STEPHEN JENKINS' DARIEN, 1913
Below is an excert from The Old Boston Post Road written by Stephen Jenkins and published in 1913. Containing 200 maps and illustrations, the book is a guide to the old highway and the cities and towns that dot its path from Boston to New York-including Darien.
For more information on Colonial highways please see Highways and Roads of the Colonial Era
at Connecticut Heritage.
"Turnpike" seems to be the favorite term in this section to apply to the post road, which, after leaving Stamford, passes through many fine estates. At Noroton is the Wee Burn Country Club
with its famous golf course. A détour of half a mile at this point takes us to the old Gorham Tide Mill near the shore. The old inhabitants will tell you of the time when this was a busy place, with stores, taverns, mill, and
post-office; for here the farmers brought their grain to be ground, and their produce for shipment by vessal to New York. Now the farms are gentlemen's country estates, and nothing is shipped to New York or anywhere else, and the tide-mill runs no more.
The Connecticut Soldiers' Home is located at Noroton, but it is not visible from the Post Road. A grim reminder of the fact that the veterans of the Civil War are rapidly passing away is seen in the Spring Grove Cemetery, which abuts the turnpike. The tombstones
of the old soldiers are simple and of uniform size and height, and as they are arranged in one part of the cemetery in an orderly and systematic manner, they at once attract attention.
The turnpike leads into Darien,-frequently pronounced Dairy Ann-which was settled about the same time as Stamford, of which it was formerly a part. Except for the thunderous noise of passing trains, the place is as quiet and inactive as in the old coaching days, though there are several fine places within the town. Its first church
was erected in 1744, with the Reverend Moses Mather as pastor, and it is with this church that the most important event in Darien's history is connected.
During the Revolution, the whaleboatmen of the town became famouse for their exploits upon the Sound in stopping vessals carrying supplies to New York, and in making raids upon the Tories of Long Island and a number of the shore towns. Darien, itself, harbored a large number of loyalists. On July 22, 1781, while the service was
proceeding in the Congregational Church, a band of Tories surrounded the ediface and took fifty men as prisoners. A few of the men escaped, and two shots were fired after them, but the enemy were afraid to fire a third, as three shots was the signal of alarm for this part of the country. With the venerable Dr. Mather at their head, the prisoners were
marched to waiting boats and taken to Lloyd's Neck, Long Island, whence they were sent into New York for confinement in the Provost prison, where some of them died. The same fate would have overtaken the aged pastor had it not been for Mrs. Irving, the mother of Washington Irving, who was permitted to supply him with
food and other necessaries until his release at the end of the year. One of the prisoners, Peter St. John, who survived the brutalities of Cunningham, related the whole affair in doggeral verse. One stanza describing the Provost prison reads as follows:
I must conclude that in this placeSurely, in this counter raid of the loyalists, Darien had been "hoist with its own petard." The present stately brick structure in which the Congregationalists worship was erected in 1837. A tablet on its façade, describing the history of the church and the capture of its congregation, was installed here in 1894 by the Colonial Dames of America and by the Sons of the Revolution of the State of Connecticut.
We found the worst of Adam's race;
Thieves, murderers and pickpockets, too,
And everything that's bad they'd do:
One of our men found, to his cost,
Three pounds York money he had lost;
His pockets picked, I guess before
We had been there one single hour.
Source:Jenkins, Stephen. The Old Boston Post Road
(New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1913).