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Brookfield, Massachusetts

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Brookfield, Massachusetts

Brookfield is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts.


The process of colonization as an English plantation began May 31, 1660, when the Boston General Court granted 6 square miles of land near Quabaug Ponds (land held by the Quabaug Indians) to a group of petitioners from Ipswich, Massachusetts. The grant included a provision that the petitioners had to get 20 families and a Court-approved minister living there in 3 years, and develop a plan for how to distribute the land. The petitioners are believed to have included John Warner, John Ayres and William Prichard. The three known petitioners and perhaps one other went to the Quabaug Plantation in the summer of 1660 to begin setting out the town plot.

However, the next spring a war party of Mohegans led by Oneka, Uncas's son, raided the Quabaugs killing three and taking six prisoner. The following tensions and negotiations went on for quite some time. In the spring of 1665, it is thought that John Warner and his son Samuel, John Ayres, Thomas Parsons and Thomas Wilson came and set up a couple of frames and planted some corn in order to stake their claim to the land. John Warner's family came later that fall. On November 10, 1665, the land was actually purchased from the Quabaugs for about 75 pounds (actually the price was 300 fathom of wampeage). Richard Coy and William Prichard brought their families in 1667 and John Younglove followed shortly after.

The original grant expired without the terms being met, but the General Court issued a subsequent grant on May 15, 1667, in light of the "6 or 7 families" living in the proposed area. Capt. John Pinchon, John Aires, Wm Prichard, Richard Coy and John Younglow were assigned the responsibility of managing the affairs of the settlement until the Court saw fit to grant them township. The Court also gave those with an interest in the land 12 months to locate their families there or lose their claim to the land. They were also required to obtain a minister and prevent evil persons or enemies of the law from residing there.

The original home-lots were 20 acres each with a right to 20 acres of meadow, 8 or 10 acres of plain land and 40 acres of "upland". The minister, and men with grown-up sons, appear to have been granted double lots or 1 1/2 size lots. The original list of home-lots were laid out as follows (beginning at Coy's brook):

  1. Richard Coy
  2. Thomas Parsons
  3. John Warner
  4. Samuel Kent
  5. Samuel Warner
  6. John Younglove
  7. Thomas Wilson
  8. Thomas Millett
  9. Metting-house lot (half an acre)
  10. Sergt. John Ayres
  11. William Prichard
  12. James Travis
  13. Judah Trumble
  14. Daniel Hovey
  15. James Hovey
  16. Thomas Hovey

After a couple of denied petitions, the General Court approved a petition for township under the name of Brookfield in October 1673. The petition was signed by the following 17 men:

  1. John Ayres, Sr.
  2. Richard Coy, Sr.
  3. Samuel Kent
  4. John Warner
  5. Samuel Warner
  6. Samuel Ayres
  7. John Younglove
  8. William Prichet
  9. Thomas Parsons
  10. Thomas Wilson
  11. Samuel Prichet
  12. John Ayres, Jr.
  13. Nathaniel Warner
  14. James Travis
  15. Richard Coy, Jr.
  16. James Hovey
  17. Judah Trumble

The town began to organize itself; Richard Coy was chosen town measurer, William Pritchard was clerk of writs, John Ayres was licensed to keep an ordinary or inn.

All the men between 16 and 60 years were enrolled in the militia. Towns with less than 64 men enrolled were not entitled to a commissioned officer. John Ayres was first sergeant, William Pritchard was second sergeant and Richard Coy was corporal.

On August 1, 1675, King Phillip's War was erupting. Captain Edward Hutchinson along with Captain Thomas Wheeler and 21 of his men arrived in Brookfield (aka Quabaug). Captain Hutchinson was commissioned with make a peace treaty with the Sachems in the area. The Captains sent a group of messengers to contact the Indians to inform them of their intent. The messengers were greeted by about 150 fighting men. When the messengers came back reporting "stout speeches" and "surly" behavior, the soldiers started to fear the worst. The Sachems agreed to meet with the Captains' party on a plain about 3 miles from Brookfield at 8 the next morning.

John Ayres, William Pritchard and Richard Coy accompanied the Captains and soldiers to the meeting the next morning along with three Indian guides. When the party arrived at the designated meeting spot, the Indians were not there. The three Brookfield residents were certain that there must be some misunderstanding as the Indians had been good friends to the residents of Brookfield and pressed the reluctant soldiers to march further on to the swamp where the Indians were. As they approached the swamp, the party had to travel single file as there was a rocky slope to the right and the swamp to the left. Once the party passed far enough into the swamp, the Indians who were hiding in wait sprung out and showered the party with a hail of bullets. Indians who let the party pass, sprung up from behind the party to block their way. The soldiers were sent scrambling up the hill. Captain Wheeler was wounded, his horse killed, and only managed to escape because his wounded son came back to his rescue. Captain Hutchinson was also wounded along with two other soldiers. All three representatives from Brookfield were killed and left lying where they were, along with five of the soldiers. One of the guides was captured by the Indians in the ambush.

The remaining members of the party fled for their lives, narrowly avoiding the Indians and making it back to Brookfield only by the expert guidance of the two remaining Indian guides along with them. They rode into town and headed for Ayres' Inn, the largest building in town, determined to make a stand there. The people of Brookfield all came to the Inn as well and joined the soldiers, most leaving everything they owned behind in their houses. The group worked busily fortifying the Inn and tending to the wounded.

Two hours later, messengers were sent to notify the council in Boston, but as the messengers reached the edge of town, they encountered the Indians pillaging and burning the houses. It appears that James Hovey was killed in this initial raiding. The messengers fired on the Indians and then went back to warn everyone that the Indians were upon them. The Indians attacked the Inn, firing round after round but to no avail. As there were so little provisions brought to the Inn, the besieged began to worry. Samuel Pritchard (William's son) attempted to get provisions from their house but was caught outside the house and beheaded by the Indians, who proceeded to kick his head around like a soccer ball and eventually mounted it on a stake in front of his father's house all while those in the Inn looked on. The Indians kept up their siege and later that evening Henry Young, a soldier, was shot (he died two days later) when looking out the garret window. The Indians set fire to the Inn by pushing a wagon filled with burning materials against the side of the building.

The siege continued August 3 with more shooting and taunting. Many of the invaders went over to the meeting house and continued mocking the settlers from there. The evening brought many more attempts to burn down the Inn but the settlers managed to keep putting them out. Somehow their were no casualties until Thomas Wilson left the Inn to try to obtain water. The Indians saw him and shot him in the neck and jaw, and started cheering when they heard him cry out but he recovered shortly.

The next day (August 4, 1675), the Indians fortified themselves at the meeting house and the barn belonging to the Inn all the while taunting those trapped inside. The Indians prepared many siege tools in preparation for another assault but rain hampered their ability to set fire to the Inn. Early that evening Major Willard and Captain Parker arrived with 46 men plus 5 Indians to reinforce the existing group at the Inn. They managed to make their way to the Inn and get inside despite the heavy gun fire the Indians directed at them. The reinforced group managed to fight off additional attempts to burn the Inn and continued gun fire until the Indians eventually burned the places they had occupied and most left by the break of day on August 5.


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