Tag Archives: stamford historical society

Legends and Lore of Stamford

Stamford, CT. Founded in 1641 this city is worthy of the legends that came from its historic past. Like most stories, they were born out of fact and have only grown into folklore as the years have rolled by. Whether they lead to hauntings or spooktacular events is clearly beside the point. It’s the story that gets me interested in learning the history behind the legend and I hope that it will for you as well!

I’ve done two of these “twisted tales” pieces in the past and have had so much fun with them, I wanted to do more! This year proved to be difficult in that I had accumulated so many different stories that I had a hard time trying to narrow down what I would actually post here and what I would save for another time. I wanted to not only tell the stories, but try to add some life back into them as well. We need to remember our past so we can preserve what’s left of it and this is one way I’m hoping, we can do just that.

Just as I’ve said in previous posts, these are but snippets. Edited down from a tremendous amount of hours of research that will hopefully get you excited to Learn Where You Live!

So let’s get to it…Happy Halloween Stamford!!!

-Thomas Reed-

1776 – Age 78

Though Death be potent as a king

And wounds with his envenomed sting

Yet Faith fresh vigor will impart

To rob the tyrant of his dart.

Stamford Harbor Ledge Lighthouse: There is something about this lighthouse that just speaks to me. It has an air of mystery and solitude to it that is quite different from other lighthouses. While Stamford Harbor has seen a great deal pass over its waters through the years, from Privateers in the Revolutionary War to ships built for military use in our now lost boatyard, it wasn’t until February 10, 1882 that our Harbor was graced with its own lighthouse. The Stamford Harbor Ledge Lighthouse was commissioned for $30,000 in 1881…put into service on Chatham Rocks in 1882…and decommissioned in 1985 just over 100 years later. In its time there were 22 light keepers and two assistants. 

One of the 22, Keeper John J Cook (k.1907-1909) loved spending Christmas at the light saying, “what more soul-stirring music could there be than that of wind and wave as they whistle and roar or moan and swish past our little home?”

As is almost a tradition of old lighthouses, the Stamford Ledge is said to be haunted by one of the old keepers. Which exact one is a mystery, but I would like to offer my  own theory. There are stories of Keeper Raymond F Bliven (k.1930-31) who never made it back to the lighthouse one night after having dinner with a friend on shore. Though separated from his wife, the keeper left the mainland for the lighthouse on August 13, 1931 to go back on duty and was found two days later by the crew of The Spruce about ¼ mile away from the lighthouse but ½ mile away from where his boat was found. His body was badly bruised including a major head injury. 

There are two versions of this story that I was able to find: 1) that it was ruled an accidental drowning after slipping off the ladder to the lighthouse and back into the boat which then capsized or 2) that it was foul play as speculated by the head trauma. Bliven was an accomplished swimmer so it was never thought that his swimming abilities could be at fault for his drowning.

However he passed, it makes it all the more curious if he is in fact the lost soul who haunts the house now? That he felt so compelled to make sure he finished his duty that he never left the area? If it is Keeper Bliven, I’m sure he, like many of us are hoping that the lighthouse gets a much needed face lift and is saved for all to see it light up our harbor once again!

-Thankful Weed-

1757-Age 15

Her blooming youth and lovely form

Could not impede the fateful storm.

The Forgotten: Deep in a wooded area of North a Stamford there lies a place, approximately 225ft by 225ft that is thought to house HUNDREDS of former Stamford residents. Known by several names in the town’s death records: Town Farm Cemetery, Town Poor Farm, Sunset Home Cemetery and Sunset Farm. But to many who live in the city, it is simply…Potter’s Field.

While the dedication stone stated it dates from 1870-1970, that is the only marker that indicates just what lies behind it, or rather, who lies behind it. 

Having stumbled upon this sacred place with a friend a number of years ago, I had no idea it was there. It lies in the woods at the edge of Bartlett Arboretum and when we were there it was overgrown with brush, trees and the like. Deciding to look further, it wasn’t until I tripped on one of the numbered marker stones that it truly hit us what this place was. Sure dedication plaques are everywhere, but when you begin to see the markers and then more, and then take note of their rising numbers well, it is both eerie and incredibly sad at the same time. The woods suddenly took on a heavy air quality, there was incredible stillness and yet you could hear every leaf that fell around us. We tried to clear as many markers we could of debris but had no idea just how large the area was and much of it (again at the time) was inaccessible.

I was so moved by this place I wanted to learn more. I wanted to know their names and give them some dignity and what I’ve learned is tragic. While there are records with some named individuals, right now, there are no complete records of all of the burials in this lot. It is also believed that some were piled on top of one another and just wrapped in a cloth or blanket as was the case with many infant deaths of the times.

When going through the causes of death of those recorded, you will find victims of accidents, “exhaustion” (perhaps an early name for heart ailments?), influenza and even a murder or two. Some were folks who had no family to care for them and no money for a proper burial and so would end up in the Field. And of course the saddest of them all, the little ones. So many babies and children now lost under the numbers.

An unsolved murder from 1976 also plagues the land adding to its mystery and unsettled feeling in those deeply rooted vines. And most unfortunate, many of the markers are now lost due to those looking for souvenirs found in the woods by those not understanding what it was that they took.

Are these lands haunted by those looking for recognition? Are their souls resting or waiting for their time to sleep in peace? All I can say is that while I was there, there was an uneasiness to the air, a silent scream of many underneath my feet that seemed to pierce the quiet air with “please don’t forget us.”

During my research for this piece I was so happy to find that this year, some folks began a project to bring closure to the lost and discarded souls. To clean up the area and give them proper stones and put names to all the numbers…as much as is humanly possible. How wonderful it is that after all these years there are those who still care to help those they never even knew?

Maybe when it has been completed, those ‘forgotten’ can finally rest easy knowing that they are now being remembered.

Personal Photo

-Sarah M. Bishop – William H. Bishop-

1853 – Ages 33 & 42

Wrapt in the shades of death

No more that friendly face I see

Empty, ah empty every place

Once filled so well by thee

The Clawman of Stamford: On August 28, 1933, Army Air Corps Pilot Captain Ernest Emery Harmon took off from Washington D.C. headed for Long Island. Due to heavy fog in the area, he was set off course and wound up in coastal Connecticut over Stamford. He was last seen circling low over Turn of River area before the aircraft went down in a group of trees. Captain Harmon was thought to have been thrown from the plane as his body was found ⅛ of a mile from the wreck which was about 300 ft from Long Ridge Road. Captain Harmon was 40 years old.

A seemingly straightforward obituary of a soldier, yes? An accomplished pilot who passed away too young due to the weather and instruments of the time. But the story takes on a stranger turn…

Just like in the movies, urban legends live and breathe and become great tales to tell at sleepover and around fire pits. And this one is no exception! Hooked yet? You will be!

For out of this plane crash was born the legend of…The Clawman. This story made its way to Stamford decades ago and from what I understand, the crash aspect was thought to be fiction. The story goes that a plane had crashed in the 1930’s and a possible survivor was never found. However there were rumors of sightings of a man walking along the streets in the area who had a makeshift hook for a hand who would go around and claw at doors at night. This story has a second version in that if young couples went up to the reservoir to make out, they were targets for the clawman. There were reports of the sound of scratching on car doors during make out sessions and one couple took off so quickly after hearing it that when they got home, they found a claw stuck in the door handle having ripped off the offending arm in their haste!

Being me, I had to look this up and that was when I found the actual crash story. The true urban legend born out of a factual story is itself part of the folklore that makes us who we are.

Now I’m not saying there is or isn’t a Clawman…who am I to judge? But maybe, just maybe the next time you decide to go up towards the reservoir or the dark North Stamford roads at night for a drive with your best girl, you stop. Turn around. And  maybe hit a movie at the Avon or show at the Palace instead. Because they are not spooky places…or ARE they???

1950’s Postcard

Those are stories for another time kids! Thank you so much for reading and please see the links below for some extras you might be interested in.

Special note: The epitaphs I’ve included between stories are genuine poems taken off of the stones of those buried here in a few of Stamford’s 47 cemeteries!

My thanks especially to the residents of Stamford who once again gave me enough story ideas to last through the next decade and to Ignacio Laguarda for including WOTM in his own Halloween piece for CT Insider!

Until next year…Keep it Spooky Stamford! 

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Bonus Story Links for you:

Twisted Tales of Stamford (WOTM Halloween 2018)

The Stranger Side of Stamford (WOTM first in series 2015)

Unearthing the Mysteries at the Hoyt-Barnum House  (WOTM archaeological dig of the oldest house in Stamford 2016)

Want to learn more? Need a gift idea? Help support WOTM?

Clark’s Hill Cat

Stamford Sports (Images of Sports)

Stamford ’76: A True Story of Murder, Corruption, Race, and Feminism in the 1970s (referred to in Potter’s Field segment above)

A Maritime History of the Stamford Waterfront: Cove Island, Shippan Point and the Stamford Harbor Shoreline (American Chronicles)

Story of the Early Settlers of Stamford, Connecticut, 1641-1700, including Genealogies of Principal Families

#wotm #keepitlocal #learnwhereyoulive #halloween2019

#stamfordct #stamfordlighthouse #pottersfield #clawman

Hauntings and History at Hoyt-Barnum is Back!

Get in the Halloween Spirit and “Learn Where You Live” Stamford by heading to the Hoyt-Barnum House for the annual  Hauntings and History event!

Tonight and tomorrow with three opportunities each evening, you can learn more about the house, Stamford’s past and the former residence who may still linger within its walls. (Man I love this stuff!)

Space is limited, so head to the Stamford History Center’s site for tickets and info: http://stamfordhistory.org/event/hauntings-and-history-at-hoyt-barnum/

Keep it Spooky a Stamford!

#wotm #keepitlocal #learnwhereyoulive

#stamfordct #stamfordhistory #hauntings

 

Gala Benefit for Stamford History Center

Press release:
STAMFORD HISTORY CENTER TO HONOR EMMETT, MILLER, AND PASTORE AT 2019 ANNUAL GALA
 
STAMFORD, CT (March 2019)- Kathryn Emmett, Corporation Counsel of the City of Stamford, Connecticut State Representative Patricia Billie Miller, and Fran Pastore, CEO of the Women’s Business Development Council, will be the Honorees at the Stamford History Center’s 2019 Gala. The event title is “Forging the Future: Honoring Women’s Leadership”.
 
“For the past six months, we have been celebrating the impact of women on the history of Stamford through our current exhibit, “Fabric of Stamford: Women, Costumes & Textiles 1860-1960″.  Fran, Pat, and Kathy are great examples of the leadership women have brought to our city in the current generation,” said Marshall Millsap, Chair of the History Center.
 
“As our exhibit features banners, dresses, and actual voting records to commemorate the anniversary of the passage of women’s suffrage in the US, hundreds of Stamford students have been reminded of how women have shaped our city and our country,” added Dr. Thomas Zoubek, President and Executive Director of the Center.  “The objects, dresses, photos, and furniture – highlighting the lives of women over the past century- are a demonstration of how women have always undertaken multiple roles. Our Honorees represent the leadership and drive that inspires the coming generation of Stamford women to feel empowered as they face the future and its challenges.”
 
“We are thrilled that Kathy, Pat, and Fran accepted our invitation to be honored,” stated Joe Maida, Board Director and Chairman of the History Center’s Nominating Committee. “We also plan to honor current Stamford students as they complete their high school education, as they will truly be forging the future. This is a great opportunity for the community to celebrate the historic and soon to be historic record of Stamford women.”
For tickets and additional information: http://stamfordhistory.org/gala2019/
 
The Gala will be held at Waters Edge at Giovanni’s on April 18.
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#wotm #keepitlocal #learnwhereyoulive #knowwheretogo

Victorian Tea at the Stamford History Center

Stamford, CT— A Victorian Tea will be held at the Stamford History Center on Sunday, November 12th from 1:30 – 4 pm.  Guests will have the opportunity to view the Center’s current exhibit prior to the serving of tea.  This year’s speaker, Michele McEwen, is Stamford’s first female firefighter. Ms. McEwen will share her story. The current History Center exhibit,  Stamford  on Fire, commemorates the legacy of Stamford’s various Fire Departments over time.  The exhibit will be open to guests from 1:30 – 2 pm.

The Victorian Tea itself will be a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Enjoy beautifully arranged sandwiches and baked goods along with steaming, fragrant tea served in elegant china tea cups.  Tickets are $20 each for members, $25 for the general public.  Send your check and contact information to the Stamford History Center, 1508 High Ridge Road, Stamford 06903.  Tickets can be purchased through the website, stamfordhistory.org.   Questions may be addressed to info@stamfordhistory.org or 203-329-1183.

______________________________________________________

About the Stamford History Center

The Stamford History Center, the municipal historian of Stamford, is an educational and research institution whose primary functions are to collect, conserve, interpret, and share artifacts and information relating to greater Stamford, to engage citizens in the telling of their stories. The organization, located at 1508 High Ridge Road, is dedicated to preserving regional history and our varied cultural heritage. We provide opportunities for our community to understand and experience the past through our library, the presentation of exhibits and displays, lectures, demonstrations, special events, participatory programs, and tours of the unique Hoyt-Barnum House, built in 1699

For more information, call us at 203-329-1183, “Like” us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/StamfordHistoricalSociety or visit our website at www.stamfordhistory.org.

Experience Colonial Stamford at the Hoyt-Barnum House!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Zoubek, 203-246-6941

EXPERIENCE COLONIAL STAMFORD AT THE HOYT-BARNUM HOUSE

The Stamford History Center invites everyone to come and visit Stamford’s oldest dwelling, the Hoyt-Barnum House. Recently restored in its new location, the siding on the house now brings us back in time to how it originally looked when it was built in 1699.

While many may be familiar with the red paint that graced the house after a 1960s restoration, the History Center did tremendous research and work in making sure the house would look very much as it did when it was originally constructed. Of course, any home that survives for more than 300 years will experience cosmetic and structural changes influenced by fashion and maintenance needs.

When you take a tour of the house, you will get to view rarely seen artifacts plus 18th and 19th century pieces of furniture from the Center’s vast collection. You’ll see your old favorites as well as items that can now be touched and handled. An advantage of taking the self-guided audio tour is that you can control just how much or how little detail you’d like to learn about the property. And don’t miss out on the introductory video which was produced by Stamford’s own David Klein of DEK Creative (with help from CT Humanities Council funding). Such a proud collective of Stamford folks helping to preserve Stamford’s history!

Tour days and times for the Hoyt-Barnum House, now located at the Stamford History Center at 1508 High Ridge Road, are Thursdays and Fridays at 12:30pm, 1:30pm & 2:30pm and Saturdays at 11am, 12pm, 1:30pm & 2:30pm. Be sure to visit: http://stamfordhistory.org for more details.

SHC is also happy to announce the return of “Tales of Horror and Death” just in time for Halloween! Taking place on October 26th and 27th, there will be 3 tours each evening at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm. Come and hear interpreters tell the tales of what horrors our City’s founders faced in the 17th & 18th centuries in their day to day lives. You will also hear about the story of Stamford “witch” Elizabeth Clawson, who was the subject of Stamford’s own Witch Trials in 1692!

Space is limited so get your tickets early and please note, this graphic program is intended for ages 12 and up. Tickets are $15 a person and $10 for members. Please see the SHC website’s event calendar to reserve your place for this awesome spooky event.

~

About the Stamford History Center

The Stamford History Center, the municipal historian of Stamford, is an educational and research institution whose primary functions are to collect, conserve, interpret, and share artifacts and information relating to greater Stamford, to engage citizens in the telling of their stories. The organization, located at 1508 High Ridge Road, is dedicated to preserving regional history and our varied cultural heritage. We provide opportunities for our community to understand and experience the past through our library, the presentation of exhibits and displays, lectures, demonstrations, special events, participatory programs, and tours of the unique Hoyt-Barnum House, built in 1699

For more information, call us at 203-329-1183, “Like” us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/StamfordHistoricalSociety or visit our website at www.stamfordhistory.org.

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#wotm #keepitlocal #stamfordhistorycenter #stamfordct #stamfordhistoricalsociety

#hoytbarnumhouse #halloween #colonialstamford #keepitspooky #learnwhereyoulive

Digging Up a Bit of Stamford History!

6a00e008c4fa618834013485e577f1970c

(Thanks to the Stamford Historical Society’s website for the photos.)

During the weekend of July 16th and 17th 2016, the Stamford Historical Society as well as volunteers from the public (including myself) will be descending upon the Hoyt Barnum House to take part in an archaeological dig. With it being Stamford’s 375th birthday this year and the house getting ready for its move up to the Society’s grounds, the dig is the perfect opportunity to take place in a piece of genuine Stamford history. This will be the 4th dig taking place at the house in 50 years…one having taken place in the 1960’s, one in 2002 and one done this past Spring by the Public Archaeology Lab.  Having written about Stamford’s oldest house before and being a lover of local history, I’m personally very excited and honored to be taking part in this dig.

As I previously wrote in my post The Stranger Side of Stamford: “Built in 1699 on land once owned by Munsee Indians, the Hoyt-Barnum house is the oldest home in Stamford. A true testament to the city’s founders, this wooden structure has held up through the roughest of New England weather for over 300 years. While the house itself is wood, the chimney was created of stone and (as per Stamford Historical Society) held together with such materials as mortar with clay, straw and animal hair.” This house, being only 58 years younger than the founding of Stamford, it has survived though hurricanes, floods, harsh Winters, wars and even the over development of the city itself.

Past digs on the property turned up such things as hand forged nails, shards of pottery and glass and even bones and shells. According to the Historical Society’s website, any larger items unearthed are preserved and housed at their location.

Why dig?

Stamford has an amazing history to it. This city was founded only 21 years after the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Think about that! It really puts it into perspective doesn’t it?

So the question should be, why NOT dig?

With so much development going on around our fair city, there are few places left where we can unearth the secrets of our past. To find traces of how our founders lived their lives here. For example, I mentioned that shells were found in a previous dig on the grounds. Why is this significant when we live in a coastal city? Because even though the waterfront extended further inland in those days, the house itself was not located right on it and seafood such as clams and oysters were considered a ‘poor mans’ meal in those days. While you may go to your favorite restaurant now and freely order oysters as a mere appetizer for your dinner, back in the 1600’s, this was how they survived. And because they did, we have this city to call home now.

With the house moving to another location, this is the perfect time to explore, to learn and as is often said here at WOTM, to LEARN WHERE YOU LIVE! Learn how Stamford came to be. Learn who lived here before. Learn about who we have to thank for settling here and creating this place that is such an important part of our lives.

I’m including the information below from the Stamford Historical Society with the details on the dig and how you too can sign up to participate. There are limited spots, so please get your RSVPs in as soon as you can and come and get dirty with us as we dig deep into the past!

Hope to see you there!!

hoyt-Barnum House-pc

WHAT LIES BENEATH?

 

(July 2016) Stamford, CT- Here’s your chance to experience hands-on archaeology in lower Fairfield County.  The Stamford Historical Society will be carrying out an archaeological dig at the Hoyt Barnum House property, 713 Bedford Street in Stamford, on Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th from 9AM- 3PM each day.  The Historical Society will provide trowels for digging, buckets, and basic instructions on how to dig.  You will be using 1/4″ mesh to screen all dirt.  This dig will be held by Executive Director Thomas Zoubek, who has a PhD from Yale University and has led multiple archaeological explorations.  Volunteers should wear appropriate clothing and should bring work gloves to keep their hands clean.  Call 203-329-1183 or contact info@stamfordhistory.org to reserve a place in this historic dig.

A professional dig by the Public Archaeology Lab (PAL) this spring located a number of interesting artifacts including 18th century pottery and an Indian Head Penny.  Who knows what you might uncover?  All finds will belong to the Stamford Historical Society and will contribute to the record and understanding of the Hoyt Barnum House (built 1699) and its inhabitants over the years.  Please bring your own refreshments/snack/lunch.  Sunscreen and a hat are recommended.  The dig will not take place if there is a thunderstorm and there will be no raindate.  Get ready to dig into history and get your hands dirty!

The Stamford Historical Society, located at 1508 High Ridge Road, is an educational and research institution whose primary functions are to collect, preserve, conserve, interpret, and exhibit materials relating to Stamford, Connecticut and the surrounding area.  As the City of Stamford’s history center, the Society is dedicated to providing opportunities for the community to understand and experience the past through the presentation of exhibits and displays, lectures, demonstrations, special events and participatory programs. For more information, call us at 203-329-1183 or visit our website at www.stamfordhistory.org.

historicalsociety

Info on the 2002 dig: http://www.stamfordhistory.org/adv_arch1.htm

#wotm #keepitlocal #wotmnation #stamfordct #stamford375 #stamfordhistory #stamfordhistoricalsociety #hoytbarnumhouse #history #dig #archaeology #learnwhereyoulive #stopandlookaround