According to an article in the New York Times (March 21, 1999), the town of Shelton is the only town, out of the 169 in Connecticut, to change its namesake from one man to another.
The story goes that in 1789, the town was officially called Huntington, for Samuel Huntington, governor of Connecticut at that time and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
The only name that would have been more popular at that time was George Washington himself, but the name was already taken.
But in the second half of the 19th century, “Huntington” experienced an industrial and economic boom largely as a result of the efforts of Edward Nelson Shelton, a Huntington native son and independently wealthy before the age of 40, beginning with a water power company and continuing on to open factories “making everything from pins to pianos.”
It wasn’t unusual for a few Connecticut villages to join together and incorporate into one town, but when they did so, each unique territory maintained its original name even though they were under the umbrella of another, usually larger town. But the political leaders of Huntington were so enamored with their benefactor that they officially abandoned the name Huntington and, after a town vote in 1919, renamed the town Shelton.
As if by sleight of hand, the town of Huntington vanished, replaced by a town named Shelton, causing a fair amount of reshuffling on maps, signage and other official documents.
One can imagine the confusion. Even today, many residents still refer to the town as Huntington, and there has even been a grassroots “movement” to re-establish the name.
It’s hard to imagine a town flipping back and forth between names. A solid name, whether person, place or thing, is a sign of stability and security.
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