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  • Tydings of Canaan Parish Vol. 42 No. 3 *A Publication of the New Canaan Historical Society* March 2015

    Yankees or Yorkers is not at all about baseball. It's about how Connecticut and, specifically, the Town of New Canaan came to be, a fascinating story that will be told by a native son, James Bach, in this Historical Society program. Using antique maps, Jim will analyze Connecticut's boundaries with neighboring states way back to the 1600s when they really were just colonies of England. In 45 minutes, the audience will learn how people who would have been taxpaying New Yorkers are now New Englanders instead. Jim also will trace the roles of Stamford and Norwalk when they were our parent cities before there was a Town of New Canaan or even just a Canaan Parish. Why is a river that is 10 miles long called the Five Mile River? Why does Connecticut have such a convoluted western boundary with that curious extra jog to include most of Fairfield County? Answers to questions like these will be included in Jim's story of how our neighborhoods, our communities, came to be what they are. Jim Bach was born and bred in the town of New Canaan. His family dates back three generations in New Canaan to 1916. After graduating from New Canaan High School in 1947 and then from Columbia University, Jim proudly served for two years in combat during the Korean War. Following the war, his career centered on Wall Street. He then he retired to New Canaan with his wife, Vona. Jims involvement with the Historical Soci-ety is all-encompassing, including many years of service on the Board, researching and lecturing on Town history, as well as teaching young students.

    A wine and cheese reception will follow the presentation.

    Presented by James Bach Monday, March 9 5:00 pm Lindstrom Room

  • New Canaan Reminiscences Around the Cracker Barrel

    Thursday, March 12 at 3:00 p.m. & Thursday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. Lindstrom Room

    Each lecture is free for members of the Society, Staying Put in New Canaan, and students. Admission for all others is $5 per session.

    In the olden days, neighbors would gather regularly around the cracker barrel at the country store to share town gossip, ideas and philosophies, a sort of informal exchange of information that the Historical Society program will recall when its own group shares personal memories of New Canaan as they knew it or heard of it dating back to the early 20th century. Everybody is invited to join Jim Bach, Ed Chrostowski, Don Hersam, Wilma DeiCas, Gary Liberatore and Fisina Tomaselli as they share their nostalgia around the Historical Society's own imaginary cracker barrel. James Bach graduated from New Canaan High School in 1947 and grew up in the center of New Canaan. His first home was where CVS is today. He later moved to the Melba Inn (now a parking lot) which his family owned for three generations. After working 40 years on Wall Street, he retired with wife Vona to New Canaan. From both memory and research he has become a town historian. Edmund Chrostowski edited the New Canaan Advertiser for 35 years beginning in 1961. The history of New Canaan was a daily part of his life during those years and although he lived on Nursery Road in Norwalk he was never far from Main and Elm, which he

    knew intimately. Donald Hersam took over the publication of the New Canaan Advertiser and the Darien Times from his father. Don grew up on Crystal Street in New Canaan and memories of the Town and his neighbors are vivid in his mind. He was the third Hersam to head the local paper and his memory of the town is filled with personal accounts. Wilma DeiCas has a unique view of New Canaan from its early history as a farming community. She grew up on the family farm and knew from her parents and neighbors the history of the area surrounding Ponus Ridge, where dairy farms existed well into the 1950s. Wilma shares her knowledge of this area through writings and oral history.

    Gary Liberatore is a younger member of the Cracker Barrel group. He grew up in New Canaan and among many honors he recently received the CT Sports Writers Alliance Gold Key award. Gary played basketball for the University of New Haven following his graduation from New Canaan High School. While at the college he was named an All-American. Prior to that, he led the Rams to the state championship in 1962. At NCHS he played most sports and his interest and knowledge led him to the Old Timers Club, where he has become a key researcher. Fisina Tomaselli was born in New Canaan and graduated from New Canaan High School in 1949. She raised her five children in New Canaan and has been involved in town committees ever since. Fiz has received numerous honors, including a Community Service Award from the Hannah Benedict Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2003. She has been on the Rams Sports Council since 1965 and is an avid follower of all the sports programs, with ice hockey at the top of her list.

    Bach Family, 1922 Park Street & Cherry Street

    Elm Street, 1944

  • Wartime spiesin Canaan Parish?

    Deception and intrigue, secret codes and invisible ink, dangerous enemies and patriotic fervor, spies and moles and double-agents. . . . It all sounds like a scene from a James Bond movie or even an echo of current news headlines, but during the American Revolution almost 250 years ago it could very well have been the talk of a tiny colonial settlement called Canaan Parish---except that those cloak and dagger activities at the birth of our nation so long ago were shrouded in deep secrecy and unsuspecting villagers were totally unaware of the espionage afoot in their midst, right here in what is now New Canaan. Now, at last, the veil has been lifted. Well, maybe not completely, because one of the spies, a mysterious woman, remains identified then and now only by a number (355) that had been assigned to her by her colonial confreres. The rest of this little known story in America's past is told in a new book, George Washington's Secret Six, patriots whom the authors, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, credit with constituting the spy ring that saved the American Revolution. Although the book doesnt pinpoint the hub of this nest of spies, it had to have been Ponus Ridge in New Canaan because thats where its leader, Major Benjamin Tallmadge, was billeted in those stormy years of the early struggle for American independence. Information that Washington regarded as vital in the fight for freedom was funneled to him by that nas-cent network of undercover agents, a mere half-dozen colonial merchants and tradesmen who feigned allegiance to the Crown to gain the friendship and confidence of Loyalists. Their reports on fortifications, troop movements and ships flowed to Washington at his New Jersey encampment over a circuitous route by boat from British bases on Long Island and then on horseback through lower Fairfield County and on to Westchester and beyond, primi-tive by todays standards, but effective nonetheless. That much of the action occurred in towns along lower Fairfield County's shore has been documented by history. Indeed, an early wartime forerunner of the Secret Six, Nathan Hale, who famously regretted that he had but one life to give for his country, was a Connecticut teacher. The Kilmeade book has him shoving off from Stam-ford on his ill-fated spying trip to Long Island, then a British stronghold, but area lore suggests he left from Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk. But that's a quibble; town shorefronts probably were ill defined in those days anyway. Canaan Parish, however, was of course not a shorefront township. How then could it have had a role in 1776 spydom? Well, the spymaster chosen by General Washington to recruit agents and to organize and direct this first espionage operation in American history was Benjamin Tallmadge, a name still familiar in 21st century New Canaan. Tallmadge, then a major and a close associate of Washington, was based in Canaan Parish from 1778 through 1782, a time span that coincides with intense spy activity. His troops had been assigned here to support local militia, to raid Redcoat strongholds across Long Island Sound and to protect area farmers from looters. More often than not, those looters were not British troops, but colonial soldiers, destitute and in dire need at their winter encampment in nearby Redding, Conn. (at what was then called the Valley Forge of the North and is now Putnam Memorial Park). Major Tallmadge, who had been at Washingtons side in that historic crossing of the Delaware River on a frigid Christmas night in 1776, also led occasional raids on British garrisons on Long Island, crossing the Sound in boats shoving off from Shippan in Stamford, and he was in command of the colonials in their losing battle against General Tarleton forces in Pound Ridge., N.Y. After Nathan Hale was executed by the British in September, 1776, before he could actually do any spying, a disappointed Washington looked elsewhere for a way to get the advance information that he regarded as es-sential if the colonies were to prevail. It was then that he called on his friend, Major Tallmadge, to originate, organ-ize and direct what became known to latter-day historians as the Culper spy ring. The story of Americas first wartime spies is the basis for a current AMC television series, Turn. Possibly influencing Washington's choice for a leader of the nations first military spies, Tallmadge had once remarked in a letter to Washington that he had been able to observe activity on Long Island Sound and on area fields from his vantage point quarters on Ponus Ridge, then unobstructed by trees and buildings. After the war, Benjamin Tallmadge became postmaster in Litchfield and then represented Connecticut in Congress. Major Tallmadge is not to be confused with a cousin who also left an indelible mark in New Canaan

  • history. He was Thomas Talmadge (only one l in his name), a deacon of the Congregational Church, an early settler and the owner of a saw and grist mill that later became the Jelliff Mill of more recent vintage. Thomas, a nephew of Elihu Yale (founder of Yale University in 1701), married Susannah Bell Weed and in 1739 they built the house that is still a private residence at the southwest corner of Jelliff Mill and Old Stamford roads. Their son James married Mary Seymour, a cousin of Benjamin Tallmadge. And it was their grandson, Wil-liam, who in 1868 gave the land that became the site of the railroad station at the Darien-New Canaan border and the name of the area was changed from Millville to Talmadge Hill.

    ---Ed Chrostowski

    Historic Homes in New Canaan

    Talmadge-Smith-Miller House

    The article above by Ed Chrostowski relives life in one of New Canaans historic homes, listed as the Talmadge-Smith-Miller House in Landmarks of New Canaan. In addition to its fascinating history, it has a unique design, as seen in this sketch by Walter Richards. This one and a half story center chimney house has features helpful in identifying an old house. The house is built close to grade with only a few inches of stone underpinning it. The center chimney is magnificent. It appears that the smaller part of the house dates from c. 1722, while the main house was built after 1750.

    Grupe-Nichols-Browne House

    New Canaan residents should be aware of an opportunity to protect the Grupe-Nichols-Browne House from possible demolition. The house on Valley Road has a strong link to New Canaans rural and agricultural past. Once the center of a 200-acre farm in northeast New Canaan, the modified saltbox home has stood in that spot for more than 250 years. Preserving this visible link and its 4-acres of wooded land next to the Land Trusts W. Prichard Browne Wildlife Sanctuary is a meaningful and worthy objective for our Towns Historical, Preservation, and Land Trust organizations. Watch for ways to help.

    Historic Plaques

    The Historical Society has recently updated records that identify New Canaan houses found to be built 100 years ago or earlier. Those that have just turned 100, as well as those that were omitted during our previous research projects, are now included. In the coming months, the Historical Society will be in contact with the residents of these houses to determine the owners interest in obtaining a historic house plaque. There are 93 houses 100 years old and plaqued, in addition to a special group of 17 modern houses surveyed and plaqued. These 17 homes are too young for state or national designation, but are outstanding New Canaan moderns. Additionally, there are 19 New Canaan moderns on the National Register.

  • In Memoriam

    The Society remembers the following members and donors with great sadness at their passing:

    Carol Grupe Coyle Member 1989-2010 Violet Doherty Member 2002-2007 Christine Glidden Member 2012-2015

    Irving Fellner Member 1991-2009 Joyce Kostuck Member 1979-2006 Mildred Painter Member 1984-2009

    Winifred Pheteplace Member 1992-2002 James Wilson Member 1995-2012

    Several of those who passed were not only members, but volunteers who devoted many hours to the Society. Carol Grupe Coyle was a library volunteer who spent every Thursday afternoon aiding our Librarian. Christine Glidden was a talented curator for several exhibitions, including the recent National Art Museum of Sport competition. Mildred Painter was a skilled weaver who demonstrated and wove rugs that are displayed in the Hanford-Silliman House today. James Wilson volunteered in taping oral histories and setting up the sound system for many events.

    New Members Since December 2014

    Mr. & Mrs. Charles Brenker Ms. Anne Di Francesco Ms. Marlene M. Green Mr. & Mrs. Christopher Orelup

    Mr. Joseph Riker & Ms. Susan Staudt Mr. & Mrs. David Rucci Mr. & Mrs. Robert Russo Mr. Keith E. Simpson

    Mr. Luke Tashjian & Ms. Beth A. Brunalli Mr. & Mrs. Roy Turner Mr. & Mrs. James Ughetta Ms. Nadine Wong

    Theres no better day to give than March 5!

    The Society will be participating in Fairfield County Giving Day on Thursday, March 5, competing to win as much as $25,000.. In the program sponsored by Fairfield Countys Community Foundation and Bank of America, donations of any amount, whether $10 or more, will open the possibility of prizes for the Society. The more donations we receive during the 24-hour period, the more likely we will be to win a prize. Help spread the word and contribute on March 5 through a link on our website (nchistory.org) or at FCgives.org. Donate online as often and as generously as you can from midnight until 11:59 p.m. on March 5. By donating during Power Hours, you can help us win large prizes! Power Hours $1,000 prizes will be awarded to the organizations with the most unique donors in the following hours: Rise and Shine Power Hour: 6 am - 7 am Lunch Special Power Hour: 12 pm - 1 pm Quitting Time Power Hour: 4 pm - 5 pm Super Power Hour: 7 pm - 8 pm *Follow us on for updates and more chances to help us win big!*

    To kick off the day, join us at the Society for a continental

    breakfast from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. on

    Thursday, March 5.

  • New Canaan Historical Society 13 Oenoke Ridge New Canaan, CT 06840-4193 Address Correction Requested


    PAID Westport, Conn. Permit No. 4024

    Spring 2015 Calendar of Events Save The Dates:

    Ice Cream Social - Sunday, June 7 Annual Meeting - Monday, June 8 Historic Barns Tour - Thursday, May 21

    MAR. 2 Mon. Board of Governors Meeting 7:30 p.m. 5 Thu. FC Gives - 24 Hours to donate to the Historical Society 9 Mon. Yankees or Yorkers? Presentation by Jim Bach 5:00 p.m. 12 Thu. Cracker Barrel 3:00 p.m. 15 Sun. AAUW Meeting (Snow Date: March 22) 2:00-4:00 p.m. 25 Wed. Book group meeting co-sponsored by the New Canaan Library: Summer of 1927 by Bill Bayson 10:00 a.m. 26 Thu. Cracker Barrel 7:30 p.m. APR. 6 Mon. Board of Governors Meeting 7:30 p.m. 26 Sun. Gores Exhibit Opens: Michael Biondos Photos 5:00-7:00 p.m. APR.- JUNE School Tours: April 20 - June 5 10:00 a.m. MAY 2 Sat. Augustus Smith & Richard Daggy Exhibit Closes 4 Mon. Board of Governors Meeting 7:30 p.m. 15 Fri. Luncheon honoring historic businesses To be announced 21 Thu. Historic Barns Tour co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters 11:00-3:00 p.m.


    Town House and Library Hours are: Tuesday-Friday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. & Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

    Gores Pavilion hours beginning in early April: Friday, Saturday & Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. and by appointment

    203.966.1776 [email protected] nchistory.org Like us on