History of Trumbull

Our History

Jonathan Trumbull StatueThank you to the Trumbull ACE Foundation (Academic Challenge for Excellence) for graciously permitting the inclusion of the following article on this website. This article, which extolls some of Trumbull's many virtues, is excerpted from the Trumbull ACE Foundation Town Calendar. Photo Credits at the conclusion of the article.

Trumbull: Pride in our Past, Faith in our Future

Guided by its motto, Trumbull is a vibrant community of more than 34,000 citizens that combines small-town New England character and charm with extensive retail, commercial, and light manufacturing activity.

Trumbull was originally part of an area called Pequonnocke or Cupheag that is now known as Stratford, which also encompassed present-day Monroe, Shelton, and a portion of Bridgeport. The first land laid out and surveyed in Trumbull was to Richard Booth in about 1670, followed by Isaac Nichols in 1671 and Caleb Nichols in 1674. The first permanent settlement was established by the Abraham Nichols family in about 1690 and, in the following years, other families ventured into the "wilderness" to establish mills, churches, and schools. In 1725, the settlement of thirty farmers successfully petitioned the General Court for "village privileges," which allowed them to levy taxes to establish their own meetinghouse, school, and church that, according to the Puritanical laws of the Connecticut colony, was to be their government. Unity Parish started in 1730 with 38 members as it constructed its meetinghouse near today's intersection of White Plains and Unity Roads.

CT Historical Commission MarkerIn 1728, John Edwards' and other families from the Stratfield section of Fairfield migrated inland to the Chestnut Hill area that became part of Long Hill parish in 1740. Together, the two villages petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly "to annex the Long Hill parish with Unity" and they combined in 1744 to become the Society of North Stratford. After successfully conducting their religious and educational affairs for some forty years, residents petitioned the General Assembly for complete independence from Stratford.

Although its efforts were blocked by its mother settlement for ten years, the community's request was ultimately granted in 1797. The town was named after one of the most respected families in Connecticut history, the Trumbulls of Lebanon. The family's patriarch, Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., was the first of the state's four "Governor Trumbulls."

"Brother Jonathan," as he was called by his close friend George Washington, to whom he was an advisor and aide throughout the revolutionary period, was the only colonial governor to continue in office throughout the American Revolution, first appointed by the British throne and later elected by the state's residents. In recognition of his contributions to his state and country, a marble statue of Trumbull is one of two that has represented Connecticut in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall since 1872. A bronze replica was constructed on the grounds of Trumbull Town Hall and unveiled in a December 2002 ceremony.

Trumbull Town SealLike other towns in Connecticut, governance of Trumbull's town affairs has evolved over the past two hundred years. In 1814 the Connecticut General Assembly granted the church's petition to be incorporated as a church body only as it stepped away from affairs of town government. As in many other New England communities, all local questions were originally decided at open town meetings to which all were expected to attend. As population increased to the point where fines assessed against those who missed meetings were deemed uncollectible, this became unwieldy.

Accommodating this and other effects of population growth, the state legislature enabled a shift from direct to representative democracy by granting provisions for Representative Town Meetings and, ultimately in 1957, passed the Home Rule Act that authorized towns to draft and adopt their own charter and method of self-government. Trumbull is governed by a First Selectman, elected every two years, in combination with a Town Council of twenty-one members elected in seven voting districts as provided for by Trumbull's town charter, which was most recently revised in 2003.

Jonathan Trumbull StatueWith 1,600 citizens in 1900, Trumbull's population had not grown very rapidly since incorporation when the 1800 census recorded about 1,300 residents. During the next century, however, Trumbull the community of farming and light industry was transformed into the mostly-residential town of today. By 1930 less than half of Trumbull's acreage was still in use as farm land. Situated near Bridgeport, one of the cities that was a manufacturing powerhouse during World War II, Trumbull grew from 5,300 residents to 8,600 during the decade of the 40's as workers new to the area and returning veterans purchased homes in the town.

Most of the town's transformation occurred during the next twenty years as the Baby Boom and economic prosperity propelled families' desire for suburban homes. This trend was also advanced by the greater affordability of automobiles as well as the expanding road network that supported them. Providing mobility in addition to the already-existing Merritt Parkway, the Interstate highway system was born during the Eisenhower Administration, with the Connecticut section of I-95 - "America's Main Street" - completed in 1957, the same year that Trumbull's new Town Hall was built.

Trumbull's population nearly quadrupled during these twenty years to more than 31,000 residents in 1970. Although governance of the town's one- and two-room public schools was consolidated to a nine-member Trumbull Town School Committee in 1895, this period of dramatic growth posed unprecedented challenges as it necessitated rapid expansion of Trumbull's educational infrastructure.

Trumbull Public Schools SignRed brick-and-mortar schools built in the 1920's - Long Hill (today's Public Schools Administration Building), Nichols (the present-day Senior Center), White Plains, and Edison - to supplant the town's several small school buildings were, in turn, replaced or supplemented by another wave of new buildings as most of today's schools were built during this time: Middlebrook Junior High opened in 1953, Jane Ryan, Booth Hill, and St. Teresa's elementary schools in 1955, Trumbull High School on Madison Avenue in 1960, Daniels Farm and St. Stephen's elementary schools in 1962, St. Joseph's High School in 1963, St. Catherine's elementary school in 1965, and Tashua elementary school and Hillcrest Junior High in 1967.

A new Trumbull High School opened on Strobel Road in 1971, when the "old" high school became Madison Junior High and Middlebrook became an elementary school. Christian Heritage School opened in 1977. Trumbull's two junior high schools became middle schools as they began housing grades 6 - 8 in 1987.

As the town entered the twenty-first century with 9,700 families and a quarter of its population younger than 18, three new schools were built: The Regional Agriscience & Biotechnology Center opened in 2001, Frenchtown elementary school in 2003, and the Trumbull Early Childhood Education Center in 2005.

Even as Trumbull and its present-day School Board are focused on meeting new expansion needs, the town's public schools are among the best in Connecticut as represented, for example, by its students' standardized test scores and post-secondary school pursuits at excellent colleges and universities.

Its many high school sports teams excel in the highly-competitive Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC) - for example, the football and girls gymnastics and soccer teams are the reigning conference champions and the baseball and softball teams both won the FCIAC championships in 2005, only the third time in conference history that any school has done that in the same year. The school's girls soccer and boys baseball, lacrosse, and volleyball teams have won state championships in recent years and THS won the state large-school 2005 - 2006 Michaels Cup, signifying the best overall sports program in Class LL, an award also won in 1998 - 1999. Numerous THS athletes go on to compete at the collegiate level.

THS Marching BandSimilarly, student music, arts, and academic groups regularly turn in outstanding performances throughout Connecticut as well as nationally. Citing just two examples, the Golden Eagle Marching Band consistently performs on the national stage and was honored to represent the state by marching in the 2001 Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington. Also making its mark on the national level, the THS "We the People" team has traveled to Washington as the Connecticut state champion fifteen of the past nineteen years, taking "Top Ten" honors in two of the past four years in this Congressionally-chartered program.

All of these activities - and many more - are avidly supported by dedicated parents who participate in very active Parent-Teachers Association groups and booster clubs.

Devoted to the preservation of its family-oriented atmosphere, Trumbull has long been blessed with a heterogeneous array of vigorous civic, religious, and community organizations and a host of active volunteers. A variety of town departments care for the full range of its citizens' interests and needs, for example, ranging from a Library System with active programming that operates out of two locations… to its Youth Department and Teen Center… to its Senior Center and Stern Village elder housing. There are nearly 30 houses of worship and a variety of affiliated elementary and secondary schools, which strengthen the fabric of the community and add to its diversity.

Trumbull Fire TruckTrumbull's community has been enriched by a legacy of enthusiastic involvement by hundreds of dedicated volunteers in a broad range of activities outside of the schools as well. To cite just a few examples: The town's three volunteer fire companies man seven firehouses to help protect Trumbull's citizens. The Nichols Improvement Association preserves the quality of life in the town's oldest neighborhood, which is listed as a Historical District on the National Register of Historic Places. The Long Hill and Nichols Garden Clubs and Canoe Brook and Pinewood Lake Associations promote the town's beauty. The Trumbull Historical Society members preserve and educate others about the town's past. Countless coaches and other supporters of many athletic organizations provide Trumbull's youth with opportunities to participate in soccer, football/cheerleading, swimming, wrestling, baseball/softball, gymnastics, lacrosse, BMX, and other sports. A group of resilient 11- and 12-year old boys and their coaches provided one of the town's - and indeed the country's - proudest moments when they beat Taiwan 5-2 to win the 1989 Little League World Series.

Other civic organizations, such as the Rotary and Lions Clubs, the Knights of Columbus, the Trumbull Community Women, and the Trumbull Women's Club are actively involved in various activities that enrich the community. Political organizationsS promote citizens' involvement in the democratic process, while numerous parents are involved in Scouting for boys and girls and others are active in promoting the well-being of Trumbull's pets. Performing arts groups provide opportunities for performers of all ages by staging theatrical and musical productions, including weekly musical performances at the Town Hall Gazebo during the summer. Many of these groups are involved in annual events such as the Memorial Day Parade, Trumbull Day, and the fall Arts Festival.

Trumbull Wins World SeriesTrumbull's quality of life - and venues for many of these organizations' activities - is enhanced by the town's more than 1,400 acres of parkland that encompass a wide variety of terrains, from the historic mineralogical Old Mine Park …to hiking and bike trails through pristine Connecticut countryside …to myriad recreational fields and athletic facilities. These include the 27-hole Tashua Knolls Golf Course, three town swimming pools, the Unity Park baseball/softball complex, tennis and volleyball courts, soccer fields, and others. Indian Ledge Park, with its amphitheater, has become home to many events, including the annual Summer Concert Series that has featured internationally-renowned groups, The Beach Boys, Credence Clearwater, and Chicago.

Running north-south through a significant portion of the town, The Pequonnock River Valley State Park is Trumbull's most diverse and historically rich parkland. Now reverted back to its natural state much as it was at the time of Trumbull's incorporation, with its waterfalls, trickling brooks, and rich vegetation and wildlife, "The Valley" holds many archaeological hints of the vigorous industrial activity it hosted throughout the 19th century.

In the mid to late 1800's, several major companies controlled the valley: The Housatonic Railroad Company maintained a rail line, three train stations, cow tunnels, bridges, and the Parlor Rock Amusement Park. The Bridgeport Hydraulic Company built a large stone/dirt dam to create a 93-acre reservoir one mile north of Trumbull Center. An Ice House was built between the railroad and the reservoir. Mill Pond was built south of Parlor Rock where Radcliffe's Woolen Mill was located on the east side and the Long Hill Saw Mill on the west side. Tungsten Mining & Milling Company operated a full scale operation north of Parlor Rock.

Chicago in Concert ImageIn the early 1900's, however, floods destroyed the mills along the river, fire destroyed the Radcliffe Factory and the mining operations, Parlor Rock closed, the automobile displaced the railroad, the reservoir was drained and the dam destroyed after a boy drowned, and the refrigerator made blocks of ice obsolete.

Bordered by Bridgeport, Fairfield, Easton, Monroe, Shelton, and Stratford, and only five miles inland from the Long Island Sound, Trumbull covers 23.5 square miles in the hilly country of eastern Fairfield County in southwestern Connecticut. It is approximately 60 miles from both Hartford and New York City and about 20 miles from New Haven and Stamford. Originally served by one of America's first controlled-access divided roads built in the 1930's, the Merritt Parkway that traverses the town, Trumbull's citizens have easy access to tremendous distant business and cultural opportunities via key state routes (8, 25, 127, 111, and 15/Merritt Parkway) that connect to Interstates 95, 91 and 84. Trumbull has a strong local character enhanced by the diversity of the communities surrounding it.

Trumbull's transportation network also contributes to its attractiveness for retail and commercial activity. The town hosts a regionally-known Westfield commercial mall, which began operations in 1963, as well as other notable shopping and entertainment destinations like Target, Best Buy, and Kohl's at the Hawley Lane Mall and the Crown Marquis Theaters. In addition, several large corporations such as Unilever, Oxford Health Plans, NASDAQ, Sikorsky Aircraft, and Cadbury-Schweppes have units that call Trumbull "home."

Trumbull's citizens are very proud of their town's history, heritage, and accomplishments. Perhaps more important, they have faith that the future for the people of Trumbull will be even brighter than the past.

Trumbull's Town Motto

The Trumbull Ace Foundation offers their thanks for assistance from many groups and individuals, most notably members of the Trumbull Historical Society who have researched and documented aspects of the town's history, and Lois Levine in particular. Any attempt to authoritatively sort out conflicting accounts of history is fraught with danger, but we have done our utmost to get it "right" and we hope you enjoy this description of our town's many facets.

Photo Credits:
  • Connecticut Historical Commission Highway Marker - Dan Neumann
  • Trumbull's Town Seal - Dan Neumann
  • Statue of Jonathan Trumbull in U.S. Capitol (Washington, D.C.) - The Architect of the U.S. Capitol
  • Trumbull Public Schools Administration Building Sign - Dan Neumann
  • THS Marching Band in the Inaugural Parade (Washington, D.C.) - The Associated Press/Connecticut Post
  • Trumbull Fire Truck - Rocco Clericuzio
  • Trumbull Wins the World Series (Little League Museum, Williamsport, Pa.) - Erik Neumann
  • Chicago in Concert - Morgan Kaolian/AEROPIX
  • Trumbull's Town Motto - Dan Neumann 
The Trumbull ACE Foundation is a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) charitable organization registered with the State of Connecticut and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, EIN #35-2234667.