Emily C. (Emily Carrie) Hawley.

Historical sketch of the First Congregational Church of Brookfield, Connecticut, and of the town of Brookfield online

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hardly be measured.

In connection with these events should be recorded
the fact that this summer tablets have been placed in
the Hall of Fame in New York City to three eminent
New England women who were teachers of wide
influence, namely : To Mrs. Emma Willard, founder of

66 Historical Sketch

the Troy Female Seminary in 1821. Mrs. Willard was
a native of Connecticut. To Mary Lyon, founder of
Mt. Holyoke Seminary, now College, in 1837, who
left an abiding impression on the religious and educa-
tional life of America. To Maria Mitchell, the as-
tronomer of Nantucket, who received international

Would space permit we might mention many other
New England anniversaries and events in which a
deep interest has been taken, but must turn to our
own — the Sesqui-Centennial Celebration of the First
Congregational Church of Brookfield, Conn.

At the annual meeting of the church in January,
1906, the initial steps were taken, and an anniversary
committee was appointed to take the matter into con-
sideration. Definite plans for a celebration were not
made, however, until early in the spring of 1907, at
which time the general committee met, and appointed
their subcommittees. These committees as finally ap-
pointed were as follows : —

The General Anniversary Committee

Mr. Clarence E. Vroman, chairman; Rev. Marion L.
Burton, Mrs. Marion L. Burton, Mr. Frederick S.
Curtis, Miss Emily C. Hawley, Mr. Sidney E. Hawley,
Miss Amelia I. Northrop.

Anniversary Days in New England 67


Music: — Mr. Herbert W. Greene.

Finance: — Mr. William H. Blackman, Mr. William
S. Geddes, Mr. Clarence W. Keeler, Miss Minnie S.

Publicity: — Rev. Marion L. Burton, Mr. Frederick
S. Curtis, Dr. Charles A. Ryder.

Invitation: — Miss Wilhelmine Skidmore, Miss Mary
A. Bateman, Miss Mae F. Peck, Miss Jessie M. Roe.

Decoration: — Miss Amelia I. Northrop, Mr. Law-
rence Curtis, Miss Gertrude A. Elsenboss, Mrs. Henry
L. Foote, Mrs. Austin Smith, Miss Theodate Sprague,
Mr. Samuel Thornhill, Miss Jennie Wildenrath, Miss
Irene Worden.

Town Decoration: — Mr. Sidney E. Hawley, Mr.
Lucius S. Hawley.

Conveyance: — Mr. Frederick S. Frisbie, Mr. Axel

F. Gustafson, Mr. Henry B. Hawley, Mr. Hamilton
Hendrickson, Mr. Frederick Johnson, Mr. William B.

Collation: — Mrs. Frederick S. Curtis, Mrs. Andrew

G. Anderson, Mrs. William S. Geddes, Mrs. Eliza G.
Peck, Mrs. William B. Roe, Miss Florence M.

Reception and Entertainment: — Mr. Frederick S.

68 Historical Sketch

Curtis, Mrs. Marion L. Burton, Miss Emily C. Hawley,
Mr. Sidney E. Hawley, Miss Theodora Skidmore.
Loan Exhibit: — Miss Amelia I. Northrop.


December 28, 190C, it was voted that we as a
church desire a chapel, and purpose to raise $5,000 for
the erection of the same and for the redecorating of
our present house of worship.

The following committee were appointed : Mr. and
Mrs. F. S. Curtis, Mr. Vroman, Miss Amelia I.
Northrop, Mr. F. S. Frisbie, Dr. Junius F. Smith, Mrs.

May 12, 1907, it was further voted to enlarge the
privileges of this committee, and to call the same "The
Chapel and Church Improvement Committee."

Some five thousand dollars and more were sub-
scribed for this purpose, generous sums being con-
tributed by friends outside of the town as well as
within the home church.

The plans and specifications were prepared by E. W.
Peck, Esq., architect, from Bridgeport, Conn., and
called for a chapel 40 feet by 34>^ feet, the same to
be on the south side of the church and connected
thereto. Specifications also called for redecorating
the exterior and interior of the church; a heating

Anniversary Days in New England 69

plant ; recarpeting of the church floor, etc. The chapel
was constructed by the S. W. Hubbell Building Com-
pany of Bridgeport, Conn. Laying of the corner
stone August 18, 1907.



Origin, System and Principles

To the student of church history, the Congrega-
tional system is of great interest, and why should it
not be, when we consider that for one hundred years
following the first settlements it was the only religious
faith, or nearly so, in the land. In Connecticut the
Congregational churches were established seventy
years previous to any others.

Mr. Frank S. Child, in an address before the
Daughters of the American Revolution of Fairfield
County, said : "The emigrants from Massachusetts
who settled in Connecticut represented three ecclesi-
astical tendencies, the Independents or Pilgrims of
Plymouth, the men of Presbyterian preference, and
the Puritans ; circumstances wrought the three classes
into the Congregational form of life."

The early settlers of New England were therefore
of one faith, and worshiped in a common sanctuary.
In the society records of this church I find as late as
1810 the following entry: "Being an inhabitant of
Brookfield, state of Connecticut, where every man is
considered as born a Congregationalist, who does not

Congregationalism 71

certify to the contrary. I hereby declare my inten-
tion," etc.

The church at Leyden, which was organized in 1602
under the pastorate of Rev. John Robinson, and
which removed to Plymouth, New England, in 1620,
is regarded as the parent of all the Congregational

The Pilgrims came by the way of Holland, whither
they had been driven by persecution, and while there
imbibed something of that broader spirit of freedom
and good will of which that country was the center,
and is to-day.

"I am confident," said John Robinson, "that God
has more truth yet to break out of His holy Word."

The first pastors over the New England churches
were ordained in England; they had, however, left
behind them old traditions and accepted the Bible as
their ultimate authority; they were strictly Calvinistic
in theology. As we are approaching the four hun-
dredth anniversary of Calvin's birth, it may not be
amiss to quote the opinion of John Fiske, who wrote,
"The promulgation of Calvin's theology was one of
the longest steps that mankind has taken toward per-
sonal freedom, for he insisted that the world must
have an educated ministry and laity."

In the year 1648 occurred the famous Synod at
Cambridge, Mass., to which the ministers from all the

72 Historical Sketch

colonies responded ; and then and there agreed upon a
platform of church discipline which they recommended
to the churches of the New World. It was known as
the Cambridge Platform, and was the religious con-
stitution of the Connecticut churches for about sixty
years. The Westminster Confession of Faith was

The Cambridge Platform made no provision for the
meeting of ministers or churches either in a social or
advisory manner, and in 1708 the General Assembly
of Connecticut passed a vote requiring that the
churches of Connecticut appoint delegates to meet at
Saybrook that year to draw up an ecclesiastical con-
stitution, which was done in September, 1708, and met
with acceptance. This platform, known as the Say-
brook Platform of Church Discipline, made provision
for associations and consociations, which have given
the Congregational churches of Connecticut a unique
history. The Savoy confession of faith was adopted
at this time.

Consociation of Churches

Consociations are in reality standing councils, that
is, permanent bodies with rules and records. They act
as advisory agents only, though it has been affirmed
that they, at least in the past, exercised judiciary
power. A consociation of churches when sitting is

Congregationalism 73

known as the council ; its officers are moderator, scribe
and registrar. Its membership embraces the pastors of
the churches in the consociation and one delegate
from each church. The duties of the council are : To
organize, unite, and discipline churches ; to ordain, in-
stall, dismiss, and discipline ministers, and to advise
the churches when in difficulty.

The churches of Fairfield County united in consocia-
tion in 1709; they met at Stratfield (Bridgeport) for
that purpose. Twenty-seven years later, in June, 1736,
this body met at the town of Fairfield and resolved
itself into two bodies, namely, Fairfield East and
Fairfield West Consociation. The Fairfield East Con-
sociation now includes twenty churches.

There are but four consociations in Connecticut to-
day; two in our own county, and one each in Litch-
field and New Haven counties; and thirteen confer-
ences. The annual meeting of the general conference
takes place in the fall.

Association of Ministers

The Fairfield County Association of Ministers was
organized in 1709. The purpose was to safeguard the
high calling to which they were appointed, to examine
candidates for the ministry and license the same, and
to see that none preached heresy among them. The

74 Historical Sketch

spirit and purpose of the association was of the best,
standing as it did for purity of doctrine and character.
In 1734 the Association of Ministers in Fairfield
County resolved themselves into eastern and western
districts, and in 1848 the eastern district became known
as Fairfield East Association.

Yearly meetings were held, the officers being a
moderator and scribe. During the period in which the
council failed to hold annual meetings (from 1752 to
1818), the association did so, and preserved records.
It may be of interest to cite two or three cases of dis-
cipline which involved the association and consocia-
tion of our county in deep trouble. In 1763 the Rev.
Ebenezer White of Danbury and Rev. James Taylor of
New Fairfield were accused of preaching Sandeman-
ianism; the association of Fairfield East presented
them for trial before the council, which sat five days.
The church at Danbury objected to the interference of
the council, but the objection was not sustained.
Messrs. White and Taylor were put on probation three
months, when a joint council of Fairfield East and
West consociations was called in January, 1764. The
Danbury Church denied the jurisdiction of the joint
council; but Mr. White was dismissed under censure
by this body, and declared guilty of Sandemanianism.
Five pastors and their delegates protested against the
decision, as being too severe, among the dissenters

Congregationalism 75

being Rev. Thomas Brooks of Newbury. The council
recognized the minority in Mr. White's church as con-
stituting the First Church of Danbury. The majority
who had stood by Mr. White became later the San-
demanian Church of Danbury. A little later the united
councils dismissed Rev. James Taylor of New Fair-

Congregational churches are independent bodies,
each church framing its own confession of faith and
covenant. Congregational churches have always
stood for higher education, and most of the New
England colleges were founded by them, or those
affiliated with them.

Tri-Church Union

The most important movement undertaken by the
Congregational churches in this country for a cen-
tury is the movement toward organic union with the
United Brethren and Methodist Protestants, now un-
der consideration. A tri-church council, meeting at
Dayton, Ohio, in 1906, appointed three committees,
namely, on doctrine, polity, and vested interests.
Later the Giicago council, a "historic gathering," con-
sidered these and other essentials, and arranged the
plan of the proposed union of the denominations in
readiness for the final action thereon. The corporate

76 Historical Sketch

name proposed is "The United Churches, comprising
the Congregational Churches, the Church of the
United Brethren in Christ, and the Methodist Protest-
ant Church." The organic union of these three
churches becomes effective in the National Council,
in which the annual conference will be represented;
this occurs once in four years. No limitation is put
on local anatomy, while fellowship is provided for. If
the union is effected a new era not only of expansion
but of cooperation will open before the churches.





Iron Works

This section of our town is located on both sides of
the Still River at the Half- Way Falls. The Half-Way
Falls are the natural falls, or dam, south of the stone-
arch bridge; the water here drops into a gorge, and
flowing north, passes over three or four artificial dams,
emerging at last into the meadow lands above.

This portion of our town, as is well known, for-
merly belonged to New Milford. In 1732 the records
there show that iron works were set up at the Half-
Way Falls of the Still River at the place afterward
known as Brookfield. The facts as shown by the
records are these : —

John Noble, Jr., who removed from New Milford
and settled south of Gallows Hill in 1730, and who was
one of those persons who petitioned for church privi-
leges at Newbury-Brookfield in 1743, in 1732 sold half
an acre of land (taking in the river) at the Half-Way
Falls in the Still River (afterwards Iron Works), "so
that there may be a way to come at the iron works
already set up, and also at the dam that is made across

78 Historical Sketch

the river." This conveyance was made to Samuel

In December, 1732, Peter Hubbell of Newtown
sold his one-third interest in the iron works, including
dam, houses, and instruments in making iron, the
same being at the Half- Way Falls on Still River, to
John Fairweather.

In November, 1733, all the parties interested in the
iron works loaned to Eleazer Hathaway, then of New
Milford, one hundred pounds current money. Mr.
Hathaway was "to perform the work of a skillful
bloomer" in the iron works on Still River for the
benefit and advantage of the owners. He was to make
"shire moulds, cranks, and gudgeons." It was speci-
fied that he should make twenty-four tons of iron from
two forges yearly, or twelve tons if only one forge
should be furnished him.

The exact spot where the dam was constructed and
the iron works set up is believed to have been near
John Bateman's shear shop, for reasons which may be

I have thought best to enter fully into the matter of
the iron industry at Brookfield, as few are aware of
the details, notwithstanding the fact that this portion
of our town has been called the Iron Works so long as
the oldest living resident can remember. Tradition
affirms that during the Revolutionary War iron from

Brookfield 79

this place was conveyed by night across the country
to West Point (about forty miles) and was used, with
iron brought from another place, in making the chain
which was stretched across the Hudson River to retard
the progress of the British.

Iron works were later set up at Still River Falls at
Lanesville, in which Lazarus Ruggles, a son, was in-

A fording place was set up at Brookfield-Iron
Works, but a bridge over the Still River here was not
built until 1745.

The first schoolhouse at the Iron Works was es-
tablished in 1745, near the home of Joseph Ruggles,
Esq., "near about the middle of the highway."

Capt. Joseph Ruggles, who came to the Iron
Works (afterward Brookfield) in 1733, from New
Haven, was one of the earliest settlers here; he was a
partner in the iron works, and purchased considerable
land in the Still River Neck, not far from the New-
town line.

The "Still River Neck" was the name given to all
that elevated land lying between the iron works and
the Housatonic River; it included the Iron Works
Hill, Longmeadow, and Pumpkin Hill. Capt. Joseph
Ruggles remained in (Brookfield) Iron Works until
1750, when he returned to New Haven, but subse-
quently lived here and was deacon in the Congrega-

80 Historical Sketch

tional Church at Brookfield Center until his death.
He was the ancestor of a large and quite distinguished
family, some of whom settled in New England cities
and became widely known.

Capt. Joseph Ruggles* was the grandfather of Samuel
Ruggles, who went out from Brookfield in 1819 as
missionary to the Sandwich Islands, and of Lucia
Ruggles Holman.

The ancient highway from Danbury to New Milford,
in passing through the Iron Works, pursued a westerly
course; it was the highway on which the Baptist
Church and Laurel Hill Cemetery fronted.

The present main thoroughfare through the village
street was of later construction.

The first tavern was built on the north corner of
this ancient highway, a rambling two-story inn, facing
the south, its glory long since departed, though the
dilapitated structure is standing. It was opposite the
Baptist Church and the home for many years of Elder
Biddle. It was doubtless one of a chain of posts ex-
tending from Southern New England into the Canadas,
through the wilderness. This building is probably
more than 150 years old. It has been handed down,
that persons of importance have tarried for a night in
this old tavern. Major Nichols in 1757, under com-
mission from England to examine and report concern-
ing suitable places for fortifications at the north, during

Brookfield 81

the French War, spent a night here, and the brother of
Napoleon, with his escort, stopped on his journey; he
was then living in this country.

The American Hotel, built on the east side of Still
River, was for long a well-known hostelry, Nathan
Terrill, Gregory Knapp and Augustus Knapp being
among the well-known landlords.

Grist Mill

" Back of the loaf is the snowy flour,
And back of the flour is the mill;
And back of the mill is the wheat and the shower,
And the sun and the Father's will."

— M. D. Babcock.

In 1748 a grist mill was established a little north of
the iron works, by Abel Barnum, and a highway was
laid out to the southeast corner of the mill.

In 1780 the present grist mill privileges were estab-
lished. In 1832 William D. Meeker rebuilt the mill.
Gregory Knapp purchased the property later, and his
widow, afterward Mrs. Daniel Ferris, owned it, and
rented the same for many years. Benjamin Treat
leased the mill during the '60's, and Henry B. Haw-
ley leased the property for a considerable time of her.
In 1888 Michael McNamara purchased of Mrs. Ferris
and rebuilt the mill in 1890. In 1902 Arthur S. Mans-
field bought the grist mill and improved the property.

82 Historical Sketch

Mr. Mansfield is the present owner and proprietor of
this property.

Stone Industry-
Several stone quarries have been operated at the
Iron Works in past years, the stone being of fine
quality. In 1819 there were two sawmills, which were
erected for the purpose of sawing the stone and getting
it in shape for manufacture ; monuments, hearthstones,
and building stone were cut here. Marble was found,
and there was something of an industry in this line,
as it was made into various articles.

Carding Mill

A carding mill was set up in 1810 near the site of
John Bateman's present factory.

Lime Industry

Lime quarries have been operated in Brookfield for
considerably more than one hundred years. The lime
here is considered to be as fine as any in the state.
Extensive quarries have been opened up, and this par-
ticular industry has changed hands many times. Dur-
ing more recent periods Piatt Hawley, Esq., Ezra
Wildman, and John Bennett have severally owned and
managed the business.

Brookfield 83

Andrew Northrop, Esq., was owner and operator
many years; he sold to Pierce, Lawrence & Vroman
in 1882 ; they rebuilt the kiln, and conducted the busi-
ness for more than twenty years, when it was sold to
a syndicate. Mr. Clarence Vroman is still connected
with this branch of the New England Lime Company,
being the general superintendent of the Brookfield
works. A small lime kiln was operated for a time on
the east side of the railroad track near the freight
depot by Gregory Knapp.

Hat Manufacturing

Elijah Sturdevant, Esq., was engaged in the hat
manufacturing business for some years, employing a
considerable number of persons. He was a man of
ability and enterprise. His shop was located on the
Danbury road at the spot where Robert Jones and
family now live. Mr. Sturdevant later on removed
his hatting industry to Beaver Brook District and con-
tinued there until August, 1873, when the building
was destroyed by fire, the loss being some sixty thou-
sand dollars. Mr. Sturdevant was an active member
of this church here, and was one of the original in-
corporators of the Union Savings Bank of Danbury.

Henry B. Hawley was engaged in the hatting busi-
ness, just north of the stone-arch bridge, from 1868
to 1875, employing one hundred persons. Mr. Hawley

84 Historical Sketch

manufactured hats for Pearce & Hall of New York
City, and did a large business.

Christian Quien of Danbury also engaged in hat-
ting business in this factory for a time. A. and E. De
Comeau of New York leased this factory for the fur

V. E. Patch purchased this factory later on, and
conducted for some years the shoddy business here.
The building was destroyed by fire in 1907.

Homer Lake & Son were engaged in the wool hat

Ira Keeler & Sons manufactured cotton batting in
their factory, which is still standing, and owned by
V. E. Patch.

Shear Business

Daniel Tomlinson, Esq., a prominent citizen and
one-time state senator, in the year 1837 built a dam and
erected buildings for the manufacture of Currier's
knives. A few years later L. P. Wetmore began forg-
ing knives for him.

Treat, Wildman & Wetmore, some time after,
built an addition to the shop, and started the shear
business in connection with the original business
started by Squire Tomlinson. The freshet of 1853


Brookfield 85

carried away the dam, and Tomlinson retired from
the business. Bennett & Wildman succeeded in
1854, and later John F. Bennett & Wetmore con-
ducted a successful business for many years.

In 1882 John T. Bateman was taken into the firm.

In 1884 Mr. Wetmore retired from the business and
F. H. Bennett & John T. Bateman continued the
shear industry.

In 1889 Mr. Bennett resigned and Stephen Meaney
purchased his interest ; the firm then became known as
the Lenox Shear Company. In May, 1895, Mr.
Bateman bought out the entire plant and has been sole
owner ever since.

The factory was destroyed by fire in 1902 and Mr.
Bateman purchased the site formerly occupied by the
Jones saw mill and erected a new factory.


Among the early merchants at the Iron Works were :
Captain Meeker, a man of considerable influence and
wealth; Harry Burrell, Esq., who became well-to-
do; he built several houses now standing, among the
number the "pillars."

William D. Meeker, son of Captain Meeker, in-
herited a large property and was a merchant ; he built
the stone residence on the west side of Still River, now
the home of the Dr. Smith family; this house is not

86 Historical Sketch

only the most substantial, but the most dignified type
of residence in the town.

Burr & Morris were engaged in general mercan-
tile business for a time.

Samuel Baldwin, Esq., was in the tailoring busi-

John Stevens, Esq., was a merchant here, and also
Beers & Fairchild, and Andrew Northrop.

Daniel G. Beers built a substantial store property
on the west side of the railroad and was in business
until his death.

Robert G. Knapp, for some years was a successful
merchant, first in the store under the American Hotel,
and later built near the railroad track on the east side
of same.

George Hallock also conducted a store which he
built on his property.

Henry S. Beers succeeded his father, Daniel
Beers, in mercantile business, and after his place of
business was destroyed by fire, built the substantial
store property on the east side of the railroad, now
standing. Mr. Beers was for years an active and suc-
cessful merchant. He became the local funeral
director here.

William J. Beehler purchased the business which
he conducted for some years. Mr. Beehler also suc-
ceeded Mr. Beers as funeral director. Mr. Beehler is

Brookfield 87

still engaged in the grocery business at the Iron Works,
and is our town clerk.

Levi J. Sturdevant is owner of the store built by
H. S. Beers and continues the business, the business
manager being Cornelius Dean. This store does a
large general mercantile business.

The Brookfield Cash Grocery Company com-
menced business on the west side of the river a few
years since. The enterprising business manager is
Mrs. Homer Martin. The post office is located in this
store, the postmaster being Mrs. Emma J. Smith.

Saw Mills

There have been several of these mills in our town.
Wildman & Jones operated one of these saw mills at

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Online LibraryEmily C. (Emily Carrie) HawleyHistorical sketch of the First Congregational Church of Brookfield, Connecticut, and of the town of Brookfield → online text (page 4 of 8)