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History Corner: A Little of Everything…

History Corner: A Little of Everything…

If you have been to the Academy and seen the 1868 map of Orange, on display, the one that appeared in the Beers Atlas in that year, you would have noticed a section, near Turkey Hill Road known as George’s Cellar Hill.  It is actually listed in Mary Woodruff’s book, History of Orange, as one of the 7 hills of Orange.  She lists; Turkey Hill, Grassy or Grassie Hill, Indian Hill, Chestnut Ridge or Long Hill, Marsh Hill, Cemetery Hill and this brief story about George’s Cellar Hill.  George is not readily known in these parts but he obviously was someone of note because he had a hill named for him.

Travelling down Derby-Milford Road toward the University of New Haven is an area which is obviously a very steep hill now winding its way toward Milford.  Turkey Hill, on the 1868 map does not refer to the road that exists today but the ridge along the Housatonic River where the Paugussetts lived after they had “sold” so much of their Milford colony land leaving them very little space for their people.  In or about 1665, their Chief Ansantawae moved most of his tribe north to this area which comprised of about 100 acres.  It was named Turkey Hill because of the wild turkeys that used to fly across the river.  From the Housatonic River, the ridge is a steep hill.

When one looks at the 1868 map, which is part of Mary’s book, each, well almost each of the hills is identified with scratchy lines indicating the hill.  We all know Marsh Hill which runs into I 95, Grassy (Grassie) Hill runs from the Derby Turnpike down to the area where the Wepawaug River is most obvious on the west side of the road.  Indian Hill is not identified on the map BUT in her book, she describes the area which is off the Derby Turnpike at the intersection of Dogburn (Dogwood) Road, north.  This group was not Paugusssetts but Scatacook (Schaghticoke), a confederation.  Indians from any tribe could belong to this confederation having broken from their own for any number of reasons.

Turkey Hill is obvious and as written, runs along the Housatonic River in Orange, North Milford when the area was set aside.  Chestnut Ridge is also missing on the map but we know, again from her book, it is located where Chestnut Ridge Road meets the Derby Turnpike.  Notice I continually refer to the Derby Turnpike as it was so named because of the tollgate that existed on that road during the early days of travel on the one-sided roadway.  A picture, on page 47 shows the little house and a horse and buggy stopping to pay the toll.

The Derby Turnpike Company was formed in 1798 with a value of $7500 in stock with 10 stockholders, with 10 shares each.  Joseph Wheeler and others petitioned the General Assembly for a charter stating that “the road now leading from Derby landing to the New Haven Court House is extremely bad, hilly, crooked and rough so as to be almost impassible for teams and carriages, that a new road or highway might be laid out,” etc. etc.   The eight-mile road was built with a width of 18 feet with a clause that due to some obstructions, specifically large rocks, the width might be less.  Derby was prosperous in those days with import trade from the West Indies.  But alas, Mr. Wheeler, whose home was the beginning of the pike, lost trade to New Haven.  The toll sign which is now owned by the New Haven Historical Society, listed the various tolls imposed with some exceptions.  Persons traveling for religious reasons, funerals, military, town meetings, farmers and those traveling from gristmills with grists.  A picture of the original sign appears on page 48 with very interesting coinage listed.  The mail stage was the greatest toll of 25 cents with a horse, cattle or mules 1 cent.

By 1887, the selectmen authorized hiring the New Haven and Derby Turnpike for free use of the inhabitants of Orange for a sum not to exceed $240 each year for a period of 5 years.  By 1897, the toll road was discontinued with payments from various towns, Orange paying $800.  In 1897 the town voted to spend $3000 to improve the road with its formal name, the Derby Turnpike.  The house, by the Wepawaug Dam was once a tavern, owned by the Alling family having been built for the “many” passengers using the turnpike.  This house was eventually torn down due to extensive weather and insect damage beyond repair but it will be rebuilt with the exact specifications of the tavern on the exterior which is part of the agreement between the seller, the Regional Water Authority and the new owner.

Now back to the hills.  Cemetery Hill is ambiguous but there are two scratchy sections on the map; one being in the area of Meloy Road and we know that’s a hill!  The other is in the Allingtown area without a name so I think we need to think about that one too.  Allingtown was part of Orange at the time of the map.  As we know, that in 1822, when the Town of Orange was established, West Haven was incorporated into Orange.  George’s Cellar Hill is shown as quite a long stretch.  But who was George?  Ok so the map is 1868, his hill is identified so we have someone who was obviously living in that area but when and why the cellar?  The house must have been destroyed which in those days was mostly by fire so when was George so important that he had a hill named after him?  The name George is conspicuously absent in the list of selectmen until 1881 with George R. Kelsey but the map was 1868 and it was listed as a cellar, a house long gone don’t you think?

Looks like George’s Cellar Hill needs some investigating.  In the meantime, see what you think you see in the illustrations with this story.





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