New plaque memorializes seven forgotten Milford founders

The names of seven Milford founders were left off of historic monuments, including the Memorial Bridge downtown. But that has been rectified this week with the placement of a plaque that lists those seven missing names.

Former City Historian Richard Platt said it isn’t easy to be sure you’ve accounted for every historical figure in a city’s past because record keeping was not what it is today.

“When the settlers died, they were buried in Peter Prudden’s garden without a permanent marker, because markers were considered vanity,” Platt said.

His wife Jane added that in the 1600s, “They thought the afterlife was more important than this one,” another reason that burial markers were sometimes omitted.

When the city’s 250th anniversary committee  had the Memorial Bridge built in 1889 they put the names of city founders on stones that line the bridge. Platt supposes they used Edward R. Lambert’s history book, which was published in the 1830s, to get the names.

However, some names were omitted from the bridge. Platt said that in 1989, at the time of the 350th anniversary of Milford’s founding, residents tried to make up for the omissions by erecting a monument across the street from the Milford Public Library, near the Memorial Bridge, to list additional names. They relied again on Lambert’s book, and included founders and what Platt calls “after-planters,” which are people who were not here in 1639 when the city was founded, but came after 1639 and before 1700.

The after-planters were important because of the contributions they made to the community, Jane Platt said.

About a year ago local historians working on the city’s 375th anniversary celebrations learned of another list of founders that had been compiled by the Rev. Erastus Scranton in the 1820s, which included even more names of Milford’s earliest settlers. They decided it would be appropriate to add those names to the monument.

Also, a Stratford resident called Platt and said his ancestor, Thomas Oviatt, was among Milford’s earliest settlers and should be listed among the city founders and after-planters. Platt checked his sources, and while Oviatt wasn’t listed in either Lambert’s or Scranton’s history book, he was noted in at least one other publication.

So this week, a plaque bearing the seven additional names was attached to the monument. The names are as follows: Allen and Henry Hawks, Thomas Tarman, Benjamin Smith, Thomas Oviatt, John Bassett and Sarah Phippen Haughton.

Members of the 375th anniversary committee had intended to unveil the plaque in July at a Founding Families Day in Milford.

The Platts, who chaired the event, said that on July 19, descendants of the founders registered and shared refreshments at an event at the First Church, Congregational downtown.

“They signed their names on sheets bearing the names of their ancestors,” Jane said. “Many were descendants of several of the settlers, since the settlers intermarried.”

The Founding Families Day was dedicated to the memory of Susan W. Abbott and Morris W. Abbott, who made ”valuable contributions to the study of history and genealogy in Milford,” Jane said.

On Thursday, Dec. 4, the Platts presented Milford Library Director Christine Angeli with a color photograph of the Abbotts, along with a proclamation in honor of Founding Families Day.

The Platts also took the opportunity to discuss those missing seven names from Milford history and to discuss the plaque that now helps make Milford’s historical markers more complete.