Founding of Ridgefield, ca. 1708

Ridgefield's history is intertwined with the Fundamental Orders, which were granted by King Philip of England and adopted by Connecticut in 1639. These orders directed settlers who were able to support a minister to establish a settlement, build a Congregational church, and farm the land. The settlers received 7½-acre home lots drawn by lottery, with a 25th lot reserved for the minister. These lots were located along Main Street, with a Common area where a Meeting House was built.

In the early days, each family in Ridgefield was a self-sufficient unit, living in small homes, farming the surrounding fields, and tending to a few farm animals. Minister Thomas Hauley played a vigilant role in overseeing the community, serving as a schoolmaster and town clerk.

Timothy Keeler, son of Joseph Keeler, became an early entrepreneur in Ridgefield. In 1772, he converted his home into a tavern, which was targeted by the British during the Battle of Ridgefield in April 1777. Today, the Keeler Tavern Museum and History Center stands as a connection to Ridgefield's colonial past. Following the war, Timothy Keeler started importing goods from New York to sell in his tavern, ranging from buttons to rum. In 1783, Lt. Joshua King established the King and Dole store on the site that now houses the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

The Keeler family had a significant influence on Ridgefield's economic, political, educational, and agricultural development. The area known as the Whipstick (Ridge) District, encompassing lands east of Wilton Road West to Danbury Road and south of Branchville Road to Pelham Lane, was largely owned by the Keeler family and passed down through generations until the late 20th century.

By 1822, Ridgefield had a range of skilled craftsmen, including hatters, tailors, weavers, carpenters, silversmiths, furniture makers, and shoemakers. The Resseguie and Olmstead carriage "manufactory," also known as the "Big Shop," became a local landmark by 1830. It stood on the present site of the Congregational Church. As the town thrived, homeowners expanded or built new houses, leading to a transformation of Main Street by 1850.

Ridgefield faced challenges in the late 19th century due to its location away from major travel routes and a lack of significant waterpower resources. This hindered its ability to compete with more industrialized communities, resulting in a slow decline in population and commerce following the Civil War. However, the town's scenic beauty attracted prominent New Yorkers seeking a break from city life. By 1870, the Branchville Railroad spur began bringing vacationers to Ridgefield, and several inns and hotels, such as Bailey Inn, Three Pines Boarding House, Ridgefield Inn, and Resseguie Hotel (formerly Keeler Tavern), catered to the fashionable crowd. Many affluent visitors chose to stay and build grand retreats, primarily along Main Street, High Street, and East Ridge.

In 1890, the Common and the old Congregational Church were no longer present, but much of the town's character remained unchanged from earlier in the century.

The Whipstick District

The historic area known as ‘Whipstick Ridge’ or ‘Whipstick District’ refers to the general area between what was once northern Wilton Parish (part of Norwalk) and southern Ridgefield, now Weir Farm. Present-day, it is bounded by Wilton Road West-Route 33 to the south of Main Street, Route 102-Old Branchville Road to the north, Wilton (then Norwalk) and Weir Farm to the south, and Branchville (Georgetown) to the east.

The Whipstick Ridge area was one of the earliest settled and developed parts of Ridgefield after the completion of land purchase from the Ramapo tribe in the 1730s. Its fertile land and proximity to Norwalk and other commercial areas made it suitable for agriculture and attracted early settlers. In 1868, with the construction of the first schoolhouse, the area became known as Whipstick District No. 8.

The origin of the name ‘whipstick’ has several theories, but it is unlikely to have been derived from a whipping post as suggested by author George L. Rockwell in his History of Ridgefield. The earliest reference to the name can be traced back to 1712 when Samuel Keeler was granted land on "Whipstick Ridge." This suggests that the name predated that time and was already familiar to the area's inhabitants. In a 1735 deed, a parcel of land is described as being "on the east side of Whipstick Ridge Swamp," possibly located east of Nod Road and south of Whipstick Road, where settlers may have found saplings suitable for making animal prods.

Alternatively, the name may have originated from Whipstick Road in northern Wilton, which connected to the lower end of Nod Road and potentially provided a source of desirable saplings. The present-day Whipstick Road was first documented in surveys conducted in 1851 and 1936 when a highway map of the town labeled the upper section of Wilton Road East as Whipstick Road. For a long time, the residents considered that part of upper Wilton Road East, running past Ye Old Burying Ground from Main Street, to be part of Whipstick Road.

Therefore, the name Whipstick Road follows the old naming system used for other roads in the town. It signifies the road leading to Whipstick, just as Farmingville Road leads to Farmingville and Ridgebury Road leads to Ridgebury. The Whipstick Road in Wilton, leading to Ridgefield's Whipstick Ridge and District, may have followed this naming system even before Nod Road and Wilton Road East came into existence.

Keeler Family Lineage and Keeler Farm:

Samuel Keeler (1656-1713). Married to Sarah St. John.

Joseph Keeler (1683-1757): Joseph Keeler was an early settler and prominent landowner in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in the 18th century. He and his wife, Elizabeth along with brother Jonah, were among the original proprietors of Ridgefield and played a significant role in the town's development.

Keeler was born in Norwalk, CT, in 1689 and moved to Ridgefield in the early 1700s with his father Samuel who was appointed to survey the initial land purchased from the Ramapo Indians in 1708. While his father and mother passed in 1713 and 14, respectively, Joseph went on to oversee seven additional land purchases through 1739 that ultimately became the Town of Ridgefield. As with most early settlers, Joseph was a farmer, but he also owned a sawmill and gristmill, which were torched by the retreating British Army during the Battle of Ridgefield in April 1777, and an iron forge. He was active in local government, serving as a selectman and justice of the peace. He was also a deacon in the Congregational Church and helped establish the Ridgefield Library Association.

Jonah Keeler (1690-1767). Son of Samuel and brother of Joseph Keeler. Born in Norwalk, CT. Married to Ruth Smith (1687-1734)

Matthew Keeler (1725-1795). Son of Jonah Keeler. Born in Ridgefield, CT. Married to Deborah Close (1733-1788).

Matthew Keeler (1762-1835). Son of Matthew Keeler. Born in Ridgefield, CT. Married to Ruth Benedict (1766-1836). Built the house at 188 Nod Road in 1820.

Jesse Edward Keeler (1798-1856). Son of Matthew Keeler. Born in Ridgefield. Married to Mary Delia Raymond (1800-1862).

Russell Raymond Keeler (1836-1893). Son of Jesse Keeler and brother of Ebenezer Keeler. Born in Ridgefield.

Mortimer Cole Keeler (1868-1940): Mortimer and Grace Edna Russell Keeler were a prominent, if not wealthy, family of Ridgefield’s Whipstick District. Mortimer Cole’s father, Russell Raymond Keeler (1837-1893) had been cultivating the family’s 165-acre farm for over 20 years at the time of Mortimer’s birth as had his grandfathers before him.

Their five children Robert Russell (1898-1959), Raymond Mortimer (1902-1959), Harvey Hickock (1906-1969), Irving Wells (1904-1974) and Helen Elizabeth (1909-1990) attended the Whipstick School located on the north side of Whipstick Road near Nod Road on land owned by Mortimer and leased to the Town of Ridgefield. When the school closed ca. 1915, and replaced by East Ridge School, Mortimer became the districts first official bus driver, which was little more than a horse-drawn covered wagon.

Among he and his wife’s social and political affiliations were The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry and the National League of Women’s Voters, which they were founding members.

Harvey Hickock Keeler (1906-1969), youngest son of Mortimer and Grace Keeler: In his obituary of May 1969, the Ridgefield Press reported, “…that Harvey Hickok Keeler, a native of Ridgefield whose forebears were among the original settlers, died in San Juan, Puerto Rico after an illness at the age of 62. He was the son of Mortimer C. and Grace E. Keeler born on the family homestead, now the Baggott family home. He graduated from Ridgefield High School in 1926 and was president of his class. He attended Oberlin College and did newspaper reporting for the Bridgeport Post and the Norwalk Hour.”

Weir Farm National Historical Park 

Weir Farm is located adjacent to Twin Ridge on the northern boundary of Wilton, Connecticut. It commemorates the life and work of American impressionist painter J. Alden Weir and other artists who stayed at the site or lived there, including Charles Sheeler, Childe HassamAlbert Pinkham RyderJohn Singer Sargent, and John Twachtman.

Weir Farm is one of two sites in the National Park Service devoted to the visual arts, along with Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park in Comish, New Hampshire, and was recognized in 2020 as part of the ‘America the Beautiful Quarters’ Program.

Both sites maintain on-going artist-in-residence programs, and the Weir Farm Art Center (formerly the Weir Farm Trust) has, to date, hosted more than 150 artists for month-long stays at the site.

After considering the Keene Valley area of New York's Adirondack Mountains for a rural retreat, Weir settled on the hilly countryside in the old Whipstick District of Ridgefield in 1882, acquiring a 153-acre farm there from Erwin Davis in exchange for $10 and a painting. In years that followed, Weir and the artists he hosted produced a large number of paintings depicting Ridgefield landscapes and other nearby countryside.

His daughter, Dorothy Weir, a noted artist in her own right, took over management of the property following her father's death in 1919. Sculptor Mahonri Young would build a second studio at Weir Farm after the couple married in 1931.

Artist Sperry Andrews befriended Young and spent several years keeping him company while painting at the studio and, after Mahonri’s death, Sperry purchase the property and his wife, Doris Andrews, led efforts with Cora Weir Burlingham to preserve the farm, resulting in the federal government designating it a National Historic Site in 1990.

Prior to its permanent protection, Weir Farm had been subdivided for housing development in the late 1980s. The Trust for Public Land  worked to reacquire the divided land through close to two-dozen transactions, working in partnership with the Weir Farm Trust and the State of Connecticut to advocate for its permanent protection. 

Sperry and his wife Doris Andrews were given life tenancy and would give impromptu tours of the studios to park visitors. For many years, in fact, the farm hosted events like the popular Dave Brubeck summer jazz concert.

Until a year before her passing in May 2003, Doris could occasionally be seen peacefully taking in the beauty of her surroundings from the front porch of the house. A few years after her death, the site closed to the public and underwent extensive restoration to make it a more accessible, visitor-friendly experience, re-opening in May 2014. Today, the property includes 16 historic buildings on 60 acres of land with hiking trails. Tours are offered by National Park Service rangers.

In 2007, the US Department of the Interior sought Congressional approval for the National Park Service to acquire land adjacent to the farm, accessed from Old Branchville Road, for the administration and operational support. Under existing federal law at the time, the National Park Service was authorized to secure expansion space in Ridgefield and Wilton only. In 2021, Weir Farm was redesignated from a National Historic Site to a National Historical Park.

The Whipstick Schoolhouses

The Whipstick Schoolhouses in Ridgefield have an interesting history. The first schoolhouse was constructed around 1841 on the southeast corner of Whipstick Road and Nod Road. An 1865 deed mentions the "Whip-Stick School District," which encompassed several roads in the area, including Nod Road, Whipstick Road, Rockwell Road, Perry Lane, East Ridge, Prospect Ridge, Grove Street, Branchville Road, Ivy Hill Road, Wilton Road East, and the east side of Main Street.

In the early 1870s, a new schoolhouse was built on the north side of Whipstick Road, situated on land owned by Mortimer C. Keeler. This schoolhouse implemented separate entrances for boys and girls, a practice promoted by educators during the mid-19th century. Photographs of the schoolhouse suggest that it retained both doors, unlike some other two-door schools built in the post-Civil War era. Over time, the Whipstick Schoolhouse was closed due to its proximity to town, and its enrollment was consolidated into the Benjamin Franklin Grammar School when it opened in 1915 on East Ridge.

It wasn't until 1929 that the Town School Committee and Board of Selectmen decided to sell the schoolhouse. At an auction held on May 5, 1930, the building and a small piece of land were sold to Major John W. Tumbridge for a mere $20. Tumbridge, a wealthy hotel owner from Brooklyn, had established a country estate on Branchville Road and owned the adjoining land. He built a cottage attached to the schoolhouse, covered in stucco, and eventually moved into it with his wife Elizabeth Tumbridge around 1942.

After Major Tumbridge passed away in March 1945, Elizabeth Tumbridge planned to move to Williamstown, Massachusetts, to be closer to family. Tragically, in May 1945, just before her planned relocation, she attended a Christian Science lecture in Norwalk and returned home. Unaware that she had left the car engine running in the garage due to her hearing impairment, carbon monoxide from the exhaust seeped into the house, causing her death. She was 57 years old.

One notable occupant of the schoolhouse was Charles Sheeler, a prominent modernist painter of the 20th century. Sheeler rented the schoolhouse in 1932 and set up a studio there. He lived and painted in the schoolhouse until 1942 when he moved to Westchester County. Sheeler's precise and photo-like paintings created in the old schoolhouse are now housed in major museums, and his art has been featured on US postage stamps. Sheeler was also a renowned photographer, and some of his artistic photographs of his Ridgefield home are part of the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

After the Tumbridge family sold the property, the schoolhouse-cottage became the long-term residence of the Oliver and Helen Kallos family. Helen Keeler Kallos, whose father was Mortimer C. Keeler, grew up on a nearby farm, and the schoolhouse had been built on Keeler land. Her father was one of the town's first school bus contractors, responsible for transporting children to the new grammar school on East Ridge when it opened in 1915.

Sadly, despite its historical significance, the schoolhouse was demolished in 2000 to make way for a mansion. At the time, few people were aware of its impending destruction or its historical value. However, after that incident, the town implemented regulations requiring public notice of planned demolitions. The current law mandates that the Ridgefield Historical Society and Historic District Commission be notified of any impending demolitions, which can help preserve historic buildings.

Old Branchville Road Schoolhouse

The Branchville Schoolhouse, located on Old Branchville Road in Ridgefield, is one of the two remaining original one-room schoolhouses owned by the Town of Ridgefield. As of mid-2022, the vacant building is slowly deteriorating, and its future is uncertain due to a lack of plans for its use.

The schoolhouse on Old Branchville Road dates back to around 1872, although it was not the first schoolhouse to occupy that site. The term "Branchville" came into use after 1870 when the branch railroad line of the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad was extended from the main line into the center of Ridgefield. Initially, the school district was informally known as Ridgefield Station, a name used from around 1852 until shortly after 1870. Another possible name for the schoolhouse was the "Beers Schoolhouse" due to the significant presence and prominence of the Beers family in the southeast corner of Ridgefield. Its formal designation was District Number 10.

During the 18th century, Branchville was likely part of the Florida school district, whose schoolhouse was located just over a mile to the north. In 1784, Ridgefield officially defined the boundaries of its school districts and established five full districts and two half-districts. Branchville was designated as a half-district, which meant it was shared with another town. In this case, the southeastern part of Ridgefield likely shared the district with Redding. One half of the half-district had the schoolhouse, while the other half in the neighboring town could send their children to it for a fee. This arrangement was an efficient way of sharing educational resources and can be seen as an early form of regionalization.

The boundaries of the Branchville half-district were defined as the southeastern corner of the first District (which covered central Ridgefield), running north along its eastern line to the southwest corner of the fifth District, then east along the south line of the fifth District to the Redding line, then south along the Redding line to the Norwalk line, and finally west along the Norwalk line to the southeastern corner of the first District. These boundaries were similar to those in place in 1867 when the district was referred to as Ridgefield Station or District No. 10. By that time, it had become a full district with its own schoolhouse.

The southeastern part of Ridgefield had a relatively sparse population in the town's early years. Prior to the arrival of the railroad in 1852, the neighborhood was likely more oriented towards Norwalk's Wilton Parish in the south and Redding in the east, an area that became known as Georgetown.

It is unclear where the schoolhouse for the shared district was located. The Georgetown section of Wilton may not have had a schoolhouse until 1823, while Redding had one at Boston Corners by the 1850s. Both were located less than a mile and a half from the center of what is now considered Branchville, which was a reasonable walking distance for children in the 19th century.

Wilton's schoolhouse served its District 10, known as Georgetown, and was located on a hill just east of the present-day Caraluzzi Market by the 1850s. It accommodated children from Wilton, Redding, Weston, and possibly some Ridgefielders from the Whipstick District.

The exact date when Branchville obtained its own schoolhouse is unknown. However, a schoolhouse is shown on Clark's map of Fairfield County published in 1856, standing on Old Branchville Road. Before the lower portion of today's Branchville Road was built in 1852, Old Branchville Road served as the main road from the center of Ridgefield.

The Tulipani Farm on Nod Road

When Joseph A. Tulipani died in 2004 at the age of 85, he left behind a memoir that provides an incredibly detailed picture of a boy’s life growing up on a Ridgefield farm in the early part of the 20th Century. Joe Tulipani’s boyhood memories — 242 pages of singles paced typescript that he recorded later in life — are part of the Ridgefield Historical Society’s collection and comprise a great resource for anyone researching early 20th Century farm life in Ridgefield, or more generally, in New England. During the period he recreates, there were great changes underway in the country and in Ridgefield, which had been a small and mostly rural town before the turn of the century. Life on a farm was labor-intensive and at a very young age Joe began learning the many tasks essential to keeping a family fed and warm. Among the first memories he describes was his fascination with a neighboring dairy herd that provided milk for the family and for sale. It was one of the boy’s first adventures, following the neighbors’ cows back to the barn and watching how the milking was done. (Meanwhile, he also explains, young Joe’s parents were frantically searching for their five-year-old as daylight faded.) Vincenzo Tulipani, Joe’s father, was part of the migration of Italians to Ridgefield at the turn of the 20th Century; he first arrived in 1906 and worked at the Port of Missing Men alongside his brother Giulio (Julius) Tulipani (later a Ridgefield selectman), then returned to Italy in 1908 to serve a year in the Italian army.

After his return to Ridgefield, he married Evelina Branchini in 1912. Vincenzo, known to his friends as “Jimmy,” was a native of Ripe, Ancona, Italy, and Evelina, who immigrated in 1911, was born in San Giorgio, Italy. By 1916, they had purchased a 65-acre farm on Nod Road. Joe was third oldest, behind Ada (later Ada Walker) and Aldo; his younger brothers were Albert, Alfred and John. Vincenzo Tulipani was known for his skill with horses as well as his farm: in earlier days, he drove a team and worked in livery stables. In the early 1930s, he mowed the Ridgefield Golf Club’s fairways using his horse, wearing special boots to protect the turf, to pull the mower (as recorded in “Impact: The Historical Account of the Italian Immigrants of Ridgefield, Ct.,” by Aldo P. Biagiotti). This was one of the side jobs he took to support a large family and pay the farm’s bills.

The Tulipanis later moved from the Nod Road farm to Ivy Hill Road where they had another farm. Vincenzo Tulipani died at age 90 in 1977; Evelina Tulipani died in 1972. As a youngster, Joe Tulipani learned farm work by observation, he explains in his memoir, and there was much to learn, from handling the team of horses to baking the week’s bread for a family of eight. What makes his memoir such a treasure is the depth of detail he provides about seemingly mundane tasks that were once familiar to many and now are largely unknown. 

The Passing of Keeler Farm

After Mortimer Keeler’s passing in 1940, the farm at 31 Nod fell into a state of neglect. In 1950, Thomas E. Baggott purchased land that became locally-known as Heritage Farm. Shortly thereafter, the number also changed to 188 Nod Road.

The Baggott’s employed many local high school kids for $1.05 per hour to plant, weed and pick fruits and vegetables at the farm on Nod Road, and in Brookfield where present-day Elephant Trunk Flea Market is located. The Heritage Farm Market and Cider Mill on Routes 7 and 35 remained a popular destination until it closed in 1968.

Baggott sold 120 acres in 1959 to Giles and Barry Montgomery, which became Twin Ridge, and remaining parcels were sold over time.

At the time of the land purchase, Giles Barrett ‘Barry’ Montgomery was only 21 years old, so it’s reasonable to conclude that his father, Giles Montgomery, set his son up in the business with Twin Ridge Incorporated. More impressive, the initial Twin Ridge deal was likely one of the largest, if not the largest, real estate transactions at the time, Barry clearly used the opportunity to build experience.

Today, the Baggott family still operates Heritage Farms in East Windsor, Connecticut.

Development of Twin Ridge

In his book, Ridgefield Names, local historian, Jack Sanders describes Twin Ridge as “… a subdivision developed initially between 1960 and 1968 by Giles and Barrett ‘Barry’ Montgomery. Once farmland that had belonged to the Keeler family for over 200 years, the development has long been considered a showplace with many attractive homes erected by independent builders, but only after plans had been approved by the Montgomery family. The name ‘Twin Ridge’,
descriptive of the terrain, was created for the subdivision, and is not old. Roads in the subdivision are similarly descriptive of terrain or flora on it: Beechwood Lane, Indian Cave Road, Little Ridge Road, Rising Ridge Road, Strawberry Ridge Road and, of course, Twin Ridge Road, which is the main entrance, runs from Nod Road by the intersection with Indian Cave to the cul-de-sac.’”

The creation of what today is known as Twin Ridge involved two land purchases in 1960 and then 1968 totaling 128 (later to become 129) parcels and was one of several sub-division projects that contributed to the town’s significant growth. One survey conducted by the Connecticut Development Commission, shows that Ridgefield’s population rose by 65 percent from 8,165 to 13,506 during the seven-year period. Over 55 years later, by comparison, Ridgefield’s population stands at a little over 25,000.

The initial purchase of 120 acres from the Thomas E. Baggott family’s 165-acre Heritage Farm property at 188 Nod was completed in 1959 by Giles Montgomery. The Baggott’s had previously acquired the property from Mortimer Cole Keeler, fifth great grandson of Ridgefield founder Samuel Keeler, and Grace Edna Keeler in 1950, and operated the Heritage Market and Cider Mill formerly located at the intersection of Routes 35 and 7 now occupied by

From this purchase, a total of 68 lots were created and sold on Twin Ridge Road, Indian Cave Road, Little Ridge Road and Rising Ridge Road. Number 10 Twin Ridge on the southeast corner of Nod and Twin Ridge, currently owned by Marty and Amy Grossfeld, was the first ‘showcase’ home built in 1961. Present day, this initial ‘western’ parcel consists of 97 homes mostly built 1962-72 with the most recent construction of 53 Twin Ridge completed in 2012.

In 1968, a second purchase of the ‘eastern’ parcel, bordering Weir Farm and 43 acres of public open space, owned by the State of Connecticut and the Town of Ridgefield, expanded the subdivision by another 31 lots located on Beechwood Lane, Pelham Road and Strawberry Ridge. Most of these homes were built 1970-80.

The principal developer of Twin Ridge was the G. Barrett Montgomery Construction, Inc., operating as Twin Ridge Incorporated established in 1959 and owned by Giles Newton (1910-1985) and Giles Barrett ‘Barry’ Montgomery (1939-2018) from Stamford, Connecticut until 1979 when the entity was forfeited. The story isn’t clear about the circumstances, but the timing seems to align with the purchase and development completion of the eastern parcel. Nevertheless, Barry Montgomery was only 21 years old, so it’s reasonable to conclude that his father, Giles Montgomery, set his son up in business with Twin Ridge Incorporated. Clearly, Barry used the opportunity to gain experience that translated to his later success.

Giles Newton & Giles Barrett ‘Barry’ Montgomery- Twin Ridge Visionaries

Giles Newton Montgomery (1910-1985) and Giles Barrett ‘Barry’ Montgomery were father-son developers from Stamford, Connecticut.

Barry was born November 30, 1939, in Stamford CT, to Eleanor Barrett and Giles. He attended St. Luke's School in New Canaan, CT and received his bachelor's degree in accounting at Duke University and subsequently served in the military reserves.

Barry married Jill Rustin Montgomery from Oxford, England in 1966 and had a son, Andrew Rustin Montgomery in 1967. Jill died in 1975. In 1989, Barry married Anne Martin from Sheffield, Massachusetts and in 1990 they had a daughter, Katharine Barrett Montgomery.

From the 1960's to the end of his life, Barry was a successful and visionary real estate developer, creating a unique yachting community, Dolphin Cove in Stamford; Old Stone Bridge in Greenwich; Twin Ridge in Ridgefield, and additional communities in various towns across the state. Barry lived in Stamford and Greenwich for most of his life, relocated to western Massachusetts in 1998 and then Winchester, New Hampshire.

Barry was known for his dry wit, quick intellect, unending curiosity, and pure joy for life that radiated through his expansive smile and infectious laugh. He had a passion for development and architecture, collecting and showing classic cars and above all dancing. Barry was active in local religious communities, leading Sunday schools and bible studies, attending Jewish ‘lunch and learns’ and was an active Mason.

A little-known fact: Barry's great uncle was Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore. Gutzon was married to Stamford native Mary Montgomery. They lived in North Stamford and Gutzon did much of his work from studios there.

Giles Barrett Montgomery died at his home in Winchester, New Hampshire on in November 20, 2018 at the age of 78. He was predeceased by his mother and father, Eleanor and Giles Montgomery of Stamford, CT. He is survived by his brother, Marshall Dean Montgomery of Minneapolis, MN; sister, Anne Barrett Montgomery of New York, NY and Sunapee, NH; former wife, Anne Marie Martin of MN; and children, Andrew Rustin Montgomery and his wife Carrie Miller Montgomery of Salt Lake City, UT and daughter Katharine Barrett Montgomery of Sydney, Australia.

Who was Tony? Theory No. 1: The Ramapo Indians and Colonial Draft Dodging

The Ramapoo Indians (also spelled Ramapo) are a Native American tribe that had traditionally inhabited the region of present-day southwestern Connecticut, southeastern New York, and northeastern New Jersey. The name “Ramapoo” means “round pond” or “sweet water” in the Algonquian language.

The Ramapo were part of the larger Algonquian-speaking Wappinger Confederacy, which included several other tribes in the region. They lived in small, semi-permanent villages and subsisted primarily by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plants.

The arrival of European settlers in the 17th century had a significant impact on the Ramapo and other Native American tribes in the area. The Ramapo were forced to cede much of their land to the Dutch and English colonists and were gradually pushed further westward into the mountains of present-day New York and New Jersey. By the mid-18th century, many Ramapo had assimilated into other tribes or left the region altogether.

‘Tony’ may have been a local Ramapo Indian, which would explain why no records exist about him. The tribe had lived near the shores of Lake Mamanasco, north of Ridgefield, for generations and it was from who the lands that became Ridgefield were acquired.

Shortly after the start of the Revolutionary War ca. 1775, the Continental Congress authorized General George Washington to conscript Native Americans, particularly Stockbridge-Mohawk of the Iroquois Nation (who lived in the Stockbridge, Massachusetts area), who had demonstrated loyalty to the cause in early battles. In the Fall of 1777, the Stockbridge-Mohawk conscripts left their homelands to join the Continental Army at Valley Forge in Chester County Pennsylvania. This came on the heels of the Battle of Ridgefield in April of that same year. All of these facts are well-documented.

As the theory goes, Tony, having witnessed the real and present danger posed by the British, was also aware of the conscription efforts on both sides. When word spread that a large contingent of Mohawk’s intended to join Washington at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania (possibly traveling through west central Connecticut), Tony hid in the small cave until the perceived threat had passed. While there is no hard evidence linking the facts to Tony, the circumstances are plausible.

Today, the Ramapoo Indians are a state-recognized tribe in New Jersey and have a small presence in the region. They continue to preserve their culture and traditions through events, ceremonies, and educational programs, and work to raise awareness about the history and legacy of Native Americans in the area.

Who was Tony? Theory No. 2: West Indian Slave

In 1777, slavery was not new, but it was rare in New England and Ridgefield, in particular. Records between 1739-1800 reveal the births of just 13 children to enslaved women who, under Connecticut law, automatically became slaves “…at first breath….”, however, as young children, they would not be workers.

At any given time during that period, there were perhaps only a half-dozen young or adult slaves working in Ridgefield, but only 31 have been identified. Subtracting the small children, that leaves fewer than 20 working class slaves, which would have been considered a luxury among the mostly poor farming community.

Alexander Resseguies was an exception. When he passed in 1752, his estate listed more than 4,000 pounds of value in real estate, mostly in Ridgefield, and included a couple of farms. His homestead alone totaled 2,200 pounds in value, a hefty sum, and he owned parcels of land throughout town, as well as “…a slave and child…”, who’s ownership would have likely passed to his heirs. By 1777, the “child” would have been around age 30. How Resseguies may have acquired his ‘help’ is not known, but he clearly had business dealings in the Caribbean as an importer of Rum, which was sold in Keeler Tavern, and would have required at least tacit approval from the provincial government at the time.

Conceivably, ‘Tony’ was of West Indian/African decent and not Native American who may have been counted among the small group of slaves in Ridgefield and of capable, fighting age. Perhaps with help from a sympathetic family(s) familiar with the local topography, and given all other circumstances at the time, he chose to hide. A decade later, the Resseguie property was sold to Benjamin Keeler in 1787 near the area of Pelham and Nod Road, so clearly the families were connected.

Either way, be he Native American, African American or just a ‘new’ American, Tony remains an enigma of Twin Ridge and Ridgefield’s colonial past.

The Roads of Whipstick District and Twin Ridge: Nod and Nod Hill Road

Nod is one of the old-sounding names that has been preserved in no fewer than three roads in Ridgefield and one in Wilton.

In colonial times, there were three main routes to the settlements beyond northern Norwalk-Wilton Parish, which included Ridgefield Road (Wilton Road West or Route 33), Whipstick (branches off Wilton Road West in Wilton) and Danbury Road (Route 7). The names followed traditional conventions that dictated roads describe the destination that they took a traveler, hence, Ridgefield Road to Ridgefield; Whipstick Road to the central Whipstick Ridge area, and Danbury Road to Danbury.

How or why Nod Road became ‘intwined’ with Whipstick Road is anybody’s guess- it’s possible that mapmakers weren’t completely clear on where exactly the road should lead, begin or end, but the Nod Hill neighborhood, around Weir Farm, straddles the Wilton-Ridgefield line and the name first appears in Wilton records.

There are several fanciful theories why a place would be called Nod. One suggests that that the “Land of Nod, east of Eden” references the Book of Genesis, where Cain went after slaying Abel, suggesting a place that is not very well thought of because of the hills, rocky soil and abundant marshes.

In his ‘Annals of Wilton’ (1940), David H. Van Hoosear tells a story about a local farmer (his father’s), “…a certain Isaac St. John owned land there and in summertime would ride out with his workmen from Norwalk. Arising very early, they would oft-times grow sleepy by the time the hills were reached, and the horses were allowed to walk. It was noticed that Isaac would nod in his sleep with the movement of his horse, and the workmen designated it Nod Hills.”

Van Hoosear found Nod mentioned in Wilton as early as 1757. In Ridgefield, the name first appears in 1786 when James Abbott of Wilton Parish sells a family member land and a small house in Ridgefield “…lying and being at Nod.” The name appears again in 1788 (another James Abbott deed), and in 1819, but does not show up again through 1880.

Nevertheless, there are other Nod localities in the state. According to “Connecticut Place Names,” one in Avon, CT is of unknown origin, but may have possibly been an abbreviation for ‘North District’ (like SoHo or NoHo) which, if the old naming convention were applied, is a more reasoned explanation.

Considering that any side roads were little more than dirt trails, it’s plausible that the term ‘Nod’ was a general reference used to describe any lesser path off the main roads in the northern district, akin to a long driveway or access way to a homestead, that later became a right of way and eventually given a proper name.

Pelham (Resseguie) Lane

Resseguie Lane dates back more than 260 years and unusual in that it was among the very few 18th Century road names that made use of a family name.

The term appears first in a 1754 inventory of the estate of Alexander Resseguie (pronounced RESS-sik-kee) which mentions “…two acres of land lies below ye lane called Resseguies Lane.” In the same year, two of Mr. Resseguie’s sons, Abraham and Isaac, divided up the estate and mentioned the same parcel and lane that abutted Keeler property.

The next and last mention appears in a 1787 deed in which the proprietors gave the heirs of Benjamin Keeler 132 rods “…lying at the southeast end of Ressigues Lane, so called.” The lane was probably near the homestead of Alexander Resseguie, which stood near the Wilton line, quite possibly on Nod Road.

Alexander Resseguie may have been Ridgefield’s wealthiest settler. According to The Resseguie Family by John E. Morris (Hartford, 1888), “Alexandre Resseguie was a settler at Norwalk, CT in 1709. Tradition has it that he was the younger son of one Alexandre Resseguie, a Huguenot refugee from France, who brought with him a small, hair-covered trunk, studded with iron nails, containing all of the family wealth he was able to secure, consisting largely of title deeds to property in France.

“Hoping to someday regain his abandoned possessions, he educated his eldest son to the profession of the law, intending when the time was ripe, he should return to France and establish a claim to the family estates. This hope was destined never to be realized, for the son died just previous to the time of his intended departure on this mission, and the father, disheartened, abandoned the undertaking. The trunk and papers passed into the possession of the younger son, and at a subsequent period, the latter were, the most of them, destroyed by fire.” The fire was said to have been set by the wife of Timothy Resseguie, a grandson, “…during a fit of temporary insanity.”

Tradition notwithstanding, Morris believed that an “Alexandre de Ressiguier” of France was a silk manufacturer in London in 1696, but there is no evidence of his having come to the colonies. Thus, he lists Alexander of Ridgefield as head of the American family.

Alexander Resseguie was in Ridgefield in 1709, the year of the town’s incorporation and the year of his marriage to Sara Bontecou of New York City, also a native of France. He was a farmer.

Alexander managed to amass sizable holdings in Ridgefield and in Norwalk (the part of Norwalk that is today Wilton). His inventory at his death in 1752 listed more than 4,000 pounds of value in real estate, mostly in Ridgefield, and included a couple of farms. His homestead alone totaled 2,200 pounds in value, a hefty sum, and he owned parcels of land throughout town, as well as “…a slave and child” valued at 350 pounds. Total value of his estate was 10,514 pounds.

For 200 years, the name of Resseguie was well known in Ridgefield and Wilton and was one of the few French names in a territory settled almost solely by the English. Among the most noted of Alexander’s descendants was great-grandson Abijah Resseguie (1791-1887), who for 60 years ran the Keeler Tavern, called then Resseguie’s Hotel. Mr. Resseguie had married Anna, the daughter of Timothy and Esther Keeler. Squire Timothy Keeler had long operated the inn, taken over by his son-in-law. (Their daughter, Anna Marie Resseguie, kept a diary, which was turned into a fascinating book, “A View from the Inn: The Journal of Anna Marie Resseguie, 1851-1867,” published by the Keeler Tavern Preservation Society in 1993.)

Samuel G. Goodrich (a.k.a, Peter Parley) wrote in 1856 that, “…he who wishes to eat with a relish that the Astor House, or Morley’s, or the Grand Hotel de Louvre cannot give, should go to Ridgefield and put himself under the care of Mrs. Resseguie. When you go there – as go you must – do not forget to order ham and eggs, for they are such as we ate in our childhood. As to blackberry and huckleberry pies, and similar good gifts, you will find them just as our mother made 50 years ago, when these bounties of Providence were included in the prayer, ‘Give us this day, our daily bread,” and were a worthy answer to such a petition.”

At Abijah Resseguie’s death at age 96, The Press noted that he had started out in life as a carriage maker and eventually had his own firm of Resseguie and Olmstead, which shipped hundreds of wagons to points around the country. He served in various town offices, represented Ridgefield in the General Assembly, and was an official of St. Stephen’s Church for many years.

He was fond of telling anecdotes of life in years past. “He was a witness of the last flogging which took place in Ridgefield – that barbarous punishment of the whipping post, and of the rejoicing of the people when that relic of barbarism was abolished,” The Press said in 1887.

“He was always ready to enjoy a witty story and as a story-teller, he was always popular on the long winter evenings...There was no end to his humor...To show how sturdy he was in his old age, it may not be amiss to state that he attended the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876, and that at 80 years of age, he tired out the younger members of his party sight-seeing in Washington.”

Pelham (Knoche) Lane

Knoche Road is another name for Pelham Lane, which runs between Nod Road and Nod Hill Road on the Wilton-Ridgefield border.  “Knoche Road” appears on modern U.S. Geological Survey maps, but on few other modern maps, which use Pelham Lane instead – probably correctly so, for Pelhams predate Knoches as property owners in the neighborhood.

The Knoche family came to that area in 1893 when Robert W. Keeler of Wilton sold John and Joseph Knoche property in Ridgefield and Wilton along or near Pelham Lane. But John R. Pelham was already living there by 1888. Thus, if the road should be named for the first of the two families to live there, it should be Pelham. But if it would be named for the family that has lived there longer, Knoche easily wins because the Joseph Knoche family is still there.

Joseph Knoche Sr. built the fine stonewalls along both sides of the road, much of which is now part of Weir Farm National Historic Site.  In fact, in 1945, Mahonri Young (1877-1957), J. Alden Weir’s son-in-law and an artist famed for his Mormon sculptures, created the widely known etching, “Joe Knoche Builds a New Stone Wall.”

A sharp curve in the road near the Knoche property is called Knoche’s Corner, according to the late Theodore M. Meier in his 1975 report on the perambulation of the Ridgefield-Wilton line.

Beechwood Lane was Almost Tanglewood

Beechwood Lane is a short road that runs from Pelham Lane to a cul-de-sac, but also connects with Rising Ridge Road. It was laid out in the early 1960s by Giles Montgomery and his son, Barry, as part of the Twin Ridge development and became a town road in 1968. Just how modern subdivision roads get their names is often not thought worthy of recording. Most are just ‘pulled out of a hat’ so to speak. But in the case of Beechwood Lane, there’s an interesting little tale, provided in the 1980s by one of its residents, the late Max Gunther, author of 26 books, including: The Zurich Axioms: The rules of risk and reward used by generations of Swiss bankers; D.B. Cooper: What Really Happened; The Very, Very Rich and How They Got That Way, and Instant Millionaires: The Secrets of Overnight Success, among others, and countless magazine articles. One of Gunther’s more notorious books, The Split-level Trap, has been described as a ‘Kinsey Report’ on the state of “disturbia” life, as he coined it: “Harried young housewives are seeking escape in alcohol and stolen affairs. Husbands, frantic for success, stay later and later in the city. Teenagers, their every wish too easily gratified, steal, and engage in open sexual promiscuity.” Although based largely on a study of life in suburbia New Jersey, one can’t help speculating whether some Twin Ridge experience is found between the lines.

As he recounted in an interview with Danbury station, WLAD, about his life in Ridgefield on Beechwood Lane, he said: “The name of this little street (barely a quarter-mile long) was plucked out of the air on about two seconds’ notice one morning in 1968. It happened during a phone conversation between Barry Montgomery and me.

“Barry was chief visionary behind the large land development now known as Twin Ridge. When I first met him in February 1968, he had completed the western part of Twin Ridge, but the eastern end was undeveloped. There was nothing here but swampland and wild woods. To raise operating cash, Barry was offering to sell plots in this trackless wilderness for what now (1986) seem like astoundingly low prices.”

“My wife Dottie and I tramped through the snowy woods with Barry and decided this was where we wanted our new home to be. We bought acreage on a rise overlooking the swamp, which Barry planned to turn into a seven-acre lake. He also planned to build a paved road adjoining our property. Until the road was built, the only way we could find our way to our future home site was by looking for forest landmarks. The main landmark was an enormous, 200-year-old beech tree.

“Barry started work on his road in the spring of 1968. In our rambles through the woods, I had suggested that he call this road Tanglewood Lane, which pleased him. We were referring to it by this name before it was even so much as a dirt trail. But one morning, Barry phoned me in a mild panic. He was at the Ridgefield Town Hall. He was in the process of filing maps of the proposed new Twin Ridge section, and it turned out that he would not be allowed to call the new road Tanglewood. The name was already in use elsewhere. He needed another name and needed it fast.

“I immediately thought of that gigantic tree. ‘Beech Lane,’ I said.

“He was dubious. ‘People would misspell it,’ he said. ‘It sounds like – you know, a sandy beach.’

“'Okay,’ I said. ‘How about Beechwood?’


“And so it came to be. The huge beech tree still stands massively off the southeast corner of our house today.”

Who was Charles Sheeler?

Charles Sheeler, one of the leading American painters of the 20th century, lived and worked in a historic building located in the Whipstick District of Ridgefield. The Whipstick District schoolhouse, situated on the northern corner of Whipstick and Nod Roads, closed in 1915. The small building was later incorporated into a stucco-covered house where Charles Sheeler resided and created art for a decade.

Sheeler was renowned for his "precisionist" style of painting and was equally respected as a photographer. He gained recognition for his work as a photographer when he was hired by Henry Ford to document his factories and also worked for publications like Vogue, owned by Conde Nast.

Born in 1883 in Philadelphia, Sheeler studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under William Merritt Chase, a notable American Impressionist. He furthered his artistic education in Europe, exploring modern and classical painting styles. Upon returning to Philadelphia, he began experimenting with photography using a $5 Kodak Brownie camera. Sheeler taught himself the medium and worked as a freelance commercial photographer to supplement his income. The precision and attention to detail in his photographs began to influence his paintings, which started to resemble the accuracy of photographs. His experiences working for Ford also had an impact on his artistic style, leading him to become well-known for his depictions of machines, industrial scenes, and commercial ships.

Throughout his life, Sheeler continued to engage with both photography and painting, creating art that captured various aspects of American life and Americana. He was regarded as a master in both mediums. Sheeler once said in a 1938 interview, "Photography is nature seen from the eyes outward, painting from the eyes inward."

Several of Sheeler's paintings feature views of the interior or exterior of his Ridgefield home, including "Newhaven" and "An Artist Looks at Nature." The latter is a surreal painting from 1943 that incorporates a self-portrait photograph of himself (likely taken in Ridgefield), his Ridgefield house, and the Hoover Dam, which he had photographed in 1939 during his time in Ridgefield. Sheeler's artwork can be found in major museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Sheeler moved to the Whipstick house in 1932. Unfortunately, his wife Katherine passed away a year later. He lived alone for nine years but maintained social connections with friends, including poet William Carlos Williams and photographer Edward Steichen, who resided in nearby Redding. In 1942, Sheeler married Musya Sokolova, a Russian dancer and photographer, and the couple eventually relocated to Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. Sheeler passed away there in 1965.

In 1998, Sheeler was honored with a commemorative U.S. postage stamp, becoming the seventh Ridgefielder to receive such recognition. The stamp was part of a sheet on "Four Centuries of American Art" and featured his painting "Two Against the White." In 2013, a second stamp commemorating the artist was issued as part of a sheet on "Modern Art in America," showcasing his famous 1930 painting, "American Landscape."

Regrettably, the schoolhouse-home where Sheeler lived and painted, which also appeared in some of his artworks, was demolished in 2000 to make room for a larger house.

Joseph Knoche: An Artist in Rock

Most artists work in media like paint, metal, stone, or fabrics. Joe Knoche worked in rocks — good, old, Connecticut countryside rocks. Like few others could, he created stone walls, fireplaces and foundations that have lasted more than a century and show no sign of deteriorating — unless at the hands of man. 

His craftsmanship was so good that one of America’s leading artists of the 20th Century drew him at work many times. Joseph John Knoche was born in Germany in 1868. When he was 14, his family moved to New York City where he apprenticed as a stonecutter at a cemetery. In 1893, he decided to come to Ridgefield, perhaps drawn by the need here for fine stonemasonry work on the many estates that were being built then. He and his mother moved to Pelham Lane on the Ridgefield-Wilton border.

Knoche established his own contracting business, with several employees. They did masonry work on many of the large new and renovated “summer cottages,” as the estates were called.

Among the first walls he did were on the South Salem farm of a Dr. Agnew, which later became the home of U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace. He did Henry deB. Schenck’s new estate on Tackora Trail, which became the Mamanasco Lake Lodge, the Jesuits’ Manresa retreat house and now Christ the King religious center. And he worked on the new home of artist Frederic Remington on Barry Avenue.

For these and other projects Knoche would often do the foundations and fireplaces, and then would frequently build a stone wall along the front of the property or rebuild an old wall. In some cases he would also wall off  gardens or fields.

 Around 1918, Knoche gave up general masonry contracting to concentrate practically exclusively on dry walls — that is, walls that employ no mortar, and are held together by the shape, weight and position of the rocks. And he was good at it.

“Everybody didn’t make dry walls the way Joe did,” said his daughter, Teresa Knoche Sheehy in an unpublished 1961 interview with Ridgefield Press reporter Peter W. Roberts. “He fit them right, he cut them correctly.”

The virtue of a dry wall is its appearance, she said.

“It’s more difficult than a wet one,” she pointed out. And when mortar was occasionally demanded by an employer, he would always conceal it.

Among the many homes on which he created rock walls and other stone structures were:

·   The John H. Lynch place on West Mountain Road, now the Ridgefield Academy and its campus.

·   “Oreneca,” the West Mountain estate of  P.D. Wagoner, the Underwood Typewriter magnate, later the home of rare book collector Harrison Horblit.

·   The Rainsford estate on the Ridgefield-South Salem line, which in recent years has been Le Chateau restaurant.

·   Sunset Hall, the Old West Mountain estate that was the country retreat of several prominent New York businessman and, for many years,  the home of actor Robert Vaughn and now the home of Dick Cavett, the television interviewer.

·   The Jonathan Bulkley estate on Rippowam Road, still owned today by the same family that established it more than a century ago.

·   The very visible and tall wall at the corner of High Ridge and Barry Avenue that surrounds the former Sereno T. Jacob home. (Jacob, a World War I fighter pilot and feisty town official, gave two reasons for commissioning this wall: To keep his small children safe from traffic at the busy intersection, and to protect the public from his rather aggressive police dog.)

·   Many long walls on the estate of Louis Morris Starr at the corner of Farmingville and Lounsbury Roads.

However, nowhere in the area is his work better known and appreciated than at the J. Alden Weir homestead along Nod Hill Road and Pelham Lane, now the National Park Service’s Weir Farm. Considered one of the great American Impressionist artists, Weir used Knoche’s talents to build walls at his farm. So did his daughter, Cora Weir Burlingham,  who commissioned Knoche to erect more than a mile and a half of walls there. Knoche started that project in 1938 when he was 71 years old.

“Apparently, Mahonri Young liked to tease his sister-in-law, and the ‘Great Wall of Cora’ was his name for the system of elegantly constructed dry stone walls that Cora Burlingham had local mason Joe Knoche design and build on the property,” said Dr. Cynthia Zaitzevsky in a 1996 National Park Service report. “It is not yet clear whether Cora had a grand plan for the stone walls or whether they evolved incrementally, but they seem to have been completed by the late 1940s.”

Mahroni Young was so taken by Knoche’s work that he drew many pen-and-ink sketches of the mason at work. The best-known shows him working on that “Great Wall of Cora.”

“Joe Knoche and his men were one of Young’s favorite subjects,” said Dr. Zaitzevsky. “He did numerous sketches of them, resulting in the etching [accompanying this profile], which shows the construction of one of the walls to the north of the house. The north side of the tools shed is also visible.

“None of Young’s Knoche sketches and etchings is dated, but they must have been done in the 1940s,” she said. (Young, who is also profiled in Who Was Who, is especially known for his huge sculpture of his grandfather, Brigham Young, outside Salt Lake City, Utah.)

Despite time, weather, vandals, and even rock thieves, Knoche’s walls are still a prominent part of Weir Farm and line both sides of Pelham Lane where the Weirs, Youngs, Burlinghams, and Knoche himself lived. (In modern times Knoche’s grandson, also named Joe Knoche and who also lives on Pelham Lane, has done much carpentry work on Weir Farm.)

In the late 1930s, Knoche took a break from wall building to work on his own plan for a monument to the memory of J. Alden Weir. “The monument was to have been built on an island in what is known as Weir’s Pond,” according to Peter Roberts’ profile of the mason. Knoche spent weeks in the woods at his home, searching for a granite ledge from which he could cut stone for columns and haul them out by truck. He found such a spot and “at once began his work of quarrying out these granite columns. He was several months at this project and each column was a masterpiece.” Each was a foot square and six feet long.

Who was Mahorni Young?

Mahonri Young, a prominent American sculptor of the 20th century, achieved a significant milestone in his career just before his 70th birthday. He unveiled his most famous work, a tribute to his grandfather Brigham Young, on the centennial of Brigham Young's arrival in what is now Salt Lake City. The unveiling of the 60-foot monument took place in 1947 and was attended by 75,000 people, marking a moment that Mahonri Young described as the greatest in his life. However, just two months prior to the unveiling, his beloved wife Dorothy, daughter of American Impressionist artist J. Alden Weir, had passed away.

Mahonri Mackintosh Young was born in Salt Lake City in 1877, the same year his grandfather Brigham Young, the leader of the Mormon Church, died. Shortly after his birth, Mahonri received the blessing of his grandfather, who held significant positions as the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the governor of Utah territory. Brigham Young had led the Mormons to settle in the Salt Lake basin, where they established Salt Lake City. As their wagon train approached the basin, with Brigham Young lying exhausted and feverish in the last wagon, he looked down into the valley and declared, "This is the place." A century later, Mahonri engraved those words on the famous "This Is the Place Monument," a monumental work created in Ridgefield.

Mahonri Young grew up in Salt Lake City and began his artistic studies with J. T. Harwood, a painter. He worked as a sketcher for the Salt Lake Tribune and, by 1899, had saved enough money to move to New York and enroll in the Art Students League, where he later became a teacher. He continued his artistic education at the Academie Julian in Paris and traveled to Italy. During his time in Europe, he encountered notable figures in the arts, such as Leo Stein, brother of Gertrude Stein, who introduced him to Pablo Picasso's first exhibit, and Ernest Hemingway, who admired Young's work. He also associated with Robert Henri and the Group of Eight, leaders of the Ash Can School of American realism. Young gained international recognition when his artwork was exhibited at the Salon, the official exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Although Young was known for his depictions of the American West, including Indians, cowboys, horses, and other aspects of Western life, he also created works inspired by industrial workers and prizefighters. Some of his notable sculptures, such as "Man with a Pick" and "Stevedore," are now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while "Boxer" can be found at the Whitney Museum.

In 1907, Young married Cecilia Sharp, but she passed away ten years later due to cancer. In 1931, he married Dorothy Weir, the daughter of J. Alden Weir, an American Impressionist artist. The following year, Young moved to Weir's farm in Ridgefield, Connecticut, where he spent much of his remaining life. He created numerous sketches and paintings depicting farm life, animals, crops, and laborers on the farm.

Young built a studio behind the Weir homestead, adjacent to his father-in-law's studio, which provided ample space for his sculptures and had large skylights that filled the room with natural light. The studio has been restored and is now part of the Weir Farm National Historic Site. In 1939, Young received the commission to create the "This Is the Place Monument" honoring his grandfather Brigham Young. Most of the work on the monument was carried out in his Ridgefield studio. Additionally, Young created the sculpture representing the state.

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