The Noroton River

The Noroton River is a 9.4-mile-long (15.1 km) stream flowing into Holly Pond and forming most of the border between Stamford and Darien, Connecticut, USA. The river's headwaters are in New Canaan, Connecticut.

The Siwanoy sachendom of the Wappinger tribe had settled the area before the English came. At the mouth of the river, Indians had a village named "Noroaton".


The area surrounding the river became part of Stamford in the 17th century. In the 1680s, one of the earliest settlements of the English in Darien was founded near the east side of the river, on "Noroton Cove" (the former name of Holly Pond). The settlement included a sawmill built by a dam on the river, just north of where Interstate 95 now crosses it.

Noroton Falls, Noroton River Stamford Connecticut


The Native American Siwanoy or Sinanoy were a band of Algonquian-speaking people, the Wappinger, in what is now the New York City area. By the mid-17th century, when their territory became hotly contested between Dutch and English colonial interests, the Siwanoy were settled along the East River and Long Island Sound between Hell Gate and Norwalk, Connecticut, a territory that included eastern parts of what became the Bronx and Westchester County in New York and southwestern Fairfield County in Connecticut.
<p>20th-century representation of Native Americans from coastal New York (collection of the New Rochelle Public Library).</p>

On June 27, 1654, Thomas Pell, a Connecticut physician, obtained title to a large amount of Siwanoy territory in New York through a treaty with a number of sachems, including Wampage. This included the Pelham Islands and parts of the mainland Bronx and coastal Westchester. New Netherland authorities did not recognize his title. They accused the New Englanders of continued encroachment upon Dutch territory. Pell's coup turned out to be decisive in New York history. A militia of his colonists from Minneford Island (present-day City Island) supported the English naval invasion force that conquered New Amsterdam in 1664.

Thomas Pell died in 1669. Having no children, he left his estate to a nephew, John Pell, son of his brother of the same name. The nephew traveled from England to New York and took up residence at Pelham Manor. The Pell family lived in this area until the Revolutionary War and has remained prominent to the present, with family members including U.S. Ambassador Herbert Pell and U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell. Thomas Pell's grandson Philip Pell II built Pelhamdale at Pelham Manor, New York about 1750.

 (Hence the Pellhams in New York)

The area surrounding the river became part of Stamford in the 17th century. In the 1680s, one of the earliest settlements of the English in Darien was founded near the east side of the river, on "Noroton Cove" (the former name of Holly Pond). The settlement included a sawmill built by a dam on the river, just north of where Interstate 95 now crosses it.
During the Revolutionary War, Stephen Weed was released from the infamous Sugar House Prison in New York City in a prisoner exchange. The New Canaan resident then built a stone fort near his home on the east side of the stream, just south of where Frogtown Road crosses the Noroton.

He steadily insisted that the British would raid the parish and that this line of march would be up the Noroton River valley," according to Charles P. Morton's Landmarks of New Canaan, published by the New Canaan Historical Society in 1951. To the south, Middlesex Parish (which later became the town of Darien) had been raided several times during the Revolution. Weed manned the fort as a precaution against a possible attack for nine years, long after the war was over.

On August 10, 1889, a resident clamming near the mouth of the river reported an encounter with a sea serpent, which he said lifted its head right alongside his boat. He described the beast (in the words of a Boston Daily Globe report) as having "a large black head and its back was a copper color. It ran a big red tongue out of its mouth and emitted a hissing sound."
Various other people along the shore said they, too, saw the creature at the same time and described it as "very long". According to the Globe, "It was seen by over a dozen reputable people and is confirmed by three or four women who got a glance of it and then ran screaming into the woods."

For the next week, people hunted the purported creature up and down the river, but it was never found. "All sorts of things come up the Noroton from time to time," according to the Globe article. "Last year a shark was killed at almost the identical spot where the sea serpent was seen this time."

The Phillips family, heirs of Charles Henry Phillips, who created Phillips Milk of Magnesia, long had a Tudor-style mansion on a four-acre lot along the Noroton River in Glenbrook (where the first Milk of Magnesia factory was located). In the mid-1980s, the property was converted into a condominium development called "River Walk".
Frank Lloyd Wright, working with a landscape architect, Frank Okamura, reshaped a portion of the river running through a 13-acre New Canaan estate for which Wright designed the Rayward-Shepherd House (built between 1956 and 1968).