Sugan Road is one of the oldest roads in Solebury Township. It was first laid out to allow farmers as far north as Plumstead to bring their grain to be ground into flour at the Heath gristmill, which was the first to be built in the area in 1707. The ruins of the old Heath mill are still visible where Sugan Road crosses the Aquetong Creek:
According to my grandfather, the road gets its name from the sugan sacks that farmers used to transport their grain to the mill. I had a hard time finding the definition for the word “sugan” online, so I opened up my thirteen volume Oxford English Dictionary (formerly the property of Bryn Athyn College), and looked it up:
Sugan is a hand-braided rope made of straw, usually used for seat covers or cheap saddles. In this case, the resourceful early farmers of Solebury harvested their grain and then used the remaining stalks of straw to weave their grain sacks.
I had a film professor named Adolphus Mekas who grew up in rural Lithuania before World War II. When telling us about his childhood, he would always bring up the hours upon hours his family spent braiding rope in the evening. I imagine the early settlers of Solebury had a similar experience, forced by their remote location to manufacture any materials they required.
We now pronounce Sugan as “soogan,” but my grandfather tells me it used to be pronounced “soogun.” The change occurred when they installed the first phone lines. To place a call at that time, you had to speak to the operator and ask them to patch you through on their switchboard by street and number (ex. “Sugan Road 55”). A few houses shared the same phone line, and a call to one house would ring in all of them. To distinguish between houses, the operator could employ a pattern of short and long rings. Because they shared the same line, however, the telephone was not considered a private means of communication. Any snooping neighbors could pick up their own telephone and listen in.
Due to the poor audio quality of the phone lines, the operators at the telephone exchange in Doylestown found it easier to enunciate the second syllable of Sugan as “gan” instead of “gun,” and eventually their incorrect pronunciation replaced the original.
In this way Sugan Road, originally constructed to accommodate Solebury’s agricultural infrastructure, was re-named to accommodate its communications infrastructure.