The Town of Ridgefield CT was founded in 1708 by 24 families from Long Island. It was incorporated in 1709. The initial settlers purchased the land from the Ramapoo Indians to establish a farming community. The original parcel of land was originally divided into to 25 lots of about 10 acres. One for each family and one for an eventual minister they hoped to lure to their new pristine community. They chose lots by a lottery. By 1790 the town had a population of 1,947 the first year a census was recorded. 100 years later the town had grown to 2,235 and was know for its wide variety of craftsmen; hatters, tailors, weavers, carpenters, silversmiths, and over 30 shoe makers to name just a few. In the next hundred years the town’s population would explode by ~1000% and balloon to over 20,000 residents. The largest increase came between 1960 ~ 1970, which coincides with when my family moved here after living in Danbury CT. Both my. parents graduated from Ridgefield High School, as did all of my siblings.
Historically, Ridgefield has been known as a commuter town, as most people work closer to or in New York City Metropolitan area. A huge source of pride for natives is that the town saw some action in the Revolutionary War and the Keeler Tavern on Main Street has a plaque commemorating a cannonball fired by British troops during the battle of Ridgefield on April 27, 1777. Benedict Arnold and Rochambeau fought on these lands but the majority of action was seen elsewhere. The town’s roots and fortunes were mostly due to healthy New Yorkers looking for a nice place to vacation and get away from the unhealthy air of New York City which was booming during the Industrial revolution.
In 1966 the area was designated a state and local Historic District and in 1984 a National Historic District. There are over 20 restaurants and a half dozen or more impressive cultural arts venues. The town is 97% white and has been a Democratic stronghold for nearly two decades. But interestingly enough nearly 40% of all registered voters are UNAFFILIATED, which could indicate that power and influence is up for grabs to whomever can convince about 5-7,000 voters that their ideas are worthy of voting for. The past several elections have been decided by less than 1,00 votes.
By many accounts the town has not changed much since the population skyrocketed to ~20,000. There are ample sports fields, parks, public spaces, an impressive remodeled modern library, a movie theater operated by and for the benefit of special needs persons, and lots of upwardly mobile white people who drive expensive cars, and think that their shit doesn’t stink or that they can take up two parking spots if they want.
What is my place in this history? I’m not entirely sure, but I did participate in a couple of Memorial Day Parades as a 9 yr old Indian Guide, and a member of the local American Legion Post 78. I was also a paperboy for a number of years which I think should count for something, I guess you might say I advanced the literacy of the literate …a little. I was an altar boy in my teens, and an active member of the Soccer Club of Ridgefield as a coach and referee. The Club was founded by my father out of our garage, and has blossomed into a well respected program within the state and has produced a fair share of Division I players and a few professionals. I am currently an active member of St Mary’s Catholic Church in town, and serve as the Leader of the Stephen Ministry program that provides fellowship and care to people in crisis.
How have I shaped and been shaped by this place and its history? The only answer I can come up with is that I have this deep and penetrating sense of gratitude and appreciation for this town where I grew up. I always felt safe and never once saw my parents lock the door at night or during the day. This sense is like ‘THE FORCE’ in Star Wars, I can’t fully describe it, but it gives me strength and inspiration to want to share my time and talents with the less fortunate people I encounter in the world and especially in my school community. Thanks for reading this to the end, you deserve an A.