By Bessie Burton
Edited by Andréa Byrne
In 1639, the original settlers of Stratford lived and farmed in the area known today as Stratford Center. Two of those settlers, Richard Boothe and his wife Elizabeth, had a grandson, Zechariah, who was the first in the family to move up to north Stratford on the Housatonic river where the farming was much more productive.
That region was very hilly and the local Native People, the Paugassett tribe, called it Put Nee, which means ‘high hill’ and is quite an apt name. The road we call Main Street Putney was previously referred to as the old Paugassett Road and was the path used to go north from Stratford to Shelton. Those who settled in this area were few and all were farmers who had a great deal of trouble getting into town as the muddy roads made it very treacherous. In fact, the long stretch that leads to Cutspring Road and is now called Chapel Street was then known as Skidmore Hill because for most of the year it was almost impossible to get their oxen and cart up that path.
Over the ensuing years others ventured up the hill, although it was not until the 1960’s that the area heading up James Farm Road to Shelton got more populated! All those farmsteads began to disappear.
The lower part of Chapel Street, where it meets Main Street, was named after the Putney Chapel, which was built at that intersection in 1844 by two neighbors, the Welles and the Boothe’s. The community needed a church and the Chapel often hosted itinerant pastors to lead services, but it was primarily used as a Grange and was a popular site for all. Local residents could share information and problems, discuss moral and ethical questions of the day, and the women also shared social times there with sewing and quilting bees.
By the 1900’s more traffic came to the area. Travelers started using either side of the Putney Chapel to access Main Street Putney, which left the little structure stranded in the middle of the road. After a serious accident there, in 1968 the town opted to move the Chapel to the north end of Boothe Park, where it remains today.
Fortunately, two Putney families who were active in the old Chapel Association, the Lays and the Richardsons, took on the job of restoration and expansion of the building so it could be opened and used by the public again.
Today the Chapel continues to be used for meetings by the Friends of Boothe Park Trustees, the Putney Chapel Association, an annual non-denominational Christmas Eve service for residents of the Putney community, and can be rented for baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
For more information and photos look at their website: www.putneychapel.org or email: PutneyChapel@gmail.com