The Name Game

I was asked a couple of weeks ago if the Historical Society of Easton knew the origins of all of the town’s road names. I vaguely remembered seeing such a list, but couldn’t recall how detailed or how up-to-date it was. Well, today I found it and soon realized that the creator(s) didn’t provide a lot of answers and in some cases had absolutely no clue as to why some of our roads have the names they do.

The fact of the matter is Easton’s rural byways were mostly unnamed in the early part of the twentieth century. Oh sure, some of the major thoroughfares such as Morehouse Highway, Jackson’s Highway – today’s Sport Hill Road, Black Rock Turnpike, as well as a few others that date back to the mid-1800’s carried names, but most of the others did not. A good deal of those original through-roads had originally been privately held and maintained by individuals and incorporators who ran them as toll roads. It wasn’t until the very late 1800’s that the towns began making deals with road owners to take them over and maintain them with public funding in order to open them up to everyone.

It was in the early 1930’s when the Easton Grange launched a state-wide campaign aimed at improving the horrible conditions that existed, not only on Easton’s roads, but on highways throughout the state. Most were still a mixture of native dirt and some occasional patches of added gravel, and a good many were impassible during nearly all of the spring-thaw months and almost any time it rained heavily. The program was named “Get Connecticut out of the Mud!”

But it wasn’t just the mud that concerned members of the Grange, it was the fact that many new roads were beginning to appear in the southern part of Easton as some of the farmers with larger tracts of land were beginning to offer parcels for construction of new homes. Like most of the older smaller roads, the new ones were also nameless. With so many new roads, and so many new residents with unfamiliar sounding names, the volunteer fire department was at a disadvantage in dispatching equipment and informing members where to go in the event of a fire.

It was in October of 1933 when Easton’s volunteer fire company named John Kerrins to assist members of the Grange compile a complete list of town roads and assign them each a name. It was likely both an interesting and a frustrating task to come up names that would be agreeable to all parties as well as easy enough for the firefighters to remember. I’m not sure just how long it took, but the job got done and names such as Cat Hill, Old Sow, and Rock House were soon assigned to the lines on the map that had once been blank.

In the coming months, we’ll attempt to compile a complete list of street names as well as their most likely origins.

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