Way Back When ... 1835
Published 11:29 am, Thursday, September 22, 2016
In May 1835 Westport became incorporated and 1800 people suddenly became Westporters. The first settlers had purchased the land in the 1640’s from the Indians. Many families had lived here for generations, but until 1835 they had been residents of three separate towns: Fairfield if they lived east of the Saugatuck River, Norwalk if they lived west of the river, or Weston, if they lived above Coleytown Road.
Boats were the best way to travel and carry goods as the roads were rough and narrow. A good sized sloop could sail up the Saugatuck as far as what is now Gorham Island. By the early 1800’s a thriving village and port had developed on both sides of the Saugatuck River. In 1847 the New York and New Haven Railroad bought the right of way and built a station just west of the river. Houses and stores were built near the station and in 1848 the trains began to run from New Haven to New York City. The area became like a small town and took on the name Saugatuck.
In the 1840’s Ireland experienced a terrible famine and many of the families immigrated to The United States. Irish immigrants settled in Saugatuck to build the railroads and others worked on local farms. By 1900 many of the Irish had prospered in business and moved to other parts of Westport. Meanwhile the railroad was expanding and the Italians came to Saugatuck. “Little Dublin’’ became “Little Italy”.
On Oct. 8 from 3 to 4 p.m. Come join Bob Mitchell, Westport Historical Society Board President, as he leads a walking tour of the area. The walk ends with a drink on the house at one of Saugatuck’s favorite haunts, the Black Duck. There is a $10 donation and WHS members are $8. Please call 203-222-1424 to reserve.