History of town government in Woodbridge

History of town government in Woodbridge
Pen & Ink sketch of Memorial Town Hall, by Christopher A. McLaughlin in 1960.

The governance of the Town of Woodbridge from its inception is recounted in a "History of New Haven" published in 1892 as follows:

"The first town meeting was held February 17th, 1784, when the following principal officers were chosen: Selectmen Captain Ezra Sperry, Jacob Hotchkiss, John Dibble, Esq., Captain Samuel Osborne; Clerk Amos Perkins; Collector Reuben Beecher; Listers Amos Thomas, David Smith, Charles Baldwin, Roger Peck, John Thomas, Raymond Sanford.

The town clerks of Woodbridge from 1784 have been: 1784-92, Amos Perkins; 1793-5, David Cook; 1796-7, Doctor Thomas Goodsell; 1798-1804, Samuel Osborne; 1805, Jehiel Castle; 1806-9, Samuel Osborne; 1810-29, Justus Thomas; 1830-1, Andrew Castle; 1832-6, Joseph W. Davis; 1837-50, Beril P. Smith; 1851-77, Marcus Earl Baldwin; 1878, William H. Warner; 1879-89, Marcus Earl Baldwin.

Among the selectmen before 1800 were the following: Thomas Darling, Samuel Newton, Jonathan Andrews, Enoch Norton, Nathan Clark, David French, Jonathan Peck, Jesse Beecher, Joseph Beecher, Samuel Osborne, Daniel Beecher, Nathaniel Tuttle, Timothy Ball, Daniel Hotchkiss, Raymond Sanford, Oliver Buckingham, Roger Peck, Amos Thomas, Charles Baldwin, Eli Sanford, John Thomas, Nathan Platt, Richard Baldwin, Eber Downs, Joel Goodyear, Moses Hine, Eliakim Sperry, Ailing Carrington, Jason Hotchkiss, Jared Beecher, Charles Bradley, Hezekiah Thomas, Daniel Tolles, David Smith, John Russell, Isaac Sperry, Medad Hotchkiss, Samuel T. Peck, David Hotchkiss, Hezekiah Baldwin.

In the same office there were, in the present century, in the original town: Timothy Hitchcock. Isaac Hemingway, Philo Dibble, Doctor Thomas Goodsell, Enoch Newton. Captain Samuel Newton, William Andrews, David Wooding, Demas Sperry, Chauncey Tolles, Isaac Hotchkiss, Eliakim Terrell, Roger Ailing, Beri Beecher, Reuben Hitchcock, Jabez Hitchcock, Colonel Joel Hine, Archibald Perkins, Timothy Bradley, Noyes Darling, Enoch Beecher, Robert Clarke.

And among the selectmen since Bethany was set off in 1832, have been: Samuel Peck, Lyman Manville, William W. Peck, James A. Darling, Joseph W. Davis, Edward Hine, John Andrews, Levi Peck, James J. Baldwin, Nathan P. Thomas, Daniel C. Augur, Henry Hicox, Alvin Perkins, Lewis Russell, Sidney B. Sperry, Samuel P. Newton, Leverett Carrington, Lewis Thomas, John Peck, Theodore R. Baldwin, Rollin C. Newton, Frederick F. Finney, William Clark, William H. Hotchkiss, Thomas Darling, Beril P.Smith, David R. Baldwin, Nelson Newton, Lyman A. Bradley, Samuel F. Perkins, Thomas Sanford, Abner S. Baldwin, Jared Sperry, Henry F. Merwin, Mortimer G. Perkins, Nathan P. Peck, Theron A. Todd, Stephen P. Bradley, James F. Nichols.

Among the treasurers in more recent years were : William A. Warner, Phineas E. Peck, J. L. Terrell and Wells M. Beecher." Let's take a closer look at the Office of First Selectman. What do we know about these men and, beginning in 1991, women who have served the people of Woodbridge as our chief elected officials over the years?

John Peck's gravestone
First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1877-1879

John Peck [born 1810 - died 1883]

According to a Peck Family genealogy, John was a son of Phineas Earl Peck and Anna Smith. "He formerly resided in New Haven, where he was a master builder, doing an extensive business. He married first, (Sally) Jennette Baldwin [1813-1845]; second, her half-sister (Betsy) Louisa Baldwin (daughters of David R. Baldwin)." John and his family are buried in Eastside Cemetery in Woodbridge, CT.

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1879-1880

Theodore Raymond Baldwin [born 1829 - died 1909]

Theodore was a son of Captain Raymond Baldwin and Martha Platt and lived on Baldwin Road in a house he inherited from his grandparents Elizabeth Hine and Hezekiah Baldwin. Believed to be one of the largest landowners in town, Theodore often served on the Board of Selectmen in addition to having been Woodbridge First Selectman from 1879 to 1880. Like many of this clan, he had married a cousin, Delia Baldwin, a daughter of Abner Spencer and Mary Ann Baldwin. Theodore and Delia are buried in Milfordside Cemetery in Woodbridge, CT.

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1880-1883

Henry Fletcher Merwin [1838-1927]

Henry was a son of John Miles Merwin and Mary Newton. He was married to Lucy Belden Blakeslee, a daughter of Willis Blakeslee and Nancy Benjamin. According to a biographical sketch published in the Descendants of Thomas Morris of Connecticut, "Henry Fletcher Merwin, who was a farmer and the publisher of the Beaver Valley Tribune, was born at Woodbridge, January 18, 1838, and died at Beaver City, Nebraska, February 6, 1927; he served as a corporal in Company A, of the 10th Connecticut Volunteers during the Civil War." Henry relocated his family to the west after his service in the war, and later was elected Mayor of Beaver City, Nebraska. Henry and Lucy are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Beaver City, Nebraska.

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1883-1885

Theron Alfred Todd [1841-1900]

Theron was a son of Alfred Todd and Hannah Venelia Harrison. He was married to Hattie Emeline Webster. Prior to being elected as First Selectman, Theron served as President of the Agricultural Society of Woodbridge and Bethany, from 1881 to 1882. According to his obituary, "Mr. Todd attended the John Lovell School for boys, and also the Cheshire Academy and Boarding School in Winsted, Conn. He was a member of the firm of Alfred Todd & Son, pork packers and meat dealers, later he was with S. E. Merwin, packers. He was a member of the National Guard for seventeen years, of which organization he was elected Major. He was Master of the Hiram Lodge of Masons, also its treasurer at the time of his death, his funeral services being held under their auspices. He was always active in politics, holding responsible offices [in New Haven], having been on the Board of Public Works, the Board of Finance and Town Agent. He was a member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church." Theron and Hattie are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, CT.

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1885-1890

Rollin Clark Newton [1846-1933]

Rollin was a son of Jonah Sidney Newton, Jr. and Martha Clark, who was a daughter of Elioenai Clark and his second wife Abigail Nettleton. Rollin inherited their house on Seymour Road, where he lived with his wife Ella Blatchley and their four children. He was a moderator of the First Ecclesiastical Society of Woodbridge, and served on the Board of Directors for the East Side Burying Ground Association.


As a young man, Rollin attended General Russell's Military Academy in New Haven, also known as the New Haven Collegiate and Commercial Institute, and later served the people of Woodbridge as First Selectman from 1885 to 1890, and again from 1892 to 1912. Rollin and Ella are buried in Eastside Cemetery in Woodbridge, CT. See entry below for additional details.

Frederick Finney's gravestone
First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1890-1892

Frederick F. Finney [1837-1920]

Frederick was elected state representative from Woodbridge in 1887. According to a biographical sketch published in 1892, "Frederick F. Finney, was born in Norwalk, Conn., in 1837, ...a son of Charles Finney and Abigail Webb. Frederick came to Woodbridge in 1870, and with the exception of five years spent in New Haven, has since resided there. He was elected representative in 1887, and first selectman in 1888 and 1889. He was married in 1864 to Esther L. Hitchcock, [a daughter of Burritt Hitchcock and Mary Lounsbury]. They have two sons: Franklin H. and Edward A. Finney." Edward married Lucy Williams, who served as the first president of the Amity & Woodbridge Historical Society in the late 1930s. Frederick and Esther are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, CT.

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1892-1912

Rollin Clark Newton [1846-1933]

Second term in office — see biographical details, above.

Rollin's extensive collection of photograph albums, carefully notated in his handwriting to identify individual subjects, was donated to the Amity & Woodbridge Historical Society and is the source of several of the photos of First Selectmen shown here.

For example, on the back of this photo taken circa 1865 in which we see two of our future First Selectmen as young men, Rollin has written: “Mr. Henry Merwin’s Sunday School ­– left to right, standing: Edward Chatfield, Theresa Perkins, Rollin Newton, Emily Perkins. Seated: Adelaide Carrington, Charles Augur, Alice Thomas, Sila Peck, and teacher Henry Merwin."


First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1912-1916

Silas Judson Peck [1867-1943]

As a boy, Silas lived with his parents Henry Clay Peck and Susan Cornelia Baldwin, and his grandparents Mary Adeline Baldwin and Silas Julius Peck, in their home on Ansonia Road. This house was built about 1800 by Captain Ephraim Baldwin, who was married to Martha Newton and represented Woodbridge in the Connecticut General Assembly. Ephraim died in 1835 at aged 68 of ‘lung fever’ (a 19th century term for pneumonia) which came upon him suddenly while he was in Hartford attending to the duties of his office. Silas Judson Peck was married to Eva S. Hollenbeck in 1889 and eventually inherited his great-grandfather Ephraim's property. He served as Woodbridge First Selectman from 1912-1916. Silas and Eva are buried in Milfordside Cemetery in Woodbridge, CT.

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1916-1919

Herbert Hazen Tomlinson [1869- 1939]

Herbert was the youngest son of Ruth and William Tomlinson, a descendant of the Henry Tomlinson who settled in Milford in 1652. Herbert inherited his parents' property on Amity Road in Woodbridge, then known as Sunnyside Farm, pictured at right. He ran a dairy farm there and was married to Clara Wheaton Peck, a daughter of Nathan Platt Peck and Julia Elimina Wheaton. Herbert and Clara are buried in Eastside Cemetery in Woodbridge, CT.


First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1919-1924

Clifford Ives Stoddard [1873-1951]

Clifford was a member of Connecticut state house of representatives from Woodbridge; elected 1912, 1920, 1940. He was an attorney at law in the firm of Bristol, Stoddard, Beach & Fisher of New Haven. Clifford was a son of Judge Henry Stoddard and Amelia Augur. He inherited the estate house his parents built in 1911 on Cleft Rock Road and adjoining property, pictured at left. Clifford was married in 1906 to Mildred Dikeman, a daughter of Oscar Dikeman and Lillian Adella Russell of New Haven. Their son Russell B. Stoddard also served as First Selectman of Woodbridge from 1975 until 1991, see entry below. Clifford added to the property he inherited with strategic land purchases to expand Cleft Rock Farm and by the time of his death in 1951 the family’s extensive landholdings in Woodbridge exceeded 500 acres. Clifford and Mildred are buried in Eastside Cemetery in Woodbridge, CT.


First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1924-1929

Jacob Beisiegel, Jr. [1861- 1933]

Jacob was very active in the Grange in addition to serving five years as Woodbridge First Selectman. He was a son of Jacob Beisiegel, who was born in Darmstadt, Germany and Clara Schwartzweller, born in Bavaria. Jacob, Jr. was married to Mary Cornelious 'Mamie' Russell, who was a daughter of Elizur Beach Russell and Ann Maria Alling, from Orange. Jacob and Mary are buried in Eastside Cemetery in Woodbridge, CT.

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1929-1935

Clarence F. Baldwin [1900-1980]

Clarence, who was known as ‘Cap,’ was the son of Frank Baldwin and Ella A. Mahan. He was a farmer, and in addition to serving as First Selectman he was also elected as state representative from Woodbridge to the Connecticut General Assembly. He married Margaret Wood, a daughter of Ezra B. Wood and Edith Everett, and the couple inherited his parents' property on Racebrook Road. According to his obituary, "Mr. Baldwin was a leading Republican in the state for many years. A farmer, he specialized in dairy farming and raising hybrid corn. He entered politics in 1927 when he was elected the second selectman of Woodbridge. The following year he was elected first selectman. He served as a state representative during the sessions of 1933, 1935 and 1939. In 1935 he was elected chairman of the Woodbridge Republican Town Committee, a position he held until being elected chairman of the state Republican party 14 years later. He was the state Senator from the 14th District in 1941 and clerk of the Senate in the 1943 and 1947 sessions. Mr. Baldwin served for 14 years on the Woodbridge Board of Finance and 25 years on the town's Planning & Zoning Commission. He resigned as chairman of the state GOP in 1958 and was then named the Republican state auditor, a job he held until he retired in 1967." Clarence and Margaret are buried in Milfordside Cemetery in Woodbridge, CT.

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1935-1947

Chester C. Hitchcock [1889- ]

Chester was a son of Charles C. Hitchcock who had been a carriage-maker for 40 years in New Haven in the business owned and run by his father, Chester Hitchcock. Charles served for three years in the 13th Connecticut Volunteers during the Civil War and afterward settled in Woodbridge where he was married to Jennie E. Royce and entered the dairy business. Chester, who was the couple's youngest child, inherited their property on Rimmon Road and also a parcel of land he sold to the Town on which Woodbridge Town Hall was built in 1919. Chester later served as First Selectman from 1935 to 1947. He was also a Member of the Connecticut state house of representatives from Woodbridge; elected in 1946, 1948, 1950 and 1952. Read about his re-election to this position in the December 1, 1950 inaugural edition of The Amity Star.


First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1947-1975

Theodore Robert Clark [1904-1975]

Theodore was the longest serving First Selectman in Woodbridge, elected 16 times in his 28 years of service to the Town. A son of Samuel Orman Clark, Sr. and Pauline Marquat, Theodore was married to Evelyn Schepmoes and the couple inherited his parents' home on Racebrook Road where they raised their five children. This house was built about 1848 by Theodore's grandfather, Elias Treat Clark. According to a profile published in The Amity Star in 1951, Theodore "was born in this town on October 28, 1903. He attended the Orange Grammar School, Hillhouse High School, and the Connecticut Agricultural College at Storrs (now the University of Connecticut). Returning to Woodbridge in 1924, he engaged in farming until 1947. On July 1 in that year he began his first term as the Town's Chief Executive. He has also served a nine-year term as a Grand Juror, and has been otherwise active in Republican Party affairs."


First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1975-1991

Russell Budington Stoddard [1912-2009]

Russell was a son of Clifford Ives Stoddard and Mildred Dikeman, see entry above. He was married to Margretta Dugan and was a lifelong resident of Woodbridge. According to his obituary, "he attended The Gunnery School and Williams College and served in the Marine Corps in the Southern Pacific during World War II. After the war, as a general contractor, he developed many Woodbridge roads and land. He served 16 years as First Selectman for the Town of Woodbridge from 1975-1991 and was active for many years in the First Church of Christ in Woodbridge."

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1991-1997

Nan Birdwhistell

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 1997-2001

Roger Harrison

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 2001-2006

Amey W. Marella

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 2006-2013

Edward Maum Sheehy [1940-2013]

Edward was the only child of Michael Sheehy and Lorretta O’Neil. He was born in New Haven and grew up in Ansonia, eventually settling in Woodbridge in 1975. He was married to Eleanor Sanders, a daughter of William Joseph Sanders and Eleanor Goode of New Haven, and the couple raised four children in Woodbridge. According to his obituary, "Edward was a graduate of the Assumption School in Ansonia, the Fairfield Preparatory School, Yale University, and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He practiced in the law firm of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter in Southport. He served as the editor-in-chief of the Connecticut Law Review and past president of the Connecticut Bar Association, the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association, and the University of Connecticut Law School Alumni Association. He was also a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and an advocate of the American Board of Trial Advocates. He was a life fellow both of the American Bar Association and the Connecticut Bar Association. Edward was appointed by Chief Justice of Connecticut Supreme Court as a member of Civil Commission, Recipient of Career Service Award, Greater Bridgeport Bar Association, Recipient of Connecticut Bar Association John Eldridge Shields Distinguished Professional Service Award, and recipient of Connecticut Defense Lawyers Award for Outstanding and Distinguished Service to the Defense Bar." Edward was first elected to the Woodbridge Board of Selectmen in 1979, and during his 27-year tenure as a member of the Board he served in many capacities. He was elevated to First Selectman to fill a vacancy in that office in March 2006, was re-elected three additional terms as First Selectman, and was running for his fourth term at the time of his death. Edward is buried in Milfordside Cemetery in Woodbridge, CT.

First Selectman of Woodbridge, April - June 2013 (remainder of Edward Sheehy's term)

Elizabeth Heller

First term in office — see biographical details, below.

First Selectman of Woodbridge, 2013-2017

Ellen Scalettar

First Selectman of Woodbridge, July 2017 – December 2023

Elizabeth Heller

Elizabeth Rowe (Blackman) Heller, known as Beth, is the daughter of Peter Blackman and Frances (Irving) Blackman. Born in Summit, New Jersey in 1950, Beth graduated from the Roger Williams School of Nursing in Rhode Island and is a registered nurse licensed in Connecticut. She married Dr. Allen Heller in 1976 and the couple moved to Woodbridge in 1992 to raise their three sons. Beth became a Selectman in 2008 after serving from 1994 through 1998 on the Library Commission and chairing the Board of Fire Commissioners from 1999 through 2008. Beth also worked as a Woodbridge Registrar of Voters prior to joining the Board of Selectmen where she served as Deputy First Selectman for Ed Sheehy from 2009 until his death in April 2013. At that time she was elected by the Board to complete his term as First Selectman, serving in this capacity through June of that year and returning to the role of Deputy First Selectman from 2013-2017. Beth was elected to succeed Ellen Scalettar as First Selectman in 2017 and was re-elected to subsequent 2-year terms in 2019 and 2021. Beth is a Mayflower descendant through her 9th great-grandparents Stephen and Mary Hopkins and she is also a descendent of some of the 1639 founders of Milford, CT through her 9th great-grandparents Timothy Baldwin and Mary Welles. Her paternal grandfather, Arthur Willis Blackman, was taken ill during the 1901 Typhoid outbreak traced to the Woodbridge water supply while he was a student at Yale University.