Brooklyn, Windham County, Connecticut History

The township of Brooklyn, the shiretown of Windham county, is centrally located, with Pomfret on the north, Killingly and Plainfield on the east, Canterbury on the south, and Hampton on the west. The area of the town is about thirty square miles, its width from north to south being about five miles and its length from east to west about six miles. It has one central village, which contains the county buildings, churches, stores and shops, and is very handsomely shaded and ornamented. The northern part of the town is hilly, while the southern part is marshy and rolling. The Quinebaug sweeps its eastern border all the way, and Blackwell’s brook traverses the town from the northwest part to the southern border. No railroad infringes upon Brooklyn territory, but convenient communication with the world is afforded by stage line to Danielsonville about three miles from the central village. The populattion at different times has been: 1800, 1,202; 1840, 1,488; 1870, 2,355; 1880, 2,308. Grand, list, 1845, $23,866; 1887, $1,451,404.

In 1703, Richard Adams, of Preston, obtained, for two hundred pounds, from Major Fitch,-a deed of three thousand acres of wilderness land, south of Blackwell’s tract. Its bound began at the junction of the Five-Mile and Quinebaug rivers, extending west on Blackwell’s line to a pine tree marked B, by the side of Blackwell’s brook, and beyond it; thence south four hundred and eighty perches; thence east to the Quinebaug, where Beaver brook empties into it. Richard Adams, Jr., appears to have made a settlement on this tract, even before the deed of conveyance was executed, and was the first settler within the limits of the township granted to Blackwell, and the present town of Brooklyn. His wife was a daughter of Daniel Cady, of Aspinock. Their homestead was in the depths of a dense wilderness, much infested with wild beasts and Indians, about a mile southeast of the site of the present Brooklyn Green. A colony of beavers held possession of the brook adjoining. Richard Adams was numbered with the inhabitants of Plainfield in 1701; in 1703 assisted in the organization of Canterbury, and was claimed for many years as an inhabitant of that township.

A strip of land south of the Adams tract was purchased of Major Fitch by John Allen, of Aspinock, 1703, and conveyed by him, in 1705, to his son Isaac, who soon took personal possession, John Woodward settled south of Allen and north of Canterbury line in 1706. In 1707 Edward Spalding, of Plainfield, bought land north of Canterbury bounds, at the foot of Tatnick hill, and there settled with his family. These four families were for several years the only white inhabitants within the limits of Blackwell’s patent. Richard Adams and his neighbors were left unstated to any township for several years-a few isolated families remote from settlements and civilization. They paid rates to Canterbury and attended religious worship there when practicable. Communication with the outside world was difficult and sometimes dangerous. The road from Canterbury to Woodstock passed near Edward Spalding’s house, which soon became a place of entertainment for travelers-his first barrel of rum coming up from Norwich on horseback, lashed between two poles and dragged behind the rider.

The Adams tract was divided after a time into eight equal and parallel allotments, running from east to west, and made over to the seven children of Richard Adams, of Preston-Richard, Jr., receiving a deed of two lower allotments in 1712. Twentyfive hundred acres west of the Adams tract were secured by Captain John Chandler, 1707. The several tracts held by Fitch, Blackwell, Stoddard and Chandler were left vacant and neglected till the death of Sir John Blackwell, when the Mortlake manor fell to his son, and was sold by him to Jonathan Belcher, of Boston, April 3d, 1713. A highway was laid out from north to south. Two noble farms or manors, called Kingswood and Wiltshire, were laid out for Mr. Belcher’s own occupation.

For the promoting of public good and the better settling of the land,” large tracts were sold-fourteen hundred acres on the Quinebaug to Governor Saltonstall, five hundred acres to Samuel Williams, of Roxbury, and three hundred to Mr. Belcher’s brother-in-law, William Foye. A public training-field was reserved between one of Foye’s farms and Nantasket brook. About twelve hundred acres were left in forest am meadow for future disposal.

In 1714 the vacant land between Pomfret and Canterbury was divided between these townships, and thus the land south of Mortlake, owned by Adams, Chandler and Stoddard, came under the jurisdiction of Pomfret. Richard Adams was chosen selectman in 1715, and by a very clear vote, the town made over to him all their right and title to his land as to property. The settlement of this section was somewhat quickened by its annexation to Pomfret. Daniel Cady, of Killingly, father of Mrs. Richard Adams, bought six hundred acres of land near Tatnick hill, of Jabez Allen, in 1714, and settled there with a large family of sons and daughters. James Cady, of Marlborough, purchased land of Richard Adams in 1716. John, Joseph and Daniel Adams then took possession of their allotments, and threw part of them into market. Sixty acres now included in Brooklyn village were sold by Joseph Adams in 1718, to Samuel Spalding. John Adams sold homesteads to Jabez Spicer, John Hubbard, Daniel Adams, a farm to Samuel Head. The twentyfive hundred acres of land between the Adams and Stoddard tracts were sold by Captain Chandler for £190, to Joseph Otis, of Scituate, in 1715. Its eastern half was sold out in farms to the Reverend Ebenezer Williams, Ebenezer Whiting, Samuel Spalding, Jonathan Cady and Josiah Cleveland, in 1719; the western half was purchased by Stephen Williams, Joseph Davison, and Joseph Holland, in 1723. The Stoddard tract remained for many years in the hands of its non-resident owner, save a few hundred acres, sold in 1719 to Abiel Cheney, Benjamin Chaplin, of Lynn, Samuel Gardner and Samuel Pellet. Chaplin and Pellet also purchased land of Major Fitch, and were the first settlers of the southwestern corner of Pomfret.

About twenty families had gathered in the south part of Pom-fret by 1720. Their position was somewhat peculiar. A distinct, independent township lay between them and the main settlement, and had to be traversed by them on their way to public worship, town meetings and trainings. The lon- journey over rough roads, which they had not the power to mend or alter, was ” exceedingly difficult and next to impossible, and children were compelled a great part of the year to tarry at home on the Lord’s day.” Some of the residents in the south part of this region maintained church relations in Canterbury, so that the charge was divided between the Reverend Messrs. Williams and Estabrook, who visited the people, watched over them, and established a monthly lecture in the neighborhood, which was continued for some years.

In 1721 the inhabitants of this section were: James Cady, Joseph Adams, Isaac Adams, Daniel Adams, John Adams, Ezekiel Cady, Daniel Cady, Jonathan Cady, Ezra Cady, John Cady, Daniel Cady, 2d, Samuel Spalding, Isaac Allen, Josiah Cleveland, Joseph Holland, Ezekiel-Whitney, Henry Smith, Ebenezer Whiting, John Woodward, Jabez Spicer, Jonas Spalding, John Hubbard, John Wilson, Samuel Gates, Samuel Shead.

In 1,728 this tract lying between Pomfret on the north and Canterbury on the south had upon it thirty-two inhabitants. This section comprehended then about eight thousand acres, and had a rate list of £2,000. The people sought incorporation as a town, but failed to obtain a charter. They next employed a minister, Mr. William Blossom; Pomfret, within whose jurisdiction most of the lands lay, giving the people here freedom from paying ministerial rates, on account of their remoteness from the church in that town. An ecclesiastical society was chartered in May, 1731, included in the limits, described as follows: “Bounded east with Quinebaug river, west with Windham line, north with the ancient and first bounds of the towns of Pomfret and Mortlake, and from thence extending south to a line run and described by Mr. Josiah Conant, surveyor, . . . . September 4, 1731, . . . . east and west across the bounds of Canterbury, and parallel with Canterbury south line; said line . . . . to be the south bounds of said parish.” The new society held its first meeting November 23d, 1731. A meeting house was built in 1734, a few rods northwest of the site of the present Congregational house of worship in Brooklyn. Two and a half acres of land, now included in Brooklyn Green, were soon after conveyed by Mr. Spalding to the society for a meeting house spot and other uses. The title which at first attached to this section and society was ” The Society taken out of Pomfret, Canterbury and Mortlake.” This elongated title was exchanged by act of assembly for the more concise title of Brooklyn, which it has since borne.

As early as 1723 the people of this neighborhood received liberty from the general court to form a distinct train-band company by themselves. Samuel Spalding was confirmed as lieutenant and Richard Adams as ensign. October 13th, 1724, Richard Adams, ” for love and good-will borne unto his wellbeloved friends and neighbors, inhabitants of south addition to Pomfret and north addition to Canterbury, as also for the necessity of a convenient place for a training-field and the setting up of a school house, did give and grant, for the public use of a training-field, unto the aforesaid inhabitants and their heirs, a certain parcel of land lying within ye aforesaid additions, west of the country road, containing one acre.” This land was laid out in the western part of Mr. Adams’ allotment, a mile southeast of the site of Brooklyn village. At the same date, Daniel Cady, moved by the same considerations of love, good will and affection and ” the necessity of a convenient place to bury ye bodies of the dead among us,” did give and grant a certain tract of land, east of Blackwell’s brook, ” for ye public and necessary use of a convenient burying-place to the inhabitants of the additions aforesaid, and their heirs and assigns forever.” This gift was laid out as above designated, south of the site of the present Brooklyn village, and still forms a part of the Brooklyn burying ground.

The prosperity of Brooklyn parish under the new regime was greatly checked by prevalent sickness and mortality. A pleuritic distemper in 1753 was followed in 1754 by a malignant dysentery, especially fatal to children. Scarcely a family in Windham county escaped the scourge. Two children of Reverend Abel Stiles, three of Reverend Marston Cabot, were among its victims. In Brooklyn, where it raged with great violence, about seventy deaths were reported. Mr. Avery, still apparently the only medical practitioner in the vicinity, ministered day and night to the sick and dying till he was himself prostrated and overcome by the disease. The death of this excellent minister was greatly mourned.

Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889

2 thoughts on “Brooklyn, Windham County, Connecticut History”

  1. Do you know of anyone who is interested in a 5-1/2 x 7-1/2″ b&w photograph of a 1771 Meeting House/ Brooklyn Conn. Church?

    1. Connecticut Genealogy

      Try the local historical society for the actual photograph. We’d love a scanned image of it to place online though!

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