1800 – The census finds 2,025 people in Ridgefield, an increase of about 50 from 10 years earlier.


Feb. 24, 1800 – Danbury residents don’t like the drive to and through Ridgefield, but Ridgefield doesn’t like their approach to fixing the problem. Joshua King, Nathan Dauchy, David Olmstead, William Forrester, and Timothy Keeler 2nd are appointed to confer with the Select Men and other inhabitants of Danbury, “to see whether they can not accommodate the public and the Stage Proprietors with a road from Danbury through said Ridgefield without a committee’s being appointed for said purpose by the County Court.”  A petition by Danburians had asked the court to “alter or straighten the road” between the towns.


March 21, 1800 – The Select Men are directed to attend a meeting on the new road between Danbury and Ridgefield.


March 22, 1800 – The First Society has a lottery for seats in the new church.


Dec. 1, 1800 – In this era, everyone shares in maintaining roads. However, they are compensated. The Town Meeting decrees that, in lieu of having to pay highway taxes, “each person who shall labor on the road shall receive 75 cents per day, and for a man and team, $1.50 for payments toward taxes, provided the work was done before July 1. If the work was done after July 1, the pay for a man was 50 cents a day, and for a man and team, $1.”  [Back then, $1 was worth about $12 in 2008 money.]


Dec. 1, 1800 – Jonathan Andrews, S. Smith Baldwin, Daniel Warren, James Sturges, and Jonathan Whitlock are elected haywards. [Haywards were town officials who kept an eye on fences to make sure they were in good condition so livestock would not escape and damage crops. They could also impound stray livestock. “Hay” is from a Middle English word for hedge or fence.]


May 1801 – The Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike is chartered by the state legislature. The road is to run through the Sugar Hollow and follows the path of today’s upper Danbury Road and Route 7. Incorporators include Joseph M. White and Ebenezer B. White. Tolls include 12 cents, five mills, for a loaded ox cart, 8 cents for a loaded wagon, 4 cents for an empty wagon, and 4 cents for a man and horse. However, “all persons going to or returning from funerals, all persons going to or returning from public worship, and their traveling to and from mills, and all officers or soldiers on days of military exercise on command, who must necessarily pass through such gate, and all those who live near the place where such gate is erected, whose necessary daily calling requires their passing through such gate, shall be exempted…”


Aug. 19, 1801 – On his eighth birthday, Samuel G. Goodrich [“Peter Parley”] visits the grist mill at Lake Mamanasco and while waiting for grist, “angled in the pond and carried home enough for a generous meal.”


Nov. 23, 1801 – The Annual Town Meeting, which until now had been held in December, takes place in November for the first time. [The year before, it had been Dec. 1 – and had been tending to creep earlier and earlier in December. Could it be they were trying to avoid the cold of the Independent School House, their meeting place?]


April 1, 1802 – Benedict Gregory sells Epenetus How his one-third interest in the hatter’s shop near How’s house, along with “one-third part of the time of two apprentices that are now bound to said How to learn the trade, art and mystery of making hats.”


May 1802 – The Greenwich and Ridgefield Turnpike Company, proposed by William Knapp and Andrew Mead, is chartered by the Connecticut Legislature, and would run through Lewisboro, Pound Ridge, Bedford and Stamford. It is never built.


Aug. 30, 1802 – After first voting against it, the Town Meeting agrees to a tax of one cent on the dollar “for the purpose of paying the bill of damages, and cost, which is allowed by the County Court, for that part of Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike Road, which lyeth in said Town of Ridgefield, and that this town pay one half of the cost of laying out said road.”


Nov. 15, 1802 – The Annual Town Meeting sets taxes as two cents on the dollar for highways, and “six mills on the dollar for defraying the expenses of ye town.”


Nov. 15, 1802 – One of the more unusual agreements is recorded on the land records: “Know all men that I, Andrew Wood, do, for the consideration of three pounds, received of Anna Townsand, bind and oblige myself and heirs to find my mother, Mary Wood, the privilege of getting firewood sufficient for her own use, during her life.” The agreement is dated Dec. 7, 1797, five years earlier.


Dec. 5, 1802 – Lewis Mead dies on board the ship, Penman, on its passage from Canton, China, to New York. He is 25 years old.


Dec. 24, 1802 – Joseph Jagger dies. He is “supposed to be one hundred years old,” says a town vital record. [See Dec. 2, 1799.]



March 2, 1803 – A special Town Meeting is called to “choose an agent to carry on the law suit against the Town of Fairfield” to recover the costs of maintenance and support of “Timothy Fountain, a transient person.” The meeting not only votes against selecting an agent, but then instructs the Select Men “to withdraw the prosecution which they have commenced against the Town of Fairfield for the support of Timothy Fountain.”


Nov. 21, 1803 – Ridgefield officials don’t like out-of-towners messing with their women. The Annual Town Meeting votes “that the Select Men be directed to institute a suit at law in behalf of Susanna Smith 2nd, an inhabitant of this town, against Hart Weed of Southeast, Town in the State of New York, for the recovery of damages for seduction and a breach of covenant on the part of said Weed, to and with the said Susanna, and that said Select Men institute said suit in the State of New York, unless said business is settled to their satisfaction in some other manner.” Interestingly enough, in 1847, a man named Hart Weed is a judge in Putnam County, in which Southeast lies.


Dec. 6, 1803 – Timothy Keeler receives $20.65 for acquiring a new bell for the Congregational Church.


1804 – The value of all property in the first society is listed at $36,981, and in the second society, $16,567, for a total of $53,549.


Feb. 23, 1804 – Apparently, Redding residents are complaining about the road to Ridgefield center – probably today’s Florida Hill Road. A special Town Meeting deals with a “citation, served upon the Select Men of said Town of Ridgefield, upon a complaint made to the County Court for Fairfield County against said town of Ridgefield, of the road leading from the Meeting House in said Ridgefield to Reading line, near the dwelling house of Thomas Couch.” The meeting appoints an agent to oppose the citation and to borrow money to cover the costs of fighting it.


Oct. 1, 1804 – The Rev. David Butler leaves as rector of the Episcopal congregation in Ridgefield.


November 1804 – The Rev. Samuel Camp, pastor at Ridgebury Congregational Church since 1769, resigns because of failing health. Nonetheless, he lives nine more years.


Nov. 26, 1804 – Among the many officials elected at the Annual Town Meeting are Jeremiah Mead, Daniel Smith and Henry Whitney, the leather sealers.  These officials certify that any leather sold in town is of good quality.


April 8, 1805 – The Town Meeting votes to “appoint an agent to oppose a petition which was brought before the Honorable General Assembly of the State of Connecticut, at their session in New Haven in October last, praying said assembly for liberty to extend the Turnpike Road leading from Danbury to Beldens Bridge in the town of Wilton, from said Bridge to the Bridge in Norwalk, at the stores or landing.” Since this extension is well south of Ridgefield, it is not clear why the town opposes.


April 8, 1805 – Without explaining why, the Town Meeting gives Joshua Burt and others permission “to erect barrs for the purpose of fencing up the highway leading from the dwelling house of David Mead around the west side of Mamanasco Pond, in such places as they shall thing necessary, which liberty shall remain during the pleasure of the town.”


Sept. 15, 1805 – The Rev. Russell Wheeler begins serving as the part-time Episcopal rector in Ridgefield.


Nov. 25, 1805 – The Annual Town Meeting withdraws the earlier action and says that Joshua Burt and other associates “shall no longer keep up barrs which they have erected by permission of this town across the road leading around the west side of Mamanasco Pond.”


1806 – The grand list drops to $49,380.


May 1, 1806 – The Rev Russell Wheeler leaves as Episcopal rector.


Dec. 1, 1806 – The Annual Town Meeting votes that one half of the highway tax owed by the people “living on the main road leading from Ridgebury line to Wilton line” should be used to make improvements on the stretch of the road “between the dwelling houses of Benjamin Benedict and John Scott.”


Dec. 1, 1806 – The Select Men are told “to furnish necessary tools to be used at each of the burying yards in this town for the purpose of digging graves.”


Dec. 1, 1806 – The Select Men are also “directed to make temporary repairs on the house where Gilbert Yabbacom resides.” [See Dec. 4, 1797.]


May 2, 1807 – The Rev. Elijah G. Plumb becomes part-time Episcopal rector in Ridgefield.


Sept. 14, 1807 – The early morning is lit by a ball of fire, described as nearly the size of the moon, passing across the sky. It explodes several times and the sound is like thunder. The next day, a piece of the meteor is found in nearby Weston. It weighs 25 pounds and is now in the mineralogical collect at Yale.


Nov. 23, 1807 – The Annual Town Meeting votes that “the inhabitants living within the limits of each school district may procure one scraper for each district for the purpose of working and repairing the roads in the same; and the expense of procuring the scraper shall be deducted from the amount of the highway tax in each district that shall procure a scraper as aforesaid…The scraper furnished by Mr. Ezra Mead the last year shall be a model.” [Horse-drawn scrapers leveled the dirt road that had been rutted by wagons and damaged by erosion.]


1808 – The Grand list totals $51,717.


Oct. 5, 1808 – A charter is granted to Jerusalem Lodge 49, A.F. and A. M. The Masons are thus the oldest extant organization in Ridgefield.


Nov. 21, 1808 – The Annual Town Meeting, held at the Independent School House, votes not to build a town house (town hall) and instead to approach both “the committee of the Presbyterian Society, or the wardens of the Episcopal Church, for liberty to hold town and freemen’s meetings for the future in the Presbyterian Meeting House or Episcopal Church” and to pay them up to $10 a year for that liberty.


Nov. 21, 1808 – Voters agree to remove the pound on Main Street, and instead have it on the land of Amos Baker, near and north of the bridge above Samuel Stebbins dwelling house. This may have been on Grove Street.


Nov. 26, 1808 – The first meeting of the Jerusalem Lodge of Masons takes place in Amos Smith’s tavern at Main and Prospect Streets.


April 1, 1809 – Dr. David Perry, a Ridgefield physician who had been ordained an Episcopal priest in 1790 and served briefly as rector here, quits the Episcopal Church to become a Baptist. He dies three years later.


Nov. 20, 1809 – The Annual Town Meeting takes place at the “Presbyterian Meeting House” – the Congregational church on the green. The highway tax is lowered to one cent on the dollar while the town tax is raised to eight mills on the dollar.


1810 – The census finds 2,103 people in Ridgefield, an increase of 78 from 10 years earlier.


1810 – The grand list totals $53,360.


1810 – The Episcopal Church building in Ridgebury, unused for 20 years, is torn down.


1810 – Returning to her cave on a stormy night, Sarah Bishop, the hermitess of West Mountain, slips, falls down a rocky hillside, and dies. Searchers find her several days later wedged between masses of rocks.


Dec. 13, 1810 – Annual Town Meeting is back to mid-December. Joshua King and others are named commissioners to procure scrapers to be used to repair the highways, and to acquire the timber and planks needed for repairing the bridges. They are also authorized to oversee bridge repairs.


Dec. 13, 1810 – The Town Meeting appoints several agents to “prosecute the town of Wilton for supplies which have been furnished, or which may hereafter be furnished, by the Select Men of this town to the wife and family of Isaac Gregory.” [The Gregory family apparently came from Wilton and was destitute. The town was helping them but expected Wilton to pay for the help since the Gregorys were not legal residents of Ridgefield.]


Jan. 22, 1811 – The Rev. Samuel G. Goodrich leaves his post as minister of the Ecclesiastical Society.


April 8, 1811 – A Town Meeting appoints a committee “for the purpose of making propositions to the Town of Wilton respecting a settlement of the line in dispute between the said town of Ridgefield and said town of Wilton.”


Jan. 15, 1812 – The Rev. Reuben Hubbard becomes part-time rector of St. Stephen’s Church.


Feb. 14, 1812 – Abigail Northrop dies of “a prevailing fever.” She is the first of 29 Ridgefielders to die of the “prevailing fever” over the next year. [“Prevailing fever” was a term that covered such diseases as malaria, typhoid fever, and yellow fever.]


Feb. 20, 1812 – For reasons that are not stated, a Town Meeting decides to oppose “the petition of Joseph Warren, William Whiting and Stephen Raymond, praying the Honorable County Court, to send out a disinterested committee or otherwise to examine – lay out – a new road, and make such alterations as public convenience may require, from the Meeting House in this town through the towns of Wilton, New Canaan, and Norwalk to the Port of Five Mile River.” [That port was today Rowayton Harbor.]


March 1, 1812 – The Rev. Reuben Hubbard unites Peggy Lobdell and David Dauchy in marriage. Although many Episcopal marriages had occurred in town previously, this is the first one ever recorded in a record book.


June 10, 1812 – Delight Benedict, teacher immortalized in Samuel Goodrich’s Recollections of A Lifetime many years later, dies at the age of 55 of the “prevailing fever” [see Feb. 14, 1812].


Dec. 9, 1812 – The Annual Town Meeting accepts the latest perambulation of the line between Wilton and Ridgefield.


Dec. 16, 1812 – Waterbury is suing Ridgefield to recover the costs of taking care of “the Widow Sarah Bouton,” whom Waterbury maintains is a Ridgefielder. Ridgefield officials think she came from New York and commission an investigation to see whether her late husband, Fairchild Bouton, was a New Yorker. The town meeting votes to fight the Waterbury suit, if investigations show she was never a legal resident of the town.


Jan. 11, 1813 – The Town Meeting votes unanimously not to accept Sarah Bouton as a resident of the town [see Dec. 16, 1812].


Jan. 11, 1813 – Voters agree to buy planks to repair the bridge near David Banks’ house.


Feb. 14, 1813 – Captain Henry Whitney dies, the last of 29 people who have succumbed in a year due to a “prevailing fever” [see Feb. 14, 1812].


June 7, 1813 – A committee meets to plan a July 4 community rally in support of the War of 1812.  Since the fourth is a Sunday, the Sabbath, members of the “Peace Party” move that the celebration be July 5, but they are defeated.


July 4, 1813 – A large “celebration” supports the war effort, and includes patriotic readings, a military demonstration, and music. Expenses include $1.09 for three and a half quarts of rum, $1 for 10 pounds of cheese, and $18.25 for a keg of powder.


Nov. 29, 1813 – Annual Town Meeting votes to “approve of the doings of the Select Men relative to the agreement they have made with the Town of Waterbury, respecting the maintenance and support of the widow Sarah Bouton, and also their agreement made with her children.” [There’s no clue as to the nature of the agreement that ends a dispute lasting nearly a year – see Dec. 16, 1812.]


1814 – The town’s grand list totals $54,611.


Dec. 5, 1814 – The Annual Town Meeting decides that “permission is given to Thaddeus Keeler 2nd to add to his store on the south end 10 feet in width.”


Dec. 4, 1815 – The Town Meeting agrees that “swine are permitted to go at large on the commons and highways in this town, provided the owners thereof keep them ringed with at least one good ring made of iron in the center of the nose of each.” If swine are found without a ring, “it shall be the duty of the haywards, and it may be lawfull for any other person, to impound them, and the owner or owners of such swine shall pay the poundage by law allowed before they are released out of pound.” [See also Dec. 4, 1786.]


Dec. 4, 1815 – The town is still looking for its own permanent meeting place. Amos Smith and five others are named a committee “for the purpose of viewing the store and land appertaining thereto, belonging to Thomas R. Wilson, and of ascertaining the price for which it may be obtained, and the probable expense it would cost to make repairs and accommodations for a Town House.” The building is located near the Episcopal Church.


1816 – The Grand List of taxable properties totals $55,557.


Jan. 15, 1816 – After hearing the report of its committee, the Town Meeting votes not to buy the land and store of Thomas R. Wilson. The meeting is then asked whether it wants “at this time to make provision to build a Town House” – what we today call a town hall. The answer is “No.” The meeting then votes to appoint a six-member committee “to view and report to a future meeting a suitable place on which to erect a Town House.”


March 14, 1816 – The Town Meeting appoints agents “to carry on a suit at law in behalf of this town against the Town of Fairfield, for supplies furnished by the Select Men to Daniel King, a resident of this town, who is said to be an inhabitant of said Town of Fairfield.”


Oct. 7, 1816 – The Town Meeting reaffirms earlier positions that Ridgebury should be allowed to become a distinct town of its own. But the meeting also votes that, if this should happen, Ridgefield should not give up one of its two representatives to the State Legislature.


Dec. 2, 1816 – Ridgefielders are taxed two cents on the dollar of assessed value to cover highway maintenance for the coming year. However, one can get around paying cash by doing the highway work himself in lieu of taxes [see Dec. 1, 1800]. But it appears that some people are getting paid more than they are worth, for the Town Meeting votes that “The surveyors of highways be directed not to allow any person who labors on the highways in discharge of his tax, a greater sum than in his opinion he really earns.”


1817 – Jerusalem Lodge of Masons builds its Masonic Hall on Main Street. It later serves as a town hall. It burns in the Fire of 1895 and is replaced by the existing building, just south of today’s Town Hall.


March 20, 1817 – The Rev. Samuel M. Phelps is selected as minister of the First Society church. In appointing Mr. Phelps, the Ridgefield society breaks with the consociation of western Fairfield County churches for reasons that are not clear.


April 14, 1817 – Overfishing is apparently causing problems in Ridgefield. The Town Meeting decides that “no person or persons shall draw any sein or seins, use or employ any hook, pot or other implement by which fish are or may be caught or taken, in the Round Pond so called in said Ridgefield for the term of two years from and after the first day of April AD 1817, under the penalty of $10 for every fish so taken or caught.” [$10 then is about $125 today, so that’s a pretty stiff fine.]


Nov. 17, 1817 – Apparently people are complaining about the quality of the Ridgefield portion of the main highway between Wilton and Ridgefield, and Ridgefielders don’t want county officials deciding how it should be handled. The Town Meeting votes that “Nathan Dauchy and Jared Olmsted Esq. be agents in behalf of this town to oppose the petition of Matthew Keeler and others now pending before the County Court for Fairfield County, relative to laying out a road leading from the dwelling house of Benjamin Jones in said Ridgefield to Wilton line, and through the Town of Wilton as is specified in said petition.”


Dec. 8, 1817 – The Town Meeting gathers, probably at the church, but then adjourns to Masonic Hall and rescinds the appointment of Dauchy and Olmsted to fight the Wilton road petition [above]. Apparently the move to Masonic Hall is another sign of a continuing problem: A decent place to gather for government business. The meeting then votes that “The Select Men be directed to procure some convenient place for the town to assemble in to hold their future meetings.”


Dec. 25, 1817 – St. Stephen’s Church, completed in 1791, is seriously deteriorating because of lack of money to keep it in repair, and the church vestry votes to name a committee to repair the roof and windows, and to build a steeple that had been cut from the original construction plans. Church members are asked to pledge money.


1818 – The town’s tax base totals $54, 013.


April 1818 – The Rev. Reuben Hubbard leaves as rector of St. Stephen’s.


April 13, 1818 – A Town Meeting instructs the state representatives “to use their influence to have a convention called to form a written constitution for this state, and that the clerk furnish them with a copy of this vote.”


April 13, 1818 – The Town Meeting decides that “Lydia, a woman of colour, and late servant of the Widow Hannah Wilson of this Town who is now a pauper, be, and she hereby is freed from slavery.”


April 13, 1818 – First fishing is banned at Round Pond [see April 14, 1817]. Now, the Town Meeting extends the ban to Bennett’s Pond, beginning May 1 and lasting two years.


June 15, 1818 – The Rev. Charles Smith becomes part-time rector of St. Stephen’s Church, remaining until 1823.


July 4, 1818 – The Town Meeting names Joshua King and Abner Gilbert Jr. as delegates to a state constitutional convention in Hartford Aug. 4


Sept. 24, 1818 – “Nab, a woman of colour,” dies at the age of 40. She had been a servant of the Matthew Seymour, who died two years earlier at the age of 94.


Oct. 1, 1818 – The Town Meeting gathers to vote on the proposed state constitution that had been approved Sept. 15, 1818, by the convention.  The vote was 169 in favor, and 108 opposed.


Dec. 9, 1818 – The fishing ban at both Round Pond and Bennett’s Pond is extended indefinitely.


Dec. 23, 1818 – Ira Keeler of Ridgefield, age 29, dies when his vessel is shipwrecked off Cape May, “when every person on board perished,” reports his tombstone in Titicus Cemetery.


1819 – Renovations to St. Stephen’s Church, including addition of a steeple, are completed, but the steeple lacks a bell.


Oct. 11, 1819 – The town agrees to pay Dr. Nehemiah Perry $20 and Doctor David Richmond $4.50 “for their attendance, amputating the leg of Josiah Lobdell, and for medicine.”


Dec. 20, 1819 – The Jerusalem Lodge of Masons acquires land on Main Street for a meeting hall.


1820 – The census finds 2,301 people in Ridgefield, an increase of nearly 200 in 10 years.


1820 – The town’s Grand List totals $30,475.


March 19, 1820 – Stephan Norris and 14 others petition the General Assembly that their 310 acres in Ridgebury along George Washington Highway, given to Danbury in 1736, be re-annexed to Ridgefield. They say the current arrangement causes great inconvenience, including the fact that most of the landowners live in Ridgefield and few people know which town to pay their taxes to.


April 1820 – 43 years after the British burned the old Episcopal church on Main Street, St. Stephen’s Church petitions the Connecticut General Assembly for compensation – “praying for a remuneration of damages sustained in consequence of the injury done to the former church belonging to the Parish by being used as a storehouse for provisions by the commissary in the time of the Revolutionary War.” The General Assembly quickly rejects the plea.


May 26, 1820 – The General Assembly, meeting in New Haven, returns 310 acres to Ridgefield that had been annexed to Danbury in 1736 [see March 19, 1820].


Oct. 2, 1820 – The problems of the poor are apparently increasing, and the town sets up a “Board of Relief.” Samuel Stebbins, Aaron Lee, Benjamin Lynes, Elijah Hawley, and Runa Rockwell are elected to the board.


Oct. 1, 1821 – A town tax of one cent and five mills is set. The highway tax of two cents on the dollar is levied.  Town Meetings are in the dwelling house of Amos Smith.


April 1, 1822 – The winter must have damaged a lot of roads because a Town Meeting rescinds the highway tax of two cents, and a new tax of four cents is levied. However, property owners could avoid paying the tax but working on the roads themselves. Compensation for road work is 75 cents a day, or $1.50 if “what shall be deemed by the surveyors a good sufficient team and tools” is supplied by the worker.


April 1, 1822 – The town pays Runa Rockwell $4.77 for schooling the children of the “Widow Parsons…after she became one of the paupers of the town.”


April 24, 1822 – Hiram Keeler Scott, who becomes one of Ridgefield’s most prominent citizens of the century, is born in the Scotland District. His birth is recorded by Samuel Stebbins, town clerk for 35 years. Scott grows up to be the only town clerk to exceed that tenure at town clerking, with 37 years.


Oct. 7, 1822 – The town pays Stephen Norris $4.75 for “supplies furnished Nathaniel Northrup and timber for repairing a bridge.”


Oct. 21, 1822 – Jared Ingersoll, son of the Rev. Jonathan Ingersoll, second minister of the First Congregational Church, dies in Philadelphia. Unlike his father, who was an ardent Tory, Jared Ingersoll sympathized with the colonists in the Revolution. He settled in Philadelphia, was a friend of Alexander Hamilton and, in 1812, was candidate for vice president of the United States on the Federalist ticket, headed by DeWitt Clinton.


1823 – S.G. Goodrich publishes his first Peter Parley book, Parley’s Tales of the Sea, aimed at youngsters. Over a hundred more will be turned out by his publishing company, including many school textbooks, during the next 40 years.


May 26, 1823 – The Rev. Origen P. Holcomb becomes part-time rector of St. Stephen’s Church, serving until 1831.


Oct. 8, 1823 – Even scandals get aired at public meetings. The Town Meeting votes “that upon William H. Seymour’s paying and discharging all the expenses which arose in consequence of Abigail Rockwell having an illegitimate child, which is now dead, the Select Men are hereby directed to give him up two certain notes of hand now lying in the Town Treasury which were given to indemnify the town against any expenses which might arise for the support and maintenance of said Abigail and said child.”


Dec. 23, 1823 – A tree falls on John Benedict, killing him. He was 71 years old.


1824 – The first Methodist Church is erected in Ridgefield at the corner of North Street and North Salem Road, land now part of the cemetery.


May 24, 1824 – Four years earlier, the General Assembly gave back land that had been annexed to Danbury, but apparently the action was unclear. Thus, the town names Jesse L. Bradley, Esq. as its agent to petition the General Assembly “to render more definite a resolve passed in a General Assembly…annexing about 310 acres of land belonging to the Town of Danbury to the Town of Ridgefield.”


Oct. 24, 1824 – As usual, the town votes that “swine may run at large on the commons and highways in this town, provided they are ringed with a good iron ring in the snout of each,” but this time, they add that “the Select Men cause the foregoing vote relative to swine to be published in the Norwalk Gazette as the law directs.”


1825 – The Grand List totals $33,726.


Oct. 1, 1826 – Hezekiah Hawley, who served eight years in the Revolution – longer than any other enlisted man from Ridgefield, dies at the age of 70.


Oct. 2, 1826 – The highway tax is down to two cents on the dollar.


Oct. 1, 1827 –  Apparently the town faces a lot of legal problems, for Ridgefielders vote that “Jesse L. Bradley, Esq., be an agent to defend the Town of Ridgefield in any suit in which said town may be engaged during the year ensuing.” In effect, the voters are appointing a town attorney. The same position is not filled the next year.


1828 – St. Stephen’s Church finally buys a bell for its steeple, built nearly 10 years earlier.


1828 – A blind, eight-year-old girl named Frances Jane Crosby moves to a house at the corner of Main Street and Branchville Road.  Fanny Crosby leaves town at age 14, and goes on to compose more than 8,000 hymns, among the most famous of which is “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.” She dies in 1915.


March 20, 1828 – William Edmond of Newtown sells Robert C. Edmond of Ridgefield three acres “at a place called Florida.” This is the first mention of “Florida” in Ridgefield’s geography. Nearly two centuries later, no one is able with certainty to explain why Florida District, Florida Road and Florida Hill Road are so called.


April 2, 1828 – Moses Norris sells Moses K. Norris a half interest in “comb makers shop.”


Oct. 6, 1828 – The Town Meeting votes that “the Select Men adjust and settle the claim of Doctor Thomas Wilson, for his service and attendance on those who had the small pox, by direction of the Board of health, in the year 1826.”


Nov. 18, 1828 – The boundary between Ridgefield and Redding is perambulated and 16 monuments are noted.


May 1829 – The General Assembly incorporates the Sugar Hollow Turnpike Company to run a highway from Georgetown through Ridgefield north to the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike Road near the dwelling house of Thomas Sherwood in Ridgefield. Near the north end of the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike, the Sugar Hollow Turnpike continues northwesterly through Mill Plain – then part of Ridgefield – to the New York state line.


May 2, 1829 – The vestry of St. Stephen’s Church votes to hire Philo W. Jones to ring the new church bell on Sundays. His salary is $2.50 a year. [That would be about $45 in today’s money.]


Oct 5, 1829 – There is a movement in Fairfield County to build a “work house” or “house of correction” to handle those convicted of breaking the law.  Ridgefield doesn’t like the plan, and at a Town Meeting, voters agree that “In the opinion of this meeting it is inexpedient at the present time to erect a publick work house in this county and we hereby request our representatives to oppose the adoption of the measure at the proposed meeting to be holden at Fairfield” the next week.


Dec. 31, 1829 – The Rev. Samuel M. Phelps ends his services as minister of the Ecclesiastical Society.


1830 – The census finds 2,305 people in Ridgefield, only four more than 10 years earlier.


1830 – The town’s Grand list totals $30,972.


Jan. 18, 1830 – Ridgefield native Stiles Hawley, “a candidate for the gospel ministry,” drowns in attempting to cross the Kaskaskia River in Illinois. He is 32 years old.


Feb. 8, 1830 – Pressure is still on to build a county work house, but Ridgefield isn’t buying it and explains why at a Town Meeting:  “We do think it inexpedient to subject the county of an expense for the erection of a house of such description, because we are impressed with the belief that the expense of erecting a house necessary and convenient for said purpose will be attended with heavy costs and will not answer the design contemplated.”


June 8, 1830 – Henry Irving Beers is born on a farm in the Florida District. In 1863, he and two partners purchase a farm in Rouseville, Pa., where they strike oil, and make a fortune. They once refuse an offer of $4 million – a quarter of a billion dollars in today’s money – for the property.


Oct. 5, 1830 – Voters tell the town treasurer “to pay Amy Lobdell ten dollars for her services in attending on her Mother in her last sickness, and charge the same to the town.” [While the town often helps pay for the care of poor people, this is an unusual case in that a daughter is being paid for taking care of her mother.]


May 13, 1831 – The Rev. Charles J. Todd becomes part-time rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, serving until 1834.


May 25, 1831 – The First Ecclesiastical Society selects the Rev. Charles Selleck as minister and agrees to rejoin the Consociation of the Western District of Fairfield. Mr. Selleck begins an active effort to recruit members to the church.


Oct. 3, 1831 – The quality of roads in town is becoming an increasing concern at Town Meetings. The highway tax is raised to four cents on the dollar and voters name a committee “to view New Lane, so called, and report to this meeting in the expediency of widening the same.” [New Lane is the western end of Branchville Road.] Another committee had looked into widening the road from the west end of Long Bridge to the main road near Jacob Dauchy’s – i.e., western Farmingville Road – and the voters decide to reject the idea.


Oct. 31, 1831 – The committee on New Lane finds various encroachments had been made by landowners into the road, which was supposed to be two rods wide (33 feet), but was only 40 to 44 links wide (27 to 29 feet). If these encroachments are removed, no widening is necessary, the committee tells a satisfied Town Meeting.


Nov. 11, 1831 – The road from Ridgefield to Wilton [now called Route 33, Wilton Road West] is the subject of complaints, especially in the area of Flat Rock and Pot Ash Hill (north of Silver Hill Road). A committee is appointed to determine whether the existing road should be repaired, or a new route found.


Nov. 12, 1831 – The Right Rev. Thomas Church Brownell, third bishop of the Connecticut diocese, consecrates “the Protestant Episcopal Society of this town by the name of Saint Stephen’s.”


Nov. 26, 1831 – “Emily, a girl of colour,” dies at Philip Bradley’s house.


Jan. 12, 1832 – Samuel Hawley and Abraham Holmes are added to a committee “to view the contemplated route for a highway leading from Ridgebury to the First Society.”


April 2, 1832 – A committee investigating what to do about Wilton Road West near Pot Ash Hill makes a report to the Town Meeting, but voters decide not to accept it. [The nature of the report is not revealed in meeting minutes.]


April 12, 1832 – Faced with the need to do something about Wilton Road West, the voters approve spending $200 on repairs. [That’s about $3,900 in today’s money.]


April 23, 1832 – Perambulators appointed by the selectmen of Wilton and Ridgefield survey the boundary between the two towns


May 1832 – The General Assembly allows the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike Company to alter its route near the northern and southern ends because of difficult hills the road passes over.


May 1832 – The Simpaug Turnpike Company is incorporated by the General Assembly. The road begins at the Sugar Hollow Turnpike [now Route 7] in Ridgefield, passes into Redding and onto what is now Bethel, but was then part of Danbury.


Nov. 5, 1832 – The Town Meeting decides that “horses, mules, and horned cattle shall not be suffered to run at large on the highways in this town.”


Dec. 22, 1832 – The town votes to settle a suit, brought by Newtown, over the costs of taking care of Huldah Sharp “alias Floriana Kelsey.”


Feb. 1, 1833 – The town faces proposals to build two new roads, and votes both down. Then voters agree to spend up to $200 to fix the road between Ridgebury and Ridgefield “to commence at the dwelling house of Caleb Keeler and extending down the Mountain to the Guide post.”


Aug. 2, 1833 – A child of Gould St. John is drowned. She is two years old.


Oct. 7, 1833 – The town gets even tougher on livestock on the roads, voting to ban “horned cattle, horses, mules, sheep and geese” as well as swine without nose rings.


Oct. 29, 1833 – Martin Jackson, “a transient person,” kills himself by cutting his throat with a razor.


January 1834 – The Ridgefield Lydian Society is formed at the Congregational Church. An early ladies aid society, it is supposed to “raise funds to promote the interests of such benevolent associations or individuals as shall from time to time be considered worth our cooperation.”


June 1834 – The First Ecclesiastical Society’s church is rededicated after extensive renovations.


Oct. 6, 1834 – Road maintenance and construction remains a headache in the growing community. A battle over highway taxes occurs at the annual Town Meeting when a tax of 10 ½ cents on the dollar is proposed. It is voted down, undoubtedly quickly. An eight-cent tax is then proposed, but is also rejected.  Finally, the voters settle for six cents, which is still double the three-cent tax, laid in 1833.


Dec. 1, 1834 – Ebenezer O. Bennitt takes out a $1,463 mortgage with Samuel Hawley and Rufus H. Pickett on his share in a cabinet shop on Main Street, including “the steam engine, turning lathes, [and] sawing, turning, boring and mortising apparatus.” [It is the first mention of steam power in Ridgefield.]


1835 grand list totals $34,412


May 1835 – The General Assembly incorporates the Fairfield County Rail Road Company to build a “single, double or treble rail road or way” from Danbury to either Fairfield or Norwalk, possibly running through Ridgefield.


June 26, 1835 – Enoch Crosby dies at the age of 85. A Revolutionary War spy who was the supposed inspiration for James Fennimore Cooper’s novel, The Spy, Crosby owned land on Shadow Lake Road, and may lived there before the war. After the war, his home was in adjacent Southeast, N.Y.


July 20, 1835 – The Rev. Jacob Lyman Clark becomes part-time rector at St. Stephen’s Church, serving until March 1837.


Oct. 5, 1835 – The Town Meeting votes to pay Walter and Keeler Dauchy $250 for their 44 shares in the Masonic Hall on Main Street to use the building as a town hall. The committee is also authorized “to make necessary repairs in the inside of the Masonic Hall for the purpose of accommodating the people attending the next town meeting, by seating the same.”


Oct. 5, 1835 – The highway tax is back to three cents.



1836 – David Hunt establishes a stage line from Ridgebury to Norwalk.


1836 – The Rev. Parmelee Chamberlain becomes the first settled pastor of the Methodist Church in Ridgefield.


March 27, 1836 – Samuel Stebbins dies at the age of 73. A community leader all his life, he had been town clerk for more than 35 years, a tenure exceeded only by Hiram K. Scott (1872-1909).


March 29, 1836 – The selectmen waste no time in replacing Town Clerk Stebbins, and name Nathan Smith to the post.


May 1836 – The General Assembly incorporates the Ousatonic Rail Road Company to build a line from Sheffield, Mass., along the Ousatonic River to Danbury and possibly to Ridgefield, where at the state line, it would “meet a contemplated rail road from Harlem through West Chester County.”


Oct 3, 1836 – The Annual Town Meeting takes place in the refurbished Masonic Hall, which is now also being called “the Town House.”


Jan. 30, 1837 – A special Town Meeting receives $5,000 “deposit” from the state, which in turn had received a large amount of money from federal government. The federal dollars are Connecticut’s share in the federal budget surplus that Congress voted to return to the taxpayers [can you imagine!]. Nathan Smith is appointed the first agent to handle the money as what is called the “town deposit fund.” Soon, the town invests the money in mortgages issued to Ridgefield residents – serving as a bank. The agent of the town deposit fund remains a town office until the 1970s when the town treasurer takes over the duties. [See also Oct. 5, 1931].


July 11, 1837 – Walter Hawley, his son Enoch Hawley, plus a child of Enoch, are all killed by a lightning bolt around 11 p.m. that night.


Aug. 1, 1837 – The Rev. Eli Wheeler becomes the first full-time rector of St. Stephen’s Church, serving a year and a half.


April 3, 1837 – The town votes against a county proposal to build a “penitentiary and also a house for the poor.”


Oct. 1, 1837 – The road “across the Long Bridge at Great Swamp” is in need of repair, and voters name a committee to decide what to do.


1838 – The first Episcopal Church rectory is built on land donated by Phillip Burr Bradley in what is now the south end of Ballard Park.


1838 – The Ridgefield Band is organized. In one form or another, it lasts nearly a century.


Jan. 14, 1838 – In appointing the Rev. Joseph Fuller its new minister, the First Congregational Church of Ridgefield calls itself “Congregational” for the first time.


April 28, 1838 – The Town Meeting unanimously votes that Ridgefield be set off from the Danbury Probate District, and become a district of its own. Three years later, it happens.


May 7, 1838 – George Edward Lounsbury is born in Bedford, N.Y., but a few years later his family moves to Ridgefield, where he grows up. He serves as Connecticut governor from 1899 to 1901.


Oct 1, 1838 – Voters decide to pay Edmond Beers $10 for a small piece of land needed to improve the Long Bridge at Great Swamp. Beers could also have the wood on the land


Oct. 7, 1839 – The Annual Town Meeting selects Hezekiah Scott to be “an agent for the town… to prosecute Eli Griffin for harbouring and entertaining unlawfully one John Jones, unless said Griffin shall comply with the law in such cases made and provided with respect to giving bonds….”  The same meeting also votes to sue the town of North Salem for expenses Ridgefield has incurred due to a pauper from that town named Minerva Gall.


July 6, 1839 – The Rev. Warner Hoyt becomes rector of St. Stephen’s Church, remaining for five years. His is later called “one of the most successful rectorates the church had enjoyed,” including the building of a new meetinghouse. He dies in office in 1844.


Aug. 13, 1839 – General Joshua King dies at the age of 81.  A Revolutionary War veteran who had guarded Major John Andre and escorted him to the gallows, King has been a leading Ridgefield citizen and businessmen for decades.


1840 – The census finds 2,474 people in Ridgefield, about 170 more than 10 years earlier.


1840 – The Grand List totals $33,218.


Oct. 1, 1840 – The Town Deposit Fund [see Jan. 30, 1837] now has a principal of $5,919.24, and has earned $355.15 in interest, mostly from mortgages. The interest is split between the schools and the town to help operating costs.


Nov. 5, 1840 – Elias Pulling hangs himself.


Dec. 1, 1840 – The child of Elias Gilbert, aged about 3, drowns.


1841 – A new Methodist Church is built at the corner of Main and Catoonah Streets. It lasts until 1964 when it is torn down to make way for stores and offices.


Jan. 10, 1841 – Phineas Chapman Lounsbury is born in Farmingville. He serves as Connecticut governor from 1887 to 1889.


Jan. 29, 1841 – The vestry of the growing St. Stephen’s Parish decides the building is too small to handle the growing congregation and “it is expedient to erect a new church.”


June 1841 – The Rev. Nathan Burton resigns as minister of the Ridgebury Congregational Church.  He has been pastor for 20 years and was a deacon for eight years before that.


March 29, 1841 – The Town Meeting votes against building a new roadway near Pot Ash Brook to handle Ridgefield-Wilton Road.


July 17, 1841 – Under newly minted Judge Harvey Smith, the Ridgefield Probate Court has its first session. Smith B. Keeler is sworn in as the first clerk of the court.


June 28, 1841– Henry L. W. Burritt of White Haven, Md., sells Aaron Lee and Harvey Smith the limekiln at the corner of Lee and Limekiln Roads.


Aug. 12, 1841 – The cornerstone for a new St. Stephen’s Church is laid. The building is estimated to cost $2,400, but winds up more.


Aug. 27, 1841 – Isaac Jones gives St. Stephen’s Parish a parcel of about 80 by 100 feet for its church operations. He had earlier given the church a 48 by 10 foot plot. Together, this is the land on which today’s church stands, a fact so noted in the narthex of the building.


Oct. 4, 1841 – Hoping to solve highway problems at the south part of town, voters decide to spend $30 to build a bridge across the Spectacle Brook near the house of Matthew Seymour.


Feb. 5, 1842 – For $75, Lockwood Olmstead sells Waterous F. Olmstead of Danbury “a certain horse power and all the machinery and apparatus attached thereto, situated in my shop in said Ridgefield.” [Horse power probably referred to a device that employed one or more horses, each attached to a bar and going around in circles, that was used to power equipment, such as the saws in small mills.]


April 22, 1842 – The First Congregational Church adopts a 12-article constitution, describing rules on meetings, admissions, communion, discipline, and more.


May 17, 1842 – Ill health forces the Rev. Joseph Fuller to leave his Congregational Church post.


Sept. 5, 1842 – The first meeting takes place in the new St. Stephen’s church building – in the basement.


Sept. 20, 1842 – Bishop Thomas C. Brownell consecrates the new St. Stephen’s Church.


Oct 3, 1842 – A town tax of two cents on the dollar, and a highway tax of three cents is approved.


Oct. 24, 1842 – The Rev. James A. Hawley, a native of Avon and a Yale Divinity School graduate, becomes minister of the First Congregational Church.


Dec. 13, 1842 – The first bankruptcy is recorded in the Ridgefield land records, that of John Fry of Danbury, who apparently had debts in Ridgefield. [A year earlier, on Aug. 19, 1841, Congress had passed standardized bankruptcy laws, which proved so popular more than 33,000 people took advantage of them before the laws were repeated in 1843.


1843 – The First Congregational Church publishes “A Concise History of the First Congregational Church in Ridgefield, Conn.”, probably the first history of the town printed in book form. It is 32-pages long.


April 17, 1843 – Moses K. Whitlock and Charles Bates, both about 16, drown.


Oct. 2, 1843 – The poor are becoming a greater concern. The Annual Town Meeting authorizes the Select Men to negotiate “with Sturgess Selleck or some other person to keep the paupers of this town for the ensuing year.”


Oct. 2, 1843 – Voting is becoming more sophisticated. The Town Meeting decides that in the future, instead of voice votes, printed paper ballots will be used for electing major town officers – Board of Relief, Select Men, town clerk, town treasurer, and constables. They also decide ballot boxes will be open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.


June 15, 1844 – Troubles over the Ridgefield-Wilton road continue to plague the town. State’s attorney L H. Hickok has filed a suit against the town about the condition of the road near the town line. A Special Town Meeting names William Lee and Harvey Smith a committee to negotiate a compromise with Mr. Hickok. If that doesn’t work out, Charles A. Hanford is named a “general town agent” to defend the town against the state’s action – or any other in the coming year.


Oct. 7, 1844 – Ridgefield bans fishing in Mamanasco Pond for a period of one year, and sets a $4 fine for each offense.


Oct. 7, 1844 – Voters order the selectmen to “put the Town House [town hall] in comfortable repair by the first Monday in November next, and also to furnish for said house a stove, not to exceed in price $12.”


Dec. 24, 1844 – Philip Bradley sells St. Stephen’s Church land and buildings on Main Street, “for the purpose of supporting the preaching and the gospel of said society, the rents and interest only to be applied for said object.”


1845 – The Grand list totals $30,302.25, down $3,000 from five years earlier.


1845 – A bell is cast at the Buckeye Brass Foundry in Cincinnati, Ohio. During the Civil War, the bell is captured by Confederates, who write on it: “This bell is to be melted into a cannon – may it kill a thousand Yankees.” But Connecticut Col. Alexander Warner captures the arsenal with the bell, brings the bell home, and years later gives it to Gov. Phineas Lounsbury, who has it mounted in his front yard. It rings for the ending of both World War I and World War II, and is still there today in front of Lounsbury’s house, the Community Center.


April 20, 1845 – Jerusalem Lodge of Masons leases a room in the lodge hall to the Good Samaritan Division #17 of the Sons of Temperance.


Oct. 6, 1845 – The Annual Town Meeting orders the Select Men to meet Nov. 1 to pick someone to take care of the town’s paupers, who must be cared for “in a decent manner, well fed and clothed, to the acceptance of the Select Men.”


Oct. 6, 1845 – The town has a new responsibility, thanks to a recent law. Rufus H. Picket, Seth Olmstead and James E. Haight are named commissioners “for the purpose of granting license for sale of wines, and spiritous liquors, according to law.”


Dec. 1, 1845 – The Rev. David H. Short becomes rector of St. Stephen’s Church, but lasts only five months. However, he then establishes a popular private school at the corner of King Lane and Main Street, among whose students are Phineas C. Lounsbury, a Methodist who later becomes governor of Connecticut.


April 13, 1846 – The Rev. Henry Olmstead Jr. becomes rector at St. Stephen’s, serving for four years.


May 8, 1846 – Joseph Sears and others in northern Ridgebury have petitioned the General Assembly to break off from Ridgefield a sizable strip of land running all the way to the New Fairfield town line and to annex it to Danbury. The width of the strip at its southern end is about a mile and a quarter; at the north end, bordering New Fairfield, only 80 rods. Ridgefield had purchased the land from the Indians more than a century earlier. Residents of this territory argue it is too far to travel to Ridgefield center to participate in government, and that Danbury is much closer. A Town Meeting is called to vote on the issue, but instead requests the General Assembly to postpone a decision on the annexation till the next assembly session.


July 28, 1846 – Ridgefield is unsuccessful in its effort to delay losing a big chunk of northern Ridgebury, and a meeting this day agrees to pay Danbury $338, which represents the share of the Town Deposit Fund proportionate to the population that has become Danburians.


June 19, 1846 – The Knickerbocker Base Ball Club plays the New York Nine on the Elysian Fields at Hoboken, N.J., which some argue is the first formal baseball game. Knickerbocker president is Daniel L. Adams who, in 1871, becomes the first president of the Ridgefield Savings Bank.


Oct. 5, 1846 – Handling the poor is still a problem. Voters decide to put out the contract for taking care of paupers to a public auction, awarding the contract to the lowest bidder.


June 11, 1847 – Pilgrim Lodge, No. 46, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, is founded as a social and benevolent organization for men. It lasts a century and a half before disbanding and selling its last hall, on King Lane, to the Methodist Church. [Its previous hall on Main Street is, in 2008, stores, including the Toy Chest and Rodier Flowers.]


July 1, 1847 – George Washington Gilbert, who becomes the “hermit of Ridgefield,” is born.


Sept. 30, 1847 – Paty Keeler dies at the age of 35. Her gravestone in Ridgebury Cemetery is perhaps the most verbose in Ridgefield, observing, besides the basics: “Dear sister, she has gone from our sight, nevermore to return. But we hope that if we are faithful until death that we all shall meet our dear sister and mother in heaven, for we trust they have gone there. If it had been the Lord’s will to have spared them, we should like their company. But we must be still and know that it is the Lord’s will.”


Oct. 4, 1847 – A state constitution amendment that would allow blacks to vote is defeated at the Annual Town Meeting, with only two in favor and 94 opposed. Statewide, the proposal fails as well.


Oct. 4, 1847 – Voters agree to have a six-foot addition build onto the south side of the Town House, “the stairs that lead to the chamber to be taken out and erected on the outside of the building, and that a fence be erected in front of the building to correspond with the fence of John Keeler.”


Dec. 25, 1847 – Frederick Dielman is born in Baltimore. The noted American artist and longtime president of the National Academy of Design, lives for many years at “The Boulders,” now the Boulder Hill Road area, where he dies in 1935.


Jan. 22, 1848 – A woman, “a stranger, said to be from the Island of Bermuda,” dies. Her age is unknown.


April 3, 1848 – The state election is held for governor, lieutenant governor and other state offices as well as state senator and Ridgefield representatives to the General Assembly.


July 4, 1848 – The wife of Anson Pardee of Lewisboro is injured in a fall from the wagon in which she is riding as it crosses a bridge near Jonathan Rockwell’s shop. Her husband subsequently sues the town for damages, saying the accident was caused by a “defect in the bridge.”


Autumn 1848 – Gold Fever hits Ridgefield as word of great strikes in California reaches the town. Among the first to go west is Peter P. Cornen, who leaves his ship chandlery business in New York. Cornen later makes his fortune in oil, found not in the West, but in Pennsylvania. He returns to Ridgefield and declares there is oil under the town [see Nov. 19, 1887].


Oct. 2, 1848 – The town votes to investigate the Pardee law suit [see July 4, 1848]


Nov. 7, 1848 – The committee investigating the Pardee accident finds “very little or no cause for complaint or demands for damages exist against the town of Ridgefield.”


Nov. 30, 1848 – The James Brophy family, said to be the town’s first Catholics, moves to South Salem Road. It is Thanksgiving Day.


May 1849 – The General Assembly approves an act incorporating the Danbury and New York Railroad Company to construct “a single, double or treble railroad or way” whose road may pass through Ridgefield. Among the backers are Samuel Tweedy of Danbury, former U.S. congressman, and Aaron Turner, the Ridgefield native who owned the circus that gave P.T. Barnum his first circus job.


May 1, 1849 – Martha F. Mead, age 12, dies of “organic affection.”


May 7, 1849 – For $30, Phineas Chapman sells the 12th School District [Farmingville] land for a new schoolhouse, next to the “old schoolhouse,” with the provision that two oak trees are to remain in place at least five years “as shades for the benefit of the school house.”


Oct. 1, 1849 – Voters learn that Anson Pardee is suing over the injuries to his wife in the bridge accident [see July 4, 1848], and order an investigating committee to defend the town – or settle – whichever is in the best interest of Ridgefield.


Oct. 6, 1849 – The hilly, muddy highway to Wilton continues to create controversy. Joshua I. King, William Lee and George Keeler, a committee named to study the issue, say improvement is needed in view of the “vast number of passengers and tons of merchandise, etc., that yearly pass over the road to and from tide water.” Voters give the go-ahead to lay out the road.


Oct. 20, 1849 – Hanford Bates contracts with the town to take care of its paupers for the next three years for the cost of $784 [around $18,500 today].


Oct. 27, 1849 – David and Julia Hurlbutt lease their ice house to William Hawley and six others.


Nov. 5, 1849 – The Rev. James A. Hawley leaves his post as minister of the First Congregational Church.


1850 – The census finds 2,213 people in town, a decline of nearly 250 over 10 years and a sign that many are taking Horace Greeley’s advice, and going west.


Jan. 13, 1850 – Phebe Knapp, a servant girl living in Ridgebury, dies of eating opium. She is 10 years old.


June 1, 1850 – Roaming dogs are annoying someone. The town proposes to regulate dogs, banning them from running loose and charging a tax of 25 cents per dog per year to cover expenses of regulating them. Voters turn it down at a special Town Meeting.


June 5, 1850 – The Rev. Clinton Clark, a Presbyterian, begins service as minister at the First Congregational Church. He remains 14 years. Although his term is long, his departure is not friendly [see March 20 and April 10, 1864].


June 7, 1850 – The Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road Company is organized to build a 23-mile line between those two cities, including a station in Ridgefield.


Oct. 7, 1850 – Ridgefielders approve a state constitutional amendment requiring that judges of probate and justices of the peace be elected by the townspeople instead of being appointed.


Dec. 18, 1850 – Willett Miller, 71, dies of “gangrene of the foot.”


Dec. 18, 1850 to June 13, 1851 – Six residents of the Fifth School District on West Mountain die of typhoid fever. They range in age from 7 to 69, and include two members of the Dickens family, and two Dauchys.


Dec. 19, 1850 – Sherman Beers sells land to the Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road Company for tracks and a station in what is now Branchville.


1851 – The Grand List totals $38,611.


1851 – The Rev. Thomas Ryan visits the James Brophy home on South Salem Road and administers the Last Rites to two relatives. It is the first official service by a Catholic priest in Ridgefield. Subsequently, the Rev. Michael O’Farrell, pastor at Danbury, visits the Brophy home once a month to hear confessions and celebrate Mass for Ridgefield’s Catholics.


1851 – The old Ridgebury Congregational Church is taken down and a new one – the church that exists today – is built in its place.


April 7, 1851 – Ridgefielders turn out to elect state officials, the first election since voters passed the new constitutional amendment. So, for the first time, they elect a probate judge, Ebenezer Hawley. Justices of the peace are also elected and, as usual, representatives from Ridgefield to the General Assembly: this year, Russel B. Keeler and Robert C. Edmonds.


April 22, 1851 – The plans for the new railroad from Norwalk to Danbury, passing through the southeast corner of town, have been announced, and Ridgefield businessmen press Select Men for a better road to the contemplated station at what we now call Branchville. The existing road to that area, today’s Old Branchville Road, is both hilly and swampy, and difficult for freight to traverse. The Select Men refuse, and a Town Meeting is called. The meeting decides to wait till the Annual Town Meeting in October.


May 1851 – The state legislature charters the “Stamford, New Canaan and Ridgefield Plank Road,” a company that plans to run a wood-topped highway from Stamford to Ridgefield.  Capital stock $100,000 is authorized. The road is never built.


May 31, 1851 – Businessmen continue to complain that the Select Men are ignoring the need for a new road to the new station, and petition another Special Town Meeting. It appoints five town leaders to a committee to study a route.


June 1, 1851 – A man about 30 years old, whose name is unknown but who is said to have been born in Ireland, dies of “ship fever” in Ridgefield Station district. [“Ship fever” was an old name for epidemic typhus.]


June 30, 1851 – The pressure for a road to the new station builds. Joshua I. King, Nehemiah Perry, William Hawley and others apply to the Select Men to lay out a road. The selectmen refuse.


July 5, 1851 – Fourteen men, mostly members of the newly formed American Flag Company in Ridgefield, contribute $33 to buy a 14 by 10 foot flag, which is flown from a pole erected on Main Street to protest slavery.


July 7, 1851 – Another Special Town Meeting votes to overrule the Select Men and orders a survey for the route of a new road.


August 1851 – A new church bell, weighing 1,508 pounds and made by the same company that cast the Liberty Bell of 1776, is hung in the St. Stephen’s Church belfry. The old one is sold to the Congregational Church in Georgetown.


Oct. 6, 1851 – The town tax is up to 7.5 cents on the dollar while the highway tax remains steady at 3 cents.


Oct. 6, 1851 – The bridge accident case [see July 4, 1848] is settled. The town pays $220 to the Pardees, and $30 to their attorney. The two agents of the town are each paid $12.50 for their services.


Oct. 27, 1851 – A thief breaks into Lobdell’s tailor shop during the night and makes off with a suit, and two pairs of pants.


Nov. 2, 1851 – A speaker on Chinese missions at the First Congregational Church reports that a “Chinese pagoda” has been built in California. In her diary, Anna Marie Resseguie says it’s “the first heathen temple ever erected in the United States, but as the paper in which he read it stated, perhaps neither to be feared or dreaded.”


Nov. 17, 1851 – Stockholders in the Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road, under construction, meet at the home of Sherman Beers in Ridgefield and vote to approve a mortgage to complete the project and buy rolling stock.


Nov. 27, 1851 – Ridgefielders celebrate Thanksgiving, many by going to church. It is said to be the 200th anniversary of Thanksgiving Day.


Jan. 2, 1852 – The temperature in Ridgefield reaches 4 degrees below zero.


Jan. 24, 1852 – More demands for better highways face the town. A Special Town Meeting is called to approve a new road from Sharp Hill on West Mountain down to the stone bridge at the foot of the mountain – and eastward toward town – today’s Barry Avenue. The Select Men are authorized to build the road with money from town treasury, and $88 contributed by supporters of the roadway. They also approve a new road from Isaac Osborn’s house to William Barhite’s – today’s Limestone Road from Great Hill Road to around Bates Farm Road. The 31 petitioners chip in $185 toward costs.


Feb. 7, 1852 – Charles Hyatt, 25, of Ridgefield dies when the New York and Erie Rail Road car he is riding in plunges into icy waters somewhere in New York. Walking home from the funeral in town a few days later, Matthew Seymour, 61, collapses and dies.


Feb. 25, 1852 – Test trains begin running on the new Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road line. The only stop in Ridgefield is at Beers Station, now Branchville.


March 1, 1852 – Regular train service on the Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road begins.  Three days a week, a connecting steamer to New York City is available; the ferry ride costs 37½ cents.


March 20, 1852 – Seven people petition the town to build a new road from Farmingville to the Sugar Hollow Turnpike north of Bradley’s saw mill. A Town Meeting turns them down.


April 6, 1852 – More than a foot of snow falls on the town.


April 18, 1852 – The Rev. Clinton Clark, preaching at the First Congregational Church, says the severe, stormy weather the town has been experiencing is the result of Ridgefielders’ sins.


April 27, 1852 – In honor of the anniversary of the Battle of Ridgefield, Judson Hawley stages a fireworks show.


July 5, 1852 – Ridgefielders celebrate the nation’s independence with fireworks, church bell ringing and church services.


July 29, 1852 – Hundreds flock to see the “Southern Circus,” which stops in town. [The Great Southern Circus traveled widely, and included tight-rope walkers, acrobats, comics, animals, and music.]


Oct. 4, 1852 – The town tax rises to 8 cents on the dollar.


Oct. 9, 1852 – Infrastructure is weighing heavily on the town. The Select Men have gotten a new proposal for a road from Farmingville to the Sugar Hollow Turnpike. Though the route is “feasible,” they recommend the Town Meeting reject it because of “the indebtedness of the town.” The meeting agrees. William Lee of Farmingville then rises and proposes that if the town lays out a road and appropriates $600 for its construction, he will pay for the right of way and fencing the road, and will build the highway “without any further expense to said Town of Ridgefield.” The motion passes and Select Men are instructed to lay out the road – today called New Road. [This road made it easier for central Ridgefield residents to reach the Topstone train station just across the line in Redding.]


Oct. 25, 1852 – Twenty-two people petition the town to create a shortcut from North Street to Danbury Road. The voters agree, and Copps Hill Road is built.


Nov. 1, 1852 – Hiram K. Scott advertises his “circulating library,” charging between three and nine cents per week per book, depending on its value.


Nov. 26, 1852 – Eben Gilbert is found dead, face down in a ditch, “his bottle by his side.”


Dec 5, 1852 – Franklin E. Hawley, a 21-year-old student, dies of anthrax.


1853 – Hiram K. Scott establishes his Main Street store, selling food, drugs, and other wares, plus serving as a post office. He remains in business until 1895 when he sells to H.P. Bissell. Scott is one of Ridgefield’s most prominent men of the second half of the 19th Century, serving as postmaster, a state representative, town clerk for 37 years and probate judge for 39.


Jan. 12-14, 1853 – A couple of feet of snow fall on Ridgefield. Diarist Anna Marie Resseguie reports on the 14th, “snow banks over the tops of the fences, but few out to-day as the road are almost impassable this morning.”


Jan. 15, 1853 – To hold town records safely, voters agree either to buy a fireproof safe or to contract with someone to build a fireproof building


Jan. 18, 1853 – The Episcopal Society has a fair at Hyatt’s Store. It included sales and a supper.


March 2, 1853 – The town hires an attorney to defend it in a suit brought by Russell White, who had built a road here and who apparently claims the town did not compensate him fairly for the work.


July 9, 1853 – A yoke of oxen, owned by David Northrop, is struck and killed by lightning.


Oct. 1, 1853 – The trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church lease to Abner Stevens land on which he will build a weaver’s shop. The land is on north side of Catoonah Street near where the firehouse is today. 


Nov. 13-14, 1853 – A major storm hits the town, and downpours wash away bridges in the region and stop train service.


Feb. 21, 1854 – The biggest snow storm in a quarter of a century hits the town.


March 1, 1854 – The Rev. William H. Williams becomes rector at St. Stephen’s Church, serving more than nine years.


March 11, 1854 – The Ridgefield Shirt Manufactory leases a building on the east side of Main Street, south of today’s today hall.


March 12, 1854 – The Rev. Clinton Clark preaches a strong temperance sermon at the Congregational Church, calling for a Prohibition Law and maintaining that the only time strong drink is appropriate is “to him that is ready to perish.”


April 7, 1854 – A monument to General David Wooster, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Ridgefield and died a few days later in Danbury, is unveiled on West Street in Danbury.


April 15, 1854 – More than a foot of snow falls on the town.


April 17, 1854 – More snow falls, bringing the total to a foot and a half. The Hartford Courant calls the storm very unusual.


April 17, 1854 – John Samerson, a laborer, dies of “bilious fever” at the age of 60. His race is listed as “copper” and his birthplace, “Owyhee, Sandwich Islands.”


April 27, 1854 – Ten days after the big snow storm, temperature in Ridgefield reaches 70 degrees and a thunder storm hits the town.


May 1, 1854 – A flood hits the region. Only two bridges are left on the train line between Branchville and Norwalk. Several mills are swept away. The Hartford Courant calls it the worst flood in 200 years.


May 22, 1854 – Professor Josiah O. Armes delivers a lecture on Mnemotechny, techniques for helping one’s memory.


Sept. 1, 1854 – The air in Ridgefield is smoky from forest fires throughout the Northeast, caused by a drought that affects 20 states from Maine to Illinois.


Oct. 1, 1854 – To deal with the problem of roaming livestock, the town votes that “horses, neat cattle, mules, swine and geese shall be prohibited from running at large on the highways or commons of this town.”


Dec. 4, 1854 – Nearly two feet of snow have fallen on the town.


Dec. 19, 1854 – The nation is in a recession. Diarist Anna Resseguie observes this day, “The hard times are felt all about us. Bread stuffs are very high. Best flower $12 or $13 a barrel. The scarcity of money is greater than since 1837.”


April 13, 1855 – Frances A. Bassett, 9, dies of scarlet fever.


July 17, 1855 – A Mr. Gardner, a daguerreotype photographer, stays at the Keeler Tavern. [This was probably Alexander Gardner, who later works for Matthew Brady and photographed the Civil War, including the Battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.]


Aug. 18, 1855 – Samuel G. Goodrich, better know to contemporaries as Peter Parley, the prolific author, shows up at the Keeler Tavern on a visit to his native town. “Mr. G. is very agreeable, full of humor, but not a pious man,” observes Anna Resseguie in her diary.


Sept. 7, 1855 – A Mrs. Smith cuts off her forefinger and most of her thumb as she attempts to behead a chicken.


Nov. 13, 1855 – Polly Hubbell, age 55, is found dead, and officials suspect foul play. However, a coroner’s inquest the same day found no signs of violence on her body.


Dec. 4, 1855 – A robbery occurs at the Main Street store of Keeler Dauchy.


Dec. 20, 1855 – Henry Ward Beecher lectures at the Congregational Church. The prominent theologian was the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In the 1870s, he becomes the subject of a major scandal when he was accused of adultery.


Dec. 25, 1855 – On Christmas day, a major ice storm hits Ridgefield, felling many trees.


Jan. 16, 1856 – The three choirs of the Ridgefield Musical Association give a concert.


Jan. 31, 1856 – A man known as “Dr. Brink,” described as recently released from state prison, is buried. He was found dead and frozen in an old house on West Mountain, and his corpse was sledded down to the village for burial.


Feb. 5, 1856 – Diarist Anna Resseguie reports the death of the six-month-old son of Joel Rockwell. “The parents took the little one to Norwalk yesterday. Returned today and on arriving home and uncovering the baby, found it a corpse. Some think it smothered; the mother that it died in a fit.”


Feb. 14, 1856 – A temperature of 13 degrees below zero is recorded in town.


June 23, 1856 – Walter Jones, 26, a jeweler in town, dies of phthisis. He is the second person in three weeks to die of the disease, today called tuberculosis. Two months later, Olivia Williams, 32, dies of the disease. During the 1850s in Ridgefield, phthisis is one of the most common causes of death.


July 22, 1856 – Ridgefield native S.G. Goodrich – “Peter Parley” – stays overnight at Resseguie’s Hotel [the Keeler Tavern]. His two-volume autobiography, Recollections of A Lifetime, is published this year.


Aug. 18, 1856 – Jesse E. Keeler, 58, is killed after falling from a load of hay.


Nov. 3, 1956 – On election eve, supporters of James Buchanan for president have a torchlight parade down Main Street.


Nov. 4, 1856 – In a fiercely fought election that sees 83% of the eligible voters participating nationally, Ridgefield gives a 100-vote plurality to John C. Freeman, the Republican, but Democrat James Buchanan wins the presidential election by a wide margin in the nation. Know-Nothing Millard Fillmore places third.


Dec. 3, 1856 – Richard Clark, publisher of a map that shows almost every house in Fairfield County, visits town. [His map today may be viewed hanging at the library, the Keeler Tavern and The Elms Inn.]


Dec. 23, 1856 – The Rev. Mr. Harding of South Weymouth, Mass., arrives in town to recruit people in a campaign to raise money to build a monument in memory of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Mass. Three years later, work starts on the 81-foot-high monument, but it is not completed until 1889. More than 11,000 people, plus federal, Massachusetts and Connecticut governments, chip in on the $150,000 cost.


Jan. 19, 1857 – A fierce nor’easter hits the town, with heavy snow and temperatures as low as seven degrees below zero. Banks of snow more than four feet tall cover roads. There is no mail and traffic comes almost to a standstill for several days.


Jan. 24, 1857 – Temperature reaches 26 degrees below zero.


April 6, 1857 – The Town Meeting elects Benjamin K. Northrop and Howard O. Nash as state representatives.


July 28, 1857 – Cyrus Northrop Jr. of Ridgefield graduates from Yale.  He becomes a lawyer, then a Yale professor of English, and in 1888 is named the second president of the University of Minnesota. During his 27 years there, the school grows from 300 students to several thousand.


Oct. 5, 1857 – The Town Meeting sets the costs for impounding animals: Horses, asses and mules, 25 cent each; neat cattle, 12 cents; swine, 10 weeks old or more, 8 cents; sheep, 6 cents.


Jan. 1, 1858 – The season has been unusually mild and flowers have been seen to bud and even bloom.


March 25, 1858 – The talk of the town is the disappearance of a Ridgefield woman named Hurlbutt, who goes to Redding with a mysterious man named Duncomb and, days later, is still not heard from.


October 1858 – The first Ridgefield Agricultural Society Fair and Cattle Show takes place at the corner of Main and Gilbert Streets. The fair grows over the years to a four-day event on a dedicated fairgrounds with race track, but closes after 1881.


Nov. 20, 1858 – David Hurlbutt, 57, a popular Ridgefield butcher, is killed by a cow he is attempting to slaughter. Death is attributed to “fracture of cervical vertebrae.”


Jan. 5, 1859 – Of 500 children aged 4 to 16 in Ridgefield, only 200 are attending Sabbath School. Consequently, the Congregational, Episcopal and Methodist churches undertake a recruitment campaign.  In March, Anna Resseguie reports, “The Sabbath School has increased in numbers in our three churches, since the effort commenced of bringing in the destitute.”


Jan. 10, 1859 – Mercury hits 14 degrees below zero.


April 6, 1859 – Samuel S. Olmstead sells Hiram O. Nash the Titicus Store, which Nash and his family run for many years. The store still stands, now used for offices.


April 15, 1859 – Rockwell’s Candlestick Factory, where brass and tin candlesticks and other implements are made, is heavily damaged in a fire. The building on Catoonah Street, opposite today’s firehouse, is insured. It is repaired, but becomes known as Catoonah Hall – and the street is subsequently called Catoonah Street. The repaired building burns to the ground in 1868.


May 15, 1859 – While driving his cows, Lewis Beers falls from his horse, breaks his neck, and dies. He is 71.


July 5, 1859 – Although it is summer, Ridgefield experiences a frost and so do many other parts of New England.


Aug. 26, 1859 – 500 people attend a Methodist and Congregational Sabbath school picnic at Lake Mamanasco, then called Burt’s Pond.


Aug. 28, 1859 – Ridgefielders witness spectacular display of aurora borealis. Northern Lights continue for a week.


Sept. 29, 1859 – Catoonah Hall is dedicated with lectures and music from the Ridgefield Glee Club and the Ridgefield Boys Band. [See April 15, 1859.]


Oct. 8, 1859 – The barn of Charles Smith is struck by lightning and burns to the ground.


Oct. 14, 1859 – The Ridgefield Agricultural Society’s second annual fair takes place at the corner of Main and Gilbert Streets.


Oct. 15, 1859 – Mary E. Steele, a member of one of Ridgefield’s first black families, is born in Farmingville. Her great grandmother had attended a gathering in North Salem when Generals Washington and Lafayette stopped for refreshments. She dies in 1933, age 75.


Nov. 5, 1859 – Mrs. Thaddeus Keeler is sewing when a pin that had fastened down her work pops loose and strikes her in the eye, which is subsequently blinded.


Dec. 29, 1859 – Snow and cold hit the town; temperature is minus 10.


1860 – The census finds yet another decline in the Ridgefield population, which is 2,213, down 24 from ten years earlier.


Jan. 17, 1860 – Dr. Oliver Starr Hickok, a physician, moves to Ridgefield from Bethel. In a year, he will be the subject of a major scandal.


Feb. 10, 1860 – Winds so high that Catoonah Hall is evacuated for fear of collapse occur in town. Men watching the hall are summoned by the fire bell to the nearby house of Harvey K. Smith, which has caught fire. They extinguish the blaze.


Feb. 25, 1860 – While Edwin Benedict is visiting the clover mill on the Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike north of Branchville, his horse is frightened by a passing train and bolts. Mr. Benedict is run over by the horse and wagon, breaking his arm.


March 16, 1860 – Six days after the death of her son, Judson, age 70, Charity Hawley tells her niece, Anna Resseguie, that she is feeling “very well considering my age and my affliction.” She is 99 years old.


March 24, 1860 – Six hundred people fill Catoonah Hall to hear Charles Case, a congressman from Indiana, speak against slavery and in favor of the Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln.


March 25, 1860 – The Ridgefield Shirt Factory employs 1,100 women who sew shirts in their homes, The New York Times reports.


May 7, 1860 – S.G. Goodrich, the Ridgefield native and author known as Peter Parley, dies while visiting his brother in New York. His house on Route 6 in Southbury later becomes the Lutheran Home for the Aged.


June 23, 1860 – A burglar breaks into the milk room at Resseguie’s Hotel and steals meat, butter, a loaf of bread, and “two bottles of beer plant.”


July 20, 1860 – Charity Hawley dies, five months short of reaching 100.


July 20, 1860 – Many Ridgefielders see a great meteor, witnessed widely in the Northeast and as far south as Delaware, that passes overhead and apparently falls into the sea. Anna Resseguie describes it as “a meteor of uncommon size and brilliancy.”


Aug. 30, 1860 – Frederick R. Brinkerhoff, a three-month-old baby, dies of “marasmus” or malnutrition.


Sept. 23, 1860 – The Bell District schoolhouse on southern Main Street, so-called because it’s the only schoolhouse with a bell, burns in a pre-dawn fire.


Oct. 3, 1860 – The third annual Ridgefield Agricultural Society fair opens. Apples are a big hit, following one of the best apple-growing seasons in years. Mrs. Richard Smith exhibits 12 apples weighing one pound each.


Oct. 4, 1860 – The presidential campaign is underway, and Republicans in Ridgefield hold a torchlight parade down Main Street.


Oct. 31, 1860 – The Wide Awakes, a young Republican group, has a torchlight parade. Between 300 and 400 people march back and forth on Main Street.


Nov. 6, 1860 – Republican Abraham Lincoln wins Ridgefield by a good margin over Stephen A. Douglas, the Northern Democrat, and two Southern candidates.


Feb. 6, 1861 – Town gossips are in a tizzy. The adulterous affair between Dr. Oliver Starr Hickok, who had moved to Ridgefield from Bethel the previous year, and Mrs. John Canfield, is made public. Both Dr. Hickok and Mrs. Canfield are excommunicated from the Congregational Church.


March 21-22, 1861 – A blizzard hits the town. It takes 30 men with two span of horses and three yoke of oxen to clear a 10-foot-high snow bank on Branchville Road near Nod Road so that the sleighs can reach the station in Branchville.


April 16, 1861 – Matthew Keeler, age 73, walks out of his house that evening, without putting on a coat or scarf, and disappears. Fifty men search for him through the night. The next day, the mill pond at Miller’s Ridge off Nod Road is drained, and his body is found.


April 19, 1861 – Only six days after the shot fired on Fort Sumter, S.C., two Ridgefielders, Nathan Couch and George W. Banker, leave for the front after having been among the first men in the area to answer President Lincoln’s call for volunteers.


April 20, 1861 – In reaction to the outbreak of war, a rally is held, with band music, cannon firings, and flag waving.


April 26, 1861 – The Town Meeting decries the “armed rebellion…seizing the forts, arsenals, navy-yards and hospitals which belong to the people of the United States, and consummating its crime by firing upon the flag of the nation, the glorious symbol of our liberty, and our general welfare.” The meeting votes that the town should provide support for any families whose men head off to the new war. Wives will receive $2 a week plus 50 cents for each child under 12.


June 10, 1861 – Lightning strikes the home of Dr. Nehemiah Perry Sr. [where the Community Center is today]. “Mrs. Perry’s cap was taken from her head and thrown some distance,” writes Anna Resseguie.  “A board very near Sarah P.’s feet was torn in pieces. Panes of glass were broken. Mrs. Perry deaf for a time.”


July 2, 1861 – The Congregational Church gets a new organ, costing $950.


July 31, 1861 – Ridgefield women meet at the home of Mrs. William O. Seymour to sew hospital garments for soldiers.


Aug. 20, 1861 – The new organ at the Congregational Church needs repair; rats have gnawed through the bellows.


Sept. 26, 1861 – Ridgefielders participate in the “national fast” called for by President Lincoln. Though it is a Thursday, many attend church services.


Oct. 2, 1861 – The Ridgefield Agricultural Society Fair opens. It is estimated 6,000 people visit the fair the next day.


Nov. 1, 1861 – Van Amburg’s Menagerie parades down Main Street before setting up its show. The parade is led by Hannibal, said to be the largest elephant in the United States.


Jan. 21, 1862 – A major ice storm strikes town, felling many trees and limbs.


Feb. 17, 1862 – Bells are rung and cannon fired celebrating news of Union troops’ taking Fort Donellson in Tennessee.


March 7, 1862 – Author George W. Bungay speaks in town on “The War, its Heroes and Lessons.”


March 17, 1862 – Another ice storm hits and breaks many limbs and trees.


April 27, 1862 – Cpl. Thomas Payne dies while in the Union Army.


July 1862 – A scarlet fever outbreak sickens many and kills several children in town.


Aug. 9, 1862 – Responding to President Lincoln’s call for 300,000 more volunteers, a Town Meeting votes to pay $200 “bounties” to the families of any Ridgefield men who enlist in the Union Army.


Aug. 9, 1862 – Corporal Edwin B. Gilbert is captured at Cedar Mountain, Va. He survives, and is discharged from the service July 19, 1865.


Aug. 16, 1862 – A group of Ridgefield volunteers, responding to the President’s call for more men, marches down Main Street before heading off to the war.


Aug. 28, 1862 – Many Ridgefielders are among the troops to be mustered into the service as part of the Seventeenth Regiment, Company C and Company G, in Bridgeport. They camp at Seaside Park and leave by rail Sept. 23.


Sept. 5, 1862 – Joseph Hawkins of Ridgefield, home on furlough from service with the 14th Regiment of New York Volunteers, is killed by cannon during a celebration he is attending in Norwalk.


Sept. 13, 1862 – A Town Meeting votes to borrow $15,400 to pay $200 bounties being given to families of men who just volunteered for service. Bonds are issued for $50 each, paying 6% interest.


Sept. 17, 1862 – Corporal Henry Keeler is wounded in the battle of Antietam, only six weeks after he enlists. He dies the next day, the first Ridgefielder to perish in the war. “After his brother, Silas, who is in the Army, heard of his death,” writes Anna Resseguie, “he walked all the day among the graves full 25 miles and at sundown found two or three graves under an apple tree. One of these, a board at the foot told him, was his brother’s.”


Oct. 8 and 9, 1862 – The Ridgefield Agricultural Fair takes place on what is now Veterans Park field, east of the Community Center.


Nov. 2, 1862 – Many attend the funeral of Corporal Henry Keeler, who died at Antietam.


Nov. 10, 1862 – Christopher Olmstead, who had enlisted in the Union Army in August, dies of typhoid fever in Washington, D.C., before ever seeing combat. He is 23.


Nov. 16, 1862 – The funeral of Christopher Olmstead takes place.


Nov. 24, 1862 – Ridgefielders are suffering from inflation of prices due to shortages and war demands. Kerosene has jumped from 75 cents a gallon last year to $1.25. Coffee is 30 cents a pound. Rags are selling for 10 cents a pound and, with a paper shortage, old newspapers are selling for four to five cents a pound.


Dec. 10, 1862 – Smith Keeler is discharged from the Army after being wounded on a scouting expedition and losing his left arm.


Jan. 18, 1863 – John G. Fry dies in the war, just five months after joining the army.


Feb. 7, 1863 – The Town Meeting names seven, including the selectmen and the treasure, to a committee to figure out how “to equalize the payment of the war debt of the town of Ridgefield.”


Feb. 28, 1863 – To raise money to cover its war debt, the town votes to issue bonds of between $50 and $500 each., to be made payable to the bearer with an interest rate of 6%. [A December 1862 act of the State Legislature allowed towns to issue such bonds.]


March 30, 1863 – William Avent, who had enlisted the previous August, dies while in the service.


April 2, 1863 – Mrs. Joel Seymour is dressing her young children when her clothing catches fire from a stove. She is so badly burned that she dies within an hour and a half. She is 25 years old.


April 7, 1863 – A Mr. Potter arrives in Ridgefield to establish a “singing school.” By May 27, it has gone out of business.


April 26, 1863 – Francis E. Seymour dies while serving in the Army.


April 30, 1863 – Ridgefielders participate in the National Fast, requested by President Lincoln as a day of prayer.


May 2, 1863 – Andrew Lockwood, a member of the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Regiment, is captured at Chancellorsville, Va. He survives and lives until 1905.


July 1, 1863 – In the Battle of Gettysburg, Edwin D. Pickett and Lawrence Carney are killed.  Joseph Whitlock is seriously wounded, and several other Ridgefielders are also hit by fire. Henry W. Keeler is shot three times in the foot.


July 1, 1863 – Horace Q. Judd is captured by Confederates during the Battle of Gettysburg. Nine days later, he escapes, and serves through the rest of the war.


July1, 1863 – The Federal Government was now drafting men into the Army, and a Town Meeting this day votes to pay $300 to each draftee.


July 2, 1863 – Selah Gage dies in the war at the age of 43.


July 7, 1863 – News has begun arriving of the losses of local boys, like Eddie Pickett, at Gettysburg, but the surrender of the Confederate troops at Vicksburg prompts Ridgefielders to ring church bells and fire cannon.


July 16, 1863 – Joseph S. Whitlock, who had been wounded at Gettysburg July 1, dies in a Washington, D.C., hospital.


Aug. 7, 1863 – A Town Meeting renews the town’s offer of $300 to each man drafted into the service, but adds that the $300 may also go “to the drafted man who shall furnish an able-bodied substitute, who shall be accepted and mustered into the United States service.”


Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 1863 – Thousands attend the Ridgefield Agricultural Society fair.


Oct. 16, 1863 – William Hawley Esq. dies at the age of 79. The New York Times obituary notes that a train connecting to Ridgefield in time for the Oct. 19 funeral leaves New York at 7 a.m.


Dec. 12, 1863 – Cpl. Frederick L. Sturges dies in the war.


Jan. 3-6, 1864 – Three children of Willis and Catharine Bennett, die of croup in four days.  Ada, Francis and Edward Bennett are aged one, three, and five years old.


Jan. 29, 1864 – The town is experiencing an unusual mid-winter warm spell and bluebirds are heard singing.


March 20, 1864 – In declining health and with dissatisfaction being expressed over his performance, the Rev. Clinton Clark of the First Congregational Church announces his retirement, effective April 5. He has served 13 years.


April 10, 1864 – The Rev. Clinton Clark delivers his final sermon, but few people attend.


April 27, 1864 – Prices continue to rise. Sugar is 26 cents a pound in Ridgefield. Brown sugar is 20 cents, but expected to soon be 25 cents. Good calico is 40 cents a yard. Molasses is $1.10 per gallon. [$1 in 1864 had the purchasing power of about $16.50 of today’s money. Twenty five cents was worth more than $4 today.]


April 28, 1864 – Julia Lynes dies after she accidentally eats some “phosphorus.” She is two years old.


May 1, 1864 – The Rev. Curtiss T. Woodruff becomes rector of St. Stephen’s Church, serving two years. His salary is $1,000 a year plus use of the rectory.


June 4, 1864 – More high prices are reported by Anna Resseguie. Sugar is up to 28 cents a pound and salt, which had been $2 for four bushels, is now $6. Beef is 22 cents a pound in Ridgefield (but 30 cents in Norwalk) and veal is 18 cents.


June 13, 1864 – Ernest Bahring is missing in action and presumed dead at the battle of Proctor’s Creek, Virginia.


June 17, 1864 – Ezra Lee Edmond is killed in action in the war. He is 18 years old.


Aug. 2, 1864 – Corporal George Gilbert dies. He had been wounded July 20 at Peach Tree Creek, Ga.


Aug. 6, 1864 – Ridgefield is having some trouble filling its quota of men needed for the war, and a town meeting this day names three prominent citizens – Hiram K. Scott, Lewis H. Bailey, and John D. Hurlbutt – to a committee to procure volunteers and substitutes for the army.


Sept. 18, 1864 – Sylvester Godfrey dies at Andersonville Prison. He had been captured at Fort Darling, Va., on May 16.


Oct. 3, 1864 – Frederick John, captured May 16 at Drury’s Bluff, Va., dies at Andersonville Prison.


Nov. 8, 1864 – Abraham Lincoln wins Ridgefield by a 79-vote majority.


Nov. 30, 1864 – Albert N. Davis, an artilleryman, dies in an Army hospital in Washington, D.C.


Jan. 20, 1865 – A good men’s overcoat costs between $70 and $100 in Ridgefield [figuring inflation, that’s $900 to $1,300 today]. Muslin is 60 cents a yard and calico, 40 cents.


Feb. 18, 1865 – Town recruiting agents Timothy Jones and John D. Hurlbutt tell a Town Meeting that substitutes to fulfill the Ridgefield quota of soldiers are becoming rare.  “Good men were scarce to find and difficult to obtain,” the record says. The price of substitutes is increased from $630 to $775.


Feb. 23, 1865 – Samuel A. Coe is discharged from the Union Army after losing his arm at the Siege of Petersburg. [Coe goes on become a leading citizen. Often called the Mayor of Ridgebury, he was a selectman for eight years, a state representative from 1911 to 1913, a deacon of the Ridgebury Congregational Church for 35 years, a member of the Board of Assessors for 20 years, and a member of the Board of Relief until he was 90. He died in 1935 at 92, leaving only one other Ridgefield Civil War veteran – Hiram Davis – still living.]


April 8, 1865 – A week before he is assassinated, President Lincoln visits wounded soldiers at City Point, Va., and before a delighted crowd, picks up an axe and begins chopping wood – in high hat and long black frock coat. Soldiers grab Lincoln-generated wood chips as souvenirs. Among them is Jacob Legrand Dauchy of Ridgefield, who often tells this story of “the railsplitter’s” last use of an axe. [In 2008, 143 years later, the axe used by the President that day is discovered in the collections of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Ill.]


April 10, 1865 – Ridgefielders celebrate news that General Lee surrendered to General Grant the day before.


April 15, 1865 – Only five days after the town celebrates news of the Confederate surrender, word comes that President Lincoln has been assassinated.


April 19, 1865 – At noon, the same hour as the funeral of President Lincoln in Washington, D.C., all churches in Ridgefield are filled with mourners attending special services. All businesses are closed for the day.


July 19, 1865 – The 17 Connecticut Regiment, containing many Ridgefielders, is mustered out at Hilton Head, S.C. which, 140 years later, has become home to many ex-Ridgefield retirees.


Sept. 7, 1865 – The Rev. Curtiss Woodruff of St. Stephen’s leads a concert of vocal and instrumental music at Catoonah Hall on Catoonah Street.


Oct. 3-6, 1865 – Many thousands attend Ridgefield Agricultural Society fair, but Anna Resseguie says it is “inferior to that of former years, though as many or more strangers were present. Horse racing seemed to form a great attraction. Mr. Couch’s collection of birds was an object of special interest, and the chief one.” [Edward J. Couch was a local taxidermist. A century and a half later, on the occasion of Ridgefield’s 300th birthday, the Aldrich Museum has an exhibit commemorating his work.]


Nov. 1, 1865 – A town meeting votes 17 to 12 to dissolve the 13th or “Bell” School District after a fire destroys the schoolhouse on lower Main Street. Students are absorbed into nearby school districts of West Lane, Flat Rock, and Whipstick Districts.


1866 – The Ridgefield Bakery is founded and lasts well into the 20th Century.


Jan. 8, 1866 – It is the coldest day in the memory of many – the thermometer reaches minus 21 degrees.


Feb. 1, 1866 – While visiting a traveling menagerie in Danbury, John Hurlbutt asks the lion keeper whether he can put his hand in the cage. The keeper says it’s safe to do so, Hurlbutt does, and the lion bites him. He contracts lockjaw, and by Feb. 11, he is dead at the age of 33.


Feb. 12, 1866 – Dr. Nehemiah Perry Sr., the town’s most popular physician for many years, dies at the age of 76.


Feb. 14, 1866 – The town virtually shuts down for the funerals of Dr. Perry and Mr. Hurlbutt.


Feb. 15, 1866 – Grace King, youngest child of Lt. Joshua King, Revolutionary War leader who escorted Major John Andre to the gallows, dies at the age of 57.


Feb. 26, 1866 – Jerome Blitz, a ventriloquist and magician, performs in Jones Hall, which is the second floor of the Big Shop carriage factory on West Lane at Main Street.


June 3, 1866 – The Rev. Francis T. Russell becomes rector at St. Stephen’s Church, serving two years. He had earlier been a professor of elocution at Hobart College.


June 9, 1866 – Wanzer Bouton, age 17, a sailor, drowns when his sloop sinks off Stamford.


June 28, 1866 – The Methodist Church’s Strawberry Festival at Jones Hall in the carriage factory raises $150 for church work.


July 1866 – A telegraph office opens in Ridgefield.


July 6, 1866 – Ridgefield is feeling the same effects of the heat wave that has killed hundreds in New York City. Here, the temperatures are said to be 95 in the shade and 140 in the hay fields.


July 17, 1866 – The town has been in the midst of a heat wave for two weeks and the temperature in Ridgefield hits 97, according to diarist Jared Nash.


Aug. 17, 1866 – Miles Casstick, 30, a fireman aboard a train running between Danbury and Norwalk, is killed when he falls from an engine near Ridgefield Station.


Sept. 18-20, 1866 – Attendance at the Ridgefield Agricultural Fair is hurt by rainy weather.


Oct. 30, 1866 – Heavy rains cause the dam to burst at New Pond, serving Gilbert’s Mill at Titicus, reports Jared Nash in his diary. Many buildings downstream are flooded; some are damaged and a few carried away.


Nov. 1, 1866 – For the second year in a row, the Town Meeting votes to dissolve the 13th or “Bell” School District. Opponents had threatened a lawsuit, saying the 1865 vote was improper. The latest vote ends a year of bickering.


Nov. 13, 1866 – A meteor shower is expected that is so spectacular, Ridgefield church bells will be rung so that people will rise to see it. Alas, the bells are silent because nothing is seen. In England, however, Greenwich Observatory reports a stunning show of up to 5,000 meteors an hour.


Nov. 26, 1866 – Samuel B. Grumman of West Lane, a captain in the militia during the War of 1812, dies at the age of 85.


Jan. 18, 1867 – A huge snowstorm that has created drifts up to 11 feet high shuts down most traffic in Ridgefield for two days. Mail cannot reach town.


Feb. 5, 1867 – Carrie Fancher, age two years and 10 months, dies of worms.


March 13, 1867 – William Henry Burleigh comes to town to lecture to Republicans. He promotes abolition and temperance. Burleigh is also a poet, whose most popular book is The Rum Fiend and other Poems.  His poetry is still in print in 2008.


March 20, 1867 – A meeting is held in Jones Hall by sponsors of a railroad that would run from New York to Titicus. They propose taxing the town to build the Ridgefield section.


June 6, 1867 – A special act of the General Assembly orders the state comptroller to pay the 11th School District in Ridgefield $29.40, “being five sixths of the March dividend for 1867 on 31 scholars.” The money is apparently compensation for the Florida school district’s accepting students from nearby Redding.


July 7, 1867 – The Ridgefield and New York Railroad Company is chartered by the General Assembly. The line is to run from Ridgefield through Lewisboro, Pound Ridge, New Canaan or Stamford, and Greenwich, connecting with the New York and New Haven Railroad in either Stamford or Greenwich. The track right of way is to be up to six rods wide.


July 9, 1867 – News reaches town that Rufus H. King, who grew up in Ridgefield at the corner of King Lane and Main Street, was a friend of S. G. Goodrich, and became an Albany, N.Y., financial leader, has died.


July 26, 1867 – The General Assembly gives the town permission to buy stock in the New York and Ridgefield Railroad.


Nov. 10, 1867 – Local merchant Hiram O. Nash dies when he falls from “a load of stalks.” He is 56 years old.


Nov. 23 1867 – James Enright and James Walsh, acting as agents for the Catholic congregation in town, pay $975 for a small frame house on Catoonah Street, across from the present-day firehouse. It becomes the first Catholic church in town, but is destroyed by fire in less than a year. Catholics return to celebrating Mass in private homes.


May 22, 1868 – Betsy Palmer, 45, dies “suddenly by the road side.”


July 1, 1868 – “A Concise History and Manual of the First Congregational Church in Ridgefield, Conn.” is published, an updated version of the history first published in 1843 [q.v.].


Aug. 2, 1868 – The Rev. Samuel F. Jarvis becomes rector at St. Stephen’s Church, serving five years.


Dec. 23, 1868 – John Walters, a 33-year-old laborer who had emigrated from Germany, dies when a tree limb falls on him.


April 16, 1869 – The Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road begins buying land for a branch line into Ridgefield village. 


July 1869 – St. Stephen’s Church receives a bequest of $500 from the estate of Nancy Smith of Norwalk, a former parishioner who had died six years earlier. Income from the grant is to be used to take care of the poor.


Oct. 22, 1869 – A three-year-old boy named Reynolds dies of burns after his clothing catches fire.


Nov. 1, 1869 – Charles Rasco, 29, a farmer, is run over and killed by a train at the Ridgefield Station in Branchville.


1870 – In the steepest drop in population since the census began, only 1,919 Ridgefielders are counted, nearly 300 fewer than in 1860. Many have apparently left town after the war for parts west.


April 20, 1870 – The first rail is laid on the new bed from Branchville to Ridgefield center.


July 5, 1870 – The General Assembly approves amending the Ridgefield and New York Rail Road Company’s charter, giving it another three years to run a train line to Ridgefield.


July 6, 1870 – The General Assembly allows the Ridgefield and New York Railroad Company to issue bonds of at least $500 each.


July 11, 1870 – The Ridgefield and New York Rail Road begins buying land in Ridgefield for a new line from Port Chester to Ridgefield and probably Danbury.


June 25, 1870 – The first train arrives in Ridgefield center on the new branch line from Beers Station [Branchville]. Building the four-mile line has taken a year and has cost the Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road $250,000, as much as it spent 19 years earlier to build a track all the way from Norwalk to Danbury.


Oct. 20, 1870 – The existence of “The Union Hotel” on the west side of Main Street, maybe owned by Nirum Dykeman, is mentioned in a deed.


Oct. 24, 1871 – The estate of the Aaron Turner, the circus pioneer who hired a Bethel man named P.T. Barnum as his ticket seller, transfers to School District 15 in north Ridgebury a half acre for a schoolhouse, on the condition that the school district “make and keep forever a tight stone fence five feet hight” between the Turner and schoolhouse lands.


May 5, 1871 – F.E. Baxter sells John Cochran his 5/8 interest in a “walnut billiard table,” located in the basement of Cochran’s Store in Purdys, N.Y. The price of $225 – about $3,700 in today’s money – included four balls, 12 cues, and one rack


July 19, 1871 – The Connecticut General Assembly agrees to charter the Ridgefield Savings Bank.


July 29, 1871 – The Board of Directors of the new Ridgefield Savings Bank elects Dr. Daniel L. Adams, a Ridgefield physician, as its first president.  Twenty five years earlier, Dr. Adams had been the first president of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, which played its first game on June 19, 1846 in Hoboken, N.J. against the New York Nine. Some say it was the first base ball game.


Aug. 8, 1871 – The Ridgefield Savings Bank opens for business in the Old Hundred [now part of the Aldrich Museum]. The bank grows in the 20th Century to become the Ridgefield Bank and the even larger Fairfield County Bank.


Oct. 16, 1871 – Twelve people meet in the office of Dr. W.S. Todd to establish The Ridgefield Library and Historical Association. Each pledges $3 to be used to buy new books for the next year. This system is used for six years.


Nov. 13, 1871 – The Ridgefield Savings Bank issues its first mortgage – to S.S. and J.J. Dauchy for $1,000 at 7% interest.


Dec. 23, 1871 – John Reiley of Ridgefield, who works for the waterworks in Norwalk, dies while blasting rock. He is 27.


Dec. 31, 1871 – The new Ridgefield Savings Bank reports its net income, the difference between receipts and expenses, totals $106.61 ]about $1,725 in 2008].


Feb. 1, 1872 – The Rev. Daniel Teller becomes minister of the First Congregational Church. He later writes the first history of Ridgefield published in book form.


July 11, 1872 – The General Assembly votes to give the Ridgefield and New York Railway a one year extension on its efforts to secure a right of way.


August 1872 – A new state law, about to go into effect, allows towns to ban liquor sales. Forty people petition the Select Men for a Town Meeting to consider “the propriety of instructing the Select Men not to recommend any person to be licensed to sell liquors in the Town of Ridgefield.” They believe “the sale and use of a beverage of intoxicating liquors is a great curse of any community, productive of much of the crime and misery which affects society.” Signers included many prominent citizens. It is the beginning of a protracted battle that lasts 40 years.


Sept. 3, 1872 – A Town Meeting votes, 104 to 49, to ban the sale of intoxicating liquors in Ridgefield. Subsequently, the vote is thrown out because the state law allowing local option did not go into effect until Sept. 15, 12 days after the Ridgefield vote. Prohibitionists launch a second petition drive.


Sept. 28, 1872 – A second Town Meeting is held on banning liquor sales, but only 32 people show up. The meeting adjourns to Oct. 7


Oct. 7, 1872 – A Town Meeting votes again to ban liquor sales in Ridgefield, by a much closer margin, 107 to 99.  The debate is said to be “spirited.”


April 1873 – Ridgefielders are getting thirsty. Twenty five men – including Gould Rockwell who had signed a previous petition to ban liquor sales – turn in a petition to rescind the “no license” vote of Oct. 7, 1872. Petition signers include Peter P. Cornen, an oil baron and probably the town’s first millionaire, and L.H. Bailey, prominent businessman who built Bailey Avenue.


April 14, 1873 – The Rev. Samuel Jarvis is running into trouble with his parishioners at St. Stephen’s: He is taking up too many collections. The vestry votes “that the wardens and vestry be authorized to specify the number of collections to be made in the church for incidental expenses, and the Messrs. Keeler Dauchy, Abijah Resseguie and Amos Northrop be appointed a committee to confer with the rector with regard to relations existing between him and his charge.” Things do not get better, and he leaves in August.


April 26, 1873 – At probably one of the most “spirited” town meetings in Ridgefield history, voters are asked to rescind the ban on liquor sales. George Lounsbury, later governor of Connecticut, moves that the selectmen be allowed to license the sale of “spirituous and intoxicating liquors, ale and lager beer.” Up stands Phineas Lounsbury, brother of George and also a future governor. Unlike George, Phineas is a leader in the temperance movement. He moves that the vote be taken by paper ballot and that the voting box be kept open for two hours, presumably allowing him to run up and down the village to gather supporters. When the ballots are counted, 104 favor alcohol sales, and 111 oppose. Ridgefield remains dry.


July 1, 1873 – The Ridgefield and New York Railroad Company gets another one year extension on its right-of-way acquisition.


Oct. 1, 1873 – The Rev. David D. Bishop becomes rector at St. Stephen’s Church, serving nearly five years.


December 1873 – The anti-alcohol forces discover something defective about the previous votes to ban liquor sales, and petition a fourth Town Meeting on the subject, warning that the previous three votes “are of doubtful validity and may be the cause of expensive litigation.” They want a new vote to ban booze.


Dec. 20, 1873 – Drinkers win a round. A Town Meeting rescinds the previous alcohol sales ban, but also votes against a new ban. A total of 136 people favor licensing and 131 are against.


Dec. 22, 1873 – Shocked at their defeat Dec. 20, prohibitionists take only two days to turn in a new petition, calling for a fifth Town Meeting on the issue. Among the 25 signers are the Rev. Daniel W. Teller, minister of the First Congregational Church who will soon write the town’s first history in book form; D. Crosby Baxter, who will found The Ridgefield Press in two years; and future governor Phineas Lounsbury.


January 1874 – In three hours of balloting, a Town Meeting votes 152 to 129 not to license liquor sales. A total of 281 people participate; in the vote for governor later that year, 397 people cast ballots. [Booze is a big issue, but it isn’t attracting everyone. The issue is brought up yearly at annual town meetings for many years. In 1874, the vote is 136 to 67 against licensing. In 1875, 136 to 69. And 1876, 136 to 2!]


July 15, 1874 – The General Assembly extends the time for “building and constructing” the Ridgefield and New York Railroad to June 7, 1880.


Jan. 13, 1875 – D. Crosby Baxter publishes the first issue of Baxter’s Monthly. The initial press run is 500 copies.


April 1875 – Baxter’s Monthly becomes The Ridgefield Press.


April 1875 – The Missionary Society of the Congregational Church, as well as the Ladies’ Aid Society, are formed.


June 25, 1875 – The General Assembly approves the incorporation of The Danbury Home, whose leaders include Lewis Bailey, Aaron T. Bates and Hiram K. Scott of Ridgefield, “for the purposes of relieving, supporting and educating children who are homeless and destitute.”


July 3, 1875 – After adding four stops and 126 pipes to the St. Stephen’s Church organ, J.E. Adams gives a recital on the new 450-pipe, 16-stop organ, accompanied by the church choir. The concert is well received.


September 1876 – The Ridgefield Agricultural Society fair features an exhibit of “centennial oddities” in connection with the nation’s 100th birthday celebration.


Dec. 1, 1876 – The new town hall is dedicated. The two-story, 40 by 60 foot wooden building cost $5,976.55 (about $112,000 in 2008 money). It is destroyed in the Great Fire of 1895.


Feb. 7, 1877 – “Nash and Mead are going to put on an addition to their store,” reports The Ridgefield Press. “This shows that there is business in Titicus.”


April 13, 1877 – A large fire burns through the woods on West Mountain, and another in Branchville damages many young trees.


May 20, 1877 – The Ridgefield Band gives an outdoor concert.


May 30, 1877 – Phineas C. Lounsbury and family arrive in town to spend the summer.


June 11, 1877 – While picking strawberries on West Mountain, W. J. Humphrys comes across a five-foot rattlesnake. He kills it.


June 20, 1877 – “The parasols this season look like a gingersnap on a walking cane,” observes The Ridgefield Press.


July 4, 1877 – Miss Hurlbutt’s school had a picnic Friday afternoon in the grove near the Depot. “The children enjoyed themselves, regarding it as a happy release from the school room,” The Ridgefield Press reports.


July 11, 1877 – Children at the Branchville Schoolhouse announce they will have an Ice Cream Festival Thursday evening at the school house to raise money “to procure new books and a bell.”


Aug. 20, 1877 – The house in Limestone District belonging to Munson Blackman Esq. burns to the ground, taking with it “his wardrobe, valuable library, family plate, and furniture.” The Press reports the loss is estimated at “$5,000.49.”


Aug. 22, 1877 – William H. Gillette, a 24-year-old actor, gives a performance in town hall. He goes on to become world famous, especially for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. In 1919, after five years of construction, his home in Hadlyme is completed. Today, it is central attraction of Gillette Castle State Park.


Aug. 29, 1877 – The young ladies of St. Stephen’s Church hold their annual fair.


Sept. 25-28, 1877 – The Ridgefield Agricultural Society is now a four-day event at the fairgrounds on Wilton Road West.


October 1877 – William Stone is cleaning his well when he finds a silver spoon, lost 23 years earlier, and a hammer, lost 13 years earlier.


Nov. 7, 1877 – Raisins are 10 cents a pound at Scott’s Store.


Dec. 5, 1877 – “Tramps are on the increase,” reports The Ridgefield Press.


1878 – Professor James Dwight Dana of Yale visits the Branchville mica mine and discovers one of the purest pieces of uraninite, an ore of uranium, ever found.


March 1878 – The law requires that all dogs be muzzled, The Ridgefield Press reminds readers. Any dog that is not muzzled may be shot on sight, and the shooter paid $1 for his troubles.


April 17, 1878 – The new Morgan silver dollar is issued by the Federal government, prompting comment from The Ridgefield Press: “The new white dollars of 1878 coinage are being carried as pocket pieces. The eagle screams lustily and its wings are stretched to soar.”


June 7, 1878 – St. Stephen’s vestry votes to sell a piece of its property for $800 to Phineas C. Lounsbury, who lives across the street, so that Mr. Lounsbury can lay a pipe through to his planned water cistern on High Ridge that will supply his home with water. [Years later, the cistern is turned into a house.]


July 1, 1878 – The Rev. Francis A. Henry becomes rector of St. Stephen’s Church, serving ten years. He had been rector at Stamford.


Dec. 20, 1878 – The selectmen of Danbury and Ridgefield survey the boundary of the two towns.


1879 – The town’s Grand List of taxable property totals $1,076,106 [about $23 million in 2008 dollars].


Oct. 5, 1879 – Built under the guidance of Father Martin Lawlor of Danbury, a new Catholic Church on Catoonah Street is dedicated.


Nov. 22, 1879 – Jason Whitlock, a farmer, dies from what is determined to be an “accidental administration of a poisonous dose of morphine by a nurse.” He was 69 years old.


1880 – Ridgefield’s census population begins growing after years of decline. A total of 2,028 people are counted, about a hundred more than 10 years earlier.


1880 – The General Assembly approves the final boundary between New York and Connecticut. Some 500 acres in various places along the line transfer and some 200 New Yorkers find themselves Connecticut residents – a few are incorporated into Ridgefield.


May 1880 – The Ridgefield Band gets its own band room on Bailey Avenue.


May 1880 – Two businessmen from Southbury visit town, looking for a site to build a factory to make table and pocket cutlery. They particularly investigate Titicus, but think the water supply inadequate. The factor is not built here.


May 19, 1880 – S.O. Seymour opens a “fish, oyster and vegetable market” on Bailey Avenue behind the town hall.


May 19, 1880 – “Mr. L. H. Bailey is putting in a title drain under the lower end of Bailey Ave., to carry the water off without having recourse to one of those detestable ‘thank you mams,’” The Press reports. “He will also grade the avenue and make it a gradual and easy ascent from the depot and place neat and ornamental lamps at proper intervals to guide the traveler on his way.” [A ‘thank you mam’ was a ditch cut across the roadbed; it caused a jolt when a vehicle passed over, and might prompt the exclamation, ‘Thank you mam!’ from the driver.]


Aug. 15, 1880 – In a story about a buggy trip through the countryside, a New York Times writer praises the beauties of Ridgefield and in particular, High Ridge, which he [wrongly] calls “the highest elevation in Connecticut … commanding a view in every direction of from 50 to 60 miles….Here the adventurous people are buying houses, with the certainty that no one can cut off or interrupt their view. One of them has generously provided, on the highest point, a summer-house, with means of access from the road, and wonderful to tell! a hitching-post and chain, where you may tie your horse while you go in and enjoy the prospect.”


October 1880 – The Rev. Daniel Teller, minister of the First Congregational Church, and Ridgefield’s first published historian, leaves to take a post with a church in New Haven.


November 1880 – Charles W. Lee becomes owner and publisher of The Ridgefield Press.


1881 – The Catholic church on Catoonah Street is officially named St. Mary’s Church by the Rev. Lawrence Stephen McMahon, bishop of Hartford. The Rev. Thaddeus Walsh is named the first pastor.


Jan. 31, 1881 – Twelve-year-old Martin Penders is “killed while sliding.”


July 1, 1881 – Amos S. Rasco, described as a peddler, commits suicide by cutting his throat. He is 31 years old.


Jan. 27, 1882 – Two farces, Rough Diamond and Lad from the Country, are staged at the Town Hall. The W.M.C. Band provides music. Tickets are 25 cents.


February 1882 – William W. Whiting buys The Ridgefield Press, but keeps Charles W. Lee as a staff member. Lee resigns in two years because of ill health, and dies six years later of tuberculosis, age 30. Whiting himself dies of pneumonia in 1885, age 29.


Feb. 8, 1882 – The Rev. William W. Leete, a recent graduate of Yale Divinity School, is settled as minister of the First Congregational Church.


March 11, 1882 – The First Congregational Church gets bids of from $2,000 to $5,000 to fix its church on the green. Members are apparently not pleased, and nine months later, decide to build a new church on the site “provided the property owners, adjoining, will not object…” They did object, and the plan is abandoned.


May 12, 1882 – St. Mary’s Parish incorporates.


May 22, 1882 – Phineas C. Lounsbury gives the Sixth School District the land on which a schoolhouse is to be built. It is now the Bailey Avenue Municipal Parking Lot.


July 14, 1884 – “Three-wheel velocipedes are numerous on our sidewalks,” reports The Ridgefield Press.


July 21, 1882 – The Ladies of the Methodist Episcopal Church hold a Lawn Festival, with ice cream and other refreshments, on the Parsonage Grounds that evening. Proceeds benefit the church.


July 22, 1882 – Frederick C. Lee of Farmingville is driving into town when, near the pound, his horse becomes frightened by some “gypsies,” and suddenly turning, throws Mr. Lee from the vehicle and runs for home “at a lively rate,”  The Ridgefield Press reports.


July 24, 1882 – The thermometer at Hiram K. Scott’s store at 1:30 p.m. reads 118 degrees.


August 1882 – Under the leadership of Father Thaddeus Walsh, its first pastor, St. Mary’s Parish buys its cemetery land on North Street. Four years later, Father Walsh is buried there.


Oct. 13, 1883 – Bishop Lawrence McMahon blesses the new St. Mary’s Cemetery.


Nov. 23, 1883 – George P. Sherwood, a 59-year-old mason, is killed in Branchville when a derrick falls on him.


Dec. 7, 1883 – Reports are afoot that the Connecticut Legislature will be asked to allow the merger of the New York and Connecticut Air Line, the Harlem and Port Chester, the Ridgefield and Port Chester, and the New York Elevated Railroads. “The Ridgefield and Port Chester is a road on which much work has already been done, and its charter is such that it may run through Westchester County to any point of the western boundary of Connecticut,” The New York Times reports.


1884 – The Leatherman, a famous tramp who wandered Connecticut and New York in the 1800s, is said to pay his last visit to town. [However, The Press in 1886 says the Leather Man, “as far as we know, has never included Ridgefield in his habitual route.”] Five years later, the Leather Man is found dead in a cave near Sing Sing, N.Y. He is said to have come to this country in the 1850s as a stowaway after failing at business and romance in his native France.


1884 – The Ridgefield Savings Bank moves from the Old Hundred [today’s Aldrich Museum] to Hiram K. Scott’s store in the village.


Jan. 21, 1884 – In the continuing financial maneuverings behind a new railroad that would run through Ridgefield, a contract is signed for the “New York, Danbury and Boston Railway. The name of “Port Chester and Ridgefield Railroad” is dropped.


July 1884 – S. D. Keeler, who began his career in retailing with a grocery stand, opens his mercantile store on Main Street [where Deborah Ann’s Sweet Shop is in 2008]. By the early 20th Century, he is the town’s biggest merchant, with operations including a grain elevator on Bailey Avenue, the Titicus Store, and the Corner Store at Main and West Lane. He retires in 1921.


Aug. 28, 1884 – Twenty one Ridgefield veterans of the Civil War are among 400 Connecticut veterans to attend a reunion here. They march through the village and meet in the town hall. Two thousand people greet them, and most join them for a picnic on the Lounsbury grounds [now Veterans Park].


Oct. 4, 1884 – The First Congregational Church’s building committee is authorized to erect a new church on a new location, the corner of Main Street and West Lane.


Jan. 1, 1885 – Ten-year-old Abram Hoyt drowns after falling through ice in Limestone District.


March 7, 1884 – William W. Whiting, editor and publisher of The Ridgefield Press, dies of pneumonia at the age of 29.


March 1884 – The Ridgefield Press is taken over by Dr. W. S. Todd, administrator of the estate, who, in 1886, joins seven other Ridgefielders in establishing The Ridgefield Press Printing Company, giving the paper financial backing. Dr. Todd comes to Ridgefield in 1866 and teaches three years at William O. Seymour’s school on High Ridge. He then goes to medical school for three years and becomes a physician. As a newspaperman, Dr. Todd “wielded an able pen,” The Press reports at his death in 1893, “many of his editorials attracting great attention and were quoted by leading journals.”


Feb. 1, 1885 – William Ernest Smith, who lives in the Flat Rock district, dies of accidental strangulation. He is three years old.


April 13, 1885 – Thaddeus M. Benedict, an 84-year-old shoemaker in Titicus District, is killed when a horse kicks him.


July 18, 1885 – The Town of Ridgefield pays the Congregational Church society $2,000 for the “meeting house yard” on the green, with the stipulation that the society move its building from the site.


Oct. 1, 1885 – The Ridgefield Savings Bank, 10 years old, has $100,155 in deposits. Of 896 depositors, 801 have accounts of $500 or less. Only five have $2,000 or more.


Feb. 4, 1886 – At 2:20 a.m., something goes awry at the New York City aqueduct construction project in the Bronx. An underground dynamite shack explodes, sending a shaft of flame 400 feet into the air and causing widespread destruction around the site. In Ridgefield, 40 miles away, The Press reports the next day, “The earthquake which waked nearly everybody out of a sound sleep Tuesday night proves to have been caused by an explosion of dynamite at Shaft 22 on the new aqueduct at Fordham Heights. One of our merchants thought someone had broken open his safe…”


Feb. 5, 1886 – Ridgefield Justice John F. Gilbert fines “Con” Mahoney $1 plus costs for wife beating, and sentences him to 30 days in Danbury Jail.


Feb. 12, 1886 – Miss Carrie Scott begins her duties as principal of the Titicus School, replacing Clarence Austin, who resigned. Miss Scott is “a graduate of a seminary in New York State.”


Feb. 13, 1886 – The Shakespeare Club meets at the home of Dr. Archibald Paddock on Main Street to hear readings of “As You Like It.”


Feb. 17, 1886 – “As Mrs. J. L. Hunt was driving in front of Geo. Abbott’s store, she was accosted by a person, and reined in her horse,” The Ridgefield Press reports. “M.B. Whitlock was on his hack behind her and before he could stop his horses, the whiffletree caught in the wheel and upset the carriage instantly, throwing out Mrs. Hunt and her little boy. The wagon rested on the little boy’s head, but Mrs. Hunt was able to get up and relieve him at once before outside assistance arrived. The horse acted kindly and no serious injuries resulted.”


Feb. 19, 1886 – The Rev. F. A. Henry lectures on Macbeth and Hamlet in the town hall.


Feb. 22, 1886 – Mrs. C.A. Jennings is elected president of the Ladies Benevolent Society.


Feb. 24, 1886 – “The lower part of Bailey Avenue is almost impassable,” says The Ridgefield Press. “The question naturally arises: Who is to repair it. It ought not to be allowed to remain as it is.” 


Feb. 26, 1886 – A social dance is held in the town hall, with “music under the able management of Professor Offen.” Tickets are $1.50 with dinner, but “spectators admitted into the gaiety for 35 cents.”


March 1, 1886 – High winds fail to keep members of the Ridgefield Literary Society from gathering at the home of Miss Minnie Valden at Titicus to hear and discuss readings of Washington Irving’s Knickerbocker’s History of New York.


March 4, 1886 – John Sheriden is fined $3 plus costs for “beating up Wm. Rascoe in a terrible manner on Wednesday evening.”


March 10, 1886 – Miss Jennie Dann, teacher of the Farmingville School, celebrates her 19th birthday at a party with a few friends in her home.


March 24, 1886 – The Snowflake Mission Band of the Congregational Society gives an exhibition consisting of declamations, recitations, and singing in the church.


March 26, 1886 – The Port Chester Journal says work is about to begin on the “Ridgefield and New York Rail Road” which, despite its name, would run from Port Chester to Danbury, but through Ridgefield. The road is supposed to carry passengers and no freight.


March 31, 1886 – Ridgefield has its second thunderstorm in a week.


April 1, 1886 – D. Smith Sholes becomes postmaster of Ridgefield. Hiram K. Scott is assistant postmaster.


April 1, 1886 – W. H. Gilbert sells his carpentry business to his employees Will F. Hoyt and Charles H. Nash, and goes into the kindling wood business. He cuts the wood from eight acres he buys in Great Swamp and supplies it by the cord or barrel.


April 9, 1886 – Ridgefielders are warned that a counterfeit five dollar bill, purporting to be issued by the Central National Bank of Norwalk, is in circulation. “It has a picture of Garfield on it, which the genuine bill does not have.” [Genuine bills carry a picture of Ulysses S. Grant.]


April 9, 1886 – John M. Ericson is elected worthy patron of the Sons of Temperance and Emma Nash is worthy matron.


April 15, 1886 – The household goods of the late Father Thaddeus P. Walsh, first pastor of St. Mary’s, are auctioned off by H.E. Mead.  “A large number of spirited bidders assembled,” The Press reports.


April 19, 1886 – Cornelius McCarty, who has worked for “Mrs. Hickok” for some time, mysteriously disappears. He leaves the house to go to the village, saying he would be gone one or two hours. He visits Seymour and Barhite’s store and sells some eggs, telling them to credit the amount to Mrs. Hickok’s account. He leaves his horse in front of the store, where it is found the next morning. No one can explain his disappearance.


April 27, 1886 – The pupils of the higher department of the Center School give an “entertainment” in the Ridgefield Hall in commemoration of the Battle of Ridgefield. Mrs. Jarley exhibits her wax works and afterward, maple sugar on ice is served in the lower hall.


April 30, 1886 – The Elm Shade Cottages on Main Street, now The Elms Inn, get a telephone connection.


May 6, 1886 – Two are arrested among the 150 men from Branchville and Georgetown who are on strike at the Gilbert and Bennett wire mill in Georgetown.


May 7, 1886 – “George Washington Gilbert has dispensed with his shoes,” a sure sign of the “approach of summer,” observes The Press. Mr. Gilbert, the “hermit of Ridgefield,” goes barefoot as much of the year as he can.


May 8, 1886 – A committee of the Grand Army of the Republic Post meets at the home of A.W. Lee to plan “suitable arrangements” for Memorial Day.


May 12, 1886 –The Social Glee Club meets at the home of J. W. Mead.


May 21, 1886 – The Methodist Society presents Miss Addie Edmonds “with a purse of $31 in acknowledgement of her excellent service as organist during the past year,” The Press reports.


May 22, 1886 – George I. Abbott opens his “ice cream saloon,” prompting The Press to later observe: “George has at last come to the conclusion that the public likes Abbott’s ice cream better than Horton’s or Dixson’s, and accordingly will have to do his own freezing this year.” [Horton and Dixson were commercial ice cream makers.]


May 28, 1886 – The Young Folks Cyclopedia of Common Things, and The Young Folks Cyclopedia of Persons and Places are acquired by the Center School, The Press reports.


June 5, 1886 – Mrs. Joseph Taylor of Limestone District picks the first strawberries of the season.


June 1886 – A Mrs. Brinkerhoff and her three-year-old son are visiting friends in Ridgebury when the boy is suddenly attacked by a dog. “The little one was playing about the door when the dog suddenly rushed upon him and tore one side of his face with his teeth,” reports the Danbury News. “Mrs. Brinkerhoff hastened to Danbury and the wound was dressed by Dr. Annie K. Bailey. The child is getting along nicely at present and it is hoped there will be no trouble in the future. The dog, which has long been a source of annoyance to passers-by, has been killed.”


June 11, 1886 – “The Bailey House and The Elms Shade Cottages are rapidly filling up,” The Ridgefield Press reports. “The most desirable rooms will be open for a short time only if the great demand for board during the past week is any sign.”


June 13, 1886 – Children’s Day is observed at Jesse Lee Methodist Church. Each child at Sunday school that evening is given a bouquet of flowers which is then presented to Superintendent F.W. Rockwell, who proceeds to construct from the blossoms the word “Wisdom.”


June 23, 1886 – Cyrus Northrop, a Ridgefield native who is president of the Minnesota State University – now the University of Minnesota, receives an honorary doctor of laws degree from Yale, his alma mater. He spends a few days in Ridgefield visiting family.


July 2, 1886 – The closing exercises at the West Lane School take place that afternoon, and Rufus H. King Jr. awards a prize to the best scholar in mathematics.


July 2, 1886 – “Extensive improvements are being made to St Mary’s Chapel,” The Ridgefield Press reports. “There is now a large addition at the rear of the church, making the building more commodious, and the interior has been artistically decorated, thus making a more pleasing house of worship.”


July 1886 – “Ridgefielders are talking again of organizing a fire company,” says The New Canaan Messenger.  “The great wonder is such an enterprising town as Ridgefield has not had a well-equipped fire department years ago.”


July 5, 1886 – Because the Fourth of July falls on the Sabbath, celebrations take place Monday. “Some of the city boys celebrated the Fourth quite hilariously,” The Ridgefield Press reports. “They had a lot of horns, a drum, and lanterns, and marched through the streets. The lower part of the street was quite lively for a time.” In addition, “The colored domestics of John W. Rockwell’s boarding house enjoyed themselves ‘hugely’ on the Fifth. They hired a four-in-hand of ‘Mott’ Whitlock, trimmed the wagon and horses with the stars and stripes, and ‘whooped ‘er up’ until a late hour.”


July 16, 1886 – Crime is rampant in Ridgefield. “Last Friday night, the residence of Mr. George Smith was entered and $20 were stolen,” The Ridgefield Press reports.   The same night an attempt was made to enter  George Gregory’s house in Titicus, “but the family was aroused in consequence, and Mr. Gregory, gun in hand, pursued two men for some distance from the house. They finally got out of sight. On the same night burglars tried to enter the house of Mr. William Rusco on West Mountain, but were scared away by pater familias and a shot gun.”


July 19, 1886 – Ridgefielders are all abuzz as stock in the New York and New England Rail Road rises on sharp sales.  The New York Times reports the company has gained “a new entrance into New York.”  The Times says the railroad will be known as the New York, Danbury and Boston Railroad. The portion from Port Chester to Ridgefield has already been surveyed as part of the Port Chester and Ridgefield Rail Road.


July 23, 1886 – “Poppy Smith, who is in the employ of D.C. Baxter, was tumbled into a heap last Sunday afternoon in consequence of petting ‘Daisy’ with a broom.”


July 23, 1886 – Sanford Barnes, fishing on South Pond with Ernest F. Walton, catches a black bass weighing four and one half pounds and measuring 20 inches. He used a seven-ounce rod with grasshopper bait. [South Pond is Oscaleta Lake in Lewisboro.]


August 1886 – The Board of School Visitors decides to substitute Harpers Geographies in place of Mitchell’s in the schools of the town. It’s cheaper; there are only two books in the Harpers series instead of three in Mitchell’s. “All pupils having Mitchell’s can exchange them at the store of H. K. Scott for Harpers’ by paying sixty cents for the large and twenty five cents for the small edition,” The Press reports Aug. 23.


Aug. 3, 1886 – The house of Andrew Benedict is broken into and clothing, including four overcoats and a “valuable shawl,” are stolen. “John Taylor, colored, was suspected of the crime and was arraigned before Justice John F. Gilbert, Wednesday, but on investigation, it appeared that the Negro was not the guilty party,” The Press later reports. “He was accordingly discharged, with the strict injunction to return to his home in New Canaan, as he had every appearance of a vagrant.”


Aug. 9, 1886 – The children’s parlor fair at Elm Shade Cottage takes place, with items made by both children and adults for sale. $87 is raised to benefit the Methodist Episcopal Hospital of Brooklyn and the House of the Holy Comforter, described by The New York Times as “the only home for incurables” in New York City.


Aug. 15, 1886 – At 1 a.m., a man walking up Main Street sees flames coming from the porch of the Congregational Church on the village green.   He gives an alarm.  The fire is extinguished before much damage is done. “This was fortunate,” The Press later comments, “for it would be very unpleasant to have it destroyed before a new building is completed.” [The fire is probably set by vandals who know the church is soon to be replaced by the new stone edifice at Main Street and West Lane.]


Aug. 20, 1886 – “The Grand Juror gives notice that all persons who have not destroyed all Canada thistles, wild carrots, and wild parsnips for which they are responsible by the first of next month, will be prosecuted according to law,” reports The Press. [These weeds – the wild carrot is today’s popular wildflower, Queen Ann’s Lace – were the “invasives” of the 1800s, and caused considerable problems for farmers whose fields they invaded. Hence, the state law requiring property owners not to allow such weeds to exist.]


Aug. 21, 1886 – The ladies of St. Stephen’s Church hold a “fair and festival” in the afternoon and evening, with many articles for sale.


September 1886 – Capt. Frank Mix Lovejoy is appointed deputy U.S. marshal for the New Haven District. The Ridgefield native started out his career building carriages in the Big Shop factory on West Lane. After the war, he became an assistant Internal Revenue collector and was then a reporter for The New Haven Courier for many years.


September 1886 – “Ridgefield has a scheme on foot to organize a social club after the style of the Lenox Club. The men who are interested in the project almost guarantee its success. Already more than half of the necessary funds has been pledged. It is proposed to convert a cozy cottage into a club-house with bowling alley, billiard room and bath house attached, and ought, if rightly conducted, as we presume it will be, to make Ridgefield more popular than ever. Greenwich might take a hint and do likewise.” – The Greenwich Graphic


Sept. 3, 1886 – “There is less elmshade at the Elmshade than there was. One of those magnificent elms is totally dead and another is dying. It became necessary because of the danger of falling limbs, to have the branches cut off, which was done last week by W. F. Thomas. It looked as if a small tornado had passed through. It seems very much as if all the old elms in the street will go very soon. We shall miss them, especially the one in front of the hall.” – The Press [This is long before Dutch elm disease arrived to decimate the North American elm population.]


Sept. 10 – The Democratic Town Committee holds a meeting to select delegates to the state convention in New Haven. Chosen are Jonathan F. Gilbert, chairman, D. Smith Sholes, Frank R. Hunt, and E.H. Smith.


Sept. 14, 1886 – The residence of Ebenezer Jones on Kings Ridge, occupied by Emerson Brooks, narrowly escapes destruction by fire. The blaze starts beneath the parlor fireplace, which had been used the night before. Neighbors come to his aid, including General Rufus H. King, who grabs fire extinguishers from his own house. They put out the fire and damage is minor.  “This is another warning to our people that they are insufficiently protected from fire,” The Press says that week. “Do something about a fire company.”


Sept. 15, 1886 – Professor Lewis R. June, a member of a family of circus performers from the area, gives a sleight-of-hand and conjuring performance in the Town Hall. The audience seems pleased with the many tricks performed, The Press later reports. “The little folks were equally pleased. The Demon Skull told quite accurately who in the audience was stricken by Cupid’s darts and it was amazing to see the Professor collect the quarters and half dollars from the hair of the audience. The entertainment was under the auspices of the Sons of Temperance.”


Sept. 17, 1886 – Edward Martin of Georgetown is “terribly mangled under the wheels of a freight train on the Danbury and Norwalk railroad.” The Press describes him as “a shiftless young man, 18 years old.”


Sept. 24, 1886 – Peter Denny of Ridgefield has been noticing his well water has fishy taste. He cleans out the well and finds 60 trout at the bottom. “Then he remembered that he had put a trout in the water three years ago because he had heard that it was a good scheme,” The New York Times reports. “The trout was a female and had spawned, with the result of making the well a fish pond.”


Sept. 30, 1886 – W.S. Elliott, MD, DDS, of Danbury opens a branch dentistry office in Ridgefield. He had previously practiced in New York City.


Oct. 4, 1886 – The Annual Town Meeting as usual elects a Republican Board of Selectmen, with Republican Ebenezer W. Keeler receiving 110 votes, Republican George Boughton, 89, and Democrat William H. Gilbert, 94. Last place loser is Lewis H. Bailey, 87 votes. The Press observes that it was “a quiet day in town. There was but little evidence of an election, if an election is to be judged from the amount of liquor that is drunk. This is a no-license town. There was but one drunken man to be seen on our streets.”


Oct. 6, 1886 – Thomas Parkinson, the gardener for Joshua I. King, shows up at The Press office with “a bunch of bananas grown by him in Mr. King’s hot-house…It is the first time that bananas have matured in Ridgefield, and Mr. Parkinson has proven himself to be an expert in growing tropical fruits.”


Oct. 15, 1886 – The cellar has been dug and the walls are nearly up on the new Congregational Church building at Main Street and West Lane.


Oct. 21, 1886 – E.W. Keeler is digging the cellar for the new Cheesman house on Prospect Ridge. [Today, the stone house is the front of the Prospect Ridge Congregate Housing complex.]


Oct. 22, 1886 – Charles Lockwood of Farmingville has a finger badly injured by the unexpected discharge of a gun. There was no shot in the gun, only a wad.


Oct. 23, 1886 – H.E. Mead holds an auction at Baxter’s Salesroom. Wares include harnesses, whips, halters, surcingles, teas, coffees, spices, scraps, brooms, glassware, tinware, coal hods, knives and forks, shears, butcher knives, silk handkerchiefs, umbrellas, mugs, clocks, glass pitchers, watch chains, shoe brushes, shaving brushes, mirrors, napkins, watches, hammers, saws sleigh bells, and second-hand clothing.


Oct. 23, 1886 – Mrs. Clark Keeler of Ridgefield travels to Bridgeport. While she is at the station, a pickpocket relieves her of $10.


Oct. 25, 1886 – Only a few people attend the first meeting of the Chautauqua Club.


Oct. 30, 1886 – In September, a farm hand named Burdick bites into one of the apples he is gathering for cider. “There was a hole in that apple and within the hole lurked a bee, which stung Burdick on the tongue,” The New York Times reports. “For two or three days he went about feeling that his mouth would have to be enlarged for comfort.”  The swelling dissipates and he was well for two weeks. “Then his trouble returned to him in a curious form,” The Times continues. “Whenever he tries to eat an apple, his tongue swells up and he becomes dreadfully sick….Burdick doesn’t know what to make of the phenomenon, but he has given up apples. His friends think it is a case of overgrown imagination.”


Nov. 2, 1886 – In the state election, Phineas C. Lounsbury of Ridgefield becomes governor of Connecticut.


Nov. 5, 1886 – “The workmen digging the well on Dr. Bennett’s place found a vein of soft material, greasy to the feel, and resembling tallow in consistency,” reports The Press. “It was similar to that found in digging a well on Aaron Lee’s place that gave rise to the story of the finding of oil.”


Nov. 6, 1886 – The town throws a grand party for Phineas Lounsbury, the native son who was elected governor Tuesday. Every house on Main Street is especially brightly lit for an evening parade – canceled by a last-minute thunderstorm. The town hall is packed and the Danbury Band salutes the new leader of the state.


Nov. 13, 1886 – The Rev. Patrick Byrne becomes the second pastor of St. Mary’s Church, serving until 1892.


Nov. 17, 1886 – Mr. Hodges, a lawyer, stages a defense of Richard III in the town hall.


Nov. 19 – New books at the library include Kidnapped, Roland Blake,  Modern Telemachus, Heroes of Science, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Rifted Clouds Or the Life Story of Bella Cooke, a Record of Living Kindness and Tender Mercies, My Young Alcides, and Tent and Harem: Notes of An Oriental Trip.


Nov. 25, 1886 – Thanksgiving Day is stormy through the Northeast, and many family gatherings are cancelled in Ridgefield.


Nov. 26 –The Board of Assessors, cut from five to three members by the previous Annual Town Meeting, begins its work of compiling the grand list of taxable properties.


Dec. 6, 1886 – The funeral of Mrs. Fred DeForest takes place at the Methodist Church. She had died Saturday.  “For some months,” The Press reports later, “she had exhibited signs of insanity, and had become so bad that preparations were being made to send her to the state asylum. She refused all nourishment and medication, and sank rapidly.”


Dec. 17, 1886 – The Press remarks on the new weather vane on Louis Valden’s barn in Titicus. “Besides being an ornament it is of great use…. It will keep the good people of Titicus posted in a truth that all want to know – that is, which way the wind blows – so they can prepare for emergencies.” The vane is described as “representing a jockey sitting on his sulky, holding the ribbons over a fast steed that looks as though he would best the wind in every race. It is finely gilded and painted, and is certainly very appropriate for a barn.”


Dec. 17, 1886 – There’s a new hotel operator in town. “Ridgefield has not had in several years a hotel kept up to the standard which the place and times demand,” The Press maintains. “The Ridgefield Hotel [Keeler Tavern] once justly had a wide and enviable reputation – none had better. Its genial landlord [Abijah Resseguie] was famed for the excellent cheer he gave his guests. But since he has borne the weight of four score years, he has become more and more inclined to close his doors. …We believe that Mr. Thompson, who has recently purchased the Dykeman House, knows how to keep a hotel and will do so…Mr. Thompson will not enlarge the house at once, although we feel that he would make no mistake in so doing. He would find no difficulty in filling it.”


Dec. 24, 1886 – Tobogganing has become all the rage in Connecticut, The Press reports. Many “toboggan slides” are being set up. “At present the depot hill [Prospect Street area] seems to be the only tobogganing slide in Ridgefield, and half bare ground at that.”


Dec. 25, 1886 – It is Christmas, but at the Episcopal Church at least, the holy day is hardly noticed by parishioners. “The audience was not large at St. Stephen’s church last Saturday, neither was the church very warm,” The Press observes, “yet all who were there must have felt repaid by the singing and the excellent sermon by Rev. Mr. Henry, who took for his theme, ‘Christ, the Light of the World.’ It was a very fine discourse.”


Jan. 6, 1887 – Gov. Phineas C. Lounsbury is inaugurated in Hartford as the 53rd governor of Connecticut since 1639.


Jan. 14, 1887 – Miss Bertha Lee moves to Bridgeport to study stenography.


Jan. 21, 1887 – “An accident which might have proven very serious occurred to Solomon Mills the other day,” The Press reports. “While drawing a load of ice, he fell from the load and narrowly escaped being run over by the sleigh. He escaped with slight injury to his shoulder.”


Feb. 11, 1887 – S.F. Main has added sewing machines to his business on Bailey Avenue, including the “New White, a perfect working machine.” [In 1858, Thomas H. White, a 22-year-old machinist with only $350 to his name, founded White Sewing Machine Company in Massachusetts to produce small, hand-operated sewing machines.  The company still exists today, producing an array of sophisticated sewing machines that would have astounded the 1887 homemaker.]


Feb. 11, 1887 – The House of Representatives passes a bill incorporating the Ridgefield Club. It awaits the signature of the governor who, since he is P.C. Lounsbury of Ridgefield, is certain to sign.


Feb. 25, 1887 – Ridgefield farmers are offering eggs at 20 cents a dozen. Since 20 cents then is around $4.50 now, that was a high price.


March 2, 1887 – Governor Phineas Lounsbury nominates his neighbor, William O. Seymour of Ridgefield, as state railroad commissioner. Mr. Seymour has been chief engineer for the New York and New Haven Railroad for nine years.


March 4, 1887 – “All the telegraph poles on the new line have been labeled ‘Am. Tel. & Tel. Co.’ and consecutively numbered,” The Press reports. “The one near the Catholic cemetery is numbered 2020. It will not do for anybody to take them for walking sticks or bean poles. If they do, their sin will find them out.”


March 5, 1887 – An auction at the home of the late James Gilbert in Titicus sells off household furniture, garden tools, a sled, a wagon, and more. Gilbert had died Feb. 6, less than a month earlier, at the age of 83.


March 6, 1887 – That afternoon Charles Brown is driving his sleigh across the tracks at Branchville when one of the runners catches on the rail and the sleigh overturns. The horse does not bolt and Mr. Brown escapes injury.


March 8, 1887 – The Lenten Sewing Circle at St. Stephen’s Church meets that afternoon at the rectory. “The ladies are hard at work with the thread and needle for the poor and needy,” The Press observes.


March 11, 1887 – 19-year-old Frank R. Hoyt decides to take his parents’ carriage out for a Friday evening spin around town. On his return, he is pulling into the family driveway when one of the wheels strikes a stone abutment, overturning the carriage and throwing the young man against a stone wall, killing him instantly.  His parents, Warren and Bridget Hoyt, had been waiting up for him to return, and discover the bloody body of their only child only a short distance from their front door.  A year earlier, Frank was nearly killed in a fall from his milk wagon, and underwent a long recuperation.  “It is a sad lesson of the uncertainties of life,” The Press observes.


March 30, 1887 – The Ladies Home Missionary Society meets at the home of Mrs. Phillip Barhite.


March 30, 1887 – At the Congregational Church, the Snowflake Mission Circle gives “an entertainment” that includes singing, recitations and “a few scenes from foreign countries.”  Foreign costumes from Boston have been rented, “which will add to the interest of the exercises,” The Press says. Admission is 10 cents.


April 1887 – E.C. Bross is hired as editor of The Ridgefield Press.


April 1, 1887 – D. Crosby Baxter has begun delivering Sunday papers here before 7 a.m. “It will be possible to read all the important news before church time,” The Press observes.


April 1, 1887 – Town library hours are Wednesdays from 3 to 4, and Saturdays from 7 to 8 p.m.


April 2, 1887 – Henry Mead, William Crofut, Eugene Keeler, and Mrs. F. B. Daniels are arrested and charged with illegal liquor selling in dry Ridgefield. The town retains J. Belden Hurlbutt of Norwalk to prosecute the cases. They all appear before Judge Hiram K. Scott in town court. Mead bargains a fine of $30 plus costs on one count. Mrs. Daniels and Mr. Keeler are found guilty and fined $35 and $30 respectively; both say they will appeal to Superior Court. Crofut is “let off with costs.”  “Probably no crusade against illicit liquor-selling has created such agitation of the public mind in this town...” The Press says of the cases.


April 8, 1887 – Hoyt Brothers is selling shoulder steak for 12 cents a pound.


April 10, 1887 – Joel Rockwell is on his way home from church this Sunday when his horse takes fright and bolts, breaking the whiffletree [part of the mechanism connecting the horse to the wagon]. Mr. Rockwell jumps from his wagon, hoping to grab hold of the horse, but fails. The horse runs off with the wagon, containing Mr. Rockwell’s daughters. In going around the sharp curve on West Mountain Road near the old lime kiln, the girls are thrown out. Both are injured, but not seriously.


April 15, 1887 – S.O Seymour’s home in Flat Rock District has been twice entered by burglars recently, The Press reports. They steal pillows, clothing, crockery and many other articles. “Some method should be adopted by the town authorities for the protection of our citizens against petty thieving,” The Press declares.


April 16, 1887 – Abijah Resseguie, who had operated the Ridgefield Hotel for more than 60 years in what is now the Keeler Tavern, dies at the age of 96. [See also March 26, 1791.]


April 27, 1887 – A tree being is being cut down in front of Seymour and Barhite’s store on Main Street. A rope around the trunk is supposed to control the fall, but fails, and tree crashes through the window of the store. Inside is a safe that had been left open; the tree trunk hits the open door and rips it off. Only moments before L.C. Seymour had been seated at a desk next to the safe. He “escaped death by a hair’s breadth,” said The Press.


May 6 – “Willis Gilbert attracts considerable attention on our streets riding a handsome bicycle,” notes The Press.


May 6, 1887 – H.E. Mead purchases 185 dozen fresh eggs from various sources in town. The wagon load of them is parked in front of Samuel D. Keeler’s store on Main Street when Tommy Barrett, a teenager, attempts to back out a team that was hitched next to Mr. Mead’s wagon. A wheel of Barrett’s wagon catches on a Mead wheel, overturning Mr. Mead’s wagon. Only a handful of the 2,220 eggs survive what The Press calls an “expensive eggs-ident.”


May 8, 1887 – Her husband out-of-town, Mrs. Jared Ritch discovers her house on fire. Being in a remote section of West Mountain with no close neighbors, there is little she can do except grab a few belongings and watch the house burn to the ground.


May 23, 1887 – The Chautauqua Circle meets at the home of Miss Reba Northrop to discuss astronomy and Longfellow’s poetry.


May 30, 1887 – The town’s elaborate observance of Memorial Day includes something special this year: The presence of and a speech by the governor of Connecticut. He’s Ridgefielder Phineas C. Lounsbury, of course.


June 1, 1887 – Levi Dann’s family wants to have some greens for dinner and one member goes out and picks what is thought to be “milk weed.” The dish is prepared, but proves unsavory and no one will eat it. Meanwhile, the waste weed parts have been thrown to the pigs, and soon they are discovered to be sick from eating the greens. One dies. “Care should be given in gathering anything out of the ordinary line of vegetables,” The Press editor warns. “It was a very narrow escape for the family.”


June 1, 1887 – Fairfield County High Sheriff Clarks swears in T.C. White of Ridgefield as a deputy.


June 7, 1887 – Henry Fecks of Scotland District is arraigned before Judge John F. Gilbert on charges of felonious assault, filed by David Dykeman and Smith Burt. He pleads guilty. The Press reports he “was furnished with a free ride to Danbury in the company of Sheriff White, where for the next 60 days he will be lodged and boarded at the expense of the county.”


June 17, 1887 – Dr. D.L. Adams, one of the town’s leading citizens, puts his Main Street house up for sale. He plans to move closer to his sons, who will be attending school in New Haven.


June 24, 1887 – A. Newbold Morris of High Ridge has purchased an elegant new coach from the Ridgefield Carriage Factory. The coach is being painted by Judge John F. Gilbert, and upholstered by Sylvester Smith.


June 24, 1887 – Whipstick School’s 32 scholars have their closing exercises that include the presentation to teacher Miss Sarah E. Stone of a nine-volume set of the works of Washington Irving. Afterward, strawberries and cake are enjoyed by all.


June 26, 1887 – Phoebe J. Thompson of Titicus, described by The Press as “an ideal mother” who was well-known in the community, dies of acute Brights’ disease at the age of 34.


July 1, 1887 – The pupils of the Center School stage their annual “entertainment,” which includes dialogues, essays, declamations, class work. Admission is only 15 cents.


July 6, 1887 – Harriet Hawley Lawton, a 67-year-old widow, dies. Dr. W. S. Todd, the medical examiner, says the cause of death is “overwork.” It is the only death in the 19th Century records attributed to that cause.


July 8, 1887 – Recent titles acquired at the Ridgefield Library include: A Tramp Trip: How to See Europe on 50 Cents A Day, A Passionate Pilgrim, Round the World by A Boy, In the Clouds, The Prophet of the Snowy Mountains, Men Who Saved the Union, and Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott.


July 11, 1887 – Eight-year-old Starr Lent, son of Fred Lent of Branchville, is playing on the branch line tracks this evening near Webb’s Crossing when he is struck by the last train to Ridgefield. He left arm is run over and the boy is placed on the train and rushed to the office of Dr. W. S. Todd in the village. With Dr. Perry assisting, the arm is amputated above the elbow. “Another sad example of the fate in store for children who persist in playing on the rail road track,” The Press observes.


July 19, 1887 – Forty New York City children, spending two weeks in North Salem as part of the Fresh Air program, are treated to a party at Amos Sherwood’s grove at Lake Mamanasco.


July 24, 1887 – A young man named Knapp rents a horse and phaeton from Whitlock’s livery stable on Catoonah Street. When they are returned, the phaeton is found to be “in a dilapidated condition” after apparently having been involved in a crash. M.B. Whitlock reports young Mr. Knapp has not appeared to pay for the damage.


July 30, 1887 – Joshua I. King, a leading citizen and businessman in town for many decades, dies at the age of 85. The Press calls him a “living landmark.” He is the son of General Joshua King, Revolutionary War officer who lead Major John Andre to the gallows. [See Aug. 13, 1839.]


Aug. 12, 1887 – The clubhouse of the Ridgefield Club is nearly complete, but already in use for bowling.


Aug. 19, 1887 – M. B. Whitlock reports his livery stable has 35 vehicles available for rent, including pleasure wagons, canopy-tops, surreys, and top-buggies.


Aug. 26, 1887 – Surveyors are at work on East Ridge, planning the widening of Prospect Avenue.


Aug. 28, 1887 – The Methodist Sunday School has its summer picnic at Roton Point in Norwalk. The group goes by train from Branchville, a 23-minute ride each way.


Sept. 2, 1887 – This afternoon, The Press Nine plays the Danbury Club at baseball on the fairgrounds off Wilton Road West. The Press comes up the winner, 9 to 5.  “The players of both nines, although they are considered good baseballists, were out of practice, none of them having played to any great extent during the present season.” Among members of The Press team is the Rev. W.W. Leete of the First Congregational Church, who plays left field.


Sept. 2, 1887 – Former State Rep. Jonathan Holmes loses the key to his front door. Three days later, he finds it where he had hitched his horses by the town hall. Two weeks earlier, Mr. Holmes came home from a Sons of Temperance meeting carrying several packages and a two dollar bill. At home he discovered the money missing. The next day he retraced his steps and found the bill lying in the middle of the walk on Catoonah Street opposite the Methodist Church. “Few people are so lucky,” The Press observes.


Sept. 5, 1887 – The district schools reopen today after summer vacations, and the popular Miss Lucia M. Alvord returns to her third year as principal of the Center School.


Sept. 9, 1887 – A concert and recital takes place in the Town Hall to raise money for the new Congregational church under construction. Mrs. H.C. Kroh, who has been spending the summer in Ridgefield, gives several recitations of Shakespeare and other noted authors. She has done similar programs in Washington, Newark and New York. Admission is 50 cents; reserved seats go for $1.


Sept. 16, 1887 – “Work on the new street was commenced this week. It is to be a broad, well-built avenue, and when finished, should be called Governor Street.” – The Press


Sept. 26, 1887 – Professor Emile Rigal leaves for New Haven after spending the summer in Ridgefield, teaching French to classes and individual students.


Sept. 26, 1887 – Albin “Boss” Jennings dies. A Ridgefield native, he was the town’s leading carpenter and the home he built in 1816 for his bride became in the 20th Century the Outpost Inn on Danbury Road.  Jennings, who was 96, had lived during the administration of all the presidents of the United States.


Oct. 21, 1887 – Dr. W. S. Todd of Ridgefield is named a post surgeon. “All persons between the ages of 18 and 45 years desiring exemption from military duty and commutation tax, by reason of mental or physical disability,” are required to be examined by a post surgeon to receive certification.


Nov. 4, 1887 – More than two million pounds of freight is being transferred each month at the Ridgefield railroad depot, and The Press complains that “we badly need greater facilities for handling freight. The two tracks are insufficient for the business, and their crowded condition greatly impedes the proper and speedy handling of material.”


Nov. 11, 1887 – St. Steven’s vestry votes to buy the home of the late Keeler Dauchy, a pillar of the church, to use as a rectory. The house, which stood in front of the present rectory, was moved around 1914 to its present location, opposite the firehouse, serving retail and office uses. In 2007-08, the building is extensively renovated.


Nov. 18, 1887–H. E. Mead advertises that he “has on hand a large stock of pork, cider and other barrels; also firkins, which he is disposing of at reduced rates to close out.”


Nov. 19, 1887 – Peter P. Cornen, who made a fortune discovering oil in Pennsylvania, believes that Ridgefield is situated over an oil field of “considerable magnitude.” A public meeting takes place to discuss forming the Ridgefield Oil and Gas Heating and Gas Lighting Company to begin drilling. Cash capital of $12,500 is sought to buy equipment needed to sink a shaft 2,000 feet down. Nothing ever happens.


Nov. 25, 1887 – The Ridgefield Division of the Sons of Temperance celebrate their fifth anniversary.


Dec. 1, 1887 – Winter is coming early. The temperature in town drops to six degrees above zero.


Dec. 5, 1887 –  A. Newbold Morris of High Ridge and Manhattan gives a grand ball at Delmonico’s in New York City for the debut of his daughter, Miss Eva Van Courtlandt Morris. It’s widely covered by city daily newspapers.


Dec. 16, 1887 – About 30 couples attend the first of the season’s balls in the town hall and dance into the week hours to the music of the Davis Brothers.


Dec. 17, 1887 – The first snow of the season blankets the town and brings out the sleighs and sleigh bells. It presages much, much more snow to come.


Dec. 23, 1887 – “It has been demonstrated beyond question that winter is here,” The Press observes. “George Washington Gilbert has donned his boots.” [Mr. Gilbert, the hermit of Ridgefield, was barefoot most of the year.]


Dec. 30, 1887 – Samuel Beers butchers a 580-pound pig for Selectman William H. Gilbert.


Jan. 6, 1888 – “Lounsbury Avenue is being rapidly pushed through, and it will be a decided convenience to those wishing to go to East Ridge from Main Street speedily,” The Press says of what we now call Governor Street.


Jan. 12, 1888 – Lewis June, who had been involved in circuses for many years, dies at the age of 64 at his home in Scotland District. He had been one of the owners of P.T. Barnum’s “Greatest Show on Earth.”


Jan. 22, 1888 – The temperature reaches 10 degrees below zero at the Corner Store at West Lane and Main Street, but other parts of town record minus-14. The coldest it got the previous winter was minus 6.


Jan. 26, 1888 – A locomotive at Branchville frightens a span of horses owned by future governor George Lounsbury. The horses run, throwing the driver headlong into a snow bank and wrecking the sleigh. The horses are eventually recovered unharmed.


Jan. 27, 1888 – J.W. Rockwell says Ridgefield needs a creamery and can support one, pointing out that more than 800 cows live in Ridgefield and nearby South Salem.  [A creamery would take farmers’ milk, turn it into butter, cream and skim milk, and sell those products – relieving the farmer of those tasks – and most farmers then were throwing out the skim milk.


Feb. 10, 1888 – The Golden Star Lodge of Good Templars has organized in Ridgefield.


Feb. 17, 1888 – L.H. Bailey has erected a new building on Main Street and S.D. Keeler moves his store into the premises. The Odd Fellows will soon occupy upstairs quarters. [The building in 2008 houses Deborah Ann’s Sweet Shop.]


Feb. 20, 1888 – A crew of 16 men from the American Telegraph and Telephone Company are in town, adding three more wires on the telephone poles to increase service. There are now 31 wires on the poles in the center area of town.


March 1888 – The Magazine of American History publishes an article, “Historic Cannon Balls and Houses: The British Invasion of Connecticut in 1777,” that includes many pictures of Ridgefield scenes.


March 11-13, 1888 – The Blizzard of ‘88 hits Ridgefield, isolating the town for four days. At least two feet of snow falls, but wind creates banks as high as 20 feet across some roads.


March 17, 1888 – The Press publishes a special, small-sized, two-page “Blizzard Edition,” on with stacked headlines over the storm story: “A Howling Blizzard! The Storm Rages Furiously for Two Days! Cities and Towns Paralyzed! Ridgefield Shut Off from Outer World for Nearly a Week! Traffic on All Roads at a Standstill! Ridgefield Fortunate! She Escapes the Terrible Human Sufferings Experienced Elsewhere. Cheering News from New York and Other Points.”


March 20-21, 1888 – So much rain falls on top of the huge amount of snow remaining from the blizzard that there are fears of serious flooding.


March 30, 1888 – “Our selectmen did nobly in the recent snow blockade and opened the roads as rapidly as they could,” The Press observed. “Not fast enough to suit those who waited to be shoveled out, but we presume those are the very ones who at the annual meeting will complain the most loudly of extravagance. It is not pleasant to be the servants of the public.”


April 2, 1888 – Mabel Nickerson and Elmer Leason, both 4 years old, disappear, causing their mothers to be frantic and searchers to gather. Some hours later, the children are found barefoot, locked in the hen house where a door had slammed shut behind them.  The Press quotes young Elmer: “We tood not det out; we toot off our boots to trawl frew de hole,” but they couldn’t fit.


April 6, 1888 – “Mr. William Rasco, who over-worked himself during the blizzard week, causing a hemorrhage of the lungs, is again able to be about,” The Press reports.


April 14, 1888 – Aaron B. Gilbert buys the old tannery buildings in Titicus from the heirs of D. Harvey Valden, and plans to convert the better buildings into tenements.


April 15, 1888 – A large gathering greets the Rev. John L. Peck, new pastor of the Methodist Church, who at morning and evening services preaches “two forcible and pointed sermons, and the verdict is unanimous that the conference has appointed a pastor who is a conscientious worker, a scholar in the pulpit and a gentleman in every action with mankind,” The Press later observes.


May 13, 1888 – The Rev. William W. Leete tells his congregation that he is leaving his post as minister of the First Congregational Church.


May 19, 1888 – Dr. W. E. Weed makes a house call in Flat Rock. As he prepares to get back in his buggy, the horse is spooked and takes off toward the village, leaving the doctor behind. The buggy is wrecked, but the horse is uninjured, as is the doctor.


May 30, 1888 – Though it has been raining several days, skies clear for the town’s Memorial Day exercises that feature Governor Phineas Lounsbury as chief speaker – even though he is suffering from a severe cold.


June 6, 1888 – A huge stone, weighing several tons, passes down Main Street, drawn by five pair of oxen, on its way to the construction site of the new First Congregational Church.


July 15, 1888 – The last service in the old meeting house on the green talks place. The pulpit is decorated with “a profusion of flowers,” church notes report. The next week, services take place in the new church.


Aug. 13, 1888 – To raise money to provide a house for the parish priest, St. Mary’s has its first “fair,” which begins today and lasts evenings through the week. The event includes a raffle of a $20 gold piece, a sewing machine, and an engagement ring.


Aug. 19, 1888 – The new bell at the new First Congregational Church tolls for the first time. The old bell is sold for “old bell metal.”


Aug. 25, 1888 – Dr. Archibald Y. Paddock of Main Street joins his 18-year-old son, Harry, in their favorite activity, target shooting, in a nearby field. Something goes amiss, and Dr. Paddock accidentally shoots and kills his son. When he sees what he has done, he turns the gun on himself. Dr. Paddock’s body is found fallen across the body of his son. Deputy Coroner Albert M. Tallmadge rules Dr. Paddock’s death was caused by “temporary insanity.”  [Dr. Paddock was one of Ridgefield’s leading citizens and had been treasurer of the First Congregational Church.]


Sept. 23, 1888 – Today, Sunday, is the last of 13 straight days on which it has rained in town.


November 1888 – The Ansonia Sentinel reports: “This is going to be a cold winter. When George Washington Gilbert, the only true and genuine hermit in Fairfield County, with hundreds of testimonials from respected citizens, goes barefooted until Nov. 1st, a mild winter can be looked for. If he dons his shoes Oct. 1st, it is a sure sign of blizzards to come. As he began to wear shoes about that time this year, The Ridgefield Press has taken in its thermometer and is putting weather strips on its back door.”


1889 – Lucius Horatio Biglow buys a house on Main Street, revamps the place and names it Graeloe. In 1964, his daughter, Elizabeth Biglow Ballard, dies, leaving the land to the town. Today it is Ballard Park.


March 1, 1889 – The Rev. Foster Ely becomes rector of St. Stephen’s Church, serving until 1906 – the longest term of any pastor in the 19th Century. His starting salary was $1,000 a year. Dr. Ely was a cousin of S.G. Goodrich, the Ridgefield Congregational minister’s son who became the famous 19th Century author, Peter Parley.


March 12, 1889 – Susan Bailey turns 100. She walks about the house without assistance, eats three meals a day, makes her own bed, and cleans her own room.  She dies exactly one month later, having lived more than a century in the same house in which she was born.


July 20, 1889 – “The people here are enjoying themselves with rowing, fishing, and driving, and visiting the Ridgefield hermit, George Washington Gilbert, who lives on stale bread in an old farmhouse, goes barefoot, and recites page after page of Homer and Virgil,” The New York Times reports. “Mr. A. Newbold Morris is one of Ridgefield’s best drivers and always has a splendid team of blooded horses. Mrs. Gen. Rufus H. King of Albany, N.Y., is a most fearless horsewoman, while Mrs. Henry A. McHarg of New York City is often seen driving here with her family. At the Ridgefield Club, Dr. William F. Cushman of New York is the champion billiardist….”


July 28, 1889 – The Main Street mansion of J. Howard King, millionaire president of the National Bank of New York, burns to the ground. Described by the New York Times as “the grandest old mansion in the village,” it had been built in the late 1700s by General Joshua King, “who figured prominently in the arrest of Major Andre.”  The loss is estimated at $25,000 [around $575,000 today].


Sept. 7, 1889 – “The great event of the week here has been the Masonic Fair, under the auspices of Jerusalem Lodge, No. 49, A.F. and A. M.,” reports The New York Times. “The summer residents have been generous patrons, and the fair has drawn hundreds of people from all parts of the county.”


Sept. 22, 1889 – The Rev. John Winthrop Ballantine becomes minister of the First Congregational Church.



1890 – The census finds 2,235 people in Ridgefield, about the same population that was here in 1820 and 200 more than 10 years earlier.


1890 – Charles Wade Walker establishes “Walker’s Happy Shop” on Main Street. It lasts 35 years and at one point advertises its wares as “Toys to make the kiddies happy, sweets to make the ladies happy, and smokes to make the men happy.”


June 20, 1890 – J.O. Poole buys the Dyckman House, operated on Main Street for about 10 years. He changes the name to The Ridgefield Inn. Six years later, Lydia Ruggles takes it over and changes the name to Oreneca Inn. In 1903, S.S. Denton buys the place and years later moves it to High Ridge, near the church, where it still stands. The Main Street site becomes Odd Fellows Hall and, in 2008, is stores, including the Toy Chest.


Sept. 21, 1890 – Eva Hoyt, age 2, dies of cholera.


October 1890 – After years of meetings voting down the sale of alcohol in town, the Annual Town Meeting votes to allow license, 132-123.  It lasts but a year.


Oct. 1, 1890 – On this day, according to the Grand List, the town has 555 houses valued at $642,869 [about $14,640,000 in today’s dollars]. There are 31 mills, stores, distilleries and manufactories; 478 horses; 1,470 neat cattle; and 148 “coaches, carries and pleasure wagons.” In all, the town has $1,263,000 in taxable property [about $29 million today].



Jan. 2, 1891 – Charles F. Pearson, an Englishman who met Miss Sarah Keeler of Ridgefield in New York several years earlier, married her, and moved to Ridgefield, leaves home ostensibly to dine with “his old sea captain,” and to collect bills owed to his wife for laundry work. He disappears. Days later his wife finds he collected $40 and borrowed more from several people. Rumors around town say he either fell off his old ship and drowned or “shipped to a foreign shore.”


Jan. 21, 1891 – The Liquor License Commission meets in the Town House and grants Hiram Cobleigh of Branchville a license to sell alcohol.


Jan. 30, 1891 – “Two large sleigh loads of Danburians made a trip to Ridgefield Tuesday evening and took supper at the popular Ridgefield Inn,” The Press reports. “Landlord Poole has a reputation for setting a first-class table, which will doubtless lead many outsiders to enjoy the drive to Ridgefield during the present good sleighing.”


Feb. 3, 1891 – A barn, wagon house and lumber shed in Branchville, owned by L.L. Valden and leased to Postmaster Couch, burns to the ground in a “suspicious” fire. A colt and some chickens die, sleighs burn, but Mr. Couch’s nearby post office and store are saved.


Feb. 7, 1891 – The New York World runs a story about the disappearance of Charles F. Pearson [Jan. 2, 1891], describing him as “a young Englishman of gracious manners and ready tongue.” Interest in Ridgefield was “heightened by the further discovery, as was believed, that a young Danbury woman was also missing, and the inference was that it was an elopement.”


Feb. 13, 1891 – Barhite and Stevens store is having a sale on men’s all-wool flannels – some now sell for $1 instead of $1.20 – at and below cost. Also on sale are “ladies’ and children’s hoods, nubias, and toboggans.”


Feb. 27, 1891 – “Postmaster Couch has done a laudable thing to forbid profanity in the postoffice” in Branchville, The Press reports.


Feb. 28, 1891 – The missing Charles Pearson [Jan. 2] suddenly reappears, after walking from Norwalk to Ridgefield this night. “His personal appearance indicates that he has gone through some very unpleasant experiences,” says The Press later. Pearson himself says nothing, except that he is “sane.” Friends point out that a year earlier, “Pearson was struck on the head by a heavy saw horse, which stunned him and laid him up for several days, and subsequently his friends aver he had at times complained of strange feelings about the head.”


March 2, 1891 – Mr. and Mrs. Henry E. Hawley, whose summer mansion here is nearly completed, come to Ridgefield for the day. “The new summer residence is one of the finest in the village,” The Press report.  The house, called Ashton Croft, is now Wesley Hall, behind the Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church.


March 16, 1891 – Mrs. Nellie E. Middlebrook, elocutionist and “a graduate of oratory,” gives an evening of readings at Bailey’s Hall, benefiting the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor at the Congregational Church. {Bailey’s Hall was in the Bailey Inn, no longer standing, on Main Street across from the First Church of Christ, Scientist.)


March 25, 1891 – D. F. Bedient, who has been studying the science of embalming for the past six months, goes to New York City for final instructions at St. Mary’s Hospital.


March 26, 1891 – John McClintock, 17, is arrested in Danbury for stealing the watch of a Ridgefield farmer several days earlier.


March 29, 1891 – It is Easter Sunday, and the Rev. John L. Peck delivers his farewell sermon at the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Peck, minister there for three years, notes that his very first sermon as a clergyman was given on an Easter Sunday.


April 1891 – Work begins on a new telephone company in Ridgefield.


April 8, 1891 – Luman Davis buys Alvah Jerman’s blacksmith business, located in the Big Shop, and will continue to operate both his own and the new shops.


April 27, 1891 – Titicus School reopens after having been closed a while due to the serious illness of its teacher, W. J. Betts, who has recovered.


May 1, 1891 – Conrad Rockelein, “the tonsorial artist,” moves to new quarters above Hibbart’s Market on Main Street.


May 6, 1891 – Twenty couples attend a “social dance” in the town hall that lasts till the wee hours of the morning.


May 8, 1891 – L.D. Whitlock of 7 Catoonah Street has a second-hand bicycle for sale for $10. It has 38-inch wheels.


May 12, 1891 – The disheveled widow of Charles Burt rushes into Nash & Mead’s store in Titicus, screaming. She is followed by Albert Burt, her boarder, brandishing a pistol. He points the gun at her, but she knocks his hand away. A fight ensues, then suddenly stops. The man sits down on a sugar barrel and weeps, “She don’t love me. She will not love me! I wanted to kill her and then I’d have shot myself.” Burt is a cousin of his landlady’s late husband. Neighbors claim an “off-color” relationship exists between them, and demand action from authorities.


May 14, 1891 – As if Mrs. Archibald Y. Paddock hadn’t had enough problems in her life [Aug. 25, 1888], thieves break in her Main Street home and make off with a feather bed, five pillows, a set of cups and saucers, a clock, and a lamp – worth $50 in all.


May 18, 1891 – Allie Glenn arrives in Easton, Pa., on a solo bicycle trip he is making from Ridgefield to Virginia. It is his 17th birthday.


May 22, 1891 – Charles Couch has installed a steam engine in his Branchville mine, The Press reports.


May 27, 1891 – Bicyclist Allie Glenn arrives in Harper’s Ferry, W.Va.


May 29, 1891 – Rufus K. McHarg, a leading real estate agent in New York who specializes in finding summer homes for wealthy city people, complains to The Press, “I could rent more houses in Ridgefield if they had the conveniences of city houses in one particular – closets.”


May 30, 1891 – The Rev. Foster Ely of St. Stephen’s Church is principal speaker at Memorial Day exercises in town hall, after which there is a parade to the cemetery where the graves of the dead soldiers are decorated.


June 3, 1891 – Bicyclist Allie Glenn writes home from Roanoke, Va.


June 5, 1891 – “Prof. Bishop, oculist optician, of New York, will be at the Loder House one week, commencing Monday, June 8. Sight thoroughly tested with advice gratis.” – ad in The Press


June 16, 1891 – Will Barrett and Michael Delaney get into a noisy fist fight over a “fair damsel” at 11 p.m. on Main Street, prompting Richard Osborn to yell out his window, “I’ll have all of you arrested! You’ll frighten the ladies, you scoundrels.”


June 26, 1891 – George Tefft is awarded the King gold medal for excellence in scholarship and attendance during the closing exercises of the Center School.


July 1, 1891 – Dr. Austin Scott, new president of Rutgers College in New Brunswick, N.J., begins renting the T.A. Tefft house for the summer. Dr. Scott is a cousin of Judge Hiram K. Scott of Ridgefield.


September 1891 – Long-distance telephone service in Ridgefield begins.  “It certainly works well,” The Press reports. “There is no trouble talking with New York and Albany.”


Sept. 15, 1891 – Mrs. P.M. Bryson opens a kindergarten school in town and during the next five years, teaches a total of 123 children.


Oct. 6, 1891 – The Annual Town Meeting reinstates the ban on alcohol sales by a vote of 296 to 56, the biggest margin ever recorded in the many votes on the issue.



March 10, 1892 – Gould Rockwell dies. A longtime vestryman at St. Stephen’s, he leaves the church $8,000 in his will.


April 10, 1892 – Timothy O. Scott, 95, a farmer, dies of “exposure to cold.”


May 31, 1892 – Elizabeth Knoche, the 68-year-old wife of prolific Weir Farm mason Joseph Knoche, dies of typhoid fever.


June 9, 1892 – The Rev. Joseph O’Keefe becomes the third pastor of St. Mary’s Church, serving a year.




March 4, 1893 – Alonzo B. Sutton, 46, a farmer, is killed in a railroad accident.


May 30, 1893 – The Rev. Richard E. Shortell becomes the fourth pastor of St. Mary’s Parish. He remains for 41 years, by far the longest-serving and most influential pastor St. Mary’s has ever had. He serves as a clergyman here longer than any other of any church.


June 1893 – A new post office opens in Lewis H. Bailey’s building on Main Street [Deborah Ann’s Sweet Shop in 2008]. The Ridgefield Savings Bank shares the office.


July 11, 1893 – Frank Stockvis, a New York City salesman summering with his family in Ridgefield, suddenly disappears. A month later, a store in South Dakota telegrams his former employer, seeking references for Mr. Stockvis. “He had no reason to conceal anything from me,” his wife bitterly tells a reporter. “He never even hinted of any intention to go West.”


August 1893 – The talk of the town is the case of J. Wesley Edmonds, 26, who has been arrested and jailed for nearly a year for allegedly threatening to burn the barn of George M. Webb of Ridgefield. The arrest was made based on evidence supplied by one person – Edmonds’ father, whom a court years ago had ruled was insane. The younger Edmonds says there is a conspiracy among his relatives to keep him in jail. He is unable to post bond, but various newspapers – including The New York Times – take up his cause.


Aug. 26, 1893 – Henry W. Keeler volunteers to help clean up the West Lane schoolhouse grounds, including blasting out rocks. He lights a fuse, but it appears to go out. As he approaches to relight the fuse, the powder explodes, knocking Mr. Keeler unconscious for several hours. He is badly burned but survives.


Aug. 28, 1893 – Officer Powers arrests Pat Gehan for assault, breach of the peace, and intoxication, and hauls him before Judge Gilbert.  He pleads guilty and is fined $3 plus costs, amounting to $22.40. Judge Gilbert assures him that, “on a repetition of the offense, like leniency need not be expected,” The Press reports.


September 1893 – Jacob Lockwood sells St. Mary’s Parish land on the corner of Catoonah Street and High Ridge for a new church and rectory. The price is $2,750.


Sept. 3, 1893 – Jerry Crystonan, a laborer on the estate of Henry deB. Schenck on Florida Hill Road, shoots 14-year-old Frank Caspera. The Press describes Crystonan as “nearly six feet tall, with heavy dark moustache and flat fierce-looking face, peculiarly scarred on the chin, his countenance presenting sharply the Italian underhand cunning that will stab in the dark.”  The Press adds, “It is said that Crystonan is a member of the dreaded Mafia, and had sworn vengeance against the uncle of the boy he shot, because the uncle had testified against him, the testimony sending him to prison for several years.”


Sept. 15, 1893 – “The Tefft cottage on High Ridge, a very charming situation, is still on the real estate market,” The Press reports. “This will make a most desirable summer home for somebody. Good water and the neighborhood is the best. The terms reasonable and the figures low.” [“Cottage,” of course, was the contemporary word for what later generations would call a mansion.]


Sept. 21, 1893 – “A movement has been inaugurated during the past month by Mrs. A. Newbold Morris, and heartily seconded by Mrs. P. M. Bryson, for the establishment of a cooking school, together with a sewing class, for growing girls, to be open in Ridgefield during the winter months,” The Press reports. “A competent teacher from New York will be in charge.”


Sept. 29, 1893 – The town’s 14 schoolhouses have enrollments ranging from 13 children (North Ridgebury) to 103 (Center). The cost per pupil ranges from $8.01 a year at West Lane, which has 35 scholars, to $13.80 at Florida, which has 17.


Oct. 3, 1893 – Voters decide that “the riding of bicycles on the side walks of the Main Street from the Olcott house [Casagmo] to the New Inn [the Ridgefield Inn at the south end of the street], so called, be and the same is hereby prohibited, and any person violating this by law shall be fined five dollars.”


Oct. 4, 1893 – At nearly midnight, someone drives a team up to the front of Dr. Cushman’s house on Main Street, enters the doctor’s garden and proceeds to load his vehicle with the doctor’s vegetables, including cauliflower, cabbages, celery, and beets. Dr. Cushman is at home and, though he does not sleep well that night, never hears the thief.


March 1894 – Ground is broken for new St. Mary’s rectory on Catoonah Street.


March 23, 1894 – The Rev. Daniel Teller, who wrote his History of Ridgefield in 1878, dies in Fredonia, N.Y.


July 21, 1894 – “That which has contributed largely to the success of Ridgefield as a summer resort is the influence of many of the prominent physicians of New York, who have inducted their patients to pass the summer here,” The New York Times reports. Among the summering doctors are Clarence G. Beebe, Newton M. Shaffer, Bache McEvers Emmet, William F. Cushman, John G. Perry, William H. Flunt, J.A. Booth, M.D. Hubbell, and Robert Talbot.


Aug. 18, 1894 – “Ridgefield will become more popular than ever, now that the village fathers have come to their senses and begun the work of improving the drives in a thorough manner,” The New York Times reports. “While the farmers, of course, raise strenuous objections against the increased taxation involved in the radical treatment of the roads, their objections will not be strong enough to stem the time of public opinion in favor of a less parsimonious policy than that pursued during the past decade. Already the long main avenue, so refreshingly shaded by enormous maples, is nearly half macadamized, and the Selectmen have made excellent roads in the outlying districts, so that now it is a pleasure to drive within six or eight miles of the village. Only well-built drives had been needed to make Ridgefield’s environment as desirable as the Berkshires, and now that the progressive element controls, the town will grow rapidly.”


Aug. 29, 1894 – Catherine Lee Youmans dies suddenly, shocking many of the summer residents. Mrs. Youmans is known for her “refinement, hospitality and unpretentious charity,” says the New York Times. She was a major benefactor of the Ridgefield library, and the library’s bazaar, scheduled for Sept. 10, is moved to the 15th because of her death. She is the widow of Professor Edward L. Youmans, founder of Popular Science Monthly.


September 1894 – Melbert B. Cary of Ridgefield is being talked of as a Democratic candidate for governor.


Oct. 2, 1894 – The town votes that “Travel on the side walks of the town by horses and wagons … be prohibited, except to enter the premises of the adjoining land owner.”


Oct. 20, 1894 – A Republican convention in Stamford nominates George Lounsbury, brother of ex-Governor Phineas C. Lounsbury, for state senator from the 12th District. George Lounsbury goes on to become a governor himself.


Nov. 22, 1894 – About 2 a.m., Mrs. George Lane is sleeping in her apartment on Main Street over the offices of the Ridgefield Savings Bank and post office. She is awoken by a “terrific explosion.” She looks out the window and asks the men outside what happened. One of the men fires a gun at her. The bullet grazes her cheek. She screams. The men flee toward Catoonah Street. Bank officials find their safe blown apart, which also holds postal records and stamps, but nothing is missing. They later vote to buy a “burglar-proof safe with a time lock.”


Sept. 13, 1894 – John W. Sammis, a farmer, is killed on the Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road. He is 88 years old.


May 21, 1895 – The station agent of the Danbury and Norwalk Rail Road here commits suicide, prompting an editorial in The New York Times. “A resident of Ridgefield, Conn., Mr. Edward R. Glenn, took so deeply to heart his wife’s refusal to speak to him that, after the cruel silence had endured for a month, he swallowed a large dose of strychnine and is now, alas! no more,” says The Times. “Cynics, of course, will say that Mr. Glenn was strangely inappreciative of exceptional good luck, but that only proves how thoroughly disagreeable cynics can make themselves...”


August 1895 – Col. Hiram K. Scott sells his store to Harvey P. Bissell, and Bissell’s Pharmacy is born. Four months later, the building burns to the ground in the Great Fire. Bissell rebuilds and a century later, the building burns again. But Bissell Pharmacy still exists a few hundred feet east of its old home and in 2008 the “Bissell Building” is resurrected in the image of its destroyed predecessor.


October 1895 – New England Magazine publishes a 17-page elaborately illustrated article on Ridgefield, calling it “The Connecticut Lenox.”


Dec. 9, 1895 – Around 9 p.m. Saturday night, a fire breaks out in Bedient and Mead’s store at the corner of Main Street and Bailey Avenue. The blaze quickly spreads and, by the time it burns itself out at 3 a.m. Sunday morning, 10 buildings in the village are destroyed at a loss of more than $100,000 – in today’s money, about $2.5 million. The blaze inspires the creation of a fire department and the installation of a public water system in the village.


Aug. 12, 1895 – Farmer William Tiley is working in a field when he is struck and killed by lightning.  He is 35 years old.


Feb. 3, 1896 – Yonkers police clear Thomas Bloomer of Ridgefield of any connection with the recent murder of his ex-wife, finding that he was working on his Branchville farm on the day she was strangled. Bloomer tells a detective he was forced to marry the woman “at the point of a pistol” more than 15 years earlier, but obtained a divorce immediately afterward, and then married a young woman from Purdys Station, N.Y.


March 5, 1896 – Three months after D.F. Bedient’s Main Street building catches fire and burns down, sparking the Great Fire of 1895, his wife, Carrie, dies of measles. She is 31 years old.


April 4, 1896 – In the wake of the Great Fire, the town creates the Fire District of Ridgefield to levy extra taxes on villagers to support a fire department and water supplies. In 1901, it becomes the Borough of Ridgefield, which remains in existence until 1921.


May 1896 – Work begins on the new St. Mary’s Church, which will cost $20,700 [about $510,000 in 2008].


July 1896 – Twenty-three residents sign a petition asking that “wheelmen” – bicyclists – be allowed to use the sidewalks of Main Street, banned to them three years earlier. Signers include the Rev. Foster Ely, rector of St. Stephen’s Church, Col. Hiram K. Scott, town clerk, probate judge and postmaster, Sereno S. Hurlbutt of Hurbutt’s Market, and E.C. Bross, Press editor. The effort fails.


July 1896 – The Ridgefield Branch of the National Flower Guild is established. Its members are mostly summer residents from New York City.


July 4, 1896 – The Right Rev. Michael Tierney, bishop of Hartford, lays the cornerstone for St. Mary’s Church.


July 17, 1896 – Press Editor E.C. Bross reports: “The other day a gentleman of our acquaintance barely escaped serious injury as a team of spirited horses were recklessly driven from the street to the sidewalk. In another place, a heavy wagon a few days ago cut deep furrows into a sidewalk after the owner had expended money to put his walk in good order. This is a very important matter and should not be neglected.”


Aug. 8, 1896 – “The mid-summer event in this pleasant summer resort was the ball in the assembly rooms of the Ridgefield Club this evening,” The New York Times reports the next day. “Despite the heat, representatives of nearly every family in the New York colony were present, and the function was a great success.”


October 1896 – While taverns couldn’t sell liquors, mobile stands are doing it. The Annual Town Meeting includes a resolution to “instruct the selectmen or other town officers to take measures to suppress the beer traffic in town from wagons coming from other towns.” The voters decide “that the selectmen  ... are instructed to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors, ale, and lager beer from wagons or other vehicles, if it is possible to do so.”


Nov. 21, 1896 – The new town hall is completed. Unlike the wooden town hall that burned the previous year, the new building is brick. It costs $16,000 [$380,000 in 2008], nearly three times its predecessor’s cost.


Jan. 23, 1897 – A special Town Meeting authorizes the selectmen to provide fire-fighting equipment storage in the basement of the town hall, which is under construction.


Feb. 10, 1897 – Sparked by the fire two years earlier that had destroyed much of the center of town, Ridgefielders form a fire department. Charles S. Nash is elected the first chief. Two companies are formed: The Caudatowa Hook and Ladder Company and the P.C. Lounsbury Engine Company.


March 29, 1897 – A man is hit and killed by a train. Dr. R.W. Lowe reports that neither his name nor his place of residence is known. The man is said to be around 40 years old.


May 9, 1897 – A group of men at St. Mary’s begins efforts to form a council of the Knights of Columbus.


June 17, 1897 – A circus sets up in town for three nights of shows, but after the tent is pelted with eggs the first night, moves on.


June 29, 1897 – Twenty-two Catholic men form The Marquette Council No. 245 of the Knights of Columbus in Ridgefield.


July 5, 1897 – The new St. Mary’s Church is dedicated.


Oct. 6, 1897 – A special train brings guests from New York City to Ridgefield for the wedding of Miss Sadie Hawley to Dr. T. Halstead Myers at the First Congregational Church. The reception takes place at the Hawley mansion.


Sept. 15, 1898 – Nary an automobile is yet seen in Ridgefield, but The Press reports the town may soon have one.  A month late, an automobile from Norwalk passes through town.



1899 – The American Bioscope Company shows an animated short in the town hall. It is Ridgefield’s first look at a “movie.”


June 2, 1899 – Marcus Knapp, overseer on the estate of Dr. Northrop, a wealthy New York physician, hangs himself. He is 50 years old and leaves a widow and three children.


July 22, 1899 – The Adams and Keeler barn and stable on Wilton Road East is badly damaged by fire early that morning. The same night, the home of Dr. H. B. Savage burns to the ground. Firemen’s efforts to save the building are frustrated by a lack of water.


Oct. 15, 1899 – Mrs. Elizabeth W. Morris dies at her home in Ridgefield. Soon after, her husband, James, donates money to build a new Ridgefield Library in her memory.


Nov. 8, 1898 – George C. Lounsbury of Ridgefield, Republican candidate for governor, wins election by a margin of around 16,000 votes.


Dec. 31, 1899 – St. Stephen’s Church holds a special service just before midnight to welcome in the new century – even though, technically speaking, the new century did not begin until 1901.