M ilford residents are proud of the history of their city which is one of the oldest in Connecticut. The Milford Historical Society maintains three houses at 34 High Street. You can visit weekends from 1 to 4PM from early June through Columbus Day. The Genealogy Room at the Milford Library is where you can research the early settlers of Milford & neighboring towns.
Memorial Bridge near the library was built in 1889 for Milford’s 250th anniversary to honor the first settlers & after planters. The names of the settlers and their wives are on individual stones. The tower is dedicated to Robert Treat who was deputy governor and governor 1676-1708, and Ansantawae, the Paugusset sachem who sold the land to the settlers Feb. 12, 1639. Reverend Peter Prudden led his followers from Hertfordshire, England, & Wethersfield, Connecticut, to Milford has a stone at one end on the south side. At the other end is a stone for Captain Thomas Tibbals who suggested the area around the mouth of the Wepawaug River as a good place for settlement. “The Bridge on the Wepawaug” by Morris Abbot gives a brief history of the settlers. Crossing the Hotchkiss Bridge looking north is a view of the millrace. William Fowler built the first gristmill in New Haven Colony near the present library. Looking south is the harbor. Once the water in this area was so deep that ocean going sailing ships were built between 1690 & the early 1800s. Simon Lake’s submarine “Explorer” is near the harbor. He was an inventor with over 200 patents related to submarines. He lived in what is now the Smith & Sefcik Funeral Home with workshops in back.
The Milford Green in the center of town is one of the longest in the state. There are several plaques around town showing places of historical importance that have been replaced with modern buildings. They show where the Regicides Whalley & Goff hid for several years, where George Washington ate breakfast in 1789, & where the original Post Road passed through Milford. The latter are on stone markers set by Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin in 1735. Several walking guides of Milford are available at downtown stores & the library that show the location of these markers.
The most prominent monument in the old section of the Milford Cemetery honors and tells the story of Captain Stephen Stow. He and the forty-six soldiers he cared for all died of small pox in early 1777 after they were cast ashore from a British prisoner of war ship. Robert Treat has a tabletop stone as does Jonathan Law who was governor of the Colony of Connecticut 1741-1750. In a newer section of the cemetery are buried Charles Hobby Pond, the governor of Connecticut from 1863-1864 & Medal of Honor recipient Brigadier General George William Baird.
Rumor is that Milford was visited by Captain William Kidd in June 1699 just before he was arrested for being a pirate. This has led to a local legend claiming treasure has been buried in MIlford. All attempts to find it have come up empty. Another more recent short term resident of Milford was Bill Clinton who rented a house while a student at Yale.
You can learn more about Milford’s interesting past by reading “The History of Milford, 1639-1989” which is available at the Milford Library. It along with other Milford and Charles Island History books can be purchased at the Milford Historical Society as well as walking tours.