UPDATED WEEKLY: Historical Nuggets

UPDATED WEEKLY: Historical Nuggets

0

Our great friend, historian Jack Sanders, has been creating the Ridgefield Encyclopedia for several years, based on his extensive research as well as his knowledge of the town from his nearly-50-year career with The Ridgefield Press. We will be partnering with him to share bits of knowledge from the more than 3,000 entries. There will be no test on these facts! But we hope to enlighten our friends and members about the town that means so much to us.

NUGGET #15 – June 17, 2020

Oil: Peter P. Cornen led movement in 1880s to drill for oil in Ridgefield, especially Farmingville; Press reported in 1886 [P11/11/1886]: “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. 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.” Cornen, who made a fortune discovering oil in Pennsylvania, said Ridgefield is situated over an oil field of “considerable magnitude.” On Nov. 19, 1887, a public meeting took place to discuss forming the Ridgefield Oil and Gas Heating and Gas Lighting Company to begin drilling. [P11/25/1887]. However, drilling never occurs, probably because many townspeople object to the effect it would have on town.

NUGGET #14 – June 10, 2020

Nelhybel, Vaclav, (1919-1996), a native of Czechoslovakia, was a prolific composer — more than 400 of his 600-plus works have been published; many have been performed by leading orchestras such as the Vienna Symphony and the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande; lived on Lake Road, 1968-1973, moving to Newtown; in 1980, the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra premiered his Six Fables for All Time; lectured and performed at Ridgefield High School; over 1,000 people attended the April 1973 Vaclav Nelhybel Festival, with the composer leading junior and senior high bands.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #13 – June 3, 2020

Mamanasco: Name first appears in description of the first purchase of land from local natives in 1708 for a boundary that “extends to a place called Mamanasquag, where an oak tree is marked on ye north side of the outlet of water that comes out from a sort of grassy pond, which is known and called by said name…” Some have thus interpreted the word as meaning “grassy pond.” Huden translates the word as “united outlets,” or “two sharing the same outlet,” suggesting Mamanasco may have been two ponds. Mamanasco has at least 12 versions of spellings in land records including: Mamanasquag (1709), Mamanasquogg (1716), Mamanusco (1741), Mamanausco (1745), Mamanusqua (1745), Mamansquog (pre-1750), Mammenusquah (pre-1750), Mamenasco (1746), Mamenasqua (1750), Mammenasco (1790), and Mammenusquag (1797).

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #12 – May 27, 2020

Last Man’s Club: On March 15, 1938, 31 veterans of World War I had a dinner at Kane Inn (q.v.) on West Lane for the first meeting of the Last Man’s Club; each March 15—the anniversary of the founding of the American Legion—members met at a table set for 31 people — when a member died, his plate was turned upside down and a toast was drunk in his memory: “To our dear departed comrade, may God and this club preserve his memory”; at 1989 meeting, Thomas Shaughnessy (q.v.) was The Last Man.

NUGGET #11 – May 20, 2020

Joe’s Hideaway: Restaurant at north corner of Grove Street and Sunset Lane in 1950s, 60s; named for Joe Pierpaoli, son of restaurant’s founder, John Pierpaoli, who took over when father retired and renamed the business [later names: Perp’s, Corner Pub, The Hideaway].

NUGGET #10 – May 13, 2020

Kendall, Marie Hartig (1854-1943) was an early woman professional photographer in Connecticut; was taking photographs of Ridgefield from at least 1886 onward; married Dr. John Calvin Kendall; probably lived here for several years at house of her husband’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Calvin Kendall, at 85 Main Street; moved to and lived rest of life in Norfolk, Conn., where she had a photography business; in 1904, showed her work at St. Louis World’s Fair; published in 1900 a photo book, “Glimpses of Ridgefield,” with more than 100 pictures of Ridgefield in late 1880s and 1890s.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #9 – May 6, 2020

Iron foundry: Operated by Thomas Couch and Ebenezer Burr Sanford (q.v.) in the first half of the 19th Century on Norwalk River at what is now the Moongate (q.v.) property at Route 7 and Florida Hill Road. Said to have been the only foundry between the Hudson River and New Haven. Turned pig iron into tools, including plows, and even manufactured a cannon.

From Silvio Bedini, Ridgefield in Review.

NUGGET #8 – April 29, 2020

Hauley, Rev. Thomas (1689-1738), the town’s first minister, lived in the “town’s oldest house,” a gambrel-roofed residence at Main Street and Branchville Road. A native of Northampton, Mass., he graduated from Harvard in 1709 and was ordained in 1712. He and his wife, Abigail Gould of Fairfield, came here in 1713 as newlyweds as he became minister of First Congregational Church. Then the operations of the church and the town were virtually the same – “government” meetings were held in the church, church records and town records were kept together, and the minister was the only schoolteacher — he was probably the most educated settler. He was also the first town clerk, then called “register.” Hauley was spelled in that fashion until Benjamin Smith became town clerk and register of records in 1785 and began spelling it Hawley, the “modern” version. His predecessor Stephen Smith, town clerk from 1747 to 1785, had always written it Hauley, as had Minister Hauley himself. His slate gravestone is the oldest readable headstone in Titicus Cemetery (q.v.).

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #7 – April 22, 2020

Good Government Party: A Ridgefield-only third party, founded in 1963, with members saying they were “dissatisfied with the leadership and control of the two existing parties,” especially with respect to the schools; ran candidates in 1963 and 1965. None won, but some came close — one collected 1,295 votes; party membership peaked at 75, and in 1971, though inactive, still had 65 members; GGP discontinued in 1981 due to inactivity. [Ridgefield Press Centenary edition]

NUGGET #6 – April 15, 2020

Farmingville schoolhouse: Stood opposite present Farmingville School in District Number 10; it and Titicus were last district schools to close, 1939; long empty, building was sold about 1950 to Alexander Alland, photographer, who moved it to North Salem to serve as studio (still there 2019); had been gift of Gov. George Lounsbury in 1900, the last district schoolhouse built in town; previous Farmingville building, farther east and dating from mid-1800s, was razed ca. 1900 — land on which it stood was given to Louis Morris Starr (q.v.) in exchange for site of Lounsbury gift; George and his brother, Phineas, had been schooled in the older building and both became governors of Connecticut.  

NUGGET #5 – April 8, 2020

Eight Lakes: Town’s largest subdivision, with several hundred lots from tiny ones around Lake Mamanasco to one-acre parcels on West Mountain; part of Port of Missing Men (q.v.) property, which included eight lakes and ponds: Lake Mamanasco, Turtle Pond, and Round Pond in Ridgefield; Lakes Rippowam, Oscaleta, and Waccabuc in Lewisboro; and Pine Lake and Hemlock Lake in North Salem; 500-600 acres in Ridgefield acquired 1951, J. Wesley Seward and William H. Hayes of NYC; subdivided 1951-54; roads are Walnut Hill Road, Birch Court, Rock Road, Scott Ridge Road, Blue Ridge Road, Caudatowa Drive, Sleepy Hollow Road, Round Lake Road, First through 12th Lanes, Mamanasco Road, west ends of Barrack Hill and Old Sib Roads.

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #4 – April 1, 2020

Desire Under the Elms: 1924 play by Eugene O’Neill (q.v.), said to have been inspired by the playwright’s time spent here. “It was not Brook Farm that inspired his play,” says Bedini*. “The inspiration came from his view of the smaller white colonial style house across the North Salem Road, owned by Louis G. Smith. From his front door O’Neill could see the Smith house framed behind the heavy drooping branches of two majestically tall elms on either side of it, which grew beside the road. The trees were cut down some years later to enable the road to be widened.” [P10/5/1983]

From Silvio Bedini, Ridgefield in Review, 1958.

NUGGET #3 – April 1, 2020

Camp, Rev. Samuel (1744-1813) was the first settled pastor, 1769, of Ridgebury Congregational Church; served as pastor for thirty-five years, until 1804, when he was obliged to resign, probably due to health; continued to live in Ridgebury until his death in March 1813; had 3 wives, all buried alongside him in Ridgebury Cemetery with matching stones, but half the size of his; in 1769, married Hannah Garnsey, died 1777 age 33; year later, married Lucretia Barker, who died 1782, age 35; eight months later, he married Mrs. Mary Keeler Northrop, who died 1800, age 54.

NUGGET #2 – March 26, 2020

Bailey, Halcyon Gilbert (1828-1905) married Emily Keeler of Ridgebury Road in 1854; Bedini describes satirical campaign Gilbert ran, complete with posters, for office of town hayward — posters generally made fun of women and promoted drinking; Emily divorced him by 1880; in 1908, national news stories reported his daughter, Dr. Annie Keeler Bailey (q.v.), asked court to change her name to Keeler to “free the honor of her mother’s family from the taint arising from the name of her father.” “Father,” she was quoted as saying, “was a man addicted to excessive dissipation, shocking immorality and profanity. He was a disgrace to the family”; buried in Peach Lake Cemetery, North Salem.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield, RidgefieldHistory.com.

NUGGET #1 – March 26, 2020

Bailey, Dr. Annie Keeler (1855-1927), a Ridgefield native, was one of first women physicians in Connecticut; graduated 1876 from State Normal School (now Central Conn. Univ.), and studied 1881-86; established practice in Danbury in May 1886; associated with Danbury Hospital; was mentor to many nurses; wrote articles on healing for medical journals and also spoke on religious subjects at Danbury churches — two of her lectures were turned into books still available; in 1908 petitioned Superior Court to allow name change to Annie Keeler because she so much disliked her abusive father, Halcyon Gilbert Bailey (q.v.); she died in auto accident in Danbury.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield, RidgefieldHistory.com.

Share.

Comments are closed.