Residents pay tribute to Darien's founding father

DARIEN — The 201st birthday of the town was celebrated on Saturday, June 12, with a special ceremony that also honored its pivotal founding leader Thaddeus Bell, Jr.

Various town and state officials took part in an Anniversary Day event at Slawson Cemetery on Hanson Road, hosted by the Darien 2020 Bicentennial Committee—one year after the original ceremony was suspended because of the pandemic.

“It’s a bicentennial plus one,” Al Miller, committee chair, said. “In 1820, June 12, Darien seceded from Stamford and we became a town.”

Bell — whose ancestors include his great, great grandfather Frances Bell, a settler of Stamford, and his great grandfather Jonathan Bell, who was the first recorded birth in Stamford in 1641 — was buried at the cemetery on Oct. 31, 1851, at the age of 92.

Scott Sherwood, a 13th-generation descendant of Frances Bell, who grew up in New Canaan, was at the ceremony.

“When we were little kids we would drive by here,” Sherwood, who now lives in South Dartmouth, Mass., said of Thaddeus Bell, Jr. “And growing up we were always told about the family history.”

That history includes not only Bell’s appearance in a range of Revolutionary War-era events, including battles in Ridgefield, Westport and Danbury, but his filing of the town charter that made Darien an independent municipality.

Miller said the 200-year-old document shows that the town was originally set to be called Bellville, but Bell crossed out the name before filing it with the state and wrote in “Darien.”

There is no firm explanation as to why that name was chosen, but he said one of the legends is that it was a reference to the Darién Gap — the region between Colombia and Panama that separates North and South America. It’s possible that Bell meant it to reference the town being between two larger bodies — namely Norwalk and Stamford.

Along with music by the Spirit of Black Rock Fife and Drum Corps, and a moment of silence commemorating the day, a new plaque was unveiled by Bell’s grave, presented by members of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

“He didn’t leave anything on the table,” Katherine Love, honorary regent of the DAR said of Bell. “He was thoughtful and persistent, and despite many doors closed in his face, he prevailed.”

“He was a remarkable man for his time,” Sherwood said.