Entire contents copyrighted 2005 by Jack Sanders. Reproduction without permission is forbidden.
Although Umpawaug Pond is entirely within the town of Redding, its western shore is less than 200 feet from the eastern border of Ridgefield, and the name has made its way into Ridgefield's records.
In fact, the town line turns from northerly to northwesterly near the pond and consequently, in the 1708 deed between the Indians and the Ridgefield settlers for the first purchase of land, the boundary line was described as running "upwardes unto Upewauge pond to a White Oak Tree, standing by the Northwest Corner of said Pond, the said tree being marked and stones lay'd about it, and is the North East Corner..." of the town.
Obviously, this old tree-based marker would not last forever, and it was undoubtedly later replaced. However, in the 1970s, in the last perambulation of the town ever conducted, Theodore Meier was unable to find the famous "Umpawaug Pond Corner" marker.
This monument, he wrote, "may have been lost due to construction of a driveway at the location. A long, thin stone on the side of the road southeast of the driveway was considered a natural stone and the perambulators (he and his son, the late Bruce Meier) do not believe it is the monument."
At any rate, Umpawaug became a neighborhood, a section of the town, for a portion of the 18th and early 19th Centuries. In 1722, the proprietors deeded land "lying at Umpawogg" to Daniel Olmsted. Ensign Olmstead in 1733 got 35 more acres "lying at the north side of his land at Umpawogg."
In 1748, Richard Olmstead received 20 acres "south of Umpewalk Hill," no doubt the Ridgefield hill just west of the pond and south of Fire Hill.
A 1752 deed spoke of Umpewogg; another in 1786 mentioned Umpowag Pond, and it was not until an 1834 deed for land on the border that we find the modern spelling of Umpawaug.
What does the word, clearly from the native tongue, mean? There are several theories. Jonathan Trumbull, a Connecticut historian of the last century, figured the name had something to do with Umpamock, an Indian who was involved in the sale of land north of Stratford in 1673.
Connecticut Place Names by Hughes and Allen suggests it may stem from the word Umpog, used as the name of a creek in Danbury, Bethel and Redding. This word, they say, may mean "conquered, to whom tribute is brought," perhaps stemming from an Indian chief named Paug who was involved in the 1660 sale of land in Stamford.
Finally, there is "beyond the bend," John C. Huden's translation in Indian Place Names of New England. For Umpog, he gives that translation, as well as "a fishing place."
Indeed, one of the biggest ponds in old Redding, Umpawaug was undoubtedly a popular fishing spot for both Indians and the early settlers. In fact, the Redding town records noted in 1817 that Daniel Sanford and Aaron Burr were appointed a committee to procure "the fish called pike" to stock Umpawaug Pond.
From the pond's outlet, the water flows northerly, meeting the Saugatuck River, which winds up in the Saugatuck Reservoir, a source of drinking water for the city of Bridgeport and many other southern Fairfield County towns, including Ridgefield.
Upper Pond is an old mill pond barely noticed today by most Ridgefielders. That's because it's situated a couple hundred feet west of Pin Pack Road, not easily visible from any highway.
A source of water for the Titicus River, Upper Pond was created, probably in the early 1800s, as a place to store water for mills along Saw Mill Hill Road at Titicus. It was the more upstream of two ponds, the other having been called Lower Pond, and is nearly a half mile from the mill or mills it served.
The first mention of Upper Pond occurred in 1812 when Epentus How(e) and Jeremiah Smith sold Jabez Mix Gilbert of Ridgefield and James Hoyt of South Salem "our grist or corn mill, together with the mill house," land near Gilbert's tan works, a pond, a dam, and "also a tract of land called Upper Pond, lying near the West Mountain."
Howe had been a miller at Titicus for many years and was probably responsible for building the dam that created Upper Pond. His house still stands on the northerly corner of North Salem and Saw Mill Hill roads.
Some subsequent deeds refer to the pond as Gilbert's Upper Pond.
Lower Pond, incidentally, is now but a small body of water along Saw Mill Hill Road, though it was once somewhat bigger.