The Shameful Original Name of the Hat City Was ‘Swampfield’ Not Danbury
Elmwood Park is a beautiful, hidden in plain sight treasure in Danbury. The park is located in the middle of Main Street and splits the road in half at it's South End.
I know plenty of people who've lived in Danbury their whole life and have never visited the park, I'm telling you, that is a mistake. Inside the park is a winding pathway edged by beautiful flowers, above a canopy of branches from Elm trees planted in the 1800's.
If you enter at the North end of the small park, the path will invite you to it's water fountain, and just beyond that is a historical plaque with the story of how Danbury was founded. For as many times as I've stepped into the park, I'd never read the marker, until just the other day, it reads:
"Eight families came from Norwalk in 1685 to settle this area which the Indians called Pahquioque. They built their first homes a half mile south of here and made this green their common. The General Court in October 1687, decreed the name "Danbury" although the settlers had chosen "Swampfield." Beans and other crops helped make Danbury an inland trading center by 1750 with a population of two thousand. At the start of the American Revolution this town became a hospital and supply base. General Tryon led a British force of two thousand in a raid on Danbury on April 26-27, 1777. Three young men, one a Negro died in defense of the town near the North end of this green. The British burned nineteen houses, a church, twenty two barns and many supplies."
The plaque is doubled-sided and continues on it's back, reading:
"General David Wooster, commanding the American forces which set upon the British, was wounded at Ridgefield and died and was buried here. The street to the West bears his name. Hat making became Danbury's foremost industry after Independence. Until the 1950's, Danbury was known as the Hat City of the World. Charles Ives, famed American composer, was born here in 1874. His birthplace has been preserved by the Danbury Scott-Fanton Museum and Historical Society."
I knew about General Wooster, the British burning Danbury and that Danbury is Charles Ives' birthplace but I never knew that the Hat City was once called "Swampfield." Of course, I assumed this meant that the area was a swamp or swampy at that time but I wanted to find out a bit more.
Whenever I have these type questions, I defer to my colleague Mike Allen. Mike is the Former News Director at I-95 and is the man behind "The Place You Live," a local history feature, we present each Tuesday morning on my radio show (The Ethan and Lou Show). I shot Mike a quick e-mail and asked if the area was a swamp when it was settled? I also wanted to know why, if they called it "Swampfield," did the General Court decide to call it something other than "Swampfield."
On the swamp question he said, "People used to go fishing on Main Street, because the water table was so high that there was swamp land all around the Main Street area."
As for the name, he replied: "When the settlers went to Hartford to get formal and legal approval to establish the city, the official who heard their request thought Swampfield was too unappealing. Being British, he remembered a town in his former country called Danbury and said that would be more appropriate."
So, we were that close to living in "Swampfield," working in "Swampfield" and raising our children in "Swampfield." Thank your lucky stars, the name was changed, I certainly will. I can't imagine having to explain that name every time I tell someone where I am from. As it is, I say Danbury and people ask "where is that?" I either reply by saying:
An hour from New York City, the Home of the Danbury Trashers, the site of the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant or where Lou Milano lives.
P.S. Now that I know we were that close to being called "Swampfield," I really want to rock a "Swampfield" t-shirt, even better, I'll sell them. Here are some of my design ideas, what do you think?
That last one is bad ass but also a sore subject can you believe there are people dumb enough that they have been trying to sell knockoff Trashers gear since the movie came out? I have the new design with the blessing of the Galante family but I'm not going to sell any shirts, however I may ask them to make me one of these. You can get your Danbury Trashers, in one place only, the official Trashers apparel store. Go Swampfield!
UPDATE: I got my shirt from Candlewood Gear
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