West Haven’s Earliest Days
See part 1 here.
See part 2 here.
See part 3 here.
See part 5 here.
See part 6 here.
We acknowledge the efforts of Lorraine Wood Rockefeller, who originally set these words down in about 1960.
Early New Englanders were aware of the need for roads, but not much was done to acquire them. Efforts taken at early town meetings to compel men to work on the roads did not suffice to keep them in good condition. The military roads were perhaps the first real roads, the next in importance were the turnpikes for the old stagecoaches. The earliest of these were without springs and passengers sat on hard benches.
The need for adequate transportation was first realized following the Revolutionary War when roads were built by private companies incorporated under acts passed by the State Legislatures, called “turnpikes.” Gates were erected at ten mile intervals and they made it costly to travel. Those exempt were the person on his way to church, the person on military duty and the farmer on this way to and from the fields.
If the toll collector was not present, the gates were left open and everybody was permitted to pass without paying. Many thrifty Yankees preferred long detours to paying extortionate toll charges. When popular protest forced abandonment of the toll charges, many of the roads were purchased by the towns and incorporated into a general highway system.
Road building became important from 1690 to 1720. Pent Road, now First Avenue, was in use in 1687. Savin Avenue was also a part of Pent Road and was in use in 1698. Platt Avenue, once known as Cove River Road was a so-called highway in 1699. Saw Mill Road, Meloy Road, Benham Hill Road, and Jones Hill Road still follow closely the routes of farm roads laid out in the period 1680 to 1720.
Among the original settlers were George Lamberton (son of the original settlers of New Haven), Thomas Painter, Edward Thomas, Thomas (or Jesse Stevens), the Gregson, Fowler, Benham, Ward, Clarke, Brown and Thompson families. Subsequently principal farmers in the town also included James Reynolds, Newton Stephens, Eli Kimberly, Ezra Candee, Nehemiah Kimberly, Albert Candee, Isaac Hine, Joseph Prindle, Capt. Ichabod Smith, Capt. Anson Clinton, Capt. Albert Thomas and Henry Thomas, Elliott and Jacob Ward.
To be continued.