History & Preservation

Milford Town History

February 1, 1639, is the date the area then known as "Wepawaug" was purchased from Ansantawae, chief sachem of the Paugusset Tribe. Settlers began arriving shortly thereafter and began to build the town known as Milford. Townspeople played a part in the development of the United States. Adventurers from Milford reached out and founded several other communities and explored afar.Buried treasure is said to exist on a small island the Indians called "Poquahaug", just a mile off Silver Sands Beach. It is a recognized fact that Captain Kidd and other pirates sailed and hid along the Connecticut coast. It's no wonder that iron chests filled with "loot" are rumored to be buried on the land called Charles Island!

Three governors of Connecticut called Milford their home. Fort Trumbull was built to provide protection in the late 1700s during the Revolutionary War. Yes, George Washington slept here! During the Civil War, Milford was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Although primarily agrarian, shipbuilding, oystering, small industry and trade on the open seas from the harbor were part of the local economy. The early 1900's brought the leather industry along with the making of boots, hats and shoes.

After World War II, the population swelled as GIs returned from the war and bought houses in the suburb of New Haven and Bridgeport called Milford. Industry also developed to support the war effort. Norden, Milford Rivet, U.S. Motors, and Edgecomb Steel were some of the familiar names of the time. Other industry followed, most notably the consumer giants of Bic and Schick. Then the completion of I-95 in 1960, with its 7 exits and entrances brought easy access. The Connecticut Post Shopping Center and other development followed rapidly. Development reached a peak in the 70s and 80s, leveled off in the early 90s and then picked up again in the late 90s until we reached our present population of over 50,000 and businesses that number over 2,000.

Our thanks to Richard Platt, Town Historian.

Preservation

The Milford Historical Society The Milford Historical Society is a non-profit organization open to all people interested in the unique history of Milford. Their mission is to collect and preserve Milford antiquities, to encourage historical investigation, and to disseminate historical information.

Research, school tours and other visits by appointment, between Columbus Day and Memorial Day. Call 203-874-2664 or visit milfordhistoricalsociety.org

Wharf Lane

Three early houses make up the historic complex known as Wharf Lane, named for the old street which ran from the Town Dock, scene of Milford's commerce by water, to the Milford Green. Along this street could be seen warehouses, general stores, tanner's and cooper's shops. A portion of many homes were devoted to businesses and shops and family members were often employed in early trade.

The Eells-Stow House c. 1700

The Eells-Stow House is believed to be the oldest house in Milford and takes part of its name from the Eells family, who arrived in Milford in the later 17th century from the Boston area.

Samuel Eells, born c. 1640, came to Milford with his bride in 1668. After his wife's death, he moved to Hingham, Mass. Upon his death, the Wharf Lane property was inherited by his son, Col. Samuel Eells.

Col. Samuel Eells was very prominent in the affairs of both Milford and New Haven Colony. He married Martha Whiting Bryan (his second wife) who bore him a son, Nathaniel. Nathaniel married Martha Stow who unfortunately only lived for seven months after the wedding. The widowed Nathaniel then moved to Middletown. He eventually inherited the Wharf Lane property from his step-mother (the Col.s third wife) which he then sold to Stephen Stow, his deceased wife's brother.

Stephen Stow was born in Middletown in May 1726 and married c. 1752 Freelove Baldwin of Milford. They had seven children, six boys and one girl. Stephen was the captain of a coastal schooner and carried on a trading business up and down Long Island Sound. His day book is in the possession of the Historical Society, and tells an interesting story of his trading business.

Four of their sons, Stephen, Samuel, John and Jebediah served their country in the Revolutionary War, but their father, Capt. Stephen Stow gave his life while nursing 200 smallpox-stricken American soldiers. They had been brought from a British prison ship and cast ashore at Milford Harbor. The full extent of Capt. Stow's heroism can be appreciated only when it is understood that in 1777 very little was known about fighting this disease and its death toll was appalling. Forty-six soldiers died in one month and are buried in a common grave along with Capt. Stow.

Capt. Stow's historic home was saved from destruction in 1930 by the efforts of the Freelove Baldwin Stow Chapter of the D.A.R. The Milford Historical Society was organized shortly thereafter for the specific purpose of saving this, and many other, Milford antiquities.

During 1981-1982 the Eells-Stow House underwent extensive remodeling because of serious settling on the north facade. This shed much light on the original plan and structure of this old house. All clapboards, sheathing, window frames and sashes were removed revealing the basic structure of the framing. Tradition had the date of the house late in the 17th century coinciding with the arrival of the Eells family in Milford. Investigation of the revealed framing put the date a little later, possibly as late as c. 1720. The oldest part of the house has now been restored by replacing clapboards, sheathing, diamond-pane casement windows and interior refurbishing. This restoration has repaired the Eells-Stow House so that it is now structurally sound and presents an historic building to the people of Milford which, along with the Bryan-Downs House and the Stockade House, represents Milford's proud past.

The Eells-Stow House is listed on the National Register of Historic Houses.

The Clark-Stockade House c. 1780

The "Stockade House", so named many years ago, was traditionally the first house built outside the stockade or palisades which surrounded the town of Milford against Indians. The original house was moved to its present site in 1974 from Bridgeport Avenue near the hospital. This house was begun by Deacon George Clark about 1659 and grew in several stages to a saltbox style house.

In 1780 Michael Peck, a builder, and David Camp, his assistant, dismantled the house and built a new house using many of the salvaged building materials. Some of the supporting beams and framework are original to the 1659 house, and are still being used today.

The dimensions of the 1780 house, which you see today, were probably about the same as the old one. Peck's innovations included higher ceiling, larger windows, a rare built-in bookcase, and raised paneling.

Our building, as you see it today, is still being restored. Ongoing projects are the reconstruction of the original six-fireplace center chimney with its beehive and warming ovens, the paneling, the winding front stairway and the bookcase.

The Clark-Stockade House displays many interesting pieces of Milford furniture, including the Marion Buckingham Tibbals collection, and items from the Platt, Beard, Camp and Eells families.

The Bryan-Downs House c. 1785

Originally built by Capt. Jehiel Bryan and his son on the Post road between Milford and New Haven, this house has been dismantled and rebuilt as you see it today. Jehiel Bryan, Jr. wed Mary Treat in April, 1784 and took up residence in their new six-room salt-box house. Their daughter, Mary Esther, married Ebenezer Downs of Woodbury and lived in the old family home also.

In 1837, upon inheriting the house, their son, Ebenezer Jr. extensively enlarged and remodeled it. The original stone chimney and fireplaces were removed down to the level of the first floor and a smaller chimney was erected. At that time, the front hall was rebuilt and stairs to the second floor were replace. The covered walkway to the barn was made into a summer kitchen, approximately where our small meeting room now stands in the ell-part.

After Ebenezer Jr.'s death in 1873, the family continued to own the house, but used it as rental property until the 1900's.

It was erected on the Milford Historical Society property in 1977, having been dismantled and stored for several years. This interesting house is typical of the period, retaining its original siding and windows across the front. As the rooms are rebuilt, we will endeavor to reconstruct them around the old center chimney area as they had been before 1837. In 2011, the roof was raised to add another floor for the rear portion of the house.

The Claude C. Coffin Indian Collection is at the south side of the first floor. There is also a "Country Store" and a small meeting room on that floor. On the second floor will be a Victorian parlor and bedroom, a textile storage space and our small reference room.

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