A Quilt Tells a Story

By Nancy Mull

You may have heard the phrase, “old quilters never die, they just go to pieces.”

This is just wordplay about those who are quilters, but also what can happen to old quilts. The Amity and Woodbridge Historical Society is blessed with some delightful old donated quilts that have not yet, “gone to pieces.” In archiving a beautiful signature quilt housed in the larger upstairs bedroom of the Thomas Darling House, we can discover an amazing story of life in 19th century Woodbridge.

Signature quilts became popular in the 1840 to 1850 era. Indelible ink either purchased or made by a recipe was available at that time. The signature quilts had open spaces in each block for an individual to write a message or their name and date. This type of quilt was an object of friendship, a memorial or a hope chest item. Later some quilts were made as a means of raising money for soldiers during the Civil War. The Martha Ann Peck Quilt, the subject of this story, was started in 1850 and the last signature was printed in 1852. Martha Ann turned sixteen in 1850 and the signatures and sentiments are all from persons of her family and acquaintance. As she was married in 1852 it seems probable that it was dedicated for a hope chest.

The quilt is predominantly in red calicos using eight octagons in each block. The backing is of fine linen and the signatures and sentiments are easily read. Martha Ann was the daughter of Silas J. Peck and Mary Adeline Baldwin Peck. Her grandparents, Phineas and Ann Peck and many cousins, aunts, uncles and friends are represented on one of the fifty blocks. Familiar names found on the quilt are the entire Daniel Augur family, the daughters of Lewis Camp Newton, Almeda who marries Henry Todd and Mary Lucinda who marries Milo David Sperry both of whom are married with in twelve months of Martha Ann. Her friend Mary Jane Fairchild marries William Wales Peck in 1853 and Mary Jane Lyon marries William Chauncey Russell in 1855.

The language of the sentiments is very romantic and has a religious overtone. Two examples are: “Maiden, remember that youth is the time to secure a treasure for heavens climb,” by her friend Noyes Clark. And, “When you find a friend that’s true, never change it for one that’s new” from Sarah Hotchkiss, a neighbor. It is interesting to note that Noyes Clark marries Sarah Hotchkiss.

Using Census records for 1850, 1860 and beyond and other ancestry documents of the Peck and Baldwin families we can learn that Martha Ann Peck married Marcus Earl Baldwin (name found on the quilt on September 2, 1852.)  His father, Capt. James Judson Baldwin built them a house at the intersection of Center Road and “Road to Milford”. (Actually present day Racebrook Road.) By 1860 Marcus, listed as a farmer has a personal worth of $1,750 and holds real estate worth $8,000. The family includes three children; Eliza Adeline named for her grandmothers, Silas James for his grandfathers and Henry Earl for his uncles.

Looking at the 1850 Census we can see Woodbridge is a farming community of 922 persons living in 187 dwellings. There are 213 families and 102 farms. The census tells us about the occupations of the male residents. Most of the population was made up of farmers (one hundred eighteen) and laborers (sixty five). Many of the laborers were from Ireland. In order to keep a small town equipped we find five blacksmiths, thirteen joiners, one carpenter, four masons, twenty-six mechanics, eight manufacturers, one carriage maker, a spring grinder and a gunsmith. Other occupations that dealt with serving other needs included: one minister, two school teachers, two physicians, three butchers, four shoemakers, two gardeners, three clerks, an artist, a musician, a milkman, and a comb maker. There are two sailors and one seaman. Listed are also four paupers living together. As no occupations are listed for the females, we can assume that they all had multi-functional skills or “keeping house” as the later census would read.

Although Martha doesn’t have any of the Darling family on the quilt she has 18% of the local population invested in her quilt. As people depended on each other it seems likely that they all knew each other well. How could we ever guess that a simple quilt would lead to so much information about our town? We are led to wonder what the fabric of our living will leave as a story to be explored in 150 years?

Woodbridge Lore – 9  Skating Ponds in Woodbridge

by Richard Jeynes

Today, only a few people are seen skating on ponds in Woodbridge.  I applaud those who are out in the weather on the ice, as the conditions are part of the experience.

It is true that in the last 45 years Bennett Rink (West Haven), Hamden Ice Rink, Milford Ice Pavilion, Wonderland of Ice (Bridgeport), and Northford Ice Rink (North Branford) have provided warmer and more comfortable conditions for skating. But one could argue that something has been lost with the indoor facilities.  Prior to the building of the indoor venues, anticipation of cold weather and winter for youth brought on thoughts of Christmas activities, sledding and ice skating.  Even the large snow-making ski facilities were just getting started.  Fifty years ago and frankly, to go north to ski fifty years ago cost real money.

Here were the most popular skating ponds in Woodbridge in the 1940’s, 19050’s, and early 1960’s before the indoor rinks:

  1. Greely’s Pond. This pond (also called Woodbridge Skating Rink) was at the top of Fountain Street as one comes up the hill from Westville. Some people from New Haven called it a scene out of “Currier and Ives” as they reached the top of the hill on their left.  Everybody from Woodbridge who skated utilized this pond, and many from New Haven.  It cost money to get in the facility.  (Perhaps 50 cents in the 1940’s and $1.00 in the 1950’s).  It had lights and was about three feet deep.  The Greelys rented skates and sold coffee, hot chocolate, hot dogs and hamburgers.  In a good stretch of cold weather, hundreds skated here.
  2. Paulson’s Pond. This pond was located on a flat piece of sandy soil west of the Northwest Cemetery on Seymour Road. It was on the left hand side as one travels on Seymour Road.  Houses are in front of it today.  It was not deep – perhaps two feet.  It was used by the Hopkins hockey team to practice in the early 1960’s.  People came here not only from Woodbridge, but the Valley towns of Seymour and Derby.  It was large enough for hockey,  and children who frequently played here from Woodbridge included Donny Ford, Gary Perham, Charles Griffith, Eric Demander, Frank Whittemore, David Miles, Robbie Hubbell, Rusty Williams, John Colby, Clifford Lockyer, Alan Baldwin and Alan Todd.
  3. Rice’s Pond. Rice’s Pond was on Center Road right next to Center Field. The pond was actually a part of the Wepawaug River.  It was rather long and wide at the east end, narrower at the west end.  It was behind Mrs. Rice’s School in the 1940’s, 1950’s and early 1960’s.  One can only see Mrs. Rice’s chimney and fireplace from Center Road today as the home itself is no longer there.  Because it was part of the river, it was rather deep in some locations, perhaps three or four feet.  Free skating was prominent in the narrow west part.  Hockey was played at the wider east end.  Some children who skated here frequently:  Polly Cannon, Sue Eckhart, Carol Heller, Barbara Smith, Rusty and Eddie Williams, Bill and Tony Stoddard, Charles and Brad Marvin, Phil and Ernst Arnold, Jay and David Roetting.  Charlie Whiting ran the facility in the 1950’s.  It had lights and cost $1.00 to get in.  A small building with a potbelly stove helped warm skaters.  With good skating conditions, Mr. Whiting recalled it could draw 500 people on weekend days and 100 people at night during a weeknight.
  1. Pond near the corner of Ansonia Road and Racebrook Road. This pond was on Ansonia Road about 35 yards from the corner. (After 1965, a “No Skating” sign was placed about 10 feet high on a tree).  The pond was about two feet deep.  It was used for free skating and some hockey.  It looks the same today from Ansonia Road.  Children who skated here in the 1940’s and 1950’s: Averill Barnes (a real figure skater), Ann and Jean Smith, Suzie Perkins Grey, Nancy Perkins Ridinger, Penny Langeler Rogers, Lucy Langeler, Elizabeth Eaton Gesler, Cornelia Eaton Haberlin, Joanne and Suzie Angier and Marion Hill,  Peter Smith, Edwin Hill, Fred and Robert Collenberg, David Jeynes, Richard Sewall, Terry Vidal and Ray Bergmann.
  2. Sand Pits. This pond was in the sandy area west of the Wepawaug Road and east of Baldwin Road. It was near the Wepawaug River but not part of it.  From 1946 to 1953 dump trucks would enter the area and fill up with sand from bulldozers.  The sand would then be taken to houses being built in Woodbridge (many homes were built at that time by such contractors as Berner Lohne) to backfill the foundations.  They created a large pond with sand cliffs on the sides.  Since it was in the woods, few people except in Southwest Woodbridge knew about it.  But the boys sure did.  It was about one and one half feet deep and was sizable.  There was very little free skating but a lot of hockey played there.  Those who played in the Sand Pit pond included:  Peter Smith, Edwin Hill, Mac Chatfield, Fred Collenburg, David and Richard Jeynes, Terry Vidal, James Angier.  Returning to the location in 1973 with my five-year old daughter, I found the water company had planted pine trees and leveled the ground.  There was no pond left.
  3. Knowlton’s Pond. This pond was created out of a high sandy hill on Baldwin Road. Again, trucks took sand from this location in the mid-1940s to backfill foundations.  It was not large but it was deep, five or six feet in spots.  It was used for swimming in May and June.  There was more free skating here and little hockey.  Children who skated here in the 1940’s and 1950’s were:  Edee Dahlin Lockyer, Shonnie Dahlin, Jane and Mimi Knowlton, Marilyn Meister, Pam Kaplan, Joanne, Barbara and Suzie Angier, and Barbara Smith, Robert Hitchcock, James Angier, Reed Kaplan and Richard Jeynes.
  4. Greenway Road Pond. As one drives south along Greenway Road on the left, one can see brush. Again, sand was trucked out of this location.  In the winter when there are no leaves, the pond can be seen.  It is surrounded by brush today but in the early 1940’s and 1950’s it was an open sand area.  It was about one and one-half to two feet deep.  Children who skated here in that era were:  Pam Kaplan, Carol Scavone, the Knowlton girls, the Meister girls and the Angier girls, Donald (Inky) Ingraham, Robert Hitchcock, Fred Koval and Reed Kaplan and many others.
  5. Pond on Rimmon Road. This was near the corner of Rimmon Road and Johnson Road. Relatively small, the pond was used primarily for free skating (not large enough for hockey).  The children who skated here were:  Nancy Sutfin and Louise Schaefer, Phil Arnold, Joseph Casner, Robert Howard, Bixby Hoyt, William Bakke, Hank Brown and Ricky Sutfin.
  6. Ostrander’s Pond. Located off of Litchfield Turnpike, this pond was made by Mr. Robert Ostrander by damming the West River behind his home. Thus, it was used ty the Ostranders and all neighbors.  It was used for swimming in the late spring and summer.  It was deep at the location near the dam (perhaps 5 or 6 feet deep).   Children who skated here were:  Barbara Ostrander, Kathy Bishop Gartland, Eunice (Dusty) Gustafson Bergmann, Penny Langeler Rogers, Lois Richie and Barbara Smith, James and William Ostrander, Andrew Bishop, Ricky and Stephen Sewall, Chris and Tony Doob, Fred Collenburg and Richard Jeynes.

These ponds certainly were not the only skating ponds in town, but they were prominent and youth would often ask each other where they were skating after school that particular day.  They would also communicate and figure out what pond was going to be used on Saturday and Sunday.

I point out changes in not only Woodbridge culture, but culture in general over the last fifty years.  A number of the ponds mentioned were on private property.  We ponder how families sixty or seventy years ago welcomed their neighbors skating on their ponds.  There was no fear of a lawsuit or to my knowledge none were ever served.  I do remember injuries, but the youth went home (or was helped home) and that was the end of it.  Frankly, today people probably would not allow large numbers skating on their venue without insurance.  I suppose this is necessary in today’s world, but a touch of innocence and true close comradeship might have left us.

Richard Jeynes is a graduate of Amity High School and a lifelong resident of Woodbridge.  Always interested in Woodbridge history, he was a history teacher in Milford for 41 years.  He participated in all athletic facilities in Woodbridge in the 1940’s and 1950’s and was elected to the Amity Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Southern Connecticut Diamond Club Hall of Fame in 2016.

If you have any old photos of skating ponds in Woodbridge, AWHS would love to have a copy. Please e-mail info@woodbridgehistory.org or call 203 314 2979.