Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Stories We Tell

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Stratford’s Other “Bird”

By David Wright
Town Historian

Stratford’s Other “Bird”

Avon Park was created in 1892 on about 24 acres of land across the street from the present day Two Roads Brewery. Stratford, since its founding, was well known for its mosquitoes. The mosquitoes were so challenging in Stratford that Rev. Samuel Peters, in his True History of Connecticut, 1781, wrote of Stratford’s mosquitoes:

“…This story of expelling the devils from Stratford has about as much force against the Congregationalists as the story still told as to the cause of the mosquitoes in Stratford.  That cause, it is well known, is the great salt meadow of 1,500 or 2,000 acres below Stratford on the Sound, yet a jocose story is told of another cause.

It is said, when the Rev. George Whitefield preached in Stratford, he represented all the Episcopal people as never having been converted, and they, in turn, were very severe in remarks on Mr. Whitefield; and that when he left Stratford he shook off the dust of his feet against them, saying, the curse of God would come upon them. That curse, it has been said, was the coming of the mosquitoes.

When Avon Park opened, the mosquitoes descended on visitors en masse.  An August 28, 1892 story in the Bridgeport Herald stated: “The natives over at Avon Park are very affectionate towards all visitors. By the natives is meant the mosquitoes. They are living over there now in small tents which they have pitched in the celery patch next to the park. Night before last they made a raid on the bar and swiped all of the birch beer and lemon soda. The money drawer was locked up at the time or that would have followed.

Before the season is closed mosquito suits to fit over one’s outside clothes will be for rent on the grounds and you can enjoy comparative comfort. The netting from which the suits will be made is now being manufactured in the mills. The ordinary netting is not heavy enough to keep the natives from chewing their way through to your vitals.”

The following Hartford Courant piece, written by a Bridgeport reporter, however, is legendary in its own right and one of our favorites.

The Hartford Courant

July 5, 1868

STATE CORRESPONDENCE – BRIDGEPORT.

“And the east wind brought the” musquitoes [sic]. Never since white men first explored these coasts have these little pests been more numerous and annoying than this season. We give our Stratford neighbors the credit of raising the varmints, and this year they send them over to prey upon us. The extensive marshes in the southern part of Stratford are known as the “Musquito Kingdom,” and they breed there in enormous quantities. Whenever an east wind prevails for a few hours it brings them directly into our city. This year they are regular cannibals; they respect no man’s right; blood flows in our streets continually; they invade domestic peace and set at nought [sic] the solemnity of the sanctuary and the prayer meeting. 

Light-heartedly, we may welcome visitors to Stratford “offering more (mosquitoes) from Forest-to-Shore!”

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