375TH ANNIVERSARY: It Happened in Milford

MILFORD >> From John Downs Diary in 1773:

“7/3/73 Clear and Pleasant — I mowed Baldwin lot

“9/19/73 Clear and Good Weather — My son John died

“9/20/73 Clear and Warm — I prepared and buried my son

“9/21/73 Clear and Warm — I lied in and wove woolen.”

Simon Lake, prominent inventor and marine engineer called Milford his home from 1907 till his death in 1945. Holder of many patents and inventor of the even-keel submarine, he is a member of Milford’s Hall of Fame. He ran a factory in Bridgeport and a salvage and exploration business out of Milford. His work on submarines is honored, with a large display, at the Submarine Museum in Groton, CT. One of his last submarines, “The Explorer” resides at Lisman’s Landing. His daughter also ran a hat shop in town.

The Milford Hall of Fame Committee was organized in 2007. In November 2008 the first induction ceremony was held at the Parsons Building. Each year new inductees are honored. Plaques of prominent citizens including: Captain Stephen Stow, Fannie Beach, and Simon Lake line the corridor.

Miles Merwin died in 1697 at the age of 74. In 1645 he had migrated to Milford from Milford Haven, Whales. He owned a good portion of property on the shoreline in the area of “Pond Point.” He operated a tanning works near “Bryan’s Wharf”; it was still active as late as 1838. It was then run by his descendent Albert Merwin.

In 1836 education in Milford was not free. A December 12, 1836, bill from teacher Mr. Ford to parent Alma L. Williams lists costs for her children, Elizabeth’s rate at $.145 per week for 8 weeks equaled $1.16, and Nelson’s rate was the same at $.145 per week plus a $.125 tax for wood per child. The grand total was $2.57.

In 1977 Jai-Alai came to Milford. It was one of three Frontons in the state. It had an award winning design and became an instant success. It employed over a thousand people in 1978 and 1979. The venue with its massive parking lot brought people from all over to enjoy the game.

Both the passage of time and a cheating scandal contributed to its diminished popularity.

In 1993 it was the last fronton operating in the state. It was trying with full local legislative support to add slots and survive. The State Gaming Commission denied their bid and Jai-Alai died a slow death closing on Nov. 1, 2001. The building was torn down in 2007. Lowe’s Home Center now occupies that location.

For more information on the City of Milford’s 375th Anniversary Celebration visit www.milfordct.375.org or email info@milfordct375.org.