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Monroe Historical Society
Box 212
Monroe, CT 06468
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History

In search of Stevenson's Legends and Legacy
(Return to index)
by Pat Salerno

     What's in a name? Probably more history than you can shake a stick at, even if it doesn't immediately appear to be significant. In the case of Stevenson, as the area has been known for more than a century, names have come and gone-both the names of former inhabitants and the names of the area itself.
      Since the 18th century, when the area was called Ragged Corners, the Stevenson section of Monroe has changed hands, so to speak. Moreover, a large part of the area has even changed places.
      Pleasant Vale, Riverside and Zoar Bridge (a designation revisited) are all names of the same area, which was once part of New Haven County. Now, the piece of real estate that has been called Stevenson since 1889 belongs to the County of Fairfield.
      The story of Pleasant Vale (Valley) is yet another matter. Not only does much of Stevenson's history remain under wraps, but the remains of the community buildings of Pleasant Vale rest in a watery grave, flooded over by the construction of the Stevenson Dam. What stories lay buried beneath the deep in Lake Zoar? Where did the townsfolk relocate? What was salvaged and what was forever lost?
      These questions beg answers.
      In the days when men doffed top hats when walking past ladies, corseted and bustled in their Sunday best, townsfolk often honored those who brought progress to the community by immortalizing the benefactor's surname. So it seems, the grateful people of Zoar Bridge, in keeping with popular custom, renamed the entire community after Col. W.H. Stevenson, an executive of the Derby Extension (Railroad).
      The New York-New Haven-Hartford line was once heavily traveled and energized the commercial and social life of local residents. What could have been more convenient for the villagers than to be able to hop a train in downtown Stevenson? What stories could come out of the woodwork in the former general store/post office still sitting by the side of the tracks, a mere stone's throw away from Stevenson Lumber Company?
      If only buildings, rivers and stones could talk!
      We might ask them, how did the early settlement come by the name of Ragged Corners? What founding father was inspired by the biblical name of Zoar? What captured the imagination of Eliza Jane Stephens, a Monroe poetess who honored the Derby Extension in verse? What scandal surrounded Stevenson's great imposter, whose former estate, still inhabited, now serves an entirely different purpose?
      In addition to its share of poets and pikers, Stevenson has enjoyed the service of nearly two dozen postmasters. Nevertheless, in spite of whatever the village was called at any given time, records confirm that the U.S. Mail has passed through the same postal station (Cottage Street) for the last 179 years!
      Quite frankly, our curiosity has been piqued by those few tidbits of yesteryear. We have loved learning about the legacy of historic Stepney. Now, we hope to unravel some of the legends and seek out historic landmarks from the "other side of town."
      We invite you to join us as we trek through the archives and call on the expertise of our town's dedicated history buffs. If you happen to be one of them, or have a story you would like to share about the Stevenson legacy, we want to hear from you!
      Special thanks to Ed Coffey, Nancy Zorena, John Babina and Jody Raymond for contributing information from their research for this article.
      Please share your stories by sending your name and contact information to "Editorial' or "Information" at The Chronicle, 169 Monroe Turnpike, Monroe, CT 06468 or online at: information@thechronicle.us or editorial@thechronicle.us.
This article was printed on 03/01/2006 in volume 2, issue 9
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