There is a reason that Ridgefielders associate Stepping Stone Farm with Mopus Bridge Road: Many residents have no idea what the area looked like before the equestrian farm opened there in 1979.
So it may come as a surprise for them to learn that for all but nine years before that, the 60-acre property was used for other purposes.
The land was included in one of several transactions that English settlers made with Native American tribes back in the early 1700s. The first of these came in 1708, when Chief Catoonah and the Ramapoo Indians agreed to sell 20,000 acres for a cost of 100 pounds. A year later, the state General Assembly gave the settlers permission to form a town and approved the name Ridgefield.
A third purchase with Native Americans in 1721 (for six pounds) gave Ridgefield proprietors another sizable tract of land, including the area where Stepping Stone Farm now calls home. At the time, Mopus Bridge Road was a path that connected two Indian tribes.
Historians believe that Mopus Bridge Road was an early route that existed at least by the time of the Revolutionary War, when General George Washington passed through the town and stayed in Ridgebury Center. Some historians believe that Washington and his entourage came across Mopus Bridge Road on Washington’s journey to spend the night of September 19, 1780, at the tavern of Ensign Samuel Keeler. One reason is that a Washington-commissioned map of the area from 1789 appears to show Mopus Bridge Road as the best route from Salem Center to Ridgebury Center. The Ridgebury Congregational Church now occupies the site where Washington stayed that evening.
The first non-Native American owner of the land was William Barnhite, who, along with his wife, Prudence, began farming the area in the early 1800s. The Barnhites are among the early Ridgefielders buried in the Ridgebury Cemetery.
Around 1860, cattleman Thomas Christopher purchased the land from the Barnhite family and opened Christopher Farm. Several generations of the Christopher family worked on the cattle farm before it was sold to the Langhorne Family in the first part of the 1900s. The area remained a cattle farm through two more sales until 1970, when Mr. Fred Cunningham purchased the land and converted it into a horseback riding school named Waterfall Farm.
In 1979, Janie Weber bought the land from Mr. Cunningham and moved her business, Stepping Stone Farm, from the southern part of Ridgefield to Mopus Bridge Road. Nearly 40 years later, Stepping Stone Farm is still there, synonymous with the road and the area and a landmark in its own right.
1934 Aerial Map
Large Outdoor Ring 1979
Indoor arenas 2015
Office decorated for the holidays 2017