Early in the 1600s, the first settlers, a group of hardy souls led by Roger Ludlowe, traveled south and west from Hartford through dense woodlands and over swift rivers to “the place beyond,” a place rich with abundant game and pleasing to the eye, the Unquoway Indians’ beloved homelands. Miles of salt marsh, perfect for grazing cattle, ran along the coast, giving rise to the name “Fair Fields,” and, as the population grew and cleared land for homes, so did the town’s area; at one time it encompassed Redding, Weston, Easton, Greens Farms, Black Rock and most of Westport. As more settlers arrived and cleared “long lots” for grazing and farming, Fairfield prospered, incorporating as a town in 1639. Black Rock and Southport developed deep water ports serving the burgeoning population between New York and Boston with cargoes of wheat, flax, timber, livestock and the world-famous Southport Globe onion.
History still plays an important role in Fairfield, apparent in the lovely historic homes, names of schools and streets, and in the many programs offered the public through the Historical Society and Ogden House. It is, however, a town completely in the 21st century, offering children high tech playgrounds, commuters the fast, efficient service of Metro-North trains, Seniors wonderful programs and continuing education, fabulous restaurants, top-notch universities, parades, summer concerts in the gazebo on the Green, and the Dogwood and Irish Festivals. Fairfield has something for everyone.
In the 1700s, Mill River village was a small hamlet of a few houses and a wharf at the mouth of Fairfield’s Mill River. By 1831 the village had changed its name to Southport and was a bustling commercial area with warehouses, churches, schools, stores and elegant houses. Southport became a leading coastal port on Long Island Sound, its ships carrying produce and goods back and forth to New York City. A measure of its success is the fact that throughout the 1800s it possessed the only two banks in town. However, competition from steamboats and the railroad took its toll on prosperity. Resourceful shippers teamed with local farmers and businessmen to keep the port going; the Southport onion, a high quality onion was developed and grown on Fairfield’s hills and shipped in Southport market boats, keeping the harbor profitable until the end of the century. Today, much of the old village area is part of an historic district, where buildings from three centuries are protected for future generations.
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