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Brookfield Historical Society

 

 

The Brookfield Historical Society, founded in 1968, is the only organization in town whose purpose is to preserve our town history. We believe that significant facts, documents and artifacts must be preserved, documented and made part of the town's permanent heritage. Thus the purpose of The Brookfield Historical Society is to collect the history of Brookfield and make it available, educational, and interesting to all.

Newbury to Brookfield

Prior to the white men settling Connecticut in 1636, this area was inhabited by the Pootatuck Indians, members of the Algonkin Federation. Early deeds to lands on both sides of the Still River describe the land of Chief Pokono who for many years ruled in this area. Indian relics can still be found in the hills and fields of Brookfield.

In the year 1687, 20 families petitioned the General Court to become a town. Permission was granted and boundaries were laid out for the Town of Danbury. New Milford was settled in 1707 and Newtown in 1710. As the towns continued to grow and prosper, traveling to church from the northeast corner of Danbury, southwest part of New Milford and northwest part of Newtown became a hardship, especially in winter.

Settlers in our area petitioned the General Assembly in 1743 "to their being set off and made a district Ecclesiastical Society or having liberty for winter parish." "Winter privileges" were finally granted in 1752 and permission for the formation of Newbury Parish was granted in 1754. The name as taken from the three towns making up the area, and official bounds were given.

A meetinghouse site was selected and in 1755 building began in the area essentially occupied by the present Congregational Church. On September 28, 1757 Thomas Brooks was ordained and installed as permanent minister, the same day the meetinghouse was dedicated.

By resolution of the General Assembly in May 1788 the Parish of Newbury became the Town of Brookfield, the name given in honor of Rev. Brooks who had guided its destiny for 30 years. The first Town Meeting was held at the meetinghouse on Monday, June 9, 1788 at one o'clock in the afternoon to vote for Town officers for the ensuing year.

In the 1800's Brookfield was a thriving community with stage coach shops, 2 railroad stations and several taverns and hotels. Industry included saw mills, grist mills, shear shops, lime kilns, comb & button factories, iron works, and harness shops. There were once 8 public school houses, a private school for boys and an internationally aclaimed music school.


above: The present Congregational Church of Brookfield.

Town Hall

In December 1794, Brookfield was growing and the town voted to build a Town House. The building to be "34 feet long by 24 feet wide, 2 stories high and built convenient for hanging a bell upon." It was agreed that the Town House be opposite the Meeting House (Congregational Church). The building was completed in 1796 with a bell placed in the tower. A new bell replaced the original one in 1829.

All town business was conducted there until 1875. In April of that year it was voted to build a new town hall. This building was completed in 1876 and cost $4,000. From town records "the first floor or upper room is to be used, according to a vote, for political and civic meetings, lectures, dramatic entertainment and so on." The basement contained a court room in which the Justice and Probate Courts were to be held.


above: Over the past century the building has served as Town Hall, a center for civic affairs and Joyce Memorial Library. The Brookfield Historical Society leased the building in 1975, as the result of a Town Meeting held August 25, 1975. The building was refurbished and officially dedicated and opened on July 4, 1976 as a highlight of the Nation's Bicentennial celebration. The Brookfield Historical Society uses it as a center for the preservation of our historical past.


above: The original Center School was built in 1762. It then served as the Town Hall and is now rented by the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials.