Brief History of Fairfield

Fairfield County, Connecticut


Pre-Colonial Days – Indian villages existed along Long Island Sound for thousands of years. To the whites the local Indians were known as the Unquowas, meaning "the place beyond", a small clan of the Paugussett tribe.

1637 – Roger Ludlow first saw the area that became Fairfield when he participated in a massacre of a group of Pequot Indians in a swamp in Southport. (On Post Road in Southport there is a monument to the event.)

1639 – Roger Ludlow, one of the founders of the colony of Connecticut, settled a group of men at a place that later became known as Fairfield (which was named for the hundreds of acres of salt marsh that bordered the coast). The village grew up around the Meeting House Green, now the Town Green.

By the 1670's – the settlers divided the vacant land in the north between themselves.

Black Rock Harbor, now part of the City of Bridgeport, became the town's leading port with ships traveling to Boston, New York and the West Indies.

1700s – Mill River village (later Southport) was a small hamlet at the mouth of Fairfield's Mill River.

c. 1750 – the Ogden House, a "salt box" farmhouse, built (1520 Bronson Road’ the house is a Fairfield Historical Society museum.

1776-1783 – American Revolutionary War.

Gold Selleck Silliman was in charge of the defense of the coast from the British on Long Island. His home stands on Jennings Road.

1779 (spring) – Silliman was kidnapped from his home by Tory forces in preparation for a British raid on Fairfield County. The actual raid consisted of about 2,000 enemy troops landing on Fairfield Beach near Pine Creek Point and then burned the town to the ground.

Samuel Penfield rebuilt his Sun Tavern (located on the Town Green). It is now owned by the Town of Fairfield.

1783 – Timothy Dwight became the pastor of the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church. He also ran an academy of higher learning (at which he was so successful that he became president of Yale College).

1789 – President George Washington traveled through Fairfield and later remarked that " the destructive evidences of British cruelty are yet visible both in Norwalk and Fairfield; as there are the chimneys of many burnt houses standing in them yet."

1794 – Old Town Hall erected as the Fairfield County Court House.

Federal Period – merchants and prosperous farmers built beautiful homes in Greenfield Hill.

Late 19th century – in Greenfield Hill, the Bronson Windmill was erected for the Bronson family estate.

1804 – Fairfield Academy built as a private school (today a museum run by the Eunice Dennie Burr Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution).

1813 – Stratfield Baptist Church, the oldest house of worship standing in town, built.

By 1831 – Mill River village changed its name to Southport and became a leading coastal port on Long Island Sound.

throughout the 1800s – Southport possessed the only two banks in town.

Age of Steamboats and Railways – competition from steamboats and the railroad hurt the business of Southport. One of the industries keeping the port going was the export of the high-quality Southport onion.

1840s – opening of the railroad. The fact that Fairfield was still a quiet agricultural town attracted many city dwellers to the town to build summer cottages overlooking the Sound and along the main street (now Old Post Road). Two of the many cottages, 'Hearthstone Hall" and "Mailands", are now part of Fairfield University.

1840  --  Jonathan Sturges,  the principal organizer of the Illinois Central Railroad and acting president and director of the railroad, built the American Gothic Sturges Cottage, a National Historic Landmark, facing the Mill Plain Green. The house later became the home of Henry Cady Struges, the founder of the Fairfield Historical Society.  He raised thoroughbred horses on his Fairfield farm, Riverhurst.

1917 – start of World War I for the Americans. The War bought an economic boom to Bridgeport and this greatly helped the Fairfield economy. Many Bridgeport workers settled in Fairfield, helped by the trolley and later the automobile. By 1929, the population in town increased from 6,000 to 17,000.

1920  --  the Mill Plain Improvement Society founded to alleviate the problem of roaming cows.

1929 – the Great Depression began.

1950s – the Connecticut Turnpike brought another age of big development to Fairfield.

By the l960s -- the town's residential, suburban character was firmly established.

Today – population of over 53,000 residents.


Fairfield Historical Society.  History of Fairfield - A Summary.

Rita Papazian.  "Year with Fall Festival.",1413,98%257E4291%257E3073187,00.html

Back to the w. Connecticut Page
Back to the Main Page