WEST HAVEN

West Haven really began in 1638 when the early settlers landed in New Haven at what is now the intersection of College and George Streets. Land extending westward from the Quinnipiac River to approximately the foot of what is now known as Allingtown Hill and Cove River was purchased from the Indians and on May 20, 1645, additional acreage was obtained but this latter purchase caused a long dispute with Milford who claimed to have bought the same land. This whole area was called West Farms and it was originally used for cattle pasturage. Salt hay was cut there and oysters and clams were gathered from the waters of Long Island Sound. The year 1639 saw a footbridge built across West River to facilitate crossing. In 1640, these "common lands" were divided by lot and the following year a cartbridge was erected over the West River. The records reveal that in 1646 one Nehemiah Smith cared for all the town sheep in return for the use of certain west-side pasturage as his own.

The first dwellings were built for farmers, fishermen, oystermen and herders and were only simple huts. History does not record any permanent settlement here until 1648.

In 1650 one Goerge Smith and seven or eight other men and their families built permanent homes in West Farms. Most of those who received allotments in 1640, however, still resided in New Haven.

Original settlers included the George Lamberton, Thomas Painter, Edward Thomas, Thomas (or Jesse) Stevens, Gregson, Fowler, Benham, Ward, Clarke, Brown and Thompson families.

The State Assembly settled the longstanding dispute between New Haven and Milford relative to land boundaries in 1674 by declaring Oyster River the Town Line. In 1680, the Third Allotment of New Haven lands included the territory from Malbon's Cove (Cove River) "so along ye sea to oister river and thence upward by Milford Line until they com at least halfe a mile above ye round hills....and then to turn eastward and lay out unto ye Mill River."

The veterans of King Philip's War received special consideration and were granted acreage in proportion to their length of service. Lands in the Jones Hill section were held as commons for pasturage and forage. Soon the number of families numbered about one hundred and from 1690 to 1720 road building assumed great importance. Pent Road (now First Ave.) was in use in 1687. Savin Ave. (also known as Pent Road) was traveled in 1698 and Cove River Road (now Platt Ave.) was used as a highway in 1699.

By the time West Farms Community turned the corner into the eighteenth century, they became disenchanted with their lack of voice in the affairs of a growing New Haven and on April 29, 1712, petitioned New Haven for separate parish privileges, stressing the increase in population and the distance from their dwellings to the Center Church. New Haven, with a weather eye on the revenue involved in losing so many families, denied the petition. However, the petition was presented to the State Assembly in 1714 and in 1715 the Assembly created the parish of West Haven with bounds which included the present West Haven as well as the Town of Orange. Its simple parish government was formally organized in 1719 when it was incorporated by the Assembly. From that date, the town government had its real beginning.

- - - - - - - Harriet C. North
Colonial Towns of Connecticut Links

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