Along the Stepney Heritage Trail
A Lesson in History
Farmers settled the area by the mid-1700s, but during the nineteenth century two economic “nerve centers” developed. This economic development was largely brought about by the construction of two turnpikes and the Housatonic Railroad in 1840. The nerve centers were known as Birdsey’s Plain and Stepney. Main Street (modern-day Route 25) serves as the “spine” of the Stepney Heritage Trail connecting these two “nerve centers.”
Birdsey’s Plain — A Village Prospers
The construction in 1801 of the Bridgeport and Newtown Turnpike (modern-day Route 25) and in 1833 of the Monroe and Newtown Turnpike (modern-day Hattertown Road) spurred development where they intersected. This area was called Birdsey’s Plain, after Joseph Birdsey, who settled in the area around 1780.
The elongated grassy triangle just south of where the two turnpikes meet was the site of militia drills during the 1700 and 1800s. Today it is known as the Stepney Green. In 1817 it was formally set aside as a “Place of Parade” for “Publik Use,” in effect becoming Monroe’s second town green and the heart of Upper Stepney/Birdsey’s Plain. Birdsey’s Plain grew into a bustling commercial and community center. Here were located two churches, Monroe’s largest general store, cobbler shops, tinsmiths, and a number of large, stylish new homes.
Stepney — Industry explodes!
A little more than a mile to the south on the Bridgeport and Newtown Turnpike, close to the Trumbull town line, there appeared a second nerve center, called Stepney. The name Stepney was in use by 1740, but its origin is unknown.