Sharon Dunphy, (above at right), with Keith Jones, RHS’s founding president and Tracy Seem, current president. Sharon was at the helm when the infamous skeletons were discovered in late 2019, and — among other achievements — has directed the Historical Society’s grant and research efforts to learn more about the Battle. After nearly a decade on the RHS Board, Sharon is ‘retiring’ and is looking forward to introducing the history of Ridgefield to new neighbors and friends in Florida, during her seasonal visits.
How did you originally get involved in the Ridgefield Historical Society?
After the kids graduated from high school, I wanted to do some volunteer work to give back to the community. I joined the Ridgefield Garden Club which at the time ran the charming Peter Parley Schoolhouse. Donna Warren, who was head of the schoolhouse committee, and I started researching the history of the schoolhouse. I found the work at the Historical Society fascinating.
What has been your area(s) of focus at the Historical Society?
My first job was data entry in Collections. While reading and typing the entries I learned so much about history in general and about the many interesting characters who called Ridgefield home. The RHS is a fairly new society, and I became deeply committed to its mission – preserving the town’s rich history and educating others about its history. Eventually, I worked my way up to becoming President.
How have you seen the organization change and grow ?
The Historical Society’s growth recently has been amazing! We’ve attracted so many bright, talented people on the Board and in staff positions. People with all different types of backgrounds and skill sets work together to fulfill our mission. It’s a fun group.
How long have you lived in Ridgefield?
We moved to Ridgefield in 1984 and our girl/boy twins went through the excellent Ridgefield School system.
Do you have a favorite era of Ridgefield history? Or history in general?
My favorite times in Ridgefield history are the colonial period and Gilded Age, but then again when the American Indians roamed the land …
What do you think/hope the next decade will bring for the Ridgefield Historical Society?
I hope in the next decade Ridgefield residents — both old-timers and newcomers — will take an even greater interest in our history, and preserving our structures. I also hope there will be continued work on researching and understanding what happened at the Battle of Ridgefield.
Do you have any favorite memories/stories to share?
One morning when I was President I walked into the Scott House and there was a message asking me to go over to a house on Main Street. The State Archeologist was there, and he wanted to know the history of the house and area. By the address I knew it was near the main engagement of the Battle of Ridgefield. I walked into the house’s basement as the archaeologists were meticulously, slowly unearthing two skeletons. Every day I watched as they worked finding more skeletons. A parade of experts went through the site adding commentary. They were all strong young men (hint: look at the brow bone to determine this). This was a mass grave, bodies were hurriedly laid down overlapping, and facing – East to West (as Revolutionary soldiers were). For years, I’ve read history in books but looking down at the remains of those young men made history all too real. If they were soldiers, they gave their lives for what they believed in – their country. It was very emotional. What a loss for their mothers, fathers, community, and country. We should study history to learn from the past.
It’s been a pleasure volunteering for the Society. It’s one of the town’s hidden gems.