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History of the Early Roadways in Georgetown, Connecticut  

Included in this Georgetown Early Roadways History section is information I have gathered from articles by Wilbur F. Thompson. More information will be added as I find it.

Please let me know if there are more areas you'd like me to explore or if you have further information. Contact bcolley@snet.net or phone me at 860-364-7475.

Georgetown Early Roadways

For many years after the first settlement of our state, the roadways connecting the towns were very poor. Many were mere "bridle paths," others were Indian Trails widened into "Cart Paths." One of these was the Indian Trail leading up from the Sound, at what is now known as Calf Pasture Beach, through the section now known as Georgetown, into what is now the city of Danbury. It was over this trail that eight families left Norwalk in 1684, to found the new town of Danbury. And for many years this trail, widened into a cart path, was the only connecting link between the two places. When the section now known as the town of Ridgefield was purchased from the Indians in 1707, the south and east boundary lines intersected on a rock on the bank of the Norwalk River. The record states that "Thc south and east boundary lines meet on the rock on the banks of the Norwalk River 20 rods north of the Danbury and Norwalk Cart Path fording place," showing that it was a cart path at that date. Anyone measuring 20 rods south along the river will find that the old "Fording Place" is under the south section of the long railroad bridge.

As the town of Danbury grew, the need of a better means of communication became apparent. A survey was made and a new highway was opened up. Passing on the east side of Simpaug Pond in Bethel, up over the Umpawaug Hill in Redding, through what is now Boston district and Georgetown, and on to Norwalk. The right of way was six rods wide. It was known as the "Great Road" from Danbury to Norwalk. In 1723 Nathan Gold (Gould) and Peter Burr of the town of Fairfield sold to Samuel Couch and Thomas Nash, of the same town, one hundred acres of land in the Parish of Redding, Town of Fairfield: "said land lying on both sides of the great road, that leads from Norwalk to Danbury," showing that the road was in use at that date. In 1792 the town of Redding voted to reduce the width of the Danbury and Norwalk road, in Redding, to four rods.

Near where the house long owned by Aaron Osborn stood in Georgetown a road branched out from the Danbury and Norwalk road, passing up over the hill, which today is the Blueberry Hill area, coming out into what was known as Osborntown. It was called the Danbury and "Saugatuck" Turnpike and connected Danbury with Saugatuck (Westport). Years ago the old roadway over the hill could be traced by deep ruts worn in the rocky roadbed by the heavy cart wheels that had passed over it for many years. The first store in Georgetown stood near where this old road branched off from the Danbury and Norwalk road. The store was kept by a man named Burr, and the long hill south on the highway was called Burr's Hill.

On the "Hog Ridge" east of this point, one of the houses built by the Rumseys in 1735 stood. Farther south on the Danbury and Norwalk road, near where the house long owned by Henry Olmstead stood, the road ran up over the hill through the woods, coming out on the flat below, where the Glenburgh Mills stood on Old Mill Road.

In 1795, a company was incorporated for the purpose of "mak-ing and keeping in repair the great road from Danbury to Norwalk and to erect gates and collect tolls for the maintenance from Simpaug Brook, Bethel, to Belden's Bridge, Norwalk (now in Wilton)." Toll gates were erected at intervals along the road. One was north of where Connery's store now stands in Georgetown. The toll gate was across the road from the wagon shop, and David Nichols, who ran the little wagon shop collected the tolls. There was a heavy timber gate that blocked the highway, after the tolls were paid, the gate was opened and the team passed through. Near the gate was a milestone erected in 1787 by the orders of Benjamin Franklin, who was Postmaster General at this time, as this was the post road from New York City to Hartford. Another of these milestones stood near Blueberry Hill on the Route 107 north of Georgetown and one still stands today on South Street, Danbury that reads: "68 miles to New York, 67 miles to Hartford."

The General Assembly in October, 1795 granted the petition of Eliphalet Lockwood of Norwalk and Timothy Taylor of Danbury to repair the Danbury-Norwalk road which ran through Redding. The Assembly set up a corporation to run the turnpike and collect tolls. In December this "Norwalk and Danbury Turnpike Company" met at the home of Ezekiel Sanford in Redding, "on said road," to set up the necessary rules and regulations so that they could act as a corporation.

The General Assembly authorized the proprietors to collect the following tolls:

Every travelling or pleasure 4-wheeled carriage 25 cents

Every chaise chair or sulky 12 cents

Every loaded cart or sled 8 cents

Empty cart or sled. 4 cents

Loaded waggon 6 cents 2 mills

Empty waggon 3 cents

Horses, cattle and mules in droves, each 2 cents

Pleasure, travelling or loaded sleys, each 6 cents 2 mills

Empty sleys 3 cents

Each man and horse 4 cents

Each sheep and hog 1 cent

The Assembly further provided. that the following should he exempt from payment:

Persons travelling on the Lord's Day and other public days to attend public worship.

Persons travelling to attend Society or Town and Freeman's meetings

and Funerals, and Farmers in the neighborhood of said Turnpike passing through the same to attend their farming business...

The Norwalk and Danbury Turnpike Company lost its privilege of collecting tolls on these roads, probably because of financial problems, in 1802. It received permission to re-new collections when the road was repaired. A few years later than 1795 a meeting of the stockholders of the Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike was called, to meet at the tavern of Benjamin Gregory, Redding, Boston district for the purpose of petitioning the General Assembly "to grant the company power to extend the Turnpike from Belden's Bridge to the Great Bridge, at the head of Norwalk Harbor." The petition was not granted.

The Turnpike was a busy throughfare, great canvas-topped "goods" or freight wagons were continually passing north or south loaded with freight. Going north to Bethel and Danbury, loaded with fur, feather, dry and wet goods, cattle horns and tortoise shell for comb-making. Going south with the finished product of the shops: hats, boots, combs and general produce, to be shipped from the docks at Norwalk and Westport. The freight rate was $5 per ton from Danbury to Norwalk and Westport docks. The driver's seat in the freight wagons was broad and roomy, accommodating three or four pass-engers, and was always filled. Also on the Turnpike could be seen slow-moving ox carts loaded with farmers' produce. Horse-back riding was the principal method of travel and many horsemen passed up and down the old Turnpike, women riding on side saddle or pillion.

The Danbury and Norwalk stage coach made daily trips; the fare from Danbury to Norwalk was $1 and from Georgetown to Norwalk was 50 cents. The stage left Danbury at 2 A.M. and arrived in Norwalk in time for the passengers to take a steamboat to New York the same morning. It was the only road of consequence in the area.

For many years Boston Corners, Georgetown, then called Darling's Corners, was the place where the horses were changed and fresh horses put on. The first Post Office in Redding was on this same corner in the house about two miles north of Georgetown center at the junction of Umpawaug Road (then the turnpike), Peaceable Street (then Whiskey Lane) and Goodsell Hill, on the opposite side of the road was Darling's Tavern. Darling's Tavern was the way station for the weary traveler, where it is said drivers of 10,000 vehicles a year traveling the highway paused to refresh themselves, their passengers and their horses. It was a busy crossroad, a cheerful place, and of course, a clearing house for all the news of the day.

Later the horses were changed in Georgetown at Godfrey's store where a stage coach ran from Redding to meet the Danbury and Norwalk stage. Godfrey's store was located on Old Mill Road near the house long known as the Dr. Seely house and the horses were kept in the barn north of the house then owned by Silliman Godfrey. John Collins lived in the Godfrey house and was a stage coach driver. Arthur Hull and A. Whitlock were also drivers. The horses were reshoed at the Blacksmith Shop of Silas Hull, which stood on the east side of the road, near the Old Red Mill. The stage coach line was owned for many years by Hiram Barnes. He ran two four- horse coaches and carried many passengers.

The road known as the "Sugar Hollow Turnpike," started at Belden's Bridge, Norwalk (now in Wilton) on the west side of the Norwalk River, up through Georgetown and Sugar Hollow Valley, along the course of the river, through the town of Ridgefield, into the western side of Danbury. It was built as thc towns grew and the intervening section be-came thickly settled, and the "Old Turnpike" became a congested thorough-fare. Around 1820 the Sugar Hollow Turnpike was opened up. Much what is now known as the non-expressway part of US 7 was built on the foundation of the Sugar Hollow Turnpike between 1909 and 1926 for a whopping $4 million. Changes were made to the roadway's path through Branchville to Redding and Ridgefield as the road was built to travel to the left of the railroad tracks. At the urging of many angry motorists, the muddy dirt portion between Ridgefield and Danbury was paved with concrete in 1924. It was officially added to the US Highway System in 1926.

Automobiles made their appearance in the area between 1905 & 1910, but due to the high cost of the automobile at the time there were very few families that could afford them in Georgetown. Horses and wagons were still very much in use up until the 1930's. Ice men, grocers, and garbage men to name a few would travel the roadways going about their business in horse and wagon.

Why the resistance to change on the part of the delivery men? A story forwarded by Lynne Barrelle explains it very well:

The delivery men who used horses on their rounds were very resistant to changing to motorized vehicles for the following reasons (and this applied especially to the milkmen who would do the same rounds day after day.) The reason was that the horses used to know the routes so well that the milkman could get out in front of one house with the bottles for the next three or four houses, deliver to the first house, then go right to the door of the next house without going back out to the street, then to the next house, etc. - and the horse would be waiting for him with the wagon in front of the last house when he delivered the last bottle in his carrier and had to go out to the street for more. That saved a lot of walking back and forth to the wagon, and saved a lot of time too. No wonder they weren't too wild about the idea of using trucks!

Today we are accustom to traveling between Georgetown and Route 7 by traveling Route 107 and crossing the bridge between Smith St. and Route 57. This bridge was not erected until 1953 and it was around that time that School Street hillside was leveled off. Before the bridge was erected, a double house and two small single houses stood about where Route 57 and 107 meet and there was a four foot retaining wall across what is now 57 about where the parking lot for Deluca's Kitchen starts. The A&P Grocery Store stood on what is now 107, between the Georgetown Bible Church and the building that was once Georgetown Market. The flood of October 15-16, 1955 was a disaster that turned out to be a blessing, as the opportunities Tage Pearson and Dave Weir (both members of the Georgetown Community Association) spoke of and the steps taken by the Georgetown Lions Club to better Georgetown became a reality and modernization was made possible as part of the repair work.

Map of Georgetown in 1951. You'll notice the Rt. 107 bridge does not exist and the main route goes through Main St. Another interesting side-note is both Redding Rd. and Weston Rd. are labeled Rt. 53 on this map. Redding Rd. would be renamed Rt. 107 and Weston Rd. Rt. 57 after the completion of the bridge.

Before 1953, what we know as Route 107 from Redding went straight to Main Street through what is now the Georgetown Package Store parking lot. (View Map) The southern section of Main Street led to Route 57 and Old Mill Road (which was the Old Turnpike to Norwalk). Route 57 was a bit different too, as it wove around what is now Covenant Road, crossed over to what is now Old Rt. 57 and then on to Weston as it does today. Highland Avenue, Pine Avenue and Maple Avenue were referred to as "Swedetown" due to the amount of Swedish immigrants that settled there. Jim Connery had a beautiful house(that was later torn down) on the corner of Highland and Route 57 that my grandfather still recalls as well as the house next to it that burned down. Highland Avenue didn't extend as far as it does today, only up to about where a new access road for the Meadow Ridge retirement community is. It was on that corner that a milkman by the name of Osborn lived that was blinded by a gunshot to the face he suffered on his route.

Aerial Photo from Main St. Area Looking West in about 1946. Shows what the area in front of the Georgetown Bible Church used to look like before Rt. 107 came thru...lots of trees, a dirt path, the A&P Market and the old G&B Galvanizing Building. The A&P and Galvanizing Building were both removed to make way for the new roadway in 1953-54.

Old Mill Road was the main road to Wilton and Norwalk. Early on it served as the stagecoach road and the first Post Office in Georgetown which still stands today was located on the left as you travel toward Wilton past the two long barns that used Connery's to store their lime and concrete. Old Mill Road was important because a large majority of the wire mill was located there. The mill we see today came later, in the mid-to-late1800's the mill had nine buildings, two wire factories and a sieve factory off Old Mill Road. There was also a Railroad Depot across from the Post Office and Doctor L. Seeley's office. Off of Old Mill Road was the Polish community on Bunker Hill.

Heading back to North Main Street, if upon entering Georgetown from Redding you were to take a right toward the Georgetown Bible Church and the wire mill, you could stay right and head up Portland Avenue or continue straight on North Main St.

A map of Portland Avenue in 1867 (under the "OWN" in the word Georgetown) shows this road was originally a dirt road extending only to a G&B building. Portland Avenue from the information available began expanding with the factory from 1867 into the turn of the century as more workers came and required housing. Gilbert & Bennett records show houses on this street built by the factory from 1870 to 1925.

Continuing straight would take you on North Main Street over the Norwalk River and past the factory which in 1867 housed the Saw Mill, Glue Factory and Sieve Factory. Today this road is closed due to the factory redevelopment. It used to cross over rail tracks at the old employee entrance to the factory.

[These rail tracks branched off from the main rail-line just before the old Georgetown Train Station, two team tracks split to the left, one led to the back of Georgetown Station and one extended further to the road. The main spur track split to the right, joining again in the factory. In addition to Miller's Hall which was located behind the old parking lot, two small sheds also stood, one of them was a coal shed.]

Past the rail tracks/employees entrance on the left is the Post Office building built by Gilbert and Bennett in 1906. Up the hill on the right was the former company's cafeteria, and two superintendent houses. Before the large mill went up more houses stood there, in 1867 occupied by G. Albin, C. Albin, E. Gilbert, Mrs. Berry, B. Bennett (in that order up to the tracks), D.H. Miller on the right past the tracks and H. St. John straight ahead at the stop sign.

Church Street existed and extended to Route 7 and what is now 107. West Church Street was there as well accessing Route 7 and housing mill workers. Traveling Church Street in the opposite direction to 107, imagine a hill to your right that my grandfather explained was leveled off as Georgetown modernized. The hill, School Street, was a winter favorite for sledding and it took steel nerves to master the sharp left-hand turn down Church St. The original Gilbert and Bennett school sat atop this hill on the right. The school burnt down in the 1927 or 28. The school we see today was built in 1915 on New Street. South Church Street, now a dead end, once extended across the railroad tracks, followed the river, crossed it and connected with Old Mill Road at the Redding/Weston line. Smith Street, where my grandfather grew up, was originally supposed to extend through what is now Pryor/Hubbard Hall to North Main Street. This never happened and it remained a dead end street. Before the Route 107 bridge was built, the road extended to South Church Street and down to Old Mill Road. (View Map)

Tennis Court that used to be about where Pryor-Hubbard Hall is now

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