In 1639, the Town of Fairfield was settled at a place the local Indians called Unquowa. Shortly thereafter, the “Bankside Farmers” followed their cattle to a remote area that the Indians called Machamux, “The Beautiful Land.”
The farmers owned and administered in common what was then called Fox Island. To the west of Fox Island was Little Island, owned by individual families.
In the 1700s the thriving community that grew there was renamed Green’s Farms.
In 1787, the Sherwood family settled on what used to be called Fox Island. In 1790, the Sherwoods acquired the Mill Pond gristmill, which serviced local farmers. Its specialty was kiln-dried corn meal shipped to the West Indies.
During the 1800s, the Sherwood family farmed the island’s uplands and operated the gristmill on the Mill Pond. The farm yielded abundant crops, especially onions and potatoes shipped to New York. Oysters were harvested. Many farmers shared the Machamux salt marsh.
In the 1800s, wealthy families built mansions in the Green’s Farms area, along and around Beachside Avenue.
In 1835, Green’s Farms became part of the newly incorporated Town of Westport.
In the 1900s, when the State was trying to acquire land for the park, the influential landowners in the area fought against it. Sherwood Island is called Connecticut’s oldest state park because the first piece of land was purchased in 1914, but it wasn’t until 1937 that the key parcels were acquired and the public access was assured.
The land ownership struggle that resulted in creation of the park is known as The 23-Year War. To learn more, read “Beyond the Dry Highway and the No Trespass Sign: Albert Milford Turner, William H. Burr, Elsie Hill, and the Creation of Connecticut’s First Oceanfront State Parks, 1914-1942.” by historian Jamie Eves. Original publication: Connecticut League of History Organizations Bulletin, vol. 57, no. 2 (May 2004), pp. 9-11, (c) 2004 Jamie Eves.