Wolcott Historical Society News - September 2018
By Florence Goodman
This month I will discuss how Wolcott named some of the roads in the northern section of town in the Long Swamp Road area.
In early June of this year I received a message from Rob Pierpont asking if I would like information about some of the roads in his neighborhood. He also mentioned that I might want to contact his cousin, Alan Russell, who would have more information. I am very appreciative for the information that I received from Rob and Alan.
Alan's research about the development of naming roads throughout our town coincided with my thoughts, so I will share his with you. "During the period from the 1940s through the 1950s there were many new developments (often called subdivisions since they were formed by subdividing large properties/farms). Since there were no long-time residents or landmarks in these subdivisions, the individuals who were building these subdivisions had the freedom of coming up with their own names (subject to town approval so there would not be duplicate or confusing names, etc.)" This was obvious in the naming of the land where the Pierpont and Russell families lived.
Growing up in this section of town gave Alan first hand information, he stated, " Leonard Witham and his wife Loy bought some property from Tom Seery in 1940. Originally the access road to Tom's property was a little farther down Route 69 (then the Waterbury-Bristol Road). But when Leonard wanted that whole corner of Tom's property, the access road was moved to the current location of Witham Road so that it went right into the driveway area alongside where Leonard was going to build his first house in 1941. Leonard sold that house to my parents in 1946 and he then built the house that Rob's parents (my uncle and aunt) lived in the following year. In 1946 my father purchased the home from Mr. Witham. It came with a 23-acre parcel of property and cost about $7000. He and my mother moved into it in September 1946 when they got married. A year later Mr. Seery had another home built on a new road running back from Seery Road into his holdings. My uncle and aunt bought this home."
In 1948 when Rob's parents purchased their house, it was the first one at the end of a dirt road. His parents went to the town hall to find out the name of their road and were told that it was yet to be named and they could choose it. Rob stated, "So they put their heads (and names) together and came up with Barclare Lane, for Barbara and Clarence Pierpont. Rob stated that Witham Road, which runs from Rt. 69 to Seery Road, no more than 50 yards long was probably one of the shortest roads in town and was named after the Witham family, who owned property in the area. He also shared that Catherine Drive, which runs from Seery Road and connects to Barclare Lane was named after Tom Seery's wife or daughter. Rob went on to say, "There's an interesting story about Catherine Drive. When Tom wanted to put in the road, he approached the people who owned property on Long Swamp Road. Because Catherine Drive would provide access to their back lots, he asked them to help pay for the cost of the road. A lot of them did, but a few people refused, thinking that he was going to put the road in anyway and they would benefit from it. Seery shifted the road about six feet to the north, and retained ownership to tiny little pieces of land. Those who didn't help pay for the road had to buy those pieces from him in order to develop their back lots. If you look on the assessor's map, there is still one of those tiny pieces of land on Catherine Drive."
By 1948 one additional house was built next door to the Russell home and there were two other structures in the neighborhood; one was Otto's sawmill located on a dirt lane between their house and the neighbor's and the other was a small-elevated shack, about 12x12 next to the Pierpont's home that was used by the Bristol Radio Club. These four homes and two other structures were the only ones there at that time. The sawmill and the radio club were eventually torn down and turned into building lots; one of which is where Rob and Judi Pierpont's house is located.
Alan also shared that circa 1954 Seery Road was only paved to Barclare Lane, which in turn was only paved to Pierpont's house; there was a path that led to the Radio Club, but in 1955 big changes were made. Because much of Seery Road was swampland, a culvert was installed and the road was extended to Long Swamp Road. Barclare Lane was extended and a new street called Catherine Drive was built running parallel behind it. This allowed for building lots to be sold and new houses to be built; the first new house in the subdivision was Merchant's house and it was on the corner of Barclare and Seery. This was the beginning of that development.
I'd like to end this with a final quote from Alan's story about growing up in this neighborhood. He stated, "In the late 1990's when my father was nearly eighty he finally sold off the back approximately 14 acres of the property. The half-lot that he had purchased in 1955 became an extension of Catherine Drive which went in, then split with Mideana Court and that fourteen acres became nine house lots. The pond has filled in over the years and is mostly swamp with bull rushes at this time. Although it can no longer be used for ice-skating in the winter, the springs, which feed it, are still active and the frogs as populous as ever. The small dam that keeps the water level up has been torn down and rebuilt again by countless generations of children. Those eight acres of the property was deeded to the Wolcott Land Trust in 1998 so that it can be preserved as wetlands for future generations. It is now officially known as the Russell Preserve. In one of my mother's last acts before she passed away in 2012, she gave a permanent easement over the portion of property that still remains with the house (a little over an acre) to the Wolcott Land Trust so that they also have permanent access to the portion of the property around the pond."
I am grateful to Rob Pierpont and Alan Russell for sharing this interesting road history with us.
(Information for this article was taken from notes from Rob Pierpont, 2018; a blog by Alan Russell, May 1, 2016; a story written by Alan Russell, "My Family Home"; and correspondence from Alan Russell, 2018)
A 2018 picture of what was Barbara and Clarence Pierpont's home on Barclare Lane.
Rob and Judi Pierpont's home built on the property where the sawmill and radio club were once located.
Kids ice-skating on Russell Pond in the 1950s and '60s.
Map of area.
Early picture of the Russell home located on the corner of Witham and Seery Roads.
An early structure on Seery Road that was demolished many years ago.
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