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Hattertown Road Reaches 300th Anniversary



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Hattertown Road — originally known as The Southerly Highway — will become three centuries old on January 25.

Longtime Newtown resident Chris Layda, who is chairman of the Hattertown Historic District Commission, discovered the milestone anniversary date when researching the history of the Hattertown area with his wife, Lisa.

The two have had an ongoing passion for history and have found researching the area fascinating.

It was his wife who came across the information about Hattertown Road’s origins in History of Newtown, Connecticut, written by Newtown’s first official historian, Ezra Johnson, in 1917.

The book may be dated more than a hundred years ago, but the section titled “The Southerly Highway,” starting on page 116, was undoubtably referencing what we know today as Hattertown Road.

“The Southerly Highway is the road that intersects what has been known for the last 100 years as the Newtown turnpike, now a State road,” the book’s 20th century description begins.

It goes on to say, “About two and one-half miles south of the flag-staff in Newtown Center, at a point just below the farm of H.N. Greenman, still remembered as the Jerome Northrop farm, the road running southwesterly through Huntingtown and on toward the Monroe line near Blanket Meadow is the Southerly highway... Lay-out of the Southerly highway from its intersection with the original lay-out of the road known as the road to the Stratford line to Castle Meadow Brook.”

Mr Johnson includes the description of how the town surveyed the land and defined the road in 1720, which is written in Colonial English (also known as the King’s English).

The text almost seems like a riddle in need of unraveling by today’s standards, using names of people alive at the time and markers in nature that have no bearing today.

For example, some of the directions reference, “thence southernly as marked trees direct until we come to Mr Tousey’s three score acre division,” “eastward of a bunch of rocks,” and “southardly until it comes to a piece of springy land.”

Acknowledging the convoluted description, Mr Layda told The Newtown Bee, “Ezra gave us the gift of translating it for us.”

Some of the locations, though, still exist and make sense today.

Mr Layda cites that when the text mentions a “three-acre pitch” it is likely referring to the Paproski family’s farm and that its reference to Cranberry Swamp is the wetlands between Mount Nebo Road and Hundred Acres Road. He adds that Castle Meadow Brook and Morgan’s Pond are still names known today.

The 1720 portion concludes, reading, “Ye above work done on ye highway laid out this twentieth day of January 1720, per us. Thomas Bennett, Joseph Peck, John Golet, Selectmen. Recorded February 3, 1720, Joseph Peck, Town Clerk.”

However, it goes on to state that at “a lawful town meeting of the inhabitants of Newtown” the town actually accepted the highway on January 25, 1720, making that the formal date.

Mr Layda believes the roadway was not known as Hattertown Road until the mid-1900s. The area was called Hattertown for its factories manufacturing hats — a trade that originated in Danbury in the 1700s and spread to surrounding towns.

Today, at roughly 6½ miles, Hattertown Road stretches from Dodgingtown Road/Sugar Street in Newtown to Easton Road in Monroe.

While the street may not be the oldest road in Newtown, Hattertown Road paved the way for improving the lives of residents in the area at the time, some of whom had been there since the 1690s.

It was in fact the residents who petitioned to have the road improved and to have the town provide maintenance for it.

The 1720 text explains, “Whereas, we are well sensible that through long delays, the publick, as well as particular persons have been greatly incommoded and damnified with respect to ye laying out of lands whereby necessary roads or highways are prevented being provided…”

Even more than 300 years later the town is still overseeing its maintenance to ensure travelers’ safety.

The Newtown Bee reported earlier this month that at a meeting between the Public Works Director Fred Hurley and Police Commission members it was announced that about two dozen roads will receive paint-striping of double-yellow center lines to improve travel safety. Hattertown Road was named among them.

For information about the Hattertown Historic District Commission, visit newtown-ct.gov/hattertown-historic-district-commission.

A white sign on the side of Hattertown Road reads “Entering Hattertown Historic District, Newtown” on January 22, 2020. Residents are said to have inhabited the area of Newtown for more than three centuries. —Bee Photo, Silber
A road sign marks the beginning of Hattertown Road, next to Dodgingtown Road. —Bee Photo, Silber
Hattertown Road, pictured here with Sugar Street to the left, will turn 300 years old on January 25, 2020. —Bee Photo, Silber
The Hattertown Green, pictured here in 1907, is off Hattertown Road. This photo’s caption in Newtown 1900-1960 by Dan Cruson, reads, “The house to the extreme right [is] the Levi Taylor house, which is the oldest house in the area, dating from 1750. To the left is a small outbuilding with an advertisement on its side. Foster Kane Clothiers of Bridgeport painted its name on any standing structure that it could find in Newtown at the beginning of the 20th century.” —Newtown 1900-1960 photo
This photo from 1907 shows the Hattertown Green with Hattertown Road, seen left. The house to the center is at the corner of Hattertown Road and Aunt Park Lane, the house to the right (which is now gone) was the Morgan’s Store, and the house seen to the left in the distance through the trees was the Gregory’s Orchard School in its original location.—Newtown 1900-1960 photo
The caption for this photo in Newtown 1900-1960 of the Hattertown Green in 1907 reads, “Hattertown Road runs to the east here toward Stepney. The house in the center of their view is the Elam Benedict house, named after its most important resident. Elam Benedict came from Danbury in 1921 and introduced hatting to the community. His granddaughter Celestia Benedict received her doctor of medicine degree from the Women’s College of Pennsylvania in 1874 and became one of the first female doctors in the state.” —Newtown 1900-1960 photo
The Hattertown Green, pictured here 100 years ago, runs across Castle Meadow Brook, seen to the lower right. According to the photo’s caption in Newtown 1900-1960, “The road that curves south here is Hi Barlow Road, named for Hiram Barlow, who lived at its southern terminus.” —Newtown 1900-1960 photo
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