When the early settlers came to Milford in 1639, they didn’t bring much food with them on those tiny ships and no anticipation of finding shops as in England for sustenance. But Peter Prudden brought his people from Herfordshire, England aboard the ship Martin in 1637 with the hopes of finding a paradise, a haven from the tyranny in England at the time. Names like James Prudden, Edmund Tapp, the Buckinghams, William East and others accompanied him but they did not settle in the Milford colony initially.
They remained in Boston for a spell and were urged to make it their permanent home but both John Davenport (Davenport Ave. in New Haven) and Prudden had other ideas, wanting to establish a colony of their own. They went down to the Quinnipiac River area, Davenport settling into the New Haven area while Prudden wanted to move west.
Before the Prudden group settled Milford, they stayed in New Haven in one of the nine squares on the western corner of what is now the New Haven Green. There they planted crops and built houses. At one point, Rev. Prudden went to the town of Wethersfield to preach and being a forceful man, who won the devotion of his listeners, agreed to seek new lands for a settlement and by February 12, 1639, a small group of men, Alexander Bryan being one of them, purchased land from the sachem of the Paugussetts, Ansantawae. You have read this part before, folks.
The real story of the relationship between the Paugussetts and the colonist is a bit of an exaggeration as there were problems and Rev. Erastus Scranton, who is given credit for part of our Green, writes in his 1830 statistical account of various and sundry altercations within the two groups.
The stockade, which helps to solidify the two, only came in 1700 when the Mohawks, hidden in the swamp, descended on the Paugussetts. stealing their winter supplies, their “store” if you will. There is no evidence that these colonists ever suffered for the want of food nor water, as many springs were located within the town.
The resources of the land were many in the trees alone, providing for food, shelter and domestic use. Not long after the settlement there emerged manufacturing with 11 stores of groceries and dry goods popping up throughout the colony in addition to the leather tanners, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, hatters, chandlers * and coopers.**
They had a store in North Milford too as this colony was beginning to burst at the seams by 1750. John Bryan opened a store on the west side of the Green, our first store but in 1838, he lost it through bankruptcy and it was ultimately auctioned to Samuel Johnson, who in 1841 sold it to the North Milford Ecclesiastical Society, the Congregational Church of today.
The store was located in the area, or street if you will, in front of the parson’s house today. The road west went through the town green running on the south side of the shop. Of course, Meeting House Lane does not cut through the Green but runs north of it.
The 2nd store was that of Dennis Stone, just across the street on the corner of what is now Tyler City Road and Orange Center or North Main as it was then. He divided his Greek Revival house into two halves with the left being the general store. With the continuation of blacksmiths, shoemakers and the like, Mr. Stone carried household items and foodstuff that could be preserved in barrels. “See” the two doors at the Stone-Otis House? The one on the left is a barrel door, wide enough to roll in the barrels of dry goods and the like.
Now to the 3rd and last general store in our town, the Scobie store, still standing, is opposite the small shopping center on Orange Center Road. By 1880, it was a flurry of activity with the post office located there and are you ready for this?….the first telegraph station with three customers connected to Scobie using the dots and dashes of Morse code.
By 1895, the first telephone system was inaugurated as a single, private and party line from the Scobie store, to 3 customers then 4 and by 1908 when the number hit 44, the system became the Southern New England Telephone Company. For many years the Scobie store served not only the town but those folks who rode the train from New Haven to Derby and back, as the train station was just across the street. Can you imagine the different visitors that shopped at this general store, the last, historic, commercial building in our town?
We will never know a who’s who for Elbert, George and William Scobie’s customers and only by history of other general stores can we assume what he sold but suffice it to say, the Scobies made their mark in Orange and through continued ownership as a residence, it stands as a reminder of how the town grew, step by step, landing into 2022. Elbert, like other entrepreneurs sought to offer copies of parts of the town through postcards, printed in Germany. These postcards are collectors’ items and most cannot be found any longer in the open market as collectors have held onto them and their value has soared.
Not only do we have the store as a reminder of its history but the postcards as well…thanks Elbert!