UPDATED WEEKLY: Historical Nuggets

UPDATED WEEKLY: Historical Nuggets


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 are 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 #54 – May 12, 2021

Eason, Kathleen “Kay” Young, (1912-1994), a native of England, was a British actress who appeared in stage and screen roles in the 1930s and early 40s. She married in 1939 Michael Wilding (later the husband of actress Elizabeth Taylor). She came to the U.S. and married British actor Douglass Montgomery (q.v.). They moved to Fair Fields (q.v.) on Golf Lane in 1965 but Montgomery died a year later. She later met Myles Eason (q.v.), an Australian actor living in Ridgefield; they were married and lived at 43 Olmstead Lane until her death. She was active in the Ridgefield Garden Club.
Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #53 – April 14, 2021

THE RIDGEFIELD PRESS: Founded 1875 as Baxter’s Monthly, soon became The Ridgefield Press; established by David Crosby Baxter, a local merchant, as method for local businesses to advertise their wares and services; subscribers topped at around 7,000 in 1990s; acquired by John and Karl Nash in 1937, who created The Acorn Press as the publishing company which over the years published weekly newspapers in Bethel, Redding, Weston, Wilton, in CT and Lewisboro, Pound Ridge and Bedford in NY; operated many years by Karl and wife, Elizabeth (“Betty Grace”), Nash; merged with the Hersam family papers (New Canaan, Darien) in 1997 to create a seven-newspaper group as Hersam Acorn Newspapers; In 2007, Hersam Acorn bought 11 more newspapers, plus two printing plants and other publications in southwestern Connecticut and southern Vermont; company sold 2018 to Hearst Media, local offices are all closed and moved to Danbury and Norwalk.

NUGGET #52 – March 30, 2021

Nod: Section of Ridgefield just north of Wilton and west of Branchville (also a section of northern Wilton, probably the source of the name); probably Biblical reference to land of Nod, place where Cain went after slaying Abel (Genesis 4:16) — thus may suggest a place not very well thought of, perhaps due to hills, rocky soils or distance from the village of Norwalk. Nod Hill: U.S. Geological Survey maps (1949-1970) name for hill just east of Nod Hill Road, a little north of the Beers family cemetery, reaching 660 feet above sea level. 

Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names. 

NUGGET #51 – March 18, 2021

Keeler, Capt. Benjamin (ca 1762-1791), Ridgefield native, died as captain of the brig Sally, which wrecked at Eaton’s Neck, Long Island, on its way to Stamford from the West Indies; buried in Titicus Cemetery; wreck helped lead to building still-extant lighthouse at Eaton’s Neck in 1799.

Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield. 

NUGGET #50 – March 11, 2021

Devil’s Run Road: Early to mid 20th Century informal name for the dirt road that runs from Bennett’s Farm Road at Fox Hill north to the Bennett’s Ponds, today the main roadway into the Bennett’s Pond State Park; the road was part of Col. Louis D. Conley’s massive estate, Outpost Farm, begun around 1914, and served as the main route to the pond or ponds; name reflects the roughness of the road, which even today tends to suffer washouts in heavy rains.

Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #49 – March 3, 2021

Carvel Curve: Local police slang for curve in Route 7 north of Route 35, scene of many accidents; so called because old Carvel Ice Cream stand, 1960s until 1977, was nearby; since 1977 has been Ridgefield Ice Cream, but “Carvel Curve” was still used by police 30 years later; in 1976, the Police Commission began a campaign to have the state straighten or at least improve the curve — in 1987-88, state reduced the severity of the curve in conjunction with widening the road to four lanes at that point, but accidents still occur there.

NUGGET #48 – February 24, 2021

Waldeck Kennels was located in the 1930s and 40s in the former Outpost Farm kennel on Route 7, a building later used as the Red Lion Restaurant. In February 1945, Heide Grafensteiner, a St. Bernard from Waldeck Kennels, won winner’s bitch and best of opposite sex at the Westminster Kennel Club show in Madison Square Garden.

NUGGET #47 – February 17, 2021

Maine, Florene, (1896-1980), was a nationally known antiques specialist and dealer who lived at 113 West Lane at her death; business called Red Petticoat Antiques; came here 1928, operating store on Route 7 opposite Florida Hill Road until 1966; after brief period in Wilton, bought antique West Lane house in 1971; she sold her first antique at the age of 5 — a jewel box that had belonged to the Duchess de Orleans. The buyer, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, paid 4,000 times what she had paid for it.

Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #46 – February 10, 2021

THE RIDGEFIELD PRESS: Founded 1875 as Baxter’s Monthly, soon became The Ridgefield Press; established by David Crosby Baxter, a local merchant, as method for local businesses to advertise their wares and services; subscribers topped at around 7,000 in 1990s; acquired by John and Karl Nash in 1937, who created The Acorn Press as the publishing company which over the years published weekly newspapers in Bethel, Redding, Weston, Wilton, in CT and Lewisboro, Pound Ridge and Bedford in NY; operated many years by Karl and wife, Elizabeth (“Betty Grace”), Nash; merged with the Hersam family papers (New Canaan, Darien) in 1997 to create a seven-newspaper group as Hersam Acorn Newspapers; In 2007, Hersam Acorn buys 11 more newspapers, plus two printing plants and other publications in southwestern Connecticut and southern Vermont; company sold 2018 to Hearst Media, local offices are all closed and moved to Danbury and Norwalk.

NUGGET #45 – February 3, 2021

The Village District was a government district within the town, with its own budget. At the turn of the 20th Century, people in the center started getting services others didn’t have, such as sewers, street lights, and fire hydrants. The Borough of Ridgefield was established to oversee these extra services, including a night watchman. In 1921, the town voted to abolish the borough and its government, and replace it with the Village District, controlled like the rest of the town by the first selectman and the Board of Finance, which proposed an annual budget to cover village-only services. People who lived in the village voted at an annual meeting on their budget and to set a village tax rate, just as the people in the whole town voted on the town budget. The Village District boundaries were supposed to coincide with the sewer lines since operation of the sewer system was the most expensive service the village budget supported. After new sewer lines and new hydrants began being installed outside the village district, voters decided in July 1974 to abolish the Village District and to charge fees directly to sewer users.

From Jack Sander, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #44 – January 27, 2021

Tulipani brothers: Five sons of Vincenzo and Evelina Branchini Tulipani served in WW2 and all returned, living the rest of their lives in Ridgefield. Aldo Anthony Tulipani (1916-2003), RHS 1934, was in the Army in the Philippines. He had a long career as a mail carrier in Ridgefield, and also as an accordion teacher (his car’s license plate, SQZBX was short for “squeezebox”). Joseph Anthony Tulipani (1918-2004), RHS 1937, was one of the first Ridgefielders to fight in the war; the member of an Army radar unit served in Australia, the jungles of New Guinea, and the Philippines and was with General Douglas MacArthur’s forces in the liberation of the Philippines. He kept elaborate diaries of his experiences. After the war he was the superintendent of Ward Acres for many years and also a semi-professional photographer. Albert Nazzareno Joseph Tulipani (1920-1994), RHS 1938, served in the Navy aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Wilson, escorting convoys to Russia on the “Murmansk run” and hunting German submarines, then in the Pacific in such battles as Wake Island and Guadalcanal. Also served on aircraft carriers. Back home, he was a guitar teacher who also played professionally in the region until the early 1960s, and worked at Brunetti’s Market and later at the Grand Union. Alfred Anthony Tulipani (1921-2013), joined the Army in 1942 and spent most of his service in Canada with an anti-aircraft unit, guarding Great Lakes locks. He maintained that his wife, Mary, was “the first war bride in Ridgefield.” The two met in 1943 at a Woolworth’s in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and were married a year later. After the war, Alfred became a superintendent of local estates, including Casagmo, as well as a landscaper. John Vincent Tulipani (1922-2002), RHS 1941, served with the Navy SeaBees in Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, and in the Philippines. He also played on the Navy All-Star Team with many former professionals. After the war he worked as a plumber and established his own plumbing business. All five brothers were musicians, playing together in the Tulipani Orchestra and with the Sagebrush Serenaders.

NUGGET #43 – January 20, 2021

Remington, Frederic (1861-1909), a native of Canton, N.Y., was a noted sculptor, painter and illustrator of the American West. He studied art at Yale and went to the West, where he worked and drew illustrations for Harper’s and other magazines. He lived and worked for many years in New Rochelle, gaining an international reputation for his paintings and sculptures. He also wrote several books on the West. He moved in 1909 to a house he built off Barry Avenue, probably to be closer to lifelong friend, A. Barton Hepburn, who also came from Canton. He died six months later of appendicitis.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield. 

NUGGET #42 – January 13, 2021

Old Burying Ground, The: Town’s first cemetery; extant section stands on Wilton Road East below Main Street and just north of Creamery Lane, but has no gravestones left standing; northern portion was developed ca. 1850 for road and homelots after graves were moved to Titicus Cemetery; was laid out Nov. 25, 1708 and at one time contained the graves of 40 pioneers, now listed on a granite monument in cemetery; one of few pieces of original public land still owned by town government; maintained by Ridgefield Garden Club.

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #41 – January 6, 2021

Peespunk appears quite a few times in very early deeds, reflecting a little-known custom practiced by the American Indians. First cited in a 1712 deed in which the proprietors granted land lying on both sides of “Peespunk Spring”; eventually, deeds simply referred to land “at Peespunk.” The word, from “pesuppau-og,” meaning “they are sweating,” appears in the languages of the Narragansett and the Paugusett tribes; the latter lived in parts of Fairfield County. A peespunk or “sweat lodge” was a hut or cave where native men built hot fires and took ceremonial sweat baths, subsequently cooling off in nearby water (the spring). Peespunk seems to have been on a West Mountain hillside on the west side of North Salem Road near the New York line.

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #40 – December 16, 2020

Jambs, The: Peculiar name first occurs in 1775 in a deed for three acres “in the eastern part of Ridgebury Society at a place called ye Jambs.” Mentioned as late as 1850 “the Jams.” In 1978, Ridgebury historian Ed Liljegren wrote: “The definition of ‘jam(b)’ changes in various editions of Webster’s from ‘a thick bed of stone which hinders them (miners) when pursuing the veins of ore’ (1836) to ‘a mass of mineral or stone in a quarry or pit standing upright, more or less distinct from neighboring or adjoining parts.’ This latter definition is more in keeping with the root of the word, meaning a leg or support. In any case, I suspect that this is the definition the settlers had in mind. …The most probable location was straddling what is now called Ned’s Lane, which once went through to Old Stagecoach Road… If you travel down Ned’s Lane as far as it reasonably passable, you can see a spectacular rock formation, which could have well given rise to the name of the Jambs.”

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #39 – December 9, 2020

Iron Works: 1. Deeds in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s mention the “Iron Works,” a short- lived operation by Timothy Keeler Jr., Nathan Dauchy, and Elijah Keeler near Lake Mamanasco whose waters it used; work on it began in 1789 along the stream from Mamanasco to the Titicus River just east of the Route 116 bridge opposite Craigmoor Road; by 1797, it was gone; probably converted iron ore to pig iron. Whether various implements were then manufactured from the iron at that location is unknown. The source of the ore is unclear, although iron ore is known in Ridgefield; a map of Connecticut, drawn by Samuel Huntington in 1792, bears the legend “Iron mines” in a section of Ridgebury north of George Washington Highway and along Briar Ridge Road; may have ceased operation because of difficulty in getting ore, or fuel for furnace; or competing iron works at Starrs Plain ran the Ridgefield operation out of business; 2. Ridgefield land records mention an iron works at Starrs Plain in Danbury that received its water supply from Ridgefield. In 1792, Benjamin Sellick of Danbury leased Eliakim and Abijah Peck of Danbury eight acres in Ridgefield “at Bennits Farm or Pond… for the purpose of raising a dam across the stream that leads to said iron works and save the water for the use of said works during the term of five years.” The works probably stood on or about the pond that still exists along Route 7, opposite Bennett’s Farm Road just into Danbury.

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #38 – December 2, 2020

Hessian, The: Novel by Howard Fast, (Morrow, 1972) about a fictional incident involving German soldiers during the Revolutionary War in Ridgefield and Redding. Fast lived on Florida Hill Road.

Fast, Howard (1914-2003), was a high school dropout who published his first novel before he was 20; by the turn of the 21st Century, had written more than 80 books of fiction and nonfiction; millions of copies of Fast titles have been printed in a dozen languages, including “Spartacus,” “Citizen Tom Paine,” “Freedom Road,” “The Hessian” (set in Ridgefield). He lived on Florida Hill Road in 1960s and early 70s.

NUGGET #37 – November 18, 2020

Fayerweather, Frederic (1860-1941), a Ridgefield native and lifelong resident, attended Florida Schoolhouse, taught at Limestone and Ridgebury Schools and went to work for Louis Comfort Tiffany; became expert on and designer of stained glass, especially for churches, and traveled widely for Tiffany Studios; commuted to NYC for a half century; active in music program at St. Stephen’s Church, for which he left a large bequest; became the first person in Ridgefield to cast a ballot using voting machine, 1914.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #36 – November 11, 2020

Danbury and Harlem Traction Company: Formed around 1900 to run trolley (“traction”) line from Danbury to Harlem Valley railroad line at Goldens Bridge, N.Y., aimed at cutting 15 minutes off a trip from Danbury to NYC; tracks laid into Ridgebury along what is now Old Trolley Road, stopping at Ridgebury center; bed continued nearly to Goldens Bridge, but tracks were never laid west of Ridgebury; trolley from Danbury and Bethel to Ridgebury made test runs around 1901 but no regular service was ever established; company eventually went bankrupt.

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #35 – November 4, 2020

de Liscinskis, Lenard Samuel, (1922- ), native of Latvia, founded in 1978 Chez Lenard (q.v.), an upscale hot dog stand on Main Street; he and father were involved in the cosmetics industry, and he produced several perfumes under name of Leonid de Liscinskis in 1940s, 50s, 60s. 

Chez Lenard: Upscale, French-style mobile hot dog stand on Main Street, established summer 1978 by Lenard de Liscinskis (q.v.); In 1981, he sold to Michael Soetbeer who, in 1997 sold to Chad and Kirsten Cohen, who sold in 2007 to Michael Principi; celebrities who’ve eaten there include Paul Newman, Martha Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Giancarlo Esposito, and Harvey Fierstein.

NUGGET #34 – October 28, 2020

Congress, members of: Ridgefield has had three native-born members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Dr. Joel Abbot, a congressman from Georgia; Henry G. Stebbins, from New York; and Jeremiah Donovan, from Connecticut. Clare Boothe Luce moved to Ridgefield just after having been a congresswoman from Connecticut. No U.S. senators came from Ridgefield, but Ron Wyden (1949-), senator from Oregon (1996-), is the son of author Peter Wyden (1923-1998), who lived in Ridgefield, 1974-1998.

NUGGET #33 – October 21, 2020

Dlhy Ridge: Town officials concocted this in the early 1970’s when they were looking for a name for the new municipal golf course, opened in 1974. It is the only place name in town that has no vowels, but because it is nonetheless tricky to spell, “Ridgefield Golf Course” has tended to replace Dlhy Ridge. The name recalls Joseph and Suzanna Dlhy (pronounced dill-ee, with the accent on the first syllable) whose farm now forms a large portion of the course (land was also purchased from the Leighton family). Joseph came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia in 1910 and five years later, when he married Suzanna Boron, moved to Ridgefield. He died in 1965. Suzanna, who sold the land to the town in the late 1960’s, died in 1976.   

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #32 – October 14, 2020

Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike: Toll road from intersection of Haviland and Limestone Roads following today’s Route 35, then up today’s Route 7 where it met Sugar Hollow Turnpike near the southern end of Danbury Airport; company established by legislative act 1801; road built by 1803; eliminated need to use old route over Moses Mountain from Starrs Plain to Wooster Heights; Joseph M. and Ebenezer B. White were original incorporators; Rockwell says Sturges Selleck completed the road in 1812; Liljegren placed site of a toll station just north of the Ridgefield-Danbury line, on the west side of Route 7, just south of Bennett’s Farm Road — a site destroyed by 2005 Route 7 widening; still in use, 1832.

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #31 – October 7, 2020

Chekhov, Mikhail Alexandrovich “Michael” (1891-1955), nephew of playwright Anton Chekhov, was native of Russia where, by 21, he was a noted actor; by 1923, a director at the Moscow Art Theatre, but his innovative methods led Communists to label him “alien and reactionary”; he moved to Germany and then England, establishing a well-respected method of training actors at a school there; in 1939, as war broke out, moved his Chekhov Theatre Studio from England to former Ridgefield School at north end of Lake Mamanasco; made his first appearance in an English-speaking role in public in a Russian War Relief dramatic program on old Ridgefield High School stage (now the Ridgefield Playhouse); ca. 1941 moved to Hollywood where he taught and acted in films – his role of the psychoanalyst in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound earned Academy Award nomination; among his students were Marilyn Monroe, Jack Palance, Anthony Quinn, Yul Brynner, Gregory Peck, and Akim Tamiroff; school lives on today as the Chekhov Theatre Ensemble in New York City.  

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #30 – September 30, 2020

Cassidy, David, (1950-2017), actor and singer, lived at 43 Olmstead Lane from 1995 to 1998; was star of 1970s TV series, The Partridge Family; nominated for an Emmy for a part in the TV series Police Story; frequently performed at Las Vegas.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #29 – September 23, 2020

Burt’s Pond: 1. An 18th and early 19th Century name for Lake Mamanasco; first used in a 1793 deed; Benjamin Burt (1680-1759, the town’s first blacksmith) bought grist mill at lake outlet in 1742; after his death 1759, eldest son, Seaborn Burt (1706-1773, born on a ship bringing his family to Boston after being freed from captivity in Quebec, where they were taken by the French and Indians; came to Ridgefield as a child), operated it until his death in 1773; a few Burt properties were confiscated during Revolution because some Burts took sides with the British; in 1800s Burts had interests at Mamanasco – Joshua Burt was one of several mill owners in 1817, and Epenetus Burt had grist and saw mills at the lake in 1865; family continued to live in Mamanasco neighborhood until early 1900s; sometimes mispronounced Birch Pond. 2. Great Pond was also called Burt’s Pond during the late 18th Century — it is believed that Benjamin Burt had land there.

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #28 – September 16, 2020

American Mercury, The: A popular magazine, founded by H.L. Mencken, that published major authors and thinkers of the 1920s and 30s moved its offices to 360 Main Street in 1936, [P9/1936]; was still publishing there in 1938. Paul Palmer of Wilton Road East was editor and publisher in 1937 and Gordon Carroll, also of Ridgefield, was managing editor. (Mr. Carroll was later a founder of Famous Writers School in Westport.)

NUGGET #27 – September 9, 2020

Airplane spotting posts were maintained from December 1941 into 1945 and again during the Korean conflict. They were designed to spot and report enemy aircraft in the days before radar became extensive and effective. The first, briefly used post was at Wadsworth Lewis’s estate, Taghkanick, but was soon permanently established on East Ridge east of the high school where, eventually a tower was built next to a small octagonal office that had once been a boathouse on the F.E. Lewis estate. Between December 7, 1941 and May 29, 1944 during World War II, some 200 men, women and children staffed the airplane spotting posts in town, which reported more than 7,000 aircraft to military officials.

From Ridgefield Press 8/23/1945. 

NUGGET #26 – September 2, 2020

Ziegler, Electa Matilda Curtis (1841-1932), a native of Schuylerville, N.Y., was an heiress who owned Hawley Cottage/Ashton Croft (now Wesley Hall, part of Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church) on Main Street from 1912-1924; she was a benefactor of the blind, publishing a magazine and books for the visually impaired, and founding the E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind which, to this day, provides millions in grants for research into blindness. Her husband, William Ziegler (1843-1905), was a millionaire leader in the baking powder industry whose mansion on Great Island, Darien, became one of the most expensive estates in the nation.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #25 – August 26, 2020

Wyden, Peter (1923-1998), a journalist and author, wrote 15 books that examined such major 20th Century events and issues as the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, the Berlin Wall, mental illness, suburban kids, and the Spanish Civil War; among the personalities he interviewed was Fidel Castro. His son is Ron Wyden, U.S. senator from Oregon for many years.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #24 – August 19, 2020

Walker’s Happy Shop: Opened around 1915 at ONS [Old Numbering System, pre-1969] 123 Main Street by Charles Wade Walker, selling typical “news store” products, plus toys, with motto, “Toys to make the kiddies happy, sweets to make the ladies happy, and smokes to make the men happy.” Walker also installed a soda fountain.

Research done by Jack Sanders.

NUGGET #23 – August 12, 2020

Velte, Paul Christian Jr., (1914-1976), was CEO of Air America, a large airline owned by the Central Intelligence Agency flying primarily in Southeast Asia from the 1950s until 1975; used Air America Huey helicopters to help with evacuation of Saigon in April 1975, rescuing more than 1,000 Americans and Vietnamese; Ridgefield resident 1955 until death, was active in Ridgebury Congregational Church and Boy Scouts.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #22 – August 5, 2020

Ullman, Paul (1906-1944), a native of France, was a noted French impressionist artist who became an underground fighter in World War II; OSS agent recruited by U.S. government; killed by Gestapo after parachuting into France on a mission; lived at 114 Main Street from 1942 with uncle, George Ullman, head of a NYC printing ink company; earned posthumous Bronze Star from the U.S. Army, and the Croix de guerre and Legion of Honor from the French government; included in the Book of Honor at the OSS Memorial Wall at Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in McLean, Va.; his wife, Babette, was active in the war effort on the homefront, working for many French relief efforts based in Ridgefield and elsewhere; she remarried and moved to California where she died in 2009; biography, Babette, written by Constance Crawford, 2005.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #21 – July 29, 2020

Turner, Aaron (1790-1854), born in Ridgebury, was an American circus pioneer; by 1820, his son, Napoleon, age 7, was a trick rider in NYC circus; by 1828, Turner had his own circus, in 1836, hired P.T. Barnum as his ticket seller, secretary, treasurer, and eventually, partner; retired from the circus world and operated Danbury hotel, called Turner House.

From Jack Sanders, Who Was Who in Ridgefield.

NUGGET #20 – July 22, 2020

Titicus: A district and a neighborhood of Ridgefield just northwest of the village; name comes from the Titicus River that flows through it; word in turn is shortened form of Mutighticoss (or something similar), which probably meant “place without trees” in Mahican tongue, says Huden; first mention, as Metiticus, occurs in 1709 Proprietors order for a survey; because of the swift river here, was an early small-scale industrial area, with mills and a tannery; by the late 1800s, Titicus had a store, post office, cider mill, saw mill, flour mill, tannery, sash and blind factory, a blacksmith, and town’s biggest cemetery; almost had a railroad station.

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

NUGGET #19 – July 15, 2020

Saw mills: Possibly the first “industry” and first “factory” in Ridgefield was a sawmill. Certainly lumber was needed before almost anything else in the settlement of the new town. Land records between 1708 and 1880 indicate that at least 20 sawmills were operated here for varying lengths of time during those 170 years. Virtually every neighborhood had a mill at one time or another. The earliest water powered mill may have been located at the outlet of a pond that used to exist at the corner of Whipstick Road and Wilton Road East.

NUGGET #18 – July 8, 2020

Ram Pasture was situated along West Lane (then called Bedford Road) in and about the triangle created by Parley Lane, High Ridge and West Lane. In the early 18th Century, the town owned a sizable flock of sheep, pastured on common land and probably tended by a town-hired shepherd or by volunteers. These sheep were hired out to fertilize farmers’ fields and consequently support education. Periodically, a “sheep meeting” would take place. One on Dec. 24, 1742, voted that “the money coming for the hire of the sheep last year shall be given as bounty to help maintain the Town School forever, and when the money is gathered it shall be delivered to the committee that is appointed to take care of the bounty money given by the Government to support ye School…” Apparently the rams for the flock were kept at the Ram Pasture while the sheep were probably held nearby, perhaps in the vicinity of Olmstead Lane.

From Glenna Welsh, Proprietors of Ridgefield and George L. Rockwell, History of Ridgefield

NUGGET #17 – July 1, 2020

Quincy Close, a lane at Casagmo, was named by developer David L. Paul for the ancestors of George M. Olcott, who built the Casagmo mansion in the 1890s. Often confused with Quince Court, one of Paul’s byways at Fox Hill condominiums.

NUGGET #16 – June 24, 2020

Paul, David L. (1940-) was the developer of Casagmo (q.v.) and Fox Hill condominium projects; from New York City; was 27 years old when he began Casagmo, 1967-8, originally built as apartments; Fox Hill contained town’s first condominiums, then an experiment; in 1980, he proposed 224 on 59 acres across Danbury Road from Fox Hill; Planning and Zoning Commission rejected the plan and the site is now part of Ridgefield Recreation Center (q.v.); in 1983, bought nearly bankrupt Dade Savings and Loan Association, renaming it CenTrust Bank; hired I.M. Pei to design $90-million CenTrust Tower; by 1988, CenTrust was the largest thrift institution in the southeastern US with $8.2 billion in assets, but in 1989, it lost $119 million and in 1990, $1.7 billion; seized by the federal government which charged “excessive and inappropriate expenses and investments”; Paul convicted in 1993 of 68 counts of fraud, misappropriation of funds, and filing false tax returns; sentenced to 11 years prison and ordered to pay $65 million; released 2004.

From Jack Sanders, Ridgefield Names.

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.


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