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History of Enfield Massachusetts and Enfield Connecticut

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Location: Enfield, Hartford, Connecticutmap
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Not to be confused with the town of Enfield, in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, established in 1816 and disincorporated in 1938.


History of Springfield and Enfield, Massachusetts

William Pynchon was responsible for purchasing the Springfield area from the Indians in 1636. It was 1636 when Springfield of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north and Hartford of the Connecticut River Colony, to the south, were settled. Two generations of settlers lived and died in those communities, while the Enfield area continued to lie in a wilderness state. Wolves, bears and mountain lions were abundant, along with widespread deer herds. King Philip’s War made the area an unwelcome place to settle.

In 1674, the General Court of Massachusetts granted land stretching as far south as Asnuntuck Brook to the Town of Springfield. That year, Springfield's John Pynchon built the first European structure, a saw mill on Freshwater Brook, in what would soon be Enfield, The saw mill was destroyed one year later during King Philip's War, presumably by the Indians. [1]

Thomas Stebbins Senior, Jonathan Burt, Samuel Marshfield and Benjamin Parsons, were selected to serve, along with Major Pynchon, on the Freshwater Plantation Committee in 1679, formed for the purpose of making land grants to interested parties. The ultimate goal was to establish a separate town. Their intentions were made public, and that same winter. Enfield's first settlers the Pease brothers from Salem, MA, Robert and John Jr., spent their first winter camping in a shelter dug into the side of a hill. The committee made 19 land grants in Dec of 1679, all to residents of Springfield. Only three of them ever accepted and settled in the Enfield area.

There were a few conditions attached to these initial land grants. You had to erect a dwelling and settle the land within three years of receiving the grant. Once settled you could not sell, transfer ownership, or move away for a period of seven years. Failure to meet these conditions could result in forfeiture of the lands back to the committee, at their discretion. Within three years, a minister had to be obtained and supported by the plantation. This was an important provision to the community that Springfield took Enfield to court in 1684 because a minister had not yet been obtained. Enfield was able to convince the court that an honest and sincere effort was being made, and their suit was dismissed. The committee provided 40 acres for a home lot for the minister, as well as at least 60 acres for the ministry and use of the church. Streets were to be “laid out where they may be Judged most Convenient and useful” according to the Committee Book. They were concerned with ascetics, as well as the mundane, in laying out the plantation, “no person Shall fell any living trees that are Growing or standing in the streets when Laid out…all the Trees hereby ordered to be preserved in the streets both for shade and Comeliness.” A 40 acre lot was also reserved for the use of a school in a convenient spot within the town, and “a Lot to two or three more which shall be reserved for sum useful Person” to be used as a bargaining tool to lure essential tradesmen, like a blacksmith, to town.

The following Spring, the Pease brothers returned to Salem and brought their families back to Freshwater Plantation. John Senior, Robert, John Junior, and Elisha Kibbe were granted their own lots on 23 July 1680. John Pease Junior, being a surveyor by trade, was assigned the task of drawing up the first map of the Freshwater Plantation that first year. By the end by the end of that year (1680) about 25 families had settled in the area. In the next three years thirty more men from Salem brought their families to settle here. Salem was a hotbed of political and religious unrest at this time, losing its minister, James Bayley, in 1680. He was replaced with George Burroughs, the only minister executed during the witch trials of 1692, and entire families were leaving Salem in search of a civilized place to raise their families.

With settlers arriving steadily and building permanent homesteads, it was time to take the next step. A petition was presented to the MA General Court in Boston requesting that a town be incorporated under the name of Enfield. The petition was granted on 16 May 1683, with more than 30 families calling it their home. At the time of incorporation, the town extended east ten miles from the Connecticut River and south six miles from Longmeadow Brook.

The first marriage in Enfield took place 17 May 1683 between Samuel Terry and Hannah Morgan, daughter of Isaac Morgan. The first recorded birth occurred this year to John Junior and Margaret Pease, a little girl by the name of Margaret, who personified the hardy spirit of Enfield and lived to the age of 92. The first recorded death occurred in October this year to Lot Killam, one of the settlers who made the journey from Salem. John Pease Senior was chosen to be the first constable by the committee.

From 1679 and 1692, it was the responsibility of the Freshwater Plantation Committee to oversee the governing of the area. However, they were not always available when situations needing attention arose. Therefore, the committee selected three men living in the area who were able to respond quickly. In 1684, the first meetinghouse was built near the current Enfield Street Cemetery, with the Burying ground behind it, and they chose John Pease Senior, Isaac Meacham and Isaac Morgan to be the first Select Men, “ to officiate for a year…to take care of the widows amongst them that change may not unnecessarily arise upon the place and in particular for that end reasonably to advise them and in case of their neglect to order the putting out of their children to such as may maintain and breed them up in some comfortable way.” Even today, there are many New England town still governed by Selectmen and town meeting members. It wasn’t until 1688 that Enfield held its first town meeting and elected selectmen on their own – Samuel Terry and John Pease Junior.

On 16 March 1688, the townspeople purchased Enfield from a Podunk Indian named Notatuck for 25 pounds Sterling. It is unclear what claim Notatuck actually had to the land, or whether he was selling the land or the rights to use it. [1]

In spite of the common misconception that all men are created equal, life in New England in the late 1600s and early 1700s consisted of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. Unless you were one of the ‘haves’ you were not allowed to vote, participate in the town meetings or to hold a town office. You could not just wander into town and become a resident. Unwanted visitors were escorted to the town line and in no uncertain terms told to stay away. Women and children, as well as Jews, Quakers, native Americans, and atheists were all automatically in the ‘have-not’ category. Applying to the committee, and later the town meeting, was the only way to become an ‘admitted inhabitant’ with all the privileges of the ‘haves’. An ‘admitted inhabitant’ must be a regular attendee at church services and own substantial land. A minimum tax amount had to be paid, based on property owned, before acceptance could be considered. Being a ‘freeman’ meant belonging to a ‘have-more’ group, which gave you the right to vote in colony elections and hold a colonial office, life governor. Only the Massachusetts General Court in Boston could appoint you as a ‘freeman’.

Enfield becomes a part of Connecticut in 1749

For the first 75 years of its existence, Enfield laid within the boundaries of Massachusetts, based on a land survey of 1642 by Woodward and Saffery. Town meeting records show that the people of Enfield first spoke publicly of leaving MA rule and joining CT in 1704. Like most government projects, the wheels turned slowly but surely towards the change. Almost 50 years went by, and in 1749 Enfield finally joined the ranks of CT towns. There were strong feelings over the move, which lasted several generations. Even in 1829, Dr. Pease wrote, “no intelligent inhabitant…is insensible of the superiority of the institutions of CT over those of MA or has not often contrasted the excellence of our cheap simple and republican regulations complicated and aristocratical systems of MA. Some things never change.

There were no clocks in early Enfield, and until 1784 no church bell. It fell upon the shoulders of the town drummer to call the people together in a timely manner. It was his duty to drum the people to worship on Sunday morning, to alert the minister that the congregation was ready, and to call to funerals, lectures and town meetings.

On Thursday, 20 April 1775, the town drummer was Thomas Abbey. On receiving the news from a horseback rider, who had stopped at the local tavern, that fighting had occurred outside of Boston, Thomas began to beat his drum, breaking up the usual Thursday afternoon lecture in the meetinghouse. The next day around 75 men from Enfield marched off to war to the beat of Thomas Abbey’s drum. He returned home after the war as a captain, and his statue now stands proudly in front of the Congregational Church on Enfield Street.

During the 1700s there was a religious movement in the area commonly referred to as the “The Great Awakening.” Jonathan Edwards, was the son of Timothy Edwards the pastor, and grandson of Solomon Stoddard, the spiritual leader of Northampton for 57 years. Enrolling in Yale at age 13, he graduated first in his class of Yale in 1720 and soon became assistant pastor in Northampton, eventually becoming its pastor.

On 8 July 1741, he delivered his famous sermon called “Sinners in the Hands of the Angry God” in the Enfield meetinghouse. This sermon defines fire and brimstone preaching to its very core.

Prior to 1812, the United States was primarily an agricultural colony, relying on England for manufactured goods. When the War of 1812 shut down all commerce with England, however, it became a prime opportunity for local enterprising individuals to begin manufacturing concerns. After the war, these young companies could not compete with the established industries of England. The US Government was urged to protect those local ventures by applying duties on imports that competed with their wares. During the 20 years following the was of 1812 the protective controversy was one of the most important features in the political life of the nation. In 1824, the protectionists succeeded in passing the tariff of that year, which increased all duties considerably. Four years later, in the tariff of 1828, the protective movement reached its highest point. Conditions were so favorable that a group of businessman from Hartford started a manufacturing concern following the 1824 tariff act outside Simsbury, ironically called the Tariff Manufacturing Company, creating broadcloth for the local markets and eventually expanding into the manufacturing of woolen carpets.


Freshwater Plantation on East Side of Great River settled 1680
Freshwater Plantation named Enfield 1683
Enfield incorporated 16 May 1683
Jonathan Edwards delivers his famous sermon 1741
Enfield becomes part of the CT colony 1749
First Church Bell 1784
Enfield Shaker community created 1792
Thompsonville Carpet Manuf. Co formed 1828
Hazard Powder Company formed 1843


  1. 1.0 1.1 Historical Society, Enfield, Connecticut [Link]


Notes compiled by Elida Tirey. Work in progress, will add sources.

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Nicely done! This was very interesting and helped me understand the movement between Massachusetts and Connecticut in that area.
posted by Kim Williams

Categories: Enfield, Connecticut