The 28th of May, 2022 is Founders Day, commemorating the day a true copy of the petition for separation from Milford was examined and accepted by Thomas Day. The ball started to roll when West Farms or West Haven continued their quest to separate from New Haven, a petition they presented to the General Assembly numerous times but were vigoursly opposed by New Haven and Milford, each stating that loss of lands would weaken them politically and economically. New Haven even made the statement that the town would be too small…the charter was denied.
In 1820, West Farms approached the Ecclesiastical Society of North Milford, us, with the proposition that the two districts unite and form a town. North Milford didn’t have any problems with Milford to speak of but West Farms did. They had to pay their share of expenses and improvements of New Haven but received a small amount in return for their improvements. So, North Milford seemed the logical choice for West Farms to approach since their petitions of 1785 and 1787 were overturned.
The men of North Milford were very conservative and took the proposal very seriously. First, they took a public opinion poll of the citizens and after much discussion agreed but with three conditions: all town meetings and elector’s meetings were to be in or near the meeting house in North Milford. In addition, the first 10 years after the town was organized, each society was to pay such expenses incurred within its own limits and finally the Society of North Milford would not be liable for expenses of West Farms if the General Assembly were to deny the petition for the new township.
So, now we go to the new township, once referred to as the Parish of West Haven and the Parish of North Milford. On the first Wednesday of May, 1822 upon the petition of Ichabod Woodruff representing North Milford and Nathan Platt from West Haven, the General Assembly accepted the incorporation for a distinct town. Now, this distinct town included all of what was North Milford and the part of New Haven which was West Farms or West Haven at that time. The inhabitants were one and the name chosen was Orange. Now I know you have read my articles of how we acquired that name but I will tell you once again.
Oh, by the way, there were several names up for discussion as some wanted to remain as North Milford, which would have been my choice, but Milford Haven and Westford were also suggested but Orange got the nod. You see, way back in the 17th century, King James II wanted to put New York and Connecticut together and given previous disputes with Rhode Island, Connecticut was up for “grabs”. Using a 1673 list of misdemeanors, charges were made that the colony of Connecticut was making laws contrary to those of England, it was ignoring the oath of supremacy, denying freedom of worship to Anglicans and several less serious charges.
Wow, those were bad enough, don’t you think? Enter the villain, Sir Edmond Andros, the Governor of New York. He was given charge, by King James II, to seize the Connecticut charter, allowing England control of Connecticut while Governor Treat continued to prevail upon Andros not to require this submission. The day came when Andros met with the members of Connecticut’s government and the charter was on the table. This story you have heard many times as the charter was whisked away, hidden in an oak tree without being surrendered. Andros did take control however, by creating a council, naming officers to his aid and levying taxes. He adopted an autocratic pattern of ruling Connecticut and continued to employ his despotic policies. However, he eventually was forced to exit, stage left.
Now, we have the next actor on this stage, Prince William…do I need to tell you more? Yes, I do. Since James II was thwarted in his attempt to suppress the Anglican clergy, the Tories and Whigs appealed to William of the Netherlands and his wife Mary, daughter of James, to assume the English throne and they did. Just as the English have their houses such as the House of Stuart, the Netherlands had their House of Orange, thus William of Orange and our name. But the story doesn’t end there. Why did we choose it? Prince William’s life took on one of caring for the colonies in the new world, traveling as far as the Carolina’s.
How do we know that bit of history? We were in touch with a sheriff’s office some years back and they sent us two of the patches worn by their officers with the coat of arms of the Prince of Orange. We have them on display with our exhibit of Prince William and Mary with the flag that once flew in Orange in his honor. It was at the Sesquicentennial, May 27th 1972 that the town was given the flag from the First Federal Bank of New Haven, designed by Orange town residents, Bob Hiza and Curt Thompson. Now in trying to give you more reason for their use of the coat of arms, in the Carolinas, I cannot but can only tell you that in my conversation with the sheriff’s office, by phone, our Prince William was part of the history and growth of the colony and to the protection of Connecticut; Orange, Connecticut honored him. We know he went as far as Virginia in that he and Mary endowed William and Mary University.
The Orange Historical Society is very active in the Bicentennial and I have included our events here as the celebration of the House of Orange. Plan to visit us all summer long and when in the Academy on Saturdays, come see the extensive S.N.E.T. exhibit.