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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.
Family matriarch Evelyn Watts’s parents — Edwin and Anni Weber — were the first generation to establish roots in Newtown.
“My parents immigrated from Germany in 1929,” she said. “The port of entry was New York City, and New York City at that point had all ethnic neighborhoods, stores, and [sports] clubs.”
After arriving in America, her parents befriended other German immigrants in the area and, around 1939, ten of those families decided to buy 20 acres of land in Sandy Hook together.
They created a summer community where the women and children could vacation all season long, while the men could come up on Friday nights and conveniently return to the city on Sunday nights to be back at work the next morning.
“They started out with tents and eventually each family built a cottage,” Mrs Watts explained.
“They drew names for the property, and they each got one acre. The ten acres leftover were made into a sports field, horseshoe pits, swimming pool, and roadways.”
At the time, there were a variety of summer communities in Newtown, but with World War II starting, Mrs Watts says it became “a tricky time” for the family, as other nearby residents became “very suspicious” of their German neighbors.
To help ease some of the tension between the groups, the German neighborhood decided to host a party where they invited the other neighbors in the area to all get to know each other.
The Weber family remained summer residents of Sandy Hook until around 1944 when they decided to move to the property full-time.
Years later, Mrs Watts met her husband Bill Watts, Sr, while in college and they continued dating until he had completed his armed services work.
They were soon married and moved to a house on the corner of Toddy Hill and Still Hill, later relocating within Newtown to the corner of Boggs Hill Road and Hattertown Road.
“I came originally from upstate New York, in a place called Cooperstown. Coming down here [to Newtown] was a really neat situation for me,” Mr Watts said, citing how its proximity to New York City and Boston, as well as to hospitals and universities, was a real draw.
The couple continues to live in town and, as a result, their children have made the decision remain local to be near them.
After having lived in Dubai, Poland, and Massachusetts, their daughter Heidi Ansari and her son, Jacob, currently reside on Turkey Roost; while their son Bill Watts, Jr, lives in the original Weber family home, located on Osborne Hill Road Extension, with his wife Judy, son Kyle, and daughters Megan and Melissa.
“I always loved the house,” Bill said, describing it as a German-style mountain house that could fit into the Black Forest of Germany.
He recalls how when he was in high school, his admiration for the house inspired him to approach his grandfather and tell him that if he was ever willing to sell it, that he would want to buy it.
When the opportunity came, the family had a realtor appraise the house and Bill officially bought his dream home, at market value.
Reasons To Stay
“My grandfather and one of the other Germans in the neighborhood started a business in Newtown, which was Newtown Manufacturing. My mom and dad ran it with my uncle, and then Heidi and myself worked there growing up,” Bill said. “We chose to be with family.”
Having a tight-knit family support system was vital to Bill in his decision to stay. He says has enjoyed getting to watch his parents play an active role in his children’s everyday lives from going to baseball games, or meeting significant others, to having fun on family skiing trips.
“They are part of their life and that is important,” Bill said. “We’ve enjoyed raising our family here.”
His sister Heidi agrees, saying it is nice to have another generation around the children to show them love and support.
There have also been many other influential people in the town, like Boy Scout and youth group leaders, who have invested wisdom in the children, to which she said, “There’s the expression that it takes a village to raise a child, and there’s a good village in Newtown.”
Now into adulthood, the current generation stemming from the Weber ancestors are enjoying staying local while they are pursuing their education and early careers.
Residents may recognize the youngest member, Melissa Watts, 20, as she is working at Pizza Palace in Newtown while attending college for animal studies and marine biology.
Her older sister, Megan Watts, 23, lived in New Haven for four years, but has returned to town to pursue a job in early childhood education.
“I just finished college and applied to a job in Newtown as a substitute teacher,” she said. Having gone through the Newtown school system herself, she is excited at the prospect of teaching in the same district.
Both Megan and oldest sibling, Kyle Watts, 24, also have become familiar faces for residents from their years of working at Newtown Hardware.
Kyle now works in Newtown and surrounding towns as a plumber’s apprentice for Rob Rozz Well & Pump Service.
“Being here for so long, it’s nice going to people’s houses and they already know me,” Kyle said.
Having developed connections with so many people in the area, he plans to remain in Newtown and continue establishing his career.
His cousin, Jacob, 25, is also working locally at Walgreens on Main Street and says that Newtown’s convenient proximity to “phenomenal bars and breweries” are just one of the many positive factors for remaining local.
If your family has lived in Newtown for four or more generations and would like to be featured in this series, contact Alissa Silber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-426-3141.