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Four Names, One Town

For thousands of years, people have lived in what is now Shelton. Archaeological evidence indicates that Native Americans hunted, fished, and gathered food here. English settlers of Stratford in the 1600's found a thriving Indian culture at a place called Coram, along the shore of the Housatonic River. The settlers claimed the land, and by the late 1600's began homesteading on the fertile hills and plains north of the mother town.

By 1717 enough families had moved to the northern part of Stratford that they were able to form a parish (a district with its own church), which they called Ripton, perhaps in honor of the ancestral home in England of their most prominent resident, the merchant Daniel Shelton. Centered around what is today called the Huntington Green, the parish was a prosperous farming community. After the Revolutionary War, the parish became an independent town in 1789, choosing its new name—Huntington—after Connecticut's patriot-governor Samuel Huntington of Norwich.

Huntington remained a quiet agricultural community through much of the 19th century. Surplus farm products were shipped from Huntington Landing (where the Route 8 bridge crosses the Housatonic River today) to markets along the Eastern seaboard. Shortly after the Civil War a group of wealthy capitalists formed the Ousatonic Water Company to exploit the energy of the Housatonic River for manufacturing. Many factories were built along the mile-long canal dug below the Housatonic Dam, where everything from "pins to pianos" were made. The area along the waterfront became the new business center of town, and in 1882 the Borough of Shelton was incorporated and named for its leading citizen, Edward N. Shelton. In 1917 the borough and earlier town governments were merged, and the City of Shelton was born.

Today, Shelton is fortunate to retain physical reminders of much of its long history. Indian Well State Park retains the historic gathering place of the Paugusett Indians, 18th- and 19th-century farm houses still grace the landscape of Long Hill, Huntington, and White Hills, and downtown Shelton is dominated by many of the factories built in the late 1800's as well as the retail buildings and homes erected on the hills above the river.

The above article was reprinted by permission of the Shelton Historical Society