Stratford is a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States, located on Long Island Sound at the mouth of the Housatonic River. Stratford is in the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk Metropolitan Statistical Area. It was founded by Puritans in 1639.
The population was 51,384 as of the 2010 census. It has a historical legacy in aviation, the military, and theater. Stratford is bordered on the west by Bridgeport, to the north by Trumbull and Shelton, and on the east by Milford (across the Housatonic River).
Founding and Puritan era
Stratford (formerly known as Cupheag Plantation, and prior to that, Pequonnocke) was founded in 1639 by Puritan leader Reverend Adam Blakeman (pronounced Blackman), William Beardsley, and either 16 families—according to legend—or approximately 35 families—suggested by later research—who had recently arrived in Connecticut from England seeking religious freedom. Stratford is one of many towns in the northeastern American colonies founded as part of the Great Migration in the 1630s when Puritan families fled an increasingly polarized England in the decade before the civil war between Charles I and Parliament (led by Oliver Cromwell). Some of the Stratford settlers were from families who had first moved from England to the Netherlands to seek religious freedom, like their predecessors on the Mayflower, and decided to come to the New World when their children began to adopt the Dutch culture and language.
Like other Puritan or Pilgrim towns founded during this time, early Stratford was a place where church leadership and town leadership were united under the pastor of the church, in this case Reverend Blakeman. The goal of these communities was to create perfect outposts of religious idealism where the wilderness would separate them from the interference of kings, parliaments, or any other secular authority.
Blakeman ruled Stratford until his death in 1665, but as the second generation of Stratford grew up, many of the children rejected what they perceived as the exceptional austerity of the town's founders. This and later generations sought to change the religious dictums of their elders, and the utopian nature of Stratford and similar communities was gradually replaced with more standard colonial administration. By the late 17th century, the Connecticut government had assumed political control over Stratford.
Many descendants of the original founding Puritan families remain in Stratford today after over 350 years; for centuries they often intermarried within the original small group of 17th century Pilgrim families. Stratford's original name was Cupheag, but was later changed to honor Stratford-upon-Avon in England. Despite its Puritan origins, Stratford was the site of the first Anglican church in Connecticut, founded in 1707 and ministered by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Johnson. Settlers from Stratford went on to found other American cities and towns, including Newark, New Jersey, established in 1666 by members of the Stratford founding families who believed the town's religious purity had been compromised by the changes after Blakeman's death. Other towns such as Cambria, New York (now Lockport, New York) were founded or expanded around new churches by Stratford descendants taking part in the westward migration. U.S. President Gerald Ford was a descendant of one of the Stratford founding families, that was led by William Judson.
Towns created from Stratford
Stratford was one of the two principal settlements in southwestern Connecticut, the other being Fairfield. Over time it gave rise to several new towns that broke off and incorporated separately. The following towns were created from parts of Stratford: