On the road again: Historic marker more visible than ever
Published 1:50 pm, Saturday, June 18, 2011
Just around the corner from the new Whole Foods Market in the Kings Crossing shopping center and down the street from the town's third train station on Kings Highway is a little-known piece of Fairfield and American history.
Along the side of the road is a mile marker placed there by Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin around 1757. The marker, its façade worn and chipped, designates the miles to New Haven. More stone markers were ordered by the Continental Congress in 1775.
Even though the historic marker has been in place well over two centuries, the stone tablet is more visible these days than in many years because vegetation has been cleared from its surroundings to make way for sidewalk and road construction for the shopping center and rail depot.
Elizabeth V.H. Banks wrote in her book, "This is Fairfield 1639 to 1940," that it was believed that Franklin "covered the entire route in a chaise with a contrivance of his own invention attached to the wheel which registered the distance traveled. As each mile was checked off, a large stone was erected. Some bore his initial F and stated the number of miles to the next most populated town," she wrote. She also noted that other beliefs as to the method of placement of the stones was that they were dropped at every mile and later set by men or the town placed the stones at Franklin's direction.
"At any rate, regardless of the method the mileage of one mile from one stone to the other is correct and has stood the weight of time. The location of these stones often became the site of an Inn or a Tavern along the route. No two stones are alike," she continued.
The marker on Kings Highway -- which designates "22 miles to NH" although part of the engraving is no longer legible -- was protected and preserved in 2002 by the town Department of Public Works. It was once nearly invisible because of neglect and overgrown brush, which was removed by the DPW. The latest round of clearing has made it even more visible as it sits adjacent to a new sidewalk.
According to research conducted by Town Historian Marcia Miner, if a person starts walking from 480 Old Post Road, which is the Sherman Parsonage, where a marker reads "23 miles to NH," goes east to the end of the Old Post Road, which originally was Kings Highway, follows the road behind the traffic circle to Kings Highway East, then to the Grasmere Bridge, then takes a right past the new Kings Crossing shopping center and looks to the left side of the road just before the next street, he or she will have traveled one mile -- exactly.
The marker now is maintained by the Eunice Dennie Burr Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Barbara Turcy, a chapter preservation co-chairwoman and chaplain, said that after the DPW's work, the DAR placed gravel and stones around the base of the marker to protect it and make it more visible. Every spring, members of the DAR weed around it and basically just "keep an eye on it," she said.
When a new sidewalk was planned for the shopping center development, she said, the town had to move the marker and was careful in doing so. "The town has been terrific," she said.
The town, she said, has gone one step further in helping the DAR to preserve the history of the Franklin marker by offering to install a bronze plaque at the site. She wants it to read "Franklin Colonial Marker." She does not yet know when it will be erected.
"There's so much history in this town," said Turcy, who not only is a daughter of the American Revolution, but once she confirms the lineage, she will be a daughter of the War of 1812, which marks its 200th anniversary next year.