the western side of North Salem Road. But where was "Tom's Spring," and who was "Tom"?
Smithsonian historian Silvio A. Bedini, who grew up in the Tom's Spring neighborhood, says that "Indian Tom was one of the last aborigines to live in town." A bow, believed to have been made by him, was found in the area between North Salem Road and Tackora Trail, he reports.
Tom, then, could have been alive in 1721 when the land was sold out from under him. He probably remained for some years if he was to become one of the last Indians to live in town. He was not one of more than one dozen Indians who signed deeds to the proprietors; only "Norreneke Indian" signed the 1721 deed.
Just which of several springs on Titicus Mountain was Tom's Spring is not known, but the fact that it was so long called Tom's Spring suggests that whoever Tom was, he had made quite an impression on people. Perhaps he had retained some sort of informal, unwritten possession of the spring and had made his home there even after the settlers took title to the land.
By 1741, deeds were using such locational phrases as "land at Tom's Spring." A 1745 deed speaks of land "on ye west side of ye highway that leads up to Thom's Spring," and a 1775 deed mentions land "near Thom Spring."
The 1745 deed is interesting in mentioning a road. A transaction in 1788 describes land "lying at the parting of the roads south of Tom's Spring," and this may be today's southern intersection of Tackora Trail and North Salem Road. And an 1834 sale mentions 11 acres "on the west side of Tom Spring Road." There is good reason to suspect that this Tom Spring Road was Tackora Trail, at least as far as Old Sib Road and perhaps including part of it.
Deeds well into the 1870s continued to mention Toms Spring or Tom's Spring, which, by then, was usually two words. Many Ridgefielders early in the 20th Century, particularly those who grew up in the Titicus or Scotland Districts, knew the name. It's too bad it has not been retained in some road name in the neighborhood.
Tony's Cave is a locality near Twin Ridge. The only reference to it we found is in George Rockwell's history where he reports that "in Whipstick District, east of the Nod Road on the present farm of Mortimer C. Keeler, is Tony's Cave. Tony was an Indian who, strange as it may seem, hid in this cave to escape service in the Revolutionary War."
It is from this place that Indian Cave Road takes its name.
Topcrest Lane at the 1958 Ridgefield Knolls subdivision is a dead-end road off Bob Hill Road. The name describes the terrain, which runs to some 830 feet above sea level.
Topstone Drive was the original name for what is now Knollwood Drive, and was so called because the road, part of the Ridgefield Knolls, was developed by the Topstone Holding Company. One of the firm's principals was Robert Kaufman, who lived near Topstone Mountain in Redding (see below).
The name was changed to avoid confusion with Topstone Road (below).
Topstone Road is a name that Ridgefield has borrowed from its neighbor to the east - logically so, for Topstone Road runs from Ridgefield to the Topstone section of Redding.
The road is ancient, part of an 18th Century highway that connected Ridgefield and Redding centers, and that included Cain's Hill and Farmingville Roads in Ridgefield. What we now call Topstone Road runs from Route 7 (which was built long after this old highway was in place) into Redding and to the junction of Simpaug Turnpike, a place called Topstone Station, and then continues on to Umpawaug Road in Redding.
The old Topstone Station took its name from the nearby Topstone Mountain (elevation 710), which is so called because of the large rock at the summit. Poet Carl Sandburg - whose brother-in-law, the photographer Edward Steichen, lived at the foot of this hill - once wrote a poem about this rock.
Topstone Station was originally called Sanford Station (q.v.) after the Redding family who lived thereabouts. However, the name was changed early in this century after years of confusion with "Stamford." Both freight and passengers aiming for Stamford would too often wind up in Sanford, or vice versa.
Long before anyone had coined the word "workfare," Ridgefield was practicing it. The Town Farm was the chief system of welfare in the community for more than 70 years, and it wasn't all that long ago when the operation was finally abandoned.
In the early days of Ridgefield, caring for the poor was not a monumental problem. Life then centered on the family, and families saw to it that the less fortunate among their numbers were cared for. There was, of course, the rare instance where an elderly or disabled person had no family or friends at all. In such cases the town appropriated whatever money was necessary for the basic necessities.
Official records tell little about care of the poor in the early days of the town. Often, the Annual Town Meeting simply passed a motion that, as it was phrased in 1868, "the Select Men use their best discretion in regard to the care of the poor." This meant that the selectmen found someone - a family or a boarding house owner, for instance - to provide room and board for the person.
Keeping the poor
However, by the mid-19th Century, more families began to split up as the younger among them sought the new frontiers of the West. After the Civil War, the number of poor people apparently began to increase to the point where the 1872 Annual Town Meeting voted that "the Select Men be ... instructed to inquire into and examine the plans of other towns in this vicinity for the keeping of the town poor - also to ascertain the probable expense of buying or leasing a small farm for a residence for the town poor."
In early 1873, the Town Meeting voted that "the keeping of the town poor of Ridgefield be let out to the lowest responsible bidder, by the Select Men, for the term of three-years, provided the expense shall not exceed the sum of $1,500 per year..."
The town poor, incidentally, were people who the town fathers agreed were valid residents of the community and not those who came looking for a hand-out. The town was so strict about residency in the 18th and early 19th Centuries that if it found itself forced by circumstances to care for someone who hailed from another town, the selectmen might go so far as to sue the other town to recover costs of that care.
By the late 19th Century, "transient paupers" (as well as "criminals") were kept in "a lock-up" ordered built "in the basement of the Town House" in 1877. The Town House was an old name for the town hall - in this case, a wooden one that preceded the existing brick building on the same site.
Bidding out the care of the poor apparently became rather expensive. Or perhaps the town fathers decided they could handle the task more cheaply themselves.
Buying a farm
In 1882, a committee was appointed to check out farms in town that were for sale. The committee recommended that the town go ahead and acquire one. However, the motion to buy a farm "for a house for the town poor," was tabled, and the committee, consisting of Edward H. Smith, Lewis H. Bailey, and Ebenezer W. Keeler, was asked to see how other towns ran their poor farms.
After visiting farms in New Milford and Danbury, the committee reported back to the 1882 Annual Town Meeting, which voted to instruct the selectmen to lease a suitable farm for a year at a rent not to exceed $200 and "to make all necessary arrangements for the keeping of the town poor on said farm."
Bad news greeted a special town meeting in April 1883, however. The selectmen couldn't find a farm that cheap. So, the meeting voted to buy "the Reed Farm in Scotland District" for up to $4,500. Lewis A. Reed had, in fact, wanted $5,000 for the place, but he soon took the lower price and the town had itself a farm, including a house, two barns, 50 acres of arable land, and 11 acres on a nearby "mountain," probably a source of firewood.
A Scott place
Mr. Reed, incidentally, had bought the place in 1865 from Hiram K. Scott, one of the town's leading citizens - a town clerk for more than 45 years as well as a postmaster and shopkeeper. Mr. Scott had been born there.
The house is still standing along North Salem Road at the corner of Circle Drive, and was built in the early 1700s by the Scott family, from whom that neighborhood - Scott's Ridge - and the school district - Scotland - took their names.
The town sold off a portion of the farm in 1886 to Jackson Hobby, a farmer for whom Hobby Drive was named and whose land was subdivided into the Circle Drive neighborhood (called Scotland Knolls).
The Town Farm gave the poor a place to live and a job to do. While townspeople may once have hoped that it would be self-supporting, it probably never was. The 1900 Annual Town Meeting appropriated $1,000 for running the farm, an amount that rose to $1,200 by 1902.
In 1934, the Town Farm cost $2,787 to operate. The biggest expense was the salary of Mrs. Fred Young, the matron. The next most costly expenses were feed ($547 to the J.E. Ryan Company) and coal ($249 to the Ridgefield Supply Company).
The farm sold produce worth $791 and also traded $101 worth of produce for merchandise and $63 worth for labor.
Crops and livestock
According to an inventory of the farm, the six "inmates" in 1934 raised oats, hay, onions, mangels (a large beet fed to cows), turnips, carrots, com, cabbage and potatoes.
The farm had $450 worth of horses, $125 worth of chickens, $175 in pigs, and $580 in cattle.
The inventory also included a potato digger, farm wagon, mowing machine, hiller, cultivators, harrows, and other farm implements. That inventory, including $237 in canned goods, was estimated to be worth $3,333. The farm itself was the town's third most valuable property, behind only the East Ridge School and the town hall, and was said to be worth $20,000, a sizable sum in 1934.
Town Farm rules
Living there was no "fun and games" proposition, especially after the Town Meeting in October 1900 adopted a set of rules for the Town Farm:
* Every person applying for admission to the Town Farm must present an order from the Select Men.
* Inmates at all times will be subject to the Orders of the Superintendent and shall perform such labor or service as he may direct.
* All inmates must be in their rooms by nine o'clock p.m. and must be ready for breakfast in the morning at such time as the Matron may designate.
* Inmates will not be allowed in any room but their own room without permission from the Superintendent or Matron.
* No inmate will be allowed to be absent from the Alms House or to leave the Town Farm without the consent of the Superintendent or Matron, and any inmate leaving without such consent will not be re-admitted except by order of the Board of Select Men.
* No person or inmate will be permitted to bring any intoxicating liquors on the premises and no person or inmate will be allowed on the premises while intoxicated. No profane or indecent languages will be permitted.
* All packages for inmates shall be inspected by the Superintendent or Matron before delivery.
* The Superintendent shall see that the above Rules are strictly enforced.
The selectmen took an active interest in the operations of the Town Farm. The late Harry E. Hull, selectman and first selectman in the 1940s and 1950s, recalled annual visits to the facility. "When I was on the board with (First Selectman) Win Rockwell, we used to go there every year and catalogue the apples and potatoes" and other produce, Mr. Hull said.
Mrs. Young continued to operate the Town Farm into the 1940s, but the number of inmates declined. Finally, the town sold the place for $17,000 to George Underhill, who then lived there for many years.
Town House is the name that was long applied to what we now call the town hall, a building that once had a lot more uses than it has today.
When the town was first founded, there was little need for offices; part-time volunteers who worked out of their houses provided all the functions of government. However, a place for official meetings - especially Town Meetings - was needed from the start and, for the first three decades, the village church on the Green was used for that purpose as well as for religious services.
In 1743, the town built its first town house, a structure to "house" the town operations, though it's doubtful that there was yet need for offices, other than for perhaps records storage. This 26-by-18 foot building also stood on the Green. In 2005, it would have been on the west side of Main Street, about on the front lawn of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick J. Crehan's house (the first house south of the Methodist church). This building was also used as a schoolhouse.
In 1786, the town contributed to the cost of erecting the Independent School House on the east side of Main Street on what is now the Community Center section of Veterans Park. For its contribution, the town got an agreement that it could hold meetings in the new schoolhouse.
The center of government continued its march northward when, in 1836, the town bought the first floor of the Masonic Hall, which stood where today's Masonic Hall is, just south of the town hall. The first floor had been a store and later The Ridgefield Press; in 2005, the Century 21 real estate agency was there.
After several years of debating the issue at Town Meetings, Ridgefielders agreed to erect a town house on the "Town Lot," just north of the Masonic Hall, in 1876. The 40-by-65-foot building, costing $5,976.55, consisted of two stories - a 12-foot-high first floor used for town offices and records, and a 16-foot-high second floor, "fitted up for a public hall," as contemporary historian Daniel W. Teller put it.
Mr. Teller, a minister, continued with a touch of humor uncharacteristic of most community histories of the era: "There is also a basement, which has been converted into a 'lock-up,' for the entertainment of such travellers as seem, by their frequent visits, to appreciate the beauties of the town, but are, nevertheless, sadly lacking in funds necessary to procure the best accommodations."
In other words, the town jail was downstairs.
The Great Fire of 1895 destroyed the town hall (but not before its precious records had been rescued), as well as the old Masonic Hall. A small building was temporarily put up in back of the town house for records and an office. The present town hall was erected, with the help of some wealthy summer people from New York, the next year.
As a hall, the building served not only as a government center, but also as a community center. Among the activities that took place in the town hall or house over the years were church services, school plays, movies, temperance lectures, minstrel shows, basketball games, wrestling, dances, flower shows, concerts, and, of course, voting. The two offices in the front - in 2005 the town clerk's office and the information office - were at the turn of the 20th Century offices of the town's two banks, Ridgefield Savings and First National.
The building's increasing use as a "hall" around the turn of the century led to the change in what the townspeople called the building. (In Redding, the center of government is still called the town house; it has no "hall" to speak of.)
Around the turn of the 20th Century, the cellar also housed for a while the town's fire department, complete with horse-drawn engine. The old arched doorway for the fire department can still be seen, filled in with brick, on the Bailey Avenue side of the building.
Later, the cellar became the police department, serving that purpose from the 1940s until 1976 when the department moved to the former state police barracks on East Ridge. The old police offices are now town offices and meeting rooms. The old stage, on which many plays were performed over the years, is still there, but holds up office workers instead of actors and actresses.
Very early records refer to "ye Town Ridge" as the ridge along which Main Street runs.
Perhaps the earliest reference is a 1710 map drawn by John Copp, surveyor of the town as well as the town's record-keeper, who noted five lots "on ye south end of ye Town Ridge."
A 1712 deed, in which the proprietors transferred village Lot 13 to Joseph Crampton, described the land as being "on the Southeast part of ye Town Ridge."
It's probable that the early settlers applied the name to the ridge as far south as Wilton Road West at Soundview Road and as far north as the vicinity of the Ridgefield Cemetery.
Many people don't realize it, but parts of the Town Ridge are among the higher sections in town - higher than most of developed Ridgebury, for instance. The elevation of Main Street at the fountain is 790 feet above sea level, and a bit west of that, near the inns on West Lane, it's 800 feet above sea level - only 20 feet lower than the highest point of Ridgebury Road, which has the appearance of being much higher. Near the center of town, the Town Ridge elevation is about 750 feet while up near Casagmo, it drops to around 700.
The Town Spring was a locality apparently well known to villagers of the 18th and 19th Centuries, but which rarely appears in town records today.
It does show up in 1894 when the Annual Town Meeting voted that "the Select Men are instructed to ascertain what rights the town and its inhabitants have to the Town Spring, so-called, at the south end of the village, on land which has been always understood to be common land."
Whatever the selectmen determined, it did not show up in the records of subsequent Town Meetings. However, at about the same time, the Town Meeting was also voting on the widening of Creamery Lane and an old highway that's probably what is known now as Soundview Road. It is therefore possible that the Town Spring was situated in that neighborhood.
However, Beers' 1867 Atlas shows a "spring" on the property of an old Congregational Church parsonage, which is in 2005 the Plum house, two doors south of today's Jesse Lee Methodist Church. The property was not part of the old village green to the north, but it was close to it. There were indications in mid-19th Century records that water from this spring was piped to several houses in the neighborhood.
One can surmise that the Town Spring, wherever it stood, was a source of water over the two preceding centuries, particularly at times when home wells were low or dry. Such community water sources were common in villages almost from the beginning of civilization, although usually in the form of wells.
It is also possible that the spring served as a watering hole for passing horses. In the days before the automobile, strategically placed troughs with plentiful supplies of water were common around town. One stands in the island formed by the intersection of West and Olmstead Lanes, though when it was a functioning watering trough, it was situated in the middle of Main Street at Catoonah Street.
Town Street is another, occasionally used, old name for Main Street. Usually, it was expressed, "The Town Street."
TRAIL'S END LANE
Trail's End Lane, shown incorrectly on some maps as Trial's End Road, is a 500-foot, dead-end road off Eleven Levels Road. Part of Jerry Tuccio's Eleven Levels development, the lane was accepted as a town road in December 1978.
The name may have referred to some old logging trail on the property, or may have simply been deemed attractive by the developer.
Trepel Lane is an informal name given to a driveway off Route 35, Danbury Road, nearly opposite Old Pierce Road.
Jack and Mary Trepel, who bought five acres and a house at the end of the drive in 1953, applied the name to what was apparently an old highway.
Mr. Trepel headed Trepel Florists, a chain founded by his father in 1888. An amateur magician, he had been in charge of recruiting magicians for the American Theater Wing during World War II and, with Mrs. Trepel, gave magic shows in this country and abroad during the war. He once headed the Society of American magicians.
Mr. Trepel died in 1965 and Mary Trepel, in 1973. The property was sold in 1974, but a sign bearing the Trepel Lane name remained in place for years afterward.
The Trepels' daughter, Irene Trepel Kampen (1922-1998), was a well-known writer of humorous novels and lived in Ridgefield for many years. Ms. Kampen, who'd been a newspaper reporter, and her husband Owen, moved to Ridgefield in 1954 and almost immediately, their 11-year marriage fell apart. Forced to support herself, she was soon exhausted commuting to work at her father's New York City flower shop, and began writing fiction. The result was the light-hearted Life Without George, published by Doubleday in 1961, which became the inspiration for The Lucy Show, a comedy about a divorced woman starring Miss Ball, who had recently divorced Desi Arnaz. Ms. Kampen went on to write 10 humorous novels, often based on her own experiences, with such titles as Here Comes the Bride, There Goes the Mother, Fear Without Childbirth, Due to a Lack of Interest, Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled, and Nobody Calls at This Hour Just to Say Hello. She lived on Stonecrest Road, Lookout Drive, and finally Rockwell Road, was active in the Women's Town Club and the Ridgefield Woman's Club, was a frequent luncheon speaker, and wrote pieces for The Press, including a column under the pseudonym, H. Loomis Fenstermacher. She moved to California in 1988 and died 10 years later at the age of 75.
Back in 1728, a few years before Ridgefield lost a big chunk of its western lands to New York colony, William Truesdale and Solomon Tuttle petitioned the proprietors for permission to be owners of Ridgefield land. The petition was granted in December.
Apparently, the two men, considered by some Lewisboro historians to be the first settlers of what is now that town, had gotten a New York patent or some sort of title to land next to and including their Ridgefield tract. They were apparently there long enough so that Truesdale had a mountain named after him, for in 1729, the proprietors deeded Norwalk Samuel Smith 17 acres northeasterly of "Mount Truesdale."
In 1730, the proprietors transferred to Truesdale himself 45 acres south of "Bedford Rhode," now partly Route 35.
Soon after this time, Truesdale's name disappears from record books, both here and in Lewisboro (then called Salem). The History of the Town of Lewisboro reports that "tradition has Truesdale killed by Indians," though Indians in these parts were not otherwise reported to have ever killed any early settlers.
Ridgefield records contain only that one reference to Mount Truesdale, a name that no longer is in use in Lewisboro and which probably referred to the hill, reaching about 650 feet above sea level, that is just to the west of Lake Truesdale and easterly of the hamlet of South Salem.
However, to keep this early settler's name alive, developers of the man-made Lake Truesdale in Lewisboro made use of it when they created what has been called an "elegant 1930s colony" by damming up a stream on an old Keeler farm in the late 1920s. Originally chiefly a summer retreat, Lake Truesdale has - like the Ridgefield Lakes - become a year-round community of some 600 acres, all New York state territory that was once in Ridgefield.
Tub or Tubb Swamp is one of the more unusual names of early Ridgefield geography. But the locality is probably now in Lewisboro.
The name first appeared in 1721 when the proprietors deeded Henry Dwight and Matthew Seamore "5 acres lying at ye Tubb Swamp in ye Southwest Ridges." A 1723 deed mentions 11 acres "lying below ye Tub Swamp," and a 1729 transfer by David Osburn describes 15 acres "off of my land lying in ye Southwest Ridges at a place called ye Tubb Swamp."
In 1731, Connecticut ceded much of what is now Lewisboro to New York as part of the Oblong deal. After that, the only reference to Tub Swamp appears in 1734 when a deed for seven acres describes it as "lying on ye east side of ye Tub Swamp Ridge," and bounded on the west by "the Government line." This helps place the location as just across the state line, probably south of West Lane and west of Silver Spring Country Club.
The name probably refers to the shape of the swamp - roundish, like an old tub. It is not a common term, and among the 20,000 or so names listed in the book, Connecticut Place Names, not one employs the word "tub."
Turkey Island is another ancient name that has vanished from our geography.
The "turkey" may have recalled the wild bird that undoubtedly was common here in the early 1700s. Or it could have referred to Jacob Turkey, an Indian who signed two of the deeds to the first settlers and who may have lived on this land.
Whichever, the name is one of the first recorded in town, having been used as early as 1712, when a town record says "granted by said proprietors unto...Thomas Smith ... the several foll(ow)ing parcels of land, lay'd out to him on account of ye grant of 20 acres of upland; viz., 20 acres of land on Turkey Island, bounded on all sides by common land."
Later deeds, nearly a dozen in all through 1806, mentioned Turkey Island, sometimes spelling it Turky or Tirky. Many give clues to its location, including the fact that it was on the east side of the Titicus River.
The very name -Turkey Island - is a clue, for it tells us the locality was probably a dry, elevated region surrounded by swamp and stream. The term "island" was frequently used in the 18th Century for swamp-surrounded high land.
This information, plus names of property owners on and near the island, suggests that Turkey Island was applied to what we today call Round Mountain. Generally speaking this is the area around the Scotland School-Ridgefield Recreation Center sites, but may also have run southeasterly to include northern North Street, Pinecrest Drive, and Sprucewood Lane.
Because this bird has not been held in high esteem by our modern civilization - "turkey" is often used as slang for a stupid person or something that's a failure - not too many "turkey" road names exist in Fairfield County. Developers will jump for names like Cardinal Court, Partridge Drive, or Pheasant Lane, but try turkey or crow or even a vulture on one of them and you'd think someone had mentioned 20% mortgage rates.
However, it should be noted that the home style maven Martha Stewart had a home on Turkey Hill Road in Westport. So perhaps names like Crow Court and Vulture Valley Way will one day appear on our maps.
TURN OF THE RIVER
Turn of the River, a very early name that does not appear to have survived into the 19th Century, refers to a section in the northeastern part of town along Danbury, Limestone and Great Hill Roads.
The term was employed as early as 1717 when deeds mention ``ye turn of ye River,'' or ``on ye Turn of ye Norwalk River.'' A 1746 deed, using both forms of the definite article, speaks of land at ``the Turn of ye River, so called, under Copps Mountain,'' and references continue to appear until 1799.
There can be little question as to how the name came about. Off the west side of Limestone Road, just above Shields Lane, the Norwalk River veers eastward, having been north-flowing for nearly two miles from its source in the Great Swamp. It continues easterly to the back of the Silicon Valley Group building (formerly Perkin Elmer or the Benrus Center), a bit south of Little Pond on Route 7. It then begins the southerly flow that continues to Long Island Sound at Norwalk.
This sharp, 180-degree turn is not common in streams of this or larger size, and thus it's not surprising that Turn of the River became a commonplace name in the 18th Century. Why it disappeared must be left to speculation, but the fact that it consisted of four words may explain why the old New Englanders - not noted for their verbosity - abandoned the term.
Such was not exactly the case in Stamford where, to this day, there is a well-known section of the town called Turn of River. However, those economical Stamfordians used only three words.
Since before the turn of the 20th Century, Turner Road or Street has been named for the circus and hotel owner, Aaron Turner, one of the more interesting characters in 19th Century Ridgefield and Danbury.
Historian Silvio A. Bedini did quite a bit of digging into Turner's life, and most of what follows comes from Mr. Bedini's Ridgefield in Review, which offers much detail about the man.
Born in Ridgefield in 1790, Turner was apparently either a bastard or had been orphaned at an early age. When he was nine years old, he went to live with a court-appointed guardian, Dorcas Osborn, whose house was at the corner of Saw Mill and Turner Roads (but which no longer stands). Much of this farm was at the southern limit of the huge hunk of northern Ridgebury that was ceded to Danbury in 1846.
Turner inherited the farm and much land in Ridgebury - both the present Ridgefield and Danbury sections. But farming was not to be his calling. By the time he was 30, Turner was associated with the circus world, possibly as a part owner of a troupe that had sprung up from one of the circus families that lived in nearby New York State. By this time, 1820, his seven-year-old son, Napoleon, was a trick rider in a New York City circus.
Eight years later, Turner the elder had a traveling circus of his own. In 1836, he hired a young fellow named Phineas T. Barnum as his ticket seller, secretary, and treasurer.
During the winter, Turner's circus stayed at his Ridgebury farm, which included land along the west side of Ridgebury and Turner Roads. Many circus animals were reportedly housed in farms in the neighborhood. It is said that at least one elephant is buried somewhere in the old fields that were along the western side of northern Ridgebury Road.
"Turner's circus was one of the most important and popular in the country," said Mr. Bedini, who adds that both sons Timothy and Napoleon were "skilled riders." His daughter married George Bailey of Somers, N.Y., who later managed the circus and remained in the business after Turner bowed out. Barnum, of course, went on to found his own circus which survives today in the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Aaron Turner eventually retired to the quieter life of operating a hotel, called Turner House, which was in Danbury facing the Main Street green just above the old courthouse. He died in 1854 and his historic hotel, more recently a Knights of Columbus Home, was torn down in the early 1960s to make way for - incredibly - a used car lot. Today, the property is the site of a Walgreen's pharmacy.
Turner Road, originally and more correctly known as Turner Street, is a very old road whose exact extent has been subject to some disagreement.
By a November 1959 vote, the Board of Selectmen agreed "to name the roadway from North Salem Road through Ridgebury, past Shadow Lake Road and connecting with Old Ridgebury Road at the Danbury town line as Ridgebury Road (it had been in part called 'George Washington Highway'), Saw Mill Road to meet and join Ridgebury Road, and Turner Road to meet and join Saw Mill Road." In other words, Turner Road was to be the short strip of highway from Saw Mill Road - right where it veers north and crosses into Danbury - westerly to the New York State Line.
However, the late Daniel M. McKeon, longtime Ridgeburian and a historian of that district, maintained over the years that Turner Road should begin at Ridgebury Road, at the fork just north of Shadow Lake Road. Saw Mill Road, primarily a north-south road in Danbury, should enter into Ridgefield only a few feet, connecting with Turner Road. Mr. McKeon seems to have gotten his way as the town fathers and most maps now use the term Turner Road or Street for what the selectmen had voted to be Saw Mill Road.
The Turner Hill subdivision, built in the early 1990s off the south side of Turner Road, has roads named for some of the circus families that lived in Ridgefield and nearby New York, including Hunt, Howes, and, of course, Barnum. And one road recalls Dan McKeon, who fought to keep Turner Road at its full former length.
Turnpike Road was a shortened form of the formal name for either of the two main turnpikes that operated in Ridgefield during the first half of the 19th Century.
The earliest use of the term occurs in 1803 when a deed from Jonathan Whitlock to Benjamin Foster describes nine acres as being bounded on one side ``by the Turnpike Road.''
In that case the reference was to the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike, built a couple of years earlier, that ran from the intersection of Haviland and Limestone Roads north through the Sugar Hollow to the south end of the present Danbury Airport, where it met the northern half of the Sugar Hollow Turnpike Road.
In other words, this turnpike was the northern end of Route 35 and the section of Route 7 from Route 35 north to and including Old Sugar Hollow Road in Danbury. That's why Route 7 from the light north to the Danbury line is still called ``Danbury Road'' today.
At the intersection of Routes 35 and 7, the Danbury turnpike met the southern half of the Sugar Hollow Turnpike, which went down into Wilton and Norwalk, following the path of present day Route 7 most of the way. This road, begun in the 1830s, was also known in the shortened form of Turnpike Road, a name that was in use among oldtimers even early in the 20th Century, long after the pikes were taken down.
Another road that may have been called Turnpike Road was Simpaug Turnpike, the southern end of which began in Ridgefield but soon entered Redding. This road is still called Simpaug Turnpike today.
All of these roads have been discussed in more detail under their formal names.
Turtle Pond is a small, man-made body of water off the west side of Old Sib Road. One of the "Eight Lakes" of the subdivision of that name, it was created around 1908 for Henry B. Anderson's Port of Missing Men resort.
The late Julius Tulipani, who was a selectman here and a longtime president of the Italian-American Mutual Aid Society, worked on the project, felling trees and building the dam. The pond was probably built over an old swamp, which may have been known as the Ivy Swamp in the 18th Century. In that case the stream that flows out of the pond and down to Lake Mamanasco was called the Ivy Swamp Brook.
The name of the pond is not unusual and could, of course, apply to any pond in Ridgefield, for turtles are a common reptile, perhaps second only to snakes. It's not hard to find painted turtles sunning themselves on logs and rocks along any shoreline. According to herpetologist Nelson Gelfman, other turtles that can be found in town include the bog or Muhlenberg's turtle, the box turtle, musk turtle, snapping turtle, spotted turtle, and wood turtle.
The pond is erroneously called "Hidden Lake" by some, perhaps because some developer chose to name a nearby lane Hidden Lake Court.
On the west side of Turtle Pond is 22 acres of open space, a gift to the Land Conservancy of Ridgefield from the late Louise Peck, thus guaranteeing preservation of much of the natural background for this pretty little pond.
Twelfth Lane is the final in the series of 12 small roads off the west side of Mamanasco Road. It is distinguished from the others in two qualities: It is a town road rather than a private drive, and it is a through road, not dead-end, connecting as it does with Old Sib Road.
It is also one of the steepest roads in town, running from 650 feet above sea level down to about 590 feet over a distance of about 300 feet.
Twelfth Lane is, like the other numbered lanes at the lake, part of the early 1950s Eight Lakes subdivision. It may be the only road in town with a name that contains four consonants in a row.
"Twin Maples" was a state-owned rest stop on Wilton Road West. For many years, it included a couple of picnic tables, possibly a grill, and a trash can, aimed at offering tourists a place to stop and eat. Back in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, these roadside rest areas were common throughout the state.
The rest area had used as its driveway a portion of the old Wilton Road West. The section had been part of the highway until sometime in the 1920's when the State Highway Department straightened the curve somewhat by rerouting the main road to the west. Around 1980, the state gave up on Twin Maples as a rest area because it was rarely used for other than depositing trash. State crews dug up and removed the old pavement. Today, there is only a dirt turn-around area there, but pairs of maples still remain.
At the eastern edge of this state-owned area stood the old Flat Rock Schoolhouse. The site is now overgrown with trees - appropriately, they are mostly maples.
Twin Ridge is a subdivision, originally consisting of 68 lots, developed chiefly between 1960 and 1968 by Giles and Barry Montgomery.
Once farmland that had for some two centuries belonged to the Keeler family, the development has been long considered a showplace, with many attractive colonial-style houses erected by independent builders, but only after plans had been approved by the Montgomery family.
The name, descriptive of the terrain, was created for the subdivision and is not old.
Roads in the subdivision are similarly descriptive of terrain or flora on it: Beechwood Lane, Indian Cave Road, Little Ridge Road, Rising Ridge Road, Strawberry Ridge Road, and, of course, Twin Ridge Road. The last, forming the main entrance, runs from Nod Road by the intersection with Indian Cave to a dead end.
Twixt Hills, usually spelled with two words, is the subdivision that was developed by Jerry Tuccio on land that was an estate called Twixthills, usually spelled as one word.
In 1913, Seth Low Pierrepont, a diplomat and nephew of Seth Low, a mayor of New York City and president of Columbia University, built the estate house, still standing off Barlow Mountain and Old Barlow Mountain Roads. (Mr. Pierrepont is discussed in more detail under Pierrepont Pond.)
When he came here, Mr. Pierrepont amassed for Twixthills, some 800 acres of farm and wood land. About 312 acres are now Pierrepont State Park and 184 acres were sold in 1961 to Mr. Tuccio by the estate of Mr. Pierrepont's widow, Nathalie Elisabeth Chauncey Pierrepont, for $145,000. The same year, Mr. Tuccio began the 93-lot subdivision bearing the estate name, which refers to the setting of the house, between Barlow Mountain and Ridgebury Mountain, two "hills."
Within Twixt Hills are Seth Low Mountain Road, Pierrepont Drive, Clayton Place, Lookout Point, part of Barlow Mountain Road, and, of course, Twixt Hills Road, the latter running from Knollwood Drive and Old Barlow Mountain Road to Seth Low Mountain Road.
Twopence Road at the 1958 Chestnut Hills Estates subdivision runs from Chestnut Hill Road to Parley Road.
The late Lewis J. Finch, the developer, said he picked the name simply because he liked its sound. "Sometimes it's not easy" to find road names, he said. "You strive for something that sounds nice." The sound, incidentally, should follow the British pronunciation, "tuppence," Mr. Finch said in a 1975 interview.
The road became a town highway in 1964.