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From Newtown’s humble beginnings in 1705, its population has grown to nearly 29,000 residents, according to the 2016 census.
Many of those who have been born and raised here choose to remain in town and raise their families here as well.
In this series, The Newtown Bee is tracing longtime Newtown residents’ family trees and asking its current generation what makes the town such a special place to call home.
Despite Newtown being 38,644 acres, Sandy Hook residents Sue and Jim Shortt both grew up in houses just a few miles away from each other.
Mr Shortt’s parents, Laura and James Shortt, were married and moved to Newtown from Southbury in the early 1960s.
They settled in a little house on Shady Rest in their early years here, but with a growing family of seven children, they moved to Philo Curtis Road, where they lived out the rest of their lives.
During their time in town, Jim Shortt’s father worked at Fabric Firehose in Sandy Hook, and many of his siblings raised their families in the area.
In the 1980s, Jim Shortt purchased a piece of property on Riverside Road for his construction business and, as serendipity would have it, it just so happened to border the back of his parent’s home.
When he shifted his career to farming and pursued going to agriculture school, he decided to use the original property on Riverside Road to start a farm with his mother in the mid-1990s, called Shortt’s Farm.
The daughter of Caryl (Beers) Stratton and the late Gerry Killing, Jim Shorrt’s wife, Sue, is a ninth generation Newtown resident stemming from her mother’s family line.
The Beers Family, Ms Shortt says, is said to trace back all the way to The Mayflower, with ancestors emigrating from England.
Ms Stratton has been chronicling the family’s history since her children went off to college, after finding a Magna Carta Society plaque from her great-grandmother that inspired her to learn more about her heritage.
Her research so far has shown her that her family tree in Newtown dates back to Abraham Beers, who lived from 1716 to 1781.
“They lived over in the Cherry Grove [Farm] area,” Ms Stratton explained, adding that there is a schoolhouse on the Cherry Grove Farm property that used to be where her grandmother went to school. Across from that was a shed-size building where her grandmother’s father went to school.
Ms Stratton says that Abraham’s son, Samuel, later purchased land in the Palestine District of town, where the family worked as farmers. Eventually the family purchased a house on The Boulevard, where Ms Stratton grew up.
Ms Shortt spent most of her life in Newtown, growing up on Walnut Tree Hill Road, but briefly left town to attend college in Boston and New York.
However, she returned home at the time of her father’s passing in 1998 and worked locally as a florist before marrying Jim Shortt in 2000 and joining Shortt’s Farm.
Reasons To Stay
After the Shortts were married, they built a home in a remote area of Southbury and soon welcomed their two sons, James, who is now a 10-year-old, and Jesse, who is 9.
Shortly after having her first son, though, Ms Shortt began feeling like they made a mistake moving out of their hometown and being so far out in “the boondocks.”
When they began discussing moving back to town, Mr Shortt says that their “parents must have been looking down on us at the time.”
When he would commute from Southbury to the farm each day, he would pass by his kindergarten teacher Alice Rafferty’s house in Sandy Hook. He remembered how before his mother died she would always say to him that if he ever got the opportunity, he should buy that house.
Sure enough, one day when he was driving by, he saw the house was for sale.
Despite three offers being made on the house on the first day it was for sale, the Shortts were able to purchase it, moving into it in 2010.
“Every bit fell into place,” Mr Shortt said, reminiscing on how everything transpired.
“Even though we lived away a few years in Southbury, [Newtown] always just felt like home anyways, because we had our business and spent every single day here,”said Ms Shortt. “We’re happy to have our kids grow up here. They love it here, and the schools are great. I don’t think they’d ever want to leave.”
If your family has lived in Newtown for more than four generations and would like to be featured in this series, contact Alissa Silber at email@example.com or 203-426-3141.
Pictured is one of Sue Shortt’s Newtown ancestors, Lemuel Beers, who lived from 1801 to 1872. According to Ms Shortt’s mother, Caryl Stratton, Beers was a farmer who did livestock trading, and he was married to Eliza Beers, who lived from 1804 to 1887.
—photo courtesy Caryl Stratton
Sandy Hook residents Jim and Sue Shortt grew up in houses just a few miles apart from each other. They have decided to raise their children, James and Jesse, in their hometown.
—photo courtesy Sue Shortt