Driving on I-95 through Connecticut, you may find yourself on one of the busiest bridges in the state – the Moses Wheeler Bridge – that spans the Housatonic River between Stratford and Milford. The bridge, opened in 1958 and undergoing major reconstruction from 2011-16, was named for Moses Wheeler (1598-1698), my maternal 9th great grandfather, who operated the ferry crossing in the early days of Stratford. For many years, Wheeler, a ship’s carpenter, operated a ferry across the Housatonic River at this location. His son and later his grandson also ran the ferry.
Moses Wheeler was born in England, very likely in the county of Kent, in 1598. He sailed from London in 1638 and settled in the New Haven colony, where he was among the first to receive an allotment of land in 1641. At New Haven, Moses married Miriam Hawley, a sister of Joseph Hawley (1603-1690), one of the first settlers in the colony and my 10th great grandfather. Evidently, Moses was cited for a violation of the community’s strict laws regarding the Sabbath. It seems that he returned home on the Sabbath after an out-of-town absence and greeted his wife and children with kisses. Apparently, he was (or felt) compelled to leave, and they subsequently settled in Stratford, where his sister was wife to the settlement’s minister Rev. Adam Blakeman (1598-1665), my 9th great grandfather. At Stratford, Moses Wheeler purchased a home site from the Indians on the shore, near what is now known as Sandy Hollow. He afterwards bought a large piece of land in the upper part of the town, extending from the river to some distance above the site of the present-day railroad line. He operated the ferry crossing, he was a ship carpenter by trade, and, in addition to building vessels, he was engaged in farming the lands of which he was an extensive owner, and he became one of the leading and influential men of Stratford. He lived to the age of 100 and died in 1698. (4)