A Brief History of Branford
Throughout history, the citizens of Branford have contributed to every aspect of the nation’s growth.
The earliest inhabitants of the area, then called “Totoket” or Land of the Tidal River, were, of course, Native Americans. Part of Middletown’s larger Mattabeseck tribe, the Totokets were “discovered” by Dutch explorer Adriaen Block in the early 1600s.
After the area was settled by the English in 1644, the town’s name became Branford—presumably after Brentford, England, Branford’s official sister city. Life for early settlers was centered primarily on the town green, where the church was located. And while farming was always a mainstay of local life, Branford’s deep harbor made it an accessible port, and by the 18th century growth was steady. When the railroad came in 1852, big industry came with it, including Norcross Brothers Granite Quarry, which would supply the granite used on the Statue of Liberty.
European immigration continued, with the Irish in 1854, the Scandinavian and British quarry workers in the 1880s, and the Eastern Europeans, Germans, Italians, and others in the 1890s. But perhaps the period of greatest transition was the turn of the 20th century, when the town became a summer resort area. On a typical July weekend between 1900 and 1910, as many as 10,000 visitors would descend by rail, trolley, or steamship. Although by the onset of World War 1, both immigration and tourism were in decline, it was not until the end of World War II, with the baby boom and the turnpike opening, that Branford shed its resort and farm town image and grew into its new suburban identity.
The Branford of today reflects the architectural and cultural diversity of its rich past. Although large industry has disappeared, the community moves into the 21st century adapting to the inevitable changes and challenges that have defined its history and established its place in America.
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