In 1644 a group of intrepid pioneers left Concord, Massachusetts and landed at Black Rock. Some settled in “Greenlea,” the rocky, marshy area that later became Seaside Park. But Thomas Wheeler built right on Black Rock Harbor, by the stream that was later named Ash Creek. Surrounded on three sides by water, his stone house overlooked the wide spread of the Black Rock peninsula. Worrying about both Dutch invaders and Native American raiders, he included two cannons.
Wheeler’s house became the heart of the growing village of Black Rock, with his family spreading out along the coast and into the interior. A road stretched northwest to the main street in Fairfield, and a fork from there led into Stratfield. An old Indian fort stood nearby, complete with log palisades. Two hundred Indians lived inside, until they sold the land to Fairfield in 1681. They moved north, and the rest of the Black Rock peninsula was divided into house lots.
Other families moved in, with names like Squire, Burr, Penfield, Bartram, Osborn, and Sherwood. Men like Captain Joseph Silliman and Captain Thomas Holburton built homes overlooking the Sound. Captain Ichabod Wheeler built a wharf at the head of the harbor near Thomas’s old homestead, and once completed built no less than six ships there. More wharves and warehouses followed, and Black Rock began to compete with other harbors in the state.
It would be almost another two centuries before this peninsula became part of Bridgeport in 1870. But in many ways the Black Rock neighborhood keeps Thomas Wheeler’s independent and pioneering spirit, lighting the way for the rest of us.
By: Eric Lehman
History of Black Rock, 1644-1955, compiled by Ivan O. Justinius for Black Rock Civic and Business Men’s Club, inc. Bridgeport, Connecticut: Antoniak Print Service, 1955.