A Brief History of North Haven

An 1835 engraving by John Warner Barber showing the North Haven  Green
An 1835 engraving by John Warner Barber showing the North Haven Green

As one drives the streets of North Haven it becomes apparent that there is a story to tell.  Quinnipiac Avenue, Blue Hills Road, Sackett Point, Blakeslee Avenue, Clintonville Road  – these aren’t street names one would find in every mid-size suburb in the Northeast.  The names hint at the town’s roots, which spread deeply back in time.

North Haven’s first inhabitants settled here about 2,500 years ago; the Dutch explorers who arrived here in 1625 named them the Quinnipiac after the river they travelled.   Though the Quinnipiac are long gone, we find evidence of them throughout North Haven – many stone tools and projectile points have been found in town.  Street names like Quinnipiac and Montowese Avenues, and local attractions like Sleeping Giant State Park (the “Blue Hills”) remind us of their presence here.

Though the Dutch explorers were the first Europeans to arrive, the English settled here.  Some of the earliest families to live in this area were the Bradleys, Todds, Ives, Beaches, Blakeslees, and Thorpes.  In addition to farming, there was a bog iron mine near what is today Pool Road.  There was a tavern and a blacksmith in North Haven by the early 1700s, but not a church – the townspeople would have to travel to New Haven to attend services or meet in local homes for public worship.

As this small group of families became established, their settlement came to be known as the Northeast Village.  Deeds show that Washington Avenue and Pool Road bordered most of their properties.  These roads were dirt, and based on trails left behind by the Native Americans.  There was a bridge over the Quinnipiac River, approximately where Broadway intersects with State Street today.  This would also have been the site of a boat-building industry later in the century. There may have been a wharf at Sackett Point.  New Haven was still involved with the settlement, paying for access to a gristmill on the river here.  The village increased in population and prospered.

The Northeast Village became North Haven when it was incorporated in 1786.  The first Grand List showed farming as the predominant profession, and the number of sheep in North Haven equaled the number of persons living here!  But farming wasn’t the only occupation – North Haven’s natural resources contributed to other industries.  Because the Quinnipiac was large enough it could handle ocean-going vessels, and the timber available in town was therefore used to support a shipyard.  Along North Haven’s rivers were rich clay deposits and these supplied the many brickyards that were established.  The Blue Hills provided fuel wood for the kilns.  By the mid-nineteenth century North Haven had fully entered the Industrial Revolution  with the establishment of the Clintonville Agricultural Works.  David Clinton, the founder, was a farmer who spent his winters inventing devices that would make farming easier.  By the 1840s his factory employed several men who made farm tools.  This factory underscored the dual nature of work in North Haven –  farming and industry.

The arrival of the twentieth century saw few changes – farmers and small industries were North Haven’s life blood.  As time passed, though, the old farming families moved out and the immigrants new to town bought up the land – Valentino, Pallato, Christoforo, Borelli, and Balleto became associated with market gardens across town.  Small industries made way for the larger ones – Pratt and Whitney, Circuit Wise, and U.S. Surgical to name a few.  Neighborhoods grew, schools  and churches erected, and life continued here as before – quiet yet industrious.  More roads were built, some bearing the names of town ancestors, some hinting at newer settlers like Tenedine Drive and Laydon Avenue.   The next time you drive through town think of it as taking a drive back through North Haven history!

To learn more about our town’s history, visit the North Haven Historical Society, located in the Cultural Center at 27 Broadway.  Volunteers are there on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 – 6 PM.  They can be contacted at (203) 239-7722, by email at nhhistsoc@gmail.com, or visit their website at https://northhavenhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com.

Written by Susan A. Iverson

Historical Resources:

  1. Amidst Cultivated and Pleasant Fields by Lucy McTeer Brusic
  2. North Haven Historical Society Museum and Archives
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