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Stamford Through the Centuries


Stamford Beginnings

MuralIn 1640, two Indian chiefs, Ponus and Wascussue, signed the deed selling Stamford to Captain Nathaniel Turner of the New Haven Colony for 12 coats, 12 howes, 12 hatchets, 12 glasses, 12 knives, 4 kettles, and 4 fathoms of white wampum.
Fact:  “howes” are hoes, and wampum are shell beads strung on a thong or a cord. The Native Americans gave wampum as a sign of friendship; they did not think of it as money. The Puritans didn’t understand the meaning of wampum to the Native Americans, and they considered it part of the price they paid for the land.  

Shortly after, Captain Turner sold the land to a group of men from Wethersfield, the first town in Connecticut, for 33 pounds (English money). These men held what could be called the first “Stamford” town meeting in 1640.  The meeting was held in Wethersfield.  The group agreed to start the new settlement, but to remain part of New Haven.  29 families moved to this land in 1641. (note: sources differ in these numbers. According to Dr. Estelle F. Feinstein writing for The Stamford Historical Society, "28 would-be planters and their wives and families and at least two ‘Negro servants’ began building a meeting-house and their own homes on high ground above the harbor").

In 1642 they changed the name of their land from Rippowam to Stamford, after a town in Lincolnshire, England.  More than 80% of the New England settlers were from this part of England.  Stamford means Stony Ford.

In 1655 a new agreement with Ponus and his son, Onax, defined Stamford as eight miles wide and 16 miles long. Bedford and Pound Ridge, now part of New York State, were then part of Stamford, as was one-third of present-day New Canaan and all of Darien.

The boundary line between Stamford and New York was eight miles from the Post Road and it was known as the “eight mile line”.  The Post Road goes all of the way north to Boston, and still exists today as Route 1.

Stamford was controlled by New Haven, which was called the parent plantation, until 1662. In that year, The Charter for the Colony of Connecticut was passed and Stamford became a separate part of the Connecticut Colony.

In the 1600s Stamford was a farming community, where people grew grain and raised animals. There were four common fields where everyone in the community farmed together.

Men worked in the field, raised stock, fished and hunted. Women were responsible for preparing and preserving food. They also had gardens where they grew beans, peas, pumpkins, squash and other vegetables. They had to make all of the clothes from scratch; spinning the thread, weaving the cloth, and sewing the garments by hand.  In addition to these other jobs, women also had to take care of the children.  Until 1671, when the first one-room public school was built, they were also responsible for educating the children. The children had responsibilities around the house and farm. Boys cared for the cattle and sheep. Girls helped their mothers and learned the skills needed by women.

In 1692 the Stamford Witch Trials took place. 17-year-old Kate Branch accused some women of bewitching her and two of them were put on trial. This happened in the same year as the famous Salem Witch Trials.