Local Lore And Road Names

Historical Article Series May 10, 2020 > Local Lore And Road Names

From the Mansfield Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. 53, No. 2, September 2017

The names of many of Mansfield’s early road refer to their route to a village or to a local landmark (i.e.: Gurleyville Road, Ravine Road, etc.). Then there are other roads where the origin of their names are much less obvious.  Puddin Lane and Dog Lane are two such examples. 

The October 1973 issue of the Mansfield Historical Society Newsletter included an article by Grace and Willis Homer that relates the story behind the name of Puddin Lane.

“We heard the following anecdote when we bought a lot on Puddin Lane in 1932.  At that time some people called it Pleasant Valley Extension while others called it Puddin Lane.  Judge Llewellyn Storrs [Mansfield’s Judge of Probate, 1900-1937, and Town Clerk, 1922-1938] explained the origin of the name Puddin Lane as follows.

When he was a little boy, his grandmother told him this story that she had been told by her parents when she was a little girl.

Back in the late 1700s there were two main roads in Mansfield, both running North and South.  To go from one to the other, people had to go down to Windham or up to what is now known as the Storrs area.  So, some people in the south end of Mansfield got together for a road making bee to make a road that would go from the East bank of the Natchaug River to the road that went from Windham to Mansfield City.

A day was chosen and the men worked on the new road while the women prepared dinner.  One of the foods was a large kettle of Indian Puddin (spelled as pronounced) which was corn meal that was cooked over an open wood fire.  The kettle was hung over the fire on a three legged tripod.  There were, of course, a large number of children present.  One of them, a boy, tripped over one leg of the tripod and the whole thing, kettle and contents, spilled over him.  He was quite badly burned as the pudding was boiling. After the road was finished, no name was given to it, but whenever anyone spoke of the new road, they identified it as the road “where the boy was burned by the Indian Puddin.”  Gradually it became known as “Puddin Lane” and Puddin was spelled as it was pronounced then – dropping the g.”

The January 1993 issue of the MHS newsletter included an article about the history of Dog Lane, researched and written by Theora J. Whetten.  In it, she offers some speculations on how Dog Lane got its name.  An abridged version is reproduced below.  It has been slightly edited and updated as needed.

In the Mansfield Land Records, Volume 11, pages 204-205, 29th day of November, 1787, it is recorded: “TO ALL PEOPLE TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME, Greetings.  Know ye that I, JAMES ROYSE of Mansfield in the county of Windham and the state of Connecticut in the consideration of the necessity and convenience of an open and public highway starting from Spring Hill Road [now Route 195] near my dwelling to the house of Solomon Royse in said Mansfield – do hereby give, grant and confirm unto Experience Storrs, Esq. of said Mansfield and to the rest of the inhabitants and heirs of Mansfield, and to all the good subjects of this, and the United States of America, for the use of a public highway forever, the strip of land herein described, viz:

“Beginning on the East side of Spring Hill Road above 16 rods northerly of my said house in the South line of Joseph Dimocks land, thence the line runs E. 42 degrees N. 130 rods and 18 links to a stake and stones in said Dimocks line, thence E. 16 degrees S. 16 rods N 20 links to stones, thence E. 35 degrees N 35 rods to a stake and stones, etc.”

On September 19, 1809, 22 years after James Royse gave the road to the town, Samuel Royse sold the land along the road to Samuel Sanford (MLR Vol. 15, p. 452) but the deed does not mention the name of the road as Dog Lane.  On July 26, 1832, 45 years after the road was given to the town, a sale of land by Samuel Sanford of Boston, to John Hunt of Boston, describes the parcel as “the land was sold at the corner junction of Turnpike road and Dog Lane so called”, (MLR Vol. 22, p. 199).  The buyer paid $1500.  This is the earliest reference to the name Dog Lane that I can find.  From 1832 on there are many references to land bought and sold, bounded on one side or the other by “Dog Lane so called”.

It is not known how the Lane got its name.  Miss Edwina Whitney was born in September 1868, 81 years after James Royse gave the road to the people, and it had been called Dog Lane 26 years before she was born.  There are several theories – one, credited to Miss Whitney, is her story of driving her family’s cows down the Lane every morning and bringing them home every evening.  The nearby families kept horses down the Lane and as the children took the animals back and forth they would stop at the “Dog’s Grave” at the top of the hill.  The dog must have been a great pet because his grave had been well-marked many years before Edwina and the cows went down the Lane.  Another theory is that the Lane is more or less the shape of a dog’s leg. [A sharp bend in a road is often called a “dogleg”.] The Lane is 230 years old and has been named Dog Lane for the last 185 years.

By 1938 the Lane had been abandoned for many years and was not passable for any type of vehicle.  It was filled with boulders and trees with 6 to 8 inch diameter trunks were growing in the middle.  The lower end was a swampy area.  The Whettens and a few other families purchased land along the old road desiring to build there.  However there was no way for construction equipment to reach the sites.  They hired Ann Rapport to search through the old records in the Town Hall to find out who owned the Lane.  She found that at a selectman’s meeting when Dog Lane had been brought up, the subject had been tabled and never resumed.  Therefore the Town still owned the road.

The Town agreed to make the road passable but the Whettens and the Dowds couldn’t wait.  They made their own arrangements to clear a way for the construction equipment.  Eventually the Town improved the road but for several years it was a dirt road.  

In the late 1960s, a committee was appointed by the Town to study the names of roads.  Some had never had names and name changes were considered for others.  At a Town meeting the committee chairman proposed that Dog Lane be re-named Black Birch Road because “no one wants a road named after a dog and there are some nice black birches on the lane.”  A tall lanky forestry professor (Ed Wyman) jumped up and for about three minutes gave an oration about “Who is more faithful to man than his dog?  Who is man’s best friends? etc., etc.”  When it was time to vote there was only one small “yes” and a resounding “NO”!

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