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THIS town was granted to a number of the inhabitants of Isp wich, in the county of Essex, by the general court,
(upon their petition,) in May, 1660. The tract granted was to be six miles square. The grantees, that they might
have a just right to the soil, purchased and took a deed of the natives. This place progresseu so rapiuly that,
upon application to the general court, it was incorporated a town in 1673.
The church was gathered, and the first minister, Rev. Thomas Cheney, was ordained here in 1717; he died in 1747,
and was succeeded by Rev. Elisha Harding who was ordained in 1749. The town increased so rapidly that in 1750 a
second parish was incorporated in the northerly part of the town, now North Brookfield. Mr. Harding continued the
minister of the first precinct till his people fell into a controversy about a new meeting-house. The contention
was so severe that the society parted, and the third parish was formed in 1754. The church was gathered in 1756,
and in 1758 Rev. Nathan Fiske was ordained their pastor. He was succeeded by Rev. Micah Stone in 1801. Rev. Richard
Woodruff succeeded Mr. Stone, in 1834. In consequence of this division of the first society Mr. Harding requested
a dismission, which was granted in 1755. He was succeeded by Rev. Joseph Parsons, in 1757, who continued their
pastor till his death, in 1771. In the autumn of the same year Rev. Ephraim Ward was ordained his successor. Mr.
Ward died in 1818, and was succeeded by Rev. Eliakim Phelps. Rev. Joseph I. Foote, the next minister, was settled
in 1826, and was succeeded by Rev. Francis Horton, in 1832. The Methodist society was formed in the south parish
in 1826. The Universalist society was incorporated in 1812; their meeting-house was built in 1820. The Baptists
held meetings in the west part of the town as early as 1748.
Brookfield is a township of excellent land. The surface is somewhat uneven and stony, though there are a number
of plains of considerable extent. There are large tracts of meadow and intervale upon Quabaog river, which runs
in a westerly direction through the town. The ponds are the Quabaog or Podunk, the South pond, and the Wicabaug.
The first-mentioned is about a mile square, the others are of smaller size. The Wicahuag pond affords iron ore.
Ore is also found in the bogs and marshes of the neighborhood. There are 6 churches, 3 Congregational, 1 Baptist,
1 Methodist, and 1 Universalist. South Brookfield is about two and a half miles from the central village; it contains
about 40 dwelling-houses, some of which are elegant, and 2 churches. Population of the town, 2,514. Distance, 18
miles from Worcester, 28 from Springfield, 31 from Northampton, 10 from Hardwick, arid 68 from Boston. In 1837
there were 17,244 pairs of boots and 182,400 pairs of shoes manufactured; value, $190,697; males employed, 262;
females, 215. There were 2 air and cupola furnaces.
The above is an eastern view of the First Congregational church in Brookfield, as it appeared previous to 1838.
This edifice was raised in 1794, and completed the following year, and may be considered a good specimen of the
architecture of that period. This church was remodelled during 1838, and now presents an entirely different appearance.
The village in which this church is situated consists of about 60 dwelling houses, built on the level plain northerly
of Quaboag river. The village is neatly built, and has an air of quiet retirement. A printing office is in this
place, where the printing of books is carried on.
The first meeting honse stood on Foster's Hill, about half a mile south east of the present church. It was on the
north side of the old road to the south parish, about equally distant from the house of Mr. Baxter Barnes and that
of Mr. Tyler Marsh. The fortified house in which the inhabitants were besieged by the Indians in 1675 stood, it
is believed, between Mr. Tyler Marsh's house and barn, about one mile eastward of the present church: it was the
place where the first principal settlement in the town was made. The inhabitants, after their return to this place,
erected several temporary fortifications; one of the principal was Gilbert's Fort, which stood near where the central
school house stands. On the hill north west of this place, a tower was built for the purpose of enabling the inhabitants
to watch the movements of the Indians, and to obtain seasonable notice of their approach. It stood on an elevated
rock. It is related that early in the evening of a cloudy day, the sentinel discovered Indians luiking in the wood
at only a small distance from him. By inadvertence a large portion of the suns which belonged to the fort had been
left at the tower. The sentinel knew that if he gave the alarm the inhabitants would come for their guns, and thus
be exposed to the Indians, who were ready to destroy them. In this state of things he waited till it became quite
dark. In the mean time he examined all the guns and prepared for an attack. At length he discharged a gun towards
the place where he had seen the Indians. They returned his fire. As he was not exposed to injury from their muskets,
he took a second piece, and whenever one of their guns was discharged he fired at the light occasioned by it. Thus,
single handed, he carried on for some hours a contest with them. At length the firing ceased. In the morning blood
was found in several places in the vicinity of the tower. Marks' Garrison stood near the southwest end of Wickaboag
pond, on a knoll below the junction of the waters of the pond with the Quaboag river. It is related that one day
Mrs. Marks, being left alone, discovered hostile Indians near the garrison, waiting for an opportunity to attack
the settlement. She immediately put on her husband's wig, hat, great coat, and, taking his gun, went to the top
of the fortification, and "marching backwards and forwards, vociferating, like a vigilant sentinel, 'All's
well, all's Well' " This led the Indians to believe that they could not take the place by surprise, and they
accordingly retired without doing any injury.
This town was for a long time a solitary settlement, being situateci about half way between the old towns on Connecticut
river and those on the east toward the Atlantic coast. The inhabitants suffered frequently and severely from the
incursions of the Indians, the following account of which is taken from Whitney's History of Worcester County.
"The Nipnet or Nipmuck Indians having, on the 14th of July, 1675, killed four or five people at Mendon, the
governor and council, in hopes of reclaiming them, sent Capt. Edward Hutchinson, of Boston, to Quaboag, Brookfield,
near which place there was to be a great rendezvous of those Indians, to treat with several sachems, in order to
the public peace; and ordered Capt. Thomas Wheeler, of Concord, with a part of his troop, about twenty men, to
accompany him for security and assistance. They arrived on the Lord's day, August the 1st, and sent a message to
the Indians, desiring to treat with them. Three of the chief sachems promised to meet them next morning about eight
o'clock, August 2d, upon a plain at the head of Wickaboag pond, two or three miles west of the meeting-house. Captains
Hutchinson and Wheeler, with their company, and three of the principal inhabitants of Brookfield, Capt. John Ayres,
John Coye, and Joseph Pritchard, resorted thither at the appointed time, but found not the Indians there. They
then rode forward about four or five miles towards the Nipnets' chief town. When they came to a place called Mominimisset,
a narrow passage between a steep hill and a thick swamp, they were ambushed by two or three hundred Indians, who
shot down eight of the company, viz. Zechariah Phillips of Boston, Timothy Farley of Billerica, Edward Colburn
of Chelmsford, Samuel Smedley of Concord, Sydrach Hapgood of Sudbury, and Capt. Ayres, John Coye and Joseph Pritchard
of Brookfield, named above, and mortally wounded Capt. Hutchinson. The rest escaped through a bye-path to Brookficld.
The Indians flocked into the town; but the inhabitants, being alarmed, had all got together in the principal house,
on an eminence a little to the south-east of where the west parish meeting house now stands. They had the mortification
to see all their dwelling houses, about twenty, with all their barns and outhouses, burnt. The house where they
had assembled was then surrounded. and a variety of attempts were made for two days and nights to set fire to it,
but did not succeed. At length, August 4th, at evening, the Indians filled a cart with hemp and other combustible
matter, which they kindled and endeavored to thrust to the house in order to fire it; but this attempt was defeated,
partly by a shower of rain which fell and wet the materials, as Capt. Wheeler says in his narrative, who was on
the spot, and partly by aid arriving; for Major Willard, who had been sent after some other Indians westward of
Lancaster and Groton, hearing of the distress of Brookfield when he was about four or five miles from Lancaster,
altered his course, and the same night reached Brookfield, with Capt. Parker and 46 men, about an hour after it
was dark, after a tedious march of 30 miles. And though the Indian scouts discovered him and fired their alarm
guns, yet the main body, from their high joy, always accompanied with a horrid noise, heard them not. Willard joined
the besieged, and the Indians immediately poured in all the shot they could, but without execution, and then, burning
all the buildings except this garrison, and destroying all the horses and cattle they could find, withdrew to their
dens. They were not pursued, being much aperior in number.
"It is fitting to add to the above the very particular account which the Rev. Dr. Fiske of Brookfield has
given in a marginal note, annexed to an historical discourse concerning the settlement of this town and its distresses
during the Indian wars, preached December 31st, 1775, and immediately published. The account is as follows, viz.
'That three of the men killed in the ambushment belonged to Brookfield, as above named; that when the Indians pursued
the party into the town, they set fire to all the buildings except a few in the neighborhood of the house in which
the inhabitants had taken shelter; that they endeavored to intercept five or six men who had gone to a neighboring
house to secure some things there, but they all got safe to the place of refuge, except a young man, Samuel Pritchard,
who was stopped short by a fatal bullet; that the house in which they were besieged was unfortified, except by
a few logs hastily tumbled up on the outside, after the alarm, and by a few feather beds hung up on the inside.
And though the siege continued from Monday in the afternoon until early on Thursday morning, August 5th, in which
time innumerable balls entered the house, only one man, Henry Young, who was in the chamber, was killed. The Indians
shot many fire arrows to burn the house, but without effect. When the troop which relieved Brookfield got into
the town, which was late at night, they were joined by great numbers of cattle, which had collected together in
their fright at the contlagration of the buildings and the firing and war whoops of the Indians; and for protection
these poor animals followed the troop till they arrived at the besieged house. The Indians, deceived hereby, and
thinking there was a much larger number of horsemen than there really was, immediately set fire to the barn belonging
to the besieged house, and to Joseph Pritchard's house and barn, and the meeting house, which were the only buildings
left unburnt, and went off. A garrison was maintained at this house till winter, when the court ordered the people
away, soon after which the Indians came and burnt this house also.'
"In the war which is commonly denominated Queen Anne's war, which broke out not long after the resettlement
of the town, and continued several years. Brookfield, as well as many other towns, was greatly harassed and annoyed,
the Indians frequent.ly making sudden inroads, killing and scalping, or captivating one and another of the inhabitants.
During this war, a number of men, women, and children were killed, several taken prisoners, and some were wounded.
The particulars are as follow, as related by the Rev. Dr. Fiske, in the sermon above referred to. 'The first mischief
was in the latter end of July or beginning of August, 1692. A party of Indians came into the town and broke up
two or three families. Joseph Wnolcot being at work at a little distance from his house, his wife, being fearful,
took her children and went out to him. When they returned to the house at noon, they found the Indians had been
there, for his gun and several other things were missing: and looking out at a window. he saw an Indian, at some
distance, coming towards the house. He immediately sent out his wife and his two little daughters to hide themselves
in the bushes; and he. taking his little son under his arm and his broad axe in his hand. went out with his dog
in sight of the lndian. The dog, being large and fierce, attacked the Indian so furiously, that he was obliged
to discharge his gun at the dog to rid himself of him: immediately upon which Woolcot sat down the child and pursued
the Indian till he heard the bullet roll his gun the Indian charging as he ran; he then turned back, snatched up
his child, and made his escape, through the swamps, to a fort. His wife, being greatly terrified, discovered by
her shrieks where she was; and the Indian soon found and dispatched both her and her children. Others of the party,
about the same time, came into the house of one Mason while the family were at dinner. They killed Mason and one
or two children, and took his wife, and an infant which they had wounded, and carried them off. They also took
two brothers, Thomas and Daniel Lawrence; they soon dispatched Thomas, pretending he had misinformed them about
the number of man which were in the town. John Lawrence. their brother, rode with all baste to Springfield for
assistance. A company, under Capt. Colton, came with the greatest speed, and pursued the Indians. They found Mrs.
Mason's child, which the savages had knocked on the head, and thrown away in the bushes; and continuing their pursuit,
they came upon the Indians' encampment, which was a sort of brush hedge, which they deridingly called "Englishmen's
fort." The party waited till break of day, and then came so near as to put their guns through this brush and
fire upon the Indians, fourteen or fifteen of whom were killed; the rest fled with such precipitation as to leave
several of their arms, blankets, powderhorns, &c., and their prisoners, Daniel Lawrence and Mrs. Mason, whom
our men conducted back. This same John Lawrence, who rode express and procured the company which rescued the above
mentioned prisoners, was afterwards going, in company with one Samuel Owen, in search of a man who was missing;
the Indians came upon them, killed Lawrence. but Owen escaped. Mary MacIntosh was fired upon and killed as she
was milking her cows. Robert Grainger and John Clary were passing along the road, on a certain day, and being fired
upon by the savages. Grainger was killed on the spot; Clary attempted to escape, but had not fled far before he
also was shot down. At another time, Thomas Battis of Brookfield, riding express to Hadley, was killed in the wilderness,
in a place now called Belchertown. Early one morning John Woolcot, a lad about twelve or fourteen years old, was
riding in search of the cows, when the Indians fired at him, killed his horse from under him, and took him prisoner.
The people at Jennings' garrison hearing the firing, and concluding the people at another garrison were beset,
six men set out for their assistance, but were waylaid by the Indians. The English saw not their danger till they
saw there was no escaping it; and therefore, knowing that an Indian could not look an Englishman in the face and
take a righL aim, they stood their ground, presenting their pieces wherever they saw an Indian, without discharging
them, excepting Abijah Bartlet, who turned to flee and was shot dead. The Indians kept firing at the rest and wounded
three of them. Joseph Jennings in two places; one ball grazed the top of his head, by which he was struck blind
for a moment; another ball passed through his shoulder, wounding his collar bone; yet by neither (lid he fall,
nor was he mortally wounded. Benjamin Jennings was wounded in the leg, and John Green in the wrist. They were preserved
at last by the following stratagem. A large dog, hearing the firing, came to our men; one of whom, to encourage
his ketbren and intimidate the Indians, called outs "Capt Williams is come to our assistance, for here is
his dog." The Indians, seeing the dog, and knowmg Williams to be a famous warrior, immediately fled, and our
men escaped. John Woolcot, the lad above mentioned, was carried to Canada, where he remained six or seven years,
during which time, by conversing wholly with Indians, he not only lost his native language. but became so naturalized
to the savages, as to be unwilling, for a while, to return to his native country. Some years afterwards, viz, in
March, 1728, in a time of peace, he and another man having been hunting, and coming down Connecticut river with
a freight of skins and fur, they were hailed by some Indians, but, not being willing to go to them, they steered
for another shore. The Indians landed at a little distance from them; several shots were exchanged, at length Woolcot
'"The last mischief which was done by the savages, in Brookfleld, was about the 20th of July, 1710. Six men,
viz. Ebenezer Hayward, John White, Stephen and Benjamin Jennings, John Grosvenor and Joseph Kellog, were making
hay in the meadows, when the Indians, who had been watching an opportunity to surprise them, sprung suddenly upon
them, dispatched five of them, and took the other, John 'White. prisoner. While, spying a small company of our
people at some distance, jumped from the Indian who held him, and ran to join his friends: hut the Indian fired
after him, and wounded him in the thigh, by which he fell; but soon recovering and running again, he was again
fired at, and received his death wound.'"
Historical Collections Relateing to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.