Happy 100th, Sherwood Island!

Next year, Sherwood Island celebrates 100 years as a state park. (At least, 1914 was the year Connecticut acquired the initial parcels for what — 23 years later — eventually became our 1st state park.)

In anticipation of the centennial celebration, the Friends of Sherwood Island will install educational panels on the history of the Sherwood family. Daniel Sherwood and his wife Catherine Burr settled the area in 1761. They farmed onions and potatoes, and harvested oysters.

An aerial view of Sherwood Island State Park.

An aerial view of Sherwood Island State Park.

But before the signs can be installed for a historical walking tour, an archaeological survey must verify the locations of houses and barns.

Next Wednesday (May 22, 10 a.m.), Connecticut state archaeologist Nick Bellantoni will make a presentation and inspection visit. The public is invited to attend his free lecture and walk-about tour. Entrance to the park is also free.

Elwood Betts will be there. The 87-year-old Westporter remembers where the Sherwood house was; he visited the farm complex as a 6-year-old. (Just as notably, he’s a Sherwood descendant.)

In preparation for Wednesday's event, Elwood Betts (left) shows archaeologist Ernie Wiegand where the 1787 Sherwood house stood.

In preparation for Wednesday’s event, Elwood Betts (left) shows archaeologist Ernie Wiegand where the 1787 Sherwood house stood.

Archaeology professor Ernie Wiegand will exhibit Native American artifacts from Sherwood Island and nearby Green’s Farms. He’ll also help identify arrowheads, stone axe heads or other artifacts residents have picked up over the years.

Sherwood Island is an enormously popular state park — and a spot many Westporters have never set foot in. You may not be able to make it to next Wednesday’s event — but don’t wait another 100 years to go.

One response to “Happy 100th, Sherwood Island!

  1. David Stalling

    I have so many great memories of Sherwood Island State Park. I was fortunate to grow close enough to the park to go there frequently by foot or bike – particularly in the late fall, winter and early spring “off-tourist” seasons when the park was almost always empty, particularly at night.

    I used to fish for striped bass and blue fish off the rocky shore there; catch blue crabs and “snapper” blues in the estuaries; dig for clams and dive for lobsters; walk from there all the way to Compo beach at low tide (keeping below the high water mark so as not to be trespassing between the park and Old Mill Beach – though occasionally some folks would still come out and me). I would often sneak to the park from Burial Hill, either swimming or wading (depending on the tide) across the tidal creek.

    In the summer we would buy cheap blow-up rafts and when the lifeguards at Burial Hill were not looking we would toss them in the tidal creek on the incoming tide and float all the way around the Island and end up in the Old Mill Pond where Allen’s Clam House used to be.

    In the late 70s (1975?) a huge blizzard shut down the East Coast and my friend Todd Alley and I strapped on our XC Skis and skied all over town and went to Sherwood Island. I have a photo of me on my skis, all bundled up, skiing right down a totally deserted I-95 with the “Exit 18, Sherwood Island” sign right above me. The snow had drifted so deep that Todd and I climbed atop the Pavilion and jumped off the roof into the snow.

    For many years, Doc Sherlock was a guard there and although the park was closed at night he would allow fishermen to park outside the gates and fish all night for stripers.

    We flew kites there; we had picnics there; we played softball there; we had our Staples Class of ’79 “skip day” there (Raise Your Stein to 79!), and it was where the Westport Striped Bass Club had its popular and fun annual family day picnic. I often watched 4th of July fireworks from there.

    I would sneak in there with dates on beautiful, clear nights under full moons and stars and had my first romantic experiences there. The east side of the park was where a secretive, closeted gay man might have a chance of meeting other gay men in those per-internet dating days. .

    My father used to walk around the park a lot and one morning he noticed a plane flying unusually low over the park towards New York, only to learn later that it was one of the flights that flew into the World Trade Center. And, of course, there is now a memorial to 9/11 victims between the Pavilion and the point at Billy’s Rock.

    What a unique place, to have such a beautiful stretch of mostly undeveloped public lands along the sound. I pretty much grew up at Sherwood Island. I love the place.

    Thanks, Dan, for evoking such wonderful memories. That is what I love most about 06880.