Brookfield Museum and Historical Society
An Extended Learning and Research Center
165 Whisconier Road, P.O. Box 5231, Brookfield, CT 06804
Phone: 203-740-8140

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History of Brookfield

View each of the following articles by clicking on the appropriate link. Click on Return at the end of the article to return to this section.

Table of Contents

Brookfield Historical Timeline

The Language of Brookfield Past

The Musings of Brookfield's Forensic Historian

Newbury to Brookfield

Who is Mary Murray Northrop?

Children's Guide to Brookfield History

The Legend of Whisconier

The Story of Bone China

A Quilt Collection

Tools Found on the Farm

Richard H. Mann, Jr. and the USS Thresher

In Honor of Brookfield’s Veterans


Newbury to Brookfield

Prior to the white men settling Connecticut in 1636, this area was inhabited by the Pootatuck Indians, members of the Algonquin 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 acclaimed music school.

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.

The Town House

Over the past century the building has served as Town Hall, a center for civic affairs and Joyce Memorial Library. The Brookfield Museum and 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 Museum and Historical Society uses it as a center for the preservation of our historical past.

Historical Garden in the Fall

   

Fall Garden

In 1976 Dr. Rudy Favretti, a noted writer, designer and restorer of 18th century gardens such as Winterthur, Strawberry Bank and Monticello designed the beautiful period garden on the Museum property. The Brookfield Garden Club members worked diligently to lay out and plant the garden according to Dr. Favretti’s specifications. On June 30, 1979, the garden was partially completed and dedicated. Over the subsequent years the Garden Club raised the necessary money, and the club’s members supplied the labor, not only to maintain the garden but also to carry Dr. Favretti’s design toward completion.

The Summer House

Summer House

In 2002, in keeping with the 40th Anniversary of the Brookfield Garden Club, Philip Erlenbach, husband of Barbara Erlenbach, donated the Summer House in memory of his wife. Not only does the Summer House complete Dr. Favretti’s original concept but also it serves as a reminder of a fine Lady who was active in the Historical Society as well as the Garden Club. 

Center School

  

The Original Center School

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.

 

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Who is Mary Murray Northrop?

The following article was written by Marilyn Whittlesey, Brookfield Town Historian and the Curator of the Brookfield Museum.

There has always been a high regard for education in Brookfield, along with the insistence for a good school system. Since 1756, when the Parish of Newbury voted to hold school for six months each year, two months each in three different locations, our townspeople have worked for an ever improving system of education.

Four schools in 1769 are recorded as seeking money for their support from the parish: South School, Center School, Pocono School, and Obtuse School.

In 1788 the town of Brookfield was incorporated and by 1807 eight school districts; Brookfield Center, Iron Works, Longmeadow, Whisconier, Obtuse, Bound Swamp, North Mountain, and South Mountain (Huckleberry Hill) – met the town’s school needs.

Until 1938, when the Consolidated School was built, one-room schoolhouses, scattered throughout the town each manned by a lone teacher, housed the students and the knowledge they sought. This continuing desire to provide better facilities for education led to the consolation of the five existing schoolhouses. The Consolidated School is now known as Center School.

The Long Meadow Hill School was built in 1959. This building was to become Brookfield High School and the first class graduated in 1967.

How does Mrs. Mary Murray Northrop fit into the history of the schools? She lived in Brookfield not long after the American Revolution and has all but faded from memory in this town.

She was the daughter of Joseph and Hannah (Patterson) Murray. Mary was the fourth of eleven children. Joseph came from Stratford and was an early settler on Whisconier Hill. He was one of three men on the building committee for the first meetinghouse in Brookfield (which is the present Congregational Church).

Mary married Lieutenant Amos Northrop who was an officer in the first battalion that inspired the men in the area to join General George Washington’s army near New York. Amos collected Brookfield’s first taxes before Brookfield became Brookfield. Until 1788, when the Connecticut General Assembly voted Brookfield into being, the town was known as the Parish of Newbury. The first tax to be collected was a tax of four pence on the pound levied in Newbury to build the first meetinghouse. When he died in 1789, he left only his widow, Mary.

When Mary Northrop died on June 29, 1794, she left her entire estate to the Town of Brookfield for public education in a will dated April 13, 1793. It said: “I give and bequeath unto the Town of Brookfield all my monies, Notes, or Bonds or Book Debts or Lands or Chattels or any interest that shall be found belonging to me after my decease, for use of a school, to be kept in the center of town ….. the interest of the money to be paid yearly for the support of the school after a reasonable time to settle the estate in.”

In 1794 the town received 138 pounds, 11 shillings and nine pence from Mrs. Northrop’s estate. If she had not specified that interest must be paid out each year to support the school, the fund at compound interest after 172 years might have been great enough to pay the entire cost of $1,200,000 to build Huckleberry Hill School without borrowing a cent or taxing property owners. It was suggested that the school be named after Mrs. Northrop. The School Board decided against naming schools for people, however worthy, and to name elementary schools for old school districts such as Center School for Brookfield Center and the new school for the old one room school and its district in west Brookfield.

Mrs. Northrop gave her estate to help educate Brookfield students in spite of the fact – or perhaps because of it –she could not write. She signed the will with her mark – an “X”.

Her friends called her Molly. This fund became known as the MOLLY FUND in 1804. Because her will stated that the money should be used in the Center, the money was used to pay the singing master in the town’s Sing School which was held in the Center. Eventually it was also distributed among the school districts. This year, 207 years later the money in the fund amounted to $676.88 with the total interest at $14.27.

Mrs. Northrop was given rightful recognition in the educational history of Brookfield at the dedication of Huckleberry Hill School in 1964. On the first inside page of the dedication booklet, appeared “A History of Education in Brookfield” written by Mr. Ken Keller. It said: “One hundred and seventy-one years ago Mrs. Mary Murray Northrop, widow of Lieutenant Amos Northrop left $400 known as the MOLLY MONEY to build a high school in Brookfield and to help educate the students of Brookfield.” But perhaps what would please Mrs. Northrop most was the living link between her generation and generosity and the dedication at Huckleberry Hill School. The dedication was given by the Rev. Edward A. Walker member of the school board and pastor of the Meeting House which Mrs. Northrop and Lieutenant Amos Northrop helped to found.  

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Children's Guide to Brookfield History

Written for the Brookfield Schools by: Marilyn Whittlesey, Town Historian

And edited by: Margaret Shirley, Retired Brookfield School Teacher

 Indians 

The first to settle this area were the Pootatuck Indians. There were many local branches of this tribe. The Pomperaug Indians were in Woodbury, the Bantam Indians were in Litchfield, the Piscatacooks were in Kent and the Weantinocks were in New Milford. The chief of the Weantinocks was Chief Waramaug. At one time a wild cherry tree was located on Route 133 and was said to be the very place where the Indians would meet and hold their pow-wows. The tree was called the Indian Tree. 

Many names or words that we use today come from the Indians. Lake Waramaug was named for the great chief. Pocono Road was named for Chief Pocono. Many states were named using Indian words. The word Connittecock means a “long river”. It is now called Connecticut. Massachusetts means “at or about the great hill”. Housatonic means “over the mountain”. Lillinonah was the name of the daughter of Chief Waramaug. 

A prominent tribesman, matron or grandmother usually named a child. Boys were given the name of a deceased Indian, an object or an event in the heavens. He might be “Little Thunder” or “Bright Bird”. The girls were given names that represented the earth or the waters. Their names might be “Little Fox” or “Shining Waters”. Names could come from something that they were good at doing or an important event in their life. One such name might be “Dances With Wolves” or “The Woman of the Green Field”. 

Shelter 

The availability of firewood, game, and fertile fields determined where the Indians would build their village. These villages were usually built along a pond, river or lake. The wigwams were placed around a circle where the men would meet for games and ceremonies. 

The wigwams were built by placing saplings in a circle every two or three feet. The saplings were covered with mats of reeds sewn together with openings placed at the north and south sides. There was an opening left in the roof for smoke to escape from. This opening was covered with a mat that was attached to a stick, so it could be opened or closed. The doors were also covered with mats. These mats were made of deerskin or bark. 

Inside the wigwams mats covered the ceiling and walls. They were also used for bed coverings, to sit upon, or for drying food. 

The smaller wigwams would hold two or three families. The larger ones could hold four families. 

When the Indians moved to a new area, they would fold up the mats and leave the frames behind. When they returned to the area, they would use the old frames. 

Food 

In the spring, when the leaves of the white oak were as large as a mouse’s ears, it was time to plant. The Indians would plant corn, beans and squash. These were called the three sisters. The women of the tribe would build mounds of dirt. Into these mounds they would place two or three fish for fertilizer. They then planted four kernels of corn in each mound along with beans. The stalks of the corn were used as poles for the bean’s vines. Also planted in each mound were squash or pumpkin seeds. 

In the fall they harvested these crops, so they would have food for the winter. After the harvest the men hunted so they would have meat to eat, and skin and fur to keep them warm. The Indians also gathered acorns, nuts, and berries. They would fish in the streams and rivers that were well stocked with fish. They dried the vegetables, meat, and fish on mats. They then packed this food into baskets and stored it underground for use in the winter. 

Connecticut 

Almost 160 years before the official birth of Brookfield, the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth. As more and more people arrived in the New World, they began to move away from Plymouth and settle other areas. Following the old Indian trails Reverend Thomas Hooker led a group of about 100 followers and established the first white community in the area to be called Connecticut. This community would become Hartford. During this same time period, John Oldman established Wethersfield; Roger Ludlow established Windsor and John Winthrop established Old Saybrook Colony. 

Newbury/Brookfield 

In the 1700’s people started to move to the area that is now known as Danbury, Newtown and New Milford. As these towns grew people living in the outskirts of the towns, wanted a church and town of their own. They petitioned the government of the Connecticut Colony to establish the Parish of Newbury. In 1752, boundaries for the parish were drawn. The residents were also granted permission to have winter privilege meetings. This meant that the residents of the Parish of Newbury could worship in the houses in the parish from November to March. Two years later, the Parish was incorporated and the same boundaries that had been set in 1752 were made the official boundaries The Government took land from Danbury, Newtown and New Milford to establish the Parish called Newbury. Besides taking the land, they took parts of their names. The residents were given permission to levy a tax to raise money so they could build their own church. On September 28, 1757, the first meetinghouse was dedicated and the Reverend Thomas Brooks was ordained as their first settled pastor. In 1788, the parish became a town and the name was changed to Brookfield in honor of Reverend Thomas Brooks. 

Now that Brookfield was a town, the residents could make their own laws and govern the town. They elected a Town Clerk, Selectmen, State representatives, a Tythingman, Howards, Fence Viewers, Collector of the Town Rate, List Takers, Grand Juryman, Gager, Snow Packer, Leather Sealer, Sealer of Weights, Sealer of Measures, Bee Keeper and Surveyor of Highways. 

After Candlewood Lake was built, some of the town of New Fairfield was left on this side of the lake. So in 1961 Candlewood Shores, Hickory Hills, Candlewood Orchards, the Brookfield Town Park and Arrowhead Point all became a part of Brookfield. 

In 1955, Lake Lillinonah was built when the Shepaug Dam was built. The lake was filled over night when Hurricane Diane went through the area. The Lake is fourteen miles long. 

The Still River provided an ideal site for industry to move into the area that would be called the Iron Works Village. There were many different kinds of shops located here. The earliest factories made muskets, chains, and anchors. There was also an iron furnace. More factories began moving to this area. There were shear shops where shears, knives and scissors were made. There were factories where hats were made. There were button, cheese, clock, and iron factories. There were sawmills and gristmills. 

The gristmill was an important place in town. One of the main parts of the resident’s diet was bread. The gristmill was where the farmers brought their wheat, rye and barley to be made into flour. The flour was used in their homes. When there was extra flour, the farmers could sell or barter it for items that the family might need. 

Another important place in the town was the Village Store. This is where the residents could buy what they needed to live on. Many of the residents would trade what they grew on their farms for items that they needed. The shopkeeper would keep track of what was sold or traded. 

The store was also a meeting place. In the summer, residents could relax on the porch and discuss the weather or what was going on in town. In the winter they would sit around the potbelly stove and play checkers. 

Just about anything you could imagine was sold in the Village store. There were spices from around the world. The shelves were filled with material for making clothes as well as ready-made clothing. There were barrels and sacks filled with all different types of food. There was usually a pickle barrel where you could buy fresh pickles. There was meat, canned goods, medicine, and items for your horse. There were tools and gadgets of all kinds. There was usually a penny candy counter where there were tempting candies. To be given a penny to buy a piece of candy was a very special treat. 

Farms 

At one time Brookfield was made up of mostly farms. If you didn’t live on a farm, your family would probably have a vegetable garden. On the larger farms the farmers would sell or barter some of their crops. The rest of the crops were preserved and used for their families. Some of these crops were wheat and barley that was turned into flour. Many of the farmers grew and sold tobacco. 

There were dairy farms, chicken farms and sheep farms. Some of the more unusual farms in Brookfield were the Chinchilla and Pheasant farms. Brookfield had many apple trees in the early days. Two different apples were developed in Brookfield. The first was called “Colonel Hawley” which was a small white apple. The second was called the “Johnson Apple”. This apple was large and red in color. The Beers Orchard had over 1000 fruit trees and the Clark Orchard had over 500 fruit trees. Today many of those trees are still providing fruit to their owners. 

Schools 

It was very important to the settlers to have a place for learning. One-room schools were built in many different sections of a town, because everyone walked to school. At one time Brookfield had eight one-room schools. They were Whisconier, Huckleberry (called Whortleberry School at one time), Center, Bound Swamp, Longmeadow Hill, Obtuse, East Iron Works and West Iron Works Schools. The very first school was East Iron Works School and it was built on land donated by Joseph Ruggles. The school was at the corner of Farview Road and Whisconier Road. 

The school was one room filled with desks for the students. Children of all ages were taught in this one room. There was a potbelly stove and everyone was expected to bring wood for the stove. In the front of the room, next to the teacher’s desk was a stool. If you did not behave or do your lessons, you would sit on the stool with a dunce cap on.  

Students were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and manners. The girls were taught to sew and do handiwork. Because paper was very expensive, the students would write on slates. The first books that students used were called hornbooks. These books were made out of wood covered by a thin piece of paper that was attached with a piece of horn. They had a handle with a hole in it. String was strung through the hole so it could be worn around the neck. On the paper was printed the alphabet, Roman numerals, the Lord’s Prayer and verses.  

Travel 

Many of the old roads were once paths that the Indians had used. As more people moved to this area, more roads were built. These roads became wider so that wagons and stagecoaches could use them. Some of these roads were called toll roads. Along these roads would be tollhouses. You had to stop at these houses and pay a fee to use the road. 

In 1840 the first railroad was constructed in Brookfield. It was called the Housatonic Railroad. It was built in the Iron Works district and was called the Brookfield Station. The second train station was built on Stony Hill Road and was called the Junction Station. Because Brookfield had no high school, the students would travel by train to Danbury, New Milford or Newtown High School. 

Candlewood Lake 

Candlewood Lake is a very special place to us all. But did you know that it was not always here? Candlewood Lake is the largest man-made lake in Connecticut. Before the land was flooded, farms crisscrossed by stonewall; dirt roads, apple orchards, mills and ponds were all located in this area. 

The farmers sold their land and moved. The trees and brush were cut down to make way for the lake. It took 26 months to fill the eleven-mile lake. The lake covers 5,420 acres. The widest part of the lake is two miles across. The towns of Danbury, Brookfield, New Milford, New Fairfield and Sherman are located on the lake. 

On July 15, 1926, Connecticut Light & Power approved a pump storage facility plant for producing electricity. This plant works by having the lake water pour down a pipe into a turbine that produces electricity. 

The name Candlewood comes from Candlewood Mountain in New Milford. The trees on the mountain were named Candlewood Trees since the settlers would light the branches from the saplings and use them as candles. 

Time Line of Brookfield History

 

1620 – The Pilgrims arrive in the New World

1700 – White people begin to arrive in this area

1752 – Boundaries set for the Parish of Newbury and winter privilege meetings held

1788 – Newbury becomes the Town of Brookfield

1801 – The first Post Office in Brookfield was established

1876 – The second Town Hall built and the building is now the Brookfield Museum and Historical Society

1888 – Brookfield celebrates its 100th birthday

1915 – Electricity was brought to Brookfield Center

1926 – Candlewood Lake was built

1938 – Consolidated School built and is now called Center School.

1951 – First Town Library established and is called Joyce Memorial Library

1955 – Lake Lillinonah was built

1966 – Present Huckleberry Hill School built

1967 – First High School Graduation held at Brookfield High School

1970 – Present Whisconier School built

1983 – Current Town Hall built, along with the Police Station and Community Center 

Vocabulary List 

Apprentice – A person who learns a skill by working for a craftsperson.

Barter – To trade by exchanging goods or services without using money.

Beekeeper – Regulates the keeping of bees and their hives.

Beehive Oven – An oven that is either in the back of a fireplace or to the side that was used for baking in colonial times.

Blacksmith – Someone that makes horseshoes and iron items.

Cabinetmaker – A person who makes furniture.

Carding Mill – A place where wool or cotton is brushed, cleaned and straightened out.

Charter – A document that forms a government for a group of people, a state or a town.

Cobbler – Makes and repairs shoes.

Collector of Town Rate – A person that sets the tax rate and estimates the wealth of all the town’s people.

Constables – Are people that make sure that all people obey the laws. They will bring people to court when asked by the selectmen. They also arrest vagrants, Sabbath breakers and liars. They supervise all taverns. Once a year they must read at a town meeting. They also collect debts for the General Court.

Cooper – A person that makes wooden barrels, and wooden buckets.

Dam – A wall built across a river or stream to stop the flow of water.

Fence Viewers – Responsible for maintaining fences along the common lands. They must keep track of the owners of the animals that get loose from private lands and cause damage. They also handle disputes regarding property lines and the need of fences in a neighborhood.

Gauges – A person who measures the contents of casks of liquor and decides how much the tax will be on each cask.

Grand Juryman – A person that serves on a board for the General Court of the State.

Grist Mills – A building that is used for grinding grain into flour.

Hatter – A person that makes hats.

Herbs – Plants that are used as a medicine. They also may be used as seasoning or flavoring.

Howard – A person that dealt with all regulations about pigs / swine. They make sure that there are no pigs out of their pens.

Ingots – A metal that have been made into a bar.

Leather Sealer – A person that is expected to certify that all standards dealing with leather goods are uniform and the quality of the leather items are acceptable.

List Taker – Someone that works closely with the Collector of the Tax Rate and keeps all of the tax lists of assessed goods.

Loom – A machine used for weaving cloth.

Miller – A person that grinds corn and wheat into flour at a gristmill.

Moderator – A person selected by the town to conduct all town meetings and to set a good example for the town.

Mortar – A hard bowl that is used for grinding items with a pestle.

Parish – An area that makes up a church district.

Pestle – A tool used to pound or grind substances in a mortar.

Pewterer – A person that makes items out of pewter.

Sealer of Measures – A person that certifies that any measured items are correctly measured, such as flour at the gristmill.

Sealer of Weights – A person that must certify uniformity of correctness or quality with any goods that are weighed.

Selectman or Selectmen – A person or group of persons elected by the people of a town to run the town’s business. They call town meetings and order people to court when they are disobedient. They too should set a good example for all people to follow.

Settler – A person that arrives in a new area or country.

Shoddy – A woolen yarn made from used cloth.

Snow Packers – People responsible for covering bare spots on snow-covered roads and to pack down the snow to make it passable.

Tanner – Makes leather items.

Tavern – A place where people could order food, meet friends or spend the night.

Tinker – A person that mends pots and pans.

Toll – A tax or charge for using a bridge or a road.

Town Clerk – A person that keeps a ledger book of all town meetings and records all land transactions. The Town Clerk also keeps a book of marriages, births, and deaths and sends them to the proper authority.

Tythingman – A person that keeps order during church services and collects money for the church.

Wheelwright – A person that makes wheels and wagons. 

Book List

  1. The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
  2. N.C. Wyeth’s Pilgrims with text by Robert San Souci
  3. A River Ran Wild by Lynn Cherry
  4. A Little Maid of Old Connecticut by Alice Turner Curtis

A Little Maid of Old New York

A Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony

A Little Maid of Old Maine

A Little Maid of Provincetown

  1. The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Farmer Boy

On the Banks of Plum Creek

By the Shores of Silver Lake

The Long Winter

  1. A Look Back by Marilyn Whittlesey *
  2. Annals of Brookfield by Emily C. Hawley
  3. Images of America – Brookfield by Marilyn Whittlesey *
  4. Handbook of Cemeteries – 1745 to 1985 by Old South Cemetery Association
  5. Newbury Brookfield by Emily C. Hawley
  6. Newbury To Brookfield by Barbara Todd

1700 to 1789 *

Brookfield Public Schools *

  1. Newbury Parish by Barbara Todd

The Revolutionary War Soldiers*

The Home Front*

The books with an asterisk can be found in the school library. The books numbered 6 to 12 are about the history of Brookfield Connecticut.  

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The Legend of Whisconier

By Cole Bradley

A Farmer lived in Brookfield

  Up high on a windy hill;

He worked his fields in daytime

But at night he ran a still.

 

 

Chief Waramaug, the Sachem,

  Who reigned o’er the forest glade

Would send his braves a-hunting

To bargain their catch in trade.

 

 

Two fine young bucks on Christmas Eve

Were searching for some deer

When a downdraft from the Farmer’s still

Told them of “whiskey-near”.

 

 

They quickly shot a turkey tom,

Some twenty pounds it weighed.

Then bargained with the Farmer

For the whiskey that he made.

 

 

So they traded the jug for the handsome bird,

Then drank of the Christmas Cheer;

And to this day their spirits haunt

This hill called Whisconier.

 

 

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The Story of Bone China

By Lucille and Peter Cronin, Society Members

In some ways the story of Bone China began right here with the Women of Newbury Parish, in what with time, would become Brookfield Connecticut.  

Who these Women were, what they believed in, and the spirit that moved them into action, set into motion a series of events that paved the way for the creation of the beautiful Demitasse we are now displaying on our collection page. In 1600 Queen Elizabeth I granted 218 knights and merchants of the city of London a Royal Charter to form the East India Company. Originally established to challenge the Dutch control of the lucrative spice trade, the East India Company instead developed a strong trade with China. They alone satisfied the burgeoning demand for Tea, Cotton, Silks, and Porcelain.  Merchants in England sponsored the trade. In return for their patronage they received a percentage of the imported goods, which in turn they sold in England and in the English Colonies for a profit.

Tea became an important part of the social fabric of Colonial America. Not only did these early Americans enjoy the taste of the Tea, but serving Tea also became an important part of the interaction between women of all stations in life. The Ladies of Newbury Parish, as did Women throughout New England, carved time out of their busy days to sit a spell with a neighbor to relax and discuss the than current issues.  In addition to large quanities of Tea, they were importing porcelain cups from England.

In 1767, King George III levied a “tax” on Tea. By this time, our colonial ancestors having already enjoyed 150 years of relative independence refused to accept the right of England to tax them. Outraged, Women calling themselves the Daughters of Liberty publicly promised not to buy or drink Tea.  It was in the spirit of what they considered to be right and fair that they turned exclusively to products made in Colonial American, however inferior, to satisfy their wants and needs, and to punish what they believed to be an oppressive tax. Women across Colonial America joined together to boycott English products in general and Tea in particular.

By the year 1773, in part because Colonial America’s imports of Tea and Porcelain from England dropped so dramatically, the East India Company faced bankruptcy.  In the interval English merchants looked to their own artisans to satisfy whatever demand remained for those products no longer imported from China.  One result of this introspective movement was Bone China.  In 1767, Josiah Spode founded the Spode Factory. His intention was to manufacture Porcelain products that would fill the vacuum created by the decrease in imports from China. While the market to purchase his products was limited to England and her less rebellious colonies, our ladies reveling in their “Glorious Cause” set into motion this change. The Spode Factory would in future years revolutionize the porcelain industry.

Porcelain is an ancient ceramic material perfected by the Chinese. There are examples of beautifully decorated porcelain pieces that date back to the 7th Century. We can enjoy them by visiting many of the world’s larger Museums.  Mixing China Clay, China Stone, and other natural elements and firing them in an oven at 1400 degrees centigrade produced porcelain.  By 1784 Josiah Spode II made the single most exciting discovery in the evolution of Porcelain products. By adding bone ash to the Porcelain mixture he simplified the manufacturing process and changed the characteristics of the Porcelain. Bone China is as strong as Porcelain, does not chip as easily, and has an almost translucent ivory-white appearance.  Bone China is classified as being a type of Porcelain.

By 1820, Bone China was the material of choice for manufacturers in England and France. The Staffordshire region in England and the Limoges region in France were then and remain today; centers of excellence for Porcelain manufacturing. With the reestablishment of trade with the United States of America, and the rise of the middleclass in England and Europe, the demand for Bone China greatly increased.  With this increase came many new innovations. For many of us the most exciting was the influence of the artisans. Many gifted painters, sculptors, modelers and designers throughout England and Europe devoted their time and expertise in designing the magical patterns we feature on our collection page. 

Bone China is still being manufactured. Today’s factory is completely automated.  A typical factory using computerized machinery and equipment is quite capable of producing 150,000 pounds of porcelain product each and every month. Pattern designs are now created by computers in a process so simple that it is not uncommon for a customer to design his or her own Bone China service. For photographs of the Museum's collection of Bone China, click here to visit our Collections page. 

Selections for Additional Reading:

“ Every Women’s Guide to China, Glass and Silver” by Arlene Hirst

“English Porcelain and Bone China 1743-1850” by B. & T. Hughes

“China for America: Export Porcelain of the 18th and 19thCentury”

by H. Peter and N. Schiffer

 

Interesting Web Sites

www.spode.co.uk/history/history_main.html

For information about how to care for your collection visit: idid.essortment.com/bonechinaporce_rmbs.htm

 

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A Quilt Tradition

Girls had to complete 12 quilt tops by the time they became engaged. A party was held to announce to friends and family of the upcoming wedding and they would quilt a girl’s wedding quilt and the tops. Only family members and friends could make the bridal quilt and the bride was not allowed to put a stitch on it. It was bad luck for the bride to stitch, draw or even accidentally touch the heart motifs included in a bridal quilt. In fact, hearts incorporated in the quilting or in the patterns of any other quilts were often considered to bring bad luck.

For photographs of the Museum’s collection of Quilts, click here to visit our Collections page.  

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Tools Found on the Farm

By Lucille and Peter Cronin, Society Members

The people who came here from Europe to settle in Brookfield came from a society that was already hundreds of years old. They came from towns and cities of shops, of roads, of sanitation, and potable water. They were born into a culture of law and order, trade, government, and a caste system steeped in tradition and of inherited power. They were raised in an established environment of cathedrals, universities, banks, hospitals, and alms Houses.  However primitive and lacking by today’s standards, they were a people buffered by the security of that environment.  

They came to America knowing exactly where they came from, but knowing little of where they were. They knew exactly what was in all their yesterdays, but with absolutely no idea of what their tomorrows would bring. 

It is from these people, their self-confidence, their self-determination, independence, pride, and their belief that by hard work they could achieve anything, that America and the American spirit was born.  It is from the cloth of these people that our farming ancestors were cut. 

A farmer was by necessity a multi-faceted person. In addition to being spouses, parents, political leaders, members of the church, caretakers to their parents, and friends to their neighbors, they worked the soil. They used the land to support their needs. They took trees from the forests to build their homes and outbuildings. They used the wood to heat their homes and to provide the heat for cooking. They used water to drink, to clean, as a source of food, and for some, to generate power. They knew what crops to plant, where and when to plant and when to harvest. They were carpenters, mechanics, veterinarians, they knew to trade and how to keep account books. The farmer learned to live with the seasons and the natural resources without trying to overcome them.  

Tools were an essential part of a farmer’s life. Henry Ward Beecher said, “A tool is but the extension of a man’s hand”. Our tools often reflect that same American spirit. Some tools were designed to perform certain functions. Others were time savers and helped the farmer to find the time for other purposes. Some tools were designed to support very specific tasks. Others were capable of serving several different jobs.  Farmers always devised their own ways to multiplex a tool.   

The names of some tools predate our early farmers. Some tools date back to our earliest cultures. Early tool Manufacturers gave their tools names.  A new America renamed many tools as a way of separating themselves from their European Cousins. Farmers named or renamed any number of tools, usually based on how the tool was being used.  Many of our tools were American born.  That same characteristic of independence birthed many an idea that resulted in a new application and subsequently; a new tool.    

The homestead was the center of the farm.  The property would include fields devoted to specific crops, of fields for animals to graze, of land to lay fallow so as to replenish itself, and of buildings to support the farming operation. A typical farm might include the cow barn, with storage for hay. Silos for grain. A horse barn with room for a winter’s supply of feed and hay. A tool shed, an icehouse, a chicken coop, a milk house, a corncrib sitting above the pigsty, a barn for the carriages, a wood shed. Some would include a carpentry shop, a mill, and a creamery, butchering shed and even a forge barn, a tenant house for the hired hands. Attached to many of these buildings were open sided additions used to house various farming implements. 

In each of these outbuildings one could find the tools required to support the purpose of the building. The photograph collection that accompanies this article is sorted by where they were most likely to be found.   

For Photographs of our Collection, click here to visit our Collections Page

 Selections for Additional Reading:

 Mercer’s “Ancient Carpenters’ Tools”

Wildung’s “Woodworking Tools”

Slone’s “Museum of early American Tools”

Jackson and Day’s “ Tools and How to Use Them”

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Remembering Richard Mann, Jr.

On April 10, 1963, Brookfield woke up to the news that the USS Thresher, lead ship of the newest class of nuclear-powered attack submarines, and the pride of the Untied States Navy had gone down in the Atlantic. On board, 129 officers, crewmen and civilian technicians perished in the mishap. Among the fatalities was Interior Communications Electrician Second Class Richard Herman Mann,  Jr. of Brookfield.

Richard was born on December 13, 1939. He attended Brookfield schools and subsequently graduated from Danbury High School in 1958. An antique car and American history enthusiast, Richard entered the Navy on September 3, 1958 and excelled in Electricians Mate School. Having volunteered for submarine duty, he went on to graduate from the U.S. Naval Submarine Training School in New London, Connecticut. After being designated as submarine qualified, he was awarded the Silver Dolphins. He was selected for advanced training in nuclear power and after completing the course of instruction Richard was assigned to the Thresher (SSN 593) on August 18, 1962.

The USS Thresher was built by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. She was over 30 feet in diameter, 275 feet long and displaced 3700 tons. She was launched on July 9, 1960 and was commissioned on August 3, 1961. After conducting lengthy trials she returned to her builders for overhaul. On April 10, 1963, after completion of this work, Thresher began post-overhaul trials 220 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She sunk that same day during deep-diving tests. In reaction to the loss of the Thresher, the Navy undertook a massive program to correct design and construction problems on all of its existing and future nuclear submarines.

Upon hearing of Richard’s death, Wesley S. Kennen, Brookfield’s First Selectman at the time, issued a Resolution of Remembrance on Memorial Day 1963 honoring our fallen seaman. The resolution was inscribed in the town archives with copies to his widow and his parents. In tribute to Richard, The Society is honoring him for giving the country and our community the last full measure of his devotion. Richard’s picture and the Resolution are an important of our summer exhibit.

Also in the exhibit is a poem written by Tim Noonis, son of one of the crewmen, entitled “An Unknown Father”, which reads in part:

One hundred and twenty-nine men on a ship in harms way
Their God they would meet before the end of the day

Thresher now lay in pieces on the ocean floor
Those fine handsome sailors … forever … no more

They all died together … yet … each one alone
Their last thoughts I’m certain were of loved ones at home

With not a gravesite to visit, nor a body to grieve
There’d be no respite from anguish, no sorrow’s reprieve

Thirty years and more since this day passed by
Why do we still remember and sometimes still cry?

For we hear their souls call out from the sea
Remember! Remember! Remember me!

So remember we do and fondly so
Of the loved ones we lost so long ago.

 

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In Honor of Brookfield’s Veterans

Benjamin Hawley is buried in the Old South Cemetery on Sunset Hill Road. Benjamin Hawley served, along with three other Brookfield Residents in a Connecticut Regiment during the French and Indian War. They are the first of hundreds upon hundreds of us; Brookfield Residents, who answered our Nation’s call and very fine company to the thousands upon thousands of us who maintained the Town and sustained the American Spirit in their absence.

In the course of our Nation’s history, our government has made sixty-nine calls asking its people to defend both its national and its international principals or interests. Some of those people took death so that others could enjoy liberty. We won our independence from perhaps the largest and most powerful empire in history. We fought against our brothers to hold together a fragile union of state governments.  We carried a big stick and defended a hemisphere from foreign intervention. We gave greatly of ourselves to make the world safe for democracy. We defended ourselves when we were invaded. We fought to stem the spread of an alien form of government. We gave of ourselves to insure that others may enjoy the same basic freedoms that we regularly enjoy. We gave, and are still giving, our lives to protect our borders from the terrible consequences of militant beliefs.  And in all the days between the givings; men and women defended our Nation against an attack by reason of their participation in a strong standing armed force.

They are not invisible, these people. They are our Moms and Dads. They are our brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces, and nephews. They are our friends and our neighbors. They are any and all of us. Some were students when they left us. Some were farmers. Some pumped our gas, jerked our sodas, blacktopped our roads, or owned the local Grocery store. They made our hats and sold us our clothes. They were our teachers, our dentist, doctor, or lawyer. They dug our wells, strung the telephone wires, cut our hair, and built our homes. They are the everybodys we meet every time we walk down our street or shop in our stores, and the first ones we call when we need something fixed. They are the people who put the life in our Town.

And in their leaving they became the airplane mechanic, the bombardier, torpedoist, cannoneer, radio operator, or the bugler. They piloted single engine plans. The piloted two engine planes, jet planes, and the huge cargo planes. They were the navigators that guided the planes through war’s darkness and the parachutists who dropped out of that same darkness. They were the seaman, the yeoman, the coxswain, and the commander of large ships. They carried small weapons, automatic rifles, machine guns, or manned the anti-aircraft machine guns.  They became a draftsperson, an offset pressperson, a secretary, clerk, and logistics officer. They operated nuclear propulsion plants, light and heavy trucks, and tanks. They are the nurse, the medical technician, the doctor, and the anesthesiologist. They drew maps, studied imagery, encrypted secret messages, and defused explosive ordinance. They are the musician, weather observer, personnel officer, and the chaplain. Where once they were our town, they became the integral members or the life of a different kind of entity. They are the strength who fight in wars, the peacekeepers in foreign countries, the deterrents of future wars, and the humanitarians who are there for people who suffer in natural and sometimes unnatural disasters.

They fought in Connecticut and in Massachusetts. They fought at Antietam Creek in Maryland and Cedar Creek in Virginia. They occupied the trenches at Chateau-Thierry and Aisne Marne in France.  They fought to establish beach-heads at Normandy, at Guam, Sicily, Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Saipan and Iwo Jima. They fought throughout Europe, in Africa, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. They saw combat in seventy-seven major battle theaters throughout the world. They served in occupied Germany and Japan, and are still serving in Korea. They patrolled every body of water on our earth including our own harbors.

They fought and served with a distinction that is a measure of themselves and a reflection of the values of our Town. They have been awarded the World War II Victory Ribbon, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, the Pre-Pearl Harbor Ribbon, and the Naval Fleet Marine Force Ribbon.  They were awarded the Croix de Guerre, the Viet Nam Cross of Gallantry, Legion of Merit, and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. They won the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Service Medal, and forty-three Brookfield Residents were awarded the Purple Heart. They were awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. They earned the Humanitarian Service Medal, the American Spirit Honor Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, and the Berlin Airlift Device. 

Some of our veterans were born and raised in Brookfield. Other Veterans honored us by moving to Brookfield after their term of service was completed. They came to us from California to the west, Georgia to the south, from Maine to our north and many States in between. Some were born in Germany, in England, India, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Ireland, Venezuela, Chile, Hungary, Cuba, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, and Syria. They were Veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Others served their country of origin before moving to Brookfield. One flew a fighter plane for the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Battle of Britain. One fought for our ally, the Italian Army during World War I.

Each of the 3500 Brookfield Residents who served in the State Militia, The Army Air Corps, the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and the National Guard has his or her own story, and each story told, waiting to be told, or living in its deed; is an important and integral part of Brookfield’s history.

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