Edward “Ned” Armstrong and his wife, Betsy Armstrong, lived a quiet, hard-working life in Ridgebury in the 19th Century; their tombstones are found among the ancient monuments in Ridgebury Cemetery. They have been remembered in the name of the area where they lived: Ned’s Mountain, and Ned’s Lane, where it’s believed the family, comprising three generations, had a small compound.
But there is much more to the Armstrongs’ story, as well as the story of others who lived on the mountain, than has been included in published histories of Ridgefield.
Historian Jack Sanders found a number of surprises in his research. Mr. Sanders’ recent research reveals that the Armstrongs not only operated a Ridgefield station on the Underground Railroad, but their grandsons were among the many Black soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War. He introduces other Black families who lived on Ned’s Mountain and also sent sons to the 29th Regiment (Colored) of Connecticut Volunteers.
Newspaper articles, contemporaneous accounts, old maps, records of the Town of Ridgefield, census records and military records all provide pieces of this story of how Black Ridgefielders were able to assist the formerly enslaved on their journey north to safety and how some fought in the Civil War when the State of Connecticut finally permitted their service.
A Fairfield County native and graduate of Holy Cross, Jack Sanders retired in 2014 after 45 years as an editor of The Ridgefield Press. He’s written nine books on history and natural history, including Wicked Ridgefield, Ridgefield Chronicles, Hidden History of Ridgefield published by The History Press, The Secrets of Wildflowers (Lyons Press), Hedgemaids and Fairy Candles (McGraw-Hill), and Five Village Walks (Ridgefield Historical Society). He also created and administers the 10-year-old Old Ridgefield group on Facebook, which has more than 6,000 followers. He and his wife, Sally, a retired newspaper editor who is on the board of the Ridgefield Historical Society, live in a 250-year old farmhouse in Ridgefield.
This program is supported by CT Humanities and Fairfield County Bank.
This program was presented as a live webinar on Feb. 10, 2021 by the Ridgefield Historical Society with the Ridgefield Library and Ridgebury Congregational Church.