Organization--Location and Area--Physical Features--Streams--Forest Growth--Population--Justices of the Peace--Early Settlers--Mills and Factories--Schools--Churches and Cemeteries—Villages.
Brookfield township, so named from the number of brooks that traverse its surface, was organized in February, 1827, and was taken from Westfield township. It is the northwestern township of the county, the New York state line forming its northern and the Potter county line its western boundary. It is seven miles from east to west, with an average width from north to south of four miles, and contains twenty-eight square miles. Deerfield township lies east and Westfield township south of it. Its northern, eastern and western boundary lines are straight, and its southern boundary irregular, due, so it is alleged, to the surveyor getting his figures mixed. This irregular line, however, follows the general direction, from southwest to northeast, of the Cowanesque river, which flows through the northern part of Westfield township. The southern half of its surface is mountainous, the tillable land being confined to narrow and deep valleys, traversed by brooks which are fed by numerous springs. The mean elevation above the sea is 1,550 feet, the range being from 1,300 feet, in the lower creek valleys, to 1,800 feet on the mountain tops. The northern half of the township, though somewhat rugged and hilly, may be better described as rolling. It embraces the upland area, and is nearly all—summits, hillsides and valleys—tillable and under cultivation.
The North Fork creek enters the township from Potter county, midway of the western boundary line, receives Brown run, which flows down from the village of Brookfield—also known as Mink Hollow and Brookfield Hollow—and enters Westfield township near the fair grounds. California brook rises about a mile and a half southeast of Brookfield, and flows southeast into Westfield township north of Westfield borough. Purple brook rises north and east of the centre of the township, and flows into Westfield township north of Cowanesque. North brook rises near the New York state line, in the northwestern part of the township, flows in an easterly direction for three miles and a half and unites with Troup’s creek. This latter stream is referred to in early deeds as "Troup’s Town Branch." It was named for Robert Troup, attorney for David Cathcart (Lord Alloway), and Masterson Ure. Owners of an extended landed estate in Steuben county, New York, where it has its source. Its general direction is southeast and it flows through the northeastern part of Brookfield township into Deerfield township and unites with the Cowanesque river at Knoxville. At Austinburg it receives the waters of South brook, a small run flowing from the southwest. Inscho run rises in the eastern part of the township and flows southeast into Deerfield township.
When the township was first settled the greater portion of its area was covered with a heavy growth of pine and hemlock. So long as the timber supply lasted, lumbering was an important industry, but now that it is practically exhausted, the people of the township rely for revenue and support upon the products of their farms. Brookfield is, therefore, one of the distinctively agricultural townships of the county. Its farms are well cultivated and its people prosperous.
There being no large towns or villages within the township its population shows but little change from decade to decade. The census of 1840 gave it 438 inhabitants; 1870,885; 1880, 910, and 1890, 1,021.
The office of justice of the peace has been filled by the following named persons: Isaac Metcalf, 1828; Allen Frazer, 1830; Colton Knox, 1832; Archibald Campbell, 1833; Edward C. Young, 1834; John Walker, Jr., 1835; Eddy Howland, 1838; Byram Hunt, 1838; re-elected in 1840; William Simmons, 1840; re-elected in 1845, 1850; Horace Seely, 1845; S. H. Murdock, 1850; re-elected, 1860; George W. Bacon, 1855; L. D. Seely, 1855; John Simmons, 1860; re-elected 1865, 1870, 1875; John G. Holmes, 1865; re-elected, 1870, 1875; C. H. Murdock, 1880; Malcolm L. Holmes, 1881; re-elected, 1882, 1887; S. P. Chase, 1886; re-elected, 1891, 1896; Frank Clark, 1892, and E. E. Holmes, 1897.
The permanent settlement of the township began in 1809. At this time there were two small camps of Indians of six or eight persons each within the township—one near Mink Hollow, now the village of Brookfield, and the other on what was afterwards known as the J. S. Grantier place. These Indians were friendly to the settlers and took frequent occasion to show their good will. One of them, known as Indian Jim, often hunted with the whites and frequently supplied them with lead for bullets. It is said he procured this metal in Potter county, but would never disclose the location.
About the year named—that is, 1809—Bedford George, Titus Ives, Elihu Hill and Curtis Cady came into the township with their families. Bedford George settled on Troup’s creek, in the northeastern part of the township, a short distance east of the R. P. Schoonover store in Austinburg. Titus Ives, who first came into the county in 1794 or 1795, and lived for a time in Tioga township, settled nearly a mile further up the creek, on the place still owned by his descendants. The first frame house in the township was built by him about 1829. Elihu Hill settled in the northwestern part of the township—known in the early days as Hilltown—on the Bacon place. Curtis Cady settled west of Hill on what was afterwards known as the Stryker place. Twin daughters—the first white children born in the township—were added to his family here. John Joseph, the next settler, came from Elkland and located on the John Dougherty farm. In 1812 Samuel Baker and his sons, Ira and Amos, settled on the old Baker homestead, south of Brookfield. John H. Brown, a Revolutionary soldier, came about the same time, and settled on the Brookfield village site. Luman Seely, a native of Cornwall, Connecticut, settled, in 1814, on the place afterwards occupied by his son, Luman D. Seely, now a resident of Knoxville. He built a log house with no chimney, the smoke finding an outlet through a small hole in the roof, which was also utilized for smoking hams. In 1814, also, Daniel Schoonover settled on Troup’s creek, on lands now owned by Jonas Kilburn. Joseph Swimeley appears to have resided in the township about this time, his son Christopher being born here in 1814. He soon afterwards removed to Westfield township. Stephen Lane, a son of Joseph and Susannah (Ives) Lane, was born in Danville, New York, in 1812. His father died in 1814, and his mother, who was a daughter of Titus Ives, a pioneer settler on Troup’s creek, returned to Brookfield township, where Stephen grew to manhood and settled on the farm now owned by his son, William G. Lane.
Asahel Nobles and his stepson, William Simmons, settled on the old Nobles homestead in 1815. Young Simmons, who was born in April, 1804, was married in 1819, when fifteen years of age, to Mary A., a daughter of John H. Brown. This was the first wedding in the township. His son, John Simmons, born March 9, 1820, is the oldest living person born in the township. Soon after his marriage William Simmons moved on and cleared the farm now occupied by his son, Andrew J. Simmons. In 1819 Godfrey Bowman, a native of Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, settled near the north road and built a large frame house, long known as the Godfrey Bowman house. This building, which was never completed, was used as an inn until about 1881, when it was torn down to make room for a new building. Simeon B. Lewis, a native of Renssalaer county, New York, settled in1820 on the farm now owned by George Reitter and lived there until 1851, when he removed to Westfield. Hibbard Bonney, a physician, settled in the township about 1820, practiced his profession for several years and removed to Iowa, where he died. John Coffin, a native of New Hampshire, settled in the northwestern part of the township in 1822. Isaac H. Metcalf settled on the Adam Loper farm in 1824. He was one of the first justices of the peace and the first postmaster of the township. In 1826 Ambrose Parker settled on the farm now owned by Charles Brown, and later cleared and lived on the farm now owned by his son, I. P. Parker. Lovel Plank, a native of Pomfret, Connecticut, settled in 1831 on the old homestead, where his grandson, W. L. Plank, now resides.
The foregoing names include those of the more prominent settlers between 1809 and 1831. They were the men who cleared the first farms in the localities in which they settled, facing all the dangers and experiencing all the hardships and privations of pioneer life. With few exceptions, the old homesteads are owned and occupied by their descendants, who rank among the most intelligent and progressive citizens of this prosperous township.
MILLS AND FACTORIES.
At one time there were a number of water and steam saw-mills in different parts of the township. Of those the only ones left are the Schoonover mill, at Austinburg, and the Gardner mill, on North Fork, near the Westfield township line. This latter mill, first run by water power, was built about 1840, by Jonathan Pierce, and sold by him a few years later to John Gardner, who operated it until his death, in 1885, since which time it has been owned and operated by his son, Milo Gardner. It is now run by steam and has a capacity of 10,000 feet of lumber per day. A cheese factory, near the Clark school house, on Purple brook, is operated by O. H. Snyder, who also operates factories at Brookfield and Sylvester. These constitute the principal enterprises of the township, the people of which devote their energies to agriculture. Considerable attention is paid to dairying, and the cheese factories of the township are well supported by the farmers in their immediate vicinity. The product of these factories averages annually not far from 500,000 pounds.
The first school in the township was taught about 1817 by Asa Bushnell, in Curtis Cady’s house. Among his pupils were four of Curtis Cady’s children, four of John Joseph’s, two of Mr. Roberts’, and William Simmons, then thirteen years of age. The first school house was built about 1820, at the foot of Noble’s hill, about where the school house of District No. 2 now stands. Rev. Samuel Conant was the first teacher here. He was succeeded by Anna Van Camp and Luman Seely. J. B. Murdock and J. B. Seely were also early teachers in the township. The first select school was taught in 1846 by William B. Price. After the passage of the public school law, in 1834, the township was divided into school districts, and three new school houses built before 1840. Three more were completed before 1860. There are now ten public school districts in the township. Frame school buildings have replaced the primitive log structures, and modern methods and appliances make the work easier for teachers and pupils.
CHURCHES AND CEMETERIES.
The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Brookfield, incorporated September 8, 1859, was organized about the year 1818, and grew out of meetings held by Rev. Thomas Magee—the first minister to preach in the township—and Rev. Mr. Nash. It was first known as the Methodist Episcopal church of Mink Hollow. The first place of meeting was at John Joseph’s dwelling house, and the first members were Ira Baker, Amos Baker, Samuel Baker, John Joseph, William Joseph, Azel Nobles and their wives, and Hannah Joseph, Deborah Joseph and Curtis Cady. The first pastor was Rev. Thomas Magee, whose successor was Rev. Mr. Nash. In 1836 Rev. Nathan Fellows took charge and during his pastorate conducted a very successful series of meetings at Curtis Cady’s house. Meetings were held from house to house through out the township, resulting in such an increase of members that who served as pastors of this church, as successors of those already named, previous George as leader. The leader of the western society was Ira Baker. Among those another class was organized in the eastern part of the township, with William in 1852; William Armstrong, 1854; T. J. Bissell, 1857; James Duncan, 1858; William M. Haskell, 1859; Joel H. Austin, 1861; Charles Bush, 1867; J. V. Lowell, 1869; George Blanchard, 1870; Charles Weeks, 1872; Isaac Everitt, 1873; G. S. Transue, 1875; O. N. Roberts, 1878; Harris Peck, 1879; John Knapp, 1880; Jasper Kellogg, 1881; H. B. Mason, 1883; J. C. Stevens, 1886; Charles R. morrow, 1888; Frank H. Rowley, 1890 to 1895; J. S. Brown, 1896-97. This church now numbers twenty-one members, with fifty pupils in the Sunday-school, of which S. P. Chase has been the superintendent for nearly thirteen years. Rev. Justus B. Seely, a local minister, often preached for this congregation, of which he was a life-long member. He was the son of Luman Seely, the pioneer.
The second Methodist Episcopal Church of Brookfield, incorporated August 26, 1862, was organized April 18, 1860, and was the outgrowth of a class formed in the eastern part of the township previous to 1840. The church was organized by Rev. William M. Haskell. The first board of trustees consisted of Luman D. Seely, William R. Seely, Allen Potter, John George, John L. Miller and Richard Schoonover. Of these Luman D. Seely and Richard Schoonover are the only survivors. The members of the first building committee were: William Jordan, George W. Northrop, Zenas Pierce, James Roff and Levi W. Grinolds. Soon after the organization the society decided to build. A lot in the village of Austinburg was purchased of E. P. Eddy for $50, and the contract for the building let to John W. Fitch for $1,090. It was dedicated January 29, 1862, by Rev. A. M. Fillmore, presiding elder of the Hornellsville district. The dedicatory sermon was preached by Rev. William M. Haskell. The names of the pastors of this church are as follows: Revs. Charles Bush, Joel H. Austin, Cornelius Dillenbeck, I. A. Blanchard, A. F. Countryman, C. G. Lowell, J. V. Lowell, Charles Weeks, J. Knapp, George S. Spencer, John Irons, David White, C. M. Gardner, H. J. Owen and S. C. Farnham, who took charge in October, 1894. there are about fifty members in the church at present, and about the same number of pupils in the Sunday-school, of which M. V. Jordan is the superintendent.
The Free Will Baptist Church of Brookfield, incorporated December 15, 1861, was organized June 22, 1840, at the house of Sheldon Atkins, by Revs. Philip White, Jesse Bennett and Isaac Hill. The church was the outgrowth of meetings previously held by Rev. James Sherwood, of Cameron, New York, which resulted in a number of conversions. The original members were: Sheldon Atkins, Richard Baird, John Owens, Daniel Andrus, Chester G. Seely, Ives Lane, Martha Atkins, Susan Baird, Lucinda Owens and Clarissa Joseph. Meetings were held in dwellings and at the old school house until 1860, when the present house of worship, at Austinburg, was begun. It was completed in June, 1861, and is valued at $1,500. the first pastor, Rev. Jesse Bennett, remained two years; the second, Rev. James Sherwood, three years. The names of their successors, in order of service, are as follows: Rev. William Mack, 1850-51; Levi C. Warriner, 1852-56; Selden Butler, 1857-60; George Knapp, 1860-61; Selden Butler, 1862; D. W. Hunt, 1863; Charles P. Fessenden, 1865; J. W. Brown, 1866; John Borden 1867; L. Sargent, 1871; Hiram Bacon, 1877-83; O. J. Moon, 1883-84; N. J. Shirey, 1886; A. J. Wood, 1887; O. C. Hill, 1889; N. J. Shirey, 1892; D. W. Hunt, 1893; E. F. Lyon, 1894-95. The present membership of the church is about forty, with an equal number in the Sunday-school, which is in charge of Lazell George, superintendent.
The First Baptist Church of Brookfield, incorporated September 7, 1859, was organized May 25, 1848. Rev. William G. Raymond, a noted revivalist, and the first pastor, held the meetings preceding the organization. The original members were Benjamin Cuer and wife, George Hunt, Jackson Hunt, Laura L. Plank, Maria Metcalf, Elisha Hackett, Matilda Mascho, L. Plank and D. B. Fisk. A church edifice was built by Nathan Besby in 1859, and the first meeting held in it in June, 1860. This church stood at "the forks of the road," east of the Adam Loper place. After prospering for a few years, the membership of this society dwindled, until it was unable to sustain a regular pastor. From 1873 to 1883 no records were kept. In the latter year those who had kept the organization alive, made an effort to revive its growth. The old building, which had become dilapidated, was sold and a new building erected two miles further south, near Sylvester postoffice. This building, which is a neat frame edifice, was completed in the fall of 1883. Since its erection, services have been held regularly. Rev. S. L. Bouvier, the first pastor, had charge from 1883 to 1890. His successors have been: Revs. J. Mullany, 1890-91; G. P. Watrous, 1891-92; A. W. Mettler, 1892; and S. A. Field, who came in November, 1894. The church now numbers fourteen members. There are fifty-six pupils in the Sunday-school, which has been maintained without interruption from the beginning. R. L. Pride is the superintendent.
Cemeteries.—Brookfield Hollow Union Cemetery Association was organized in 1879, the trustees being Andrew J. Simmons, Charles Stanburrough, I. P. Parker, John R. Coffin and John G. Bowman. This cemetery, which contains about four acres, is situated on the north side of the road, just east of Brookfield. It is the old neighborhood burying ground, and contains the remains of many of the first settlers. The Plank cemetery, just east of the residence of W. L. Plank, near Sylvester, was at first a family burying ground. In 1854 it was deeded to the heirs of Lovell Plank, by the old pioneer, and has since been used as a place of interment by the immediate neighborhood. At Austinburg there are two cemeteries. The old cemetery opposite the Free Will Baptist church is the resting place of many of the pioneers, their children and their grandchildren. Interments were made here as early as 1815. The new cemetery, situated southeast of the village, is owned by the Woodlawn Cemetery Association, incorporated June 1, 1885. The trustees are Rufus Cook, E. E. Shumway, Charles Fitch, M. V. Jordan, Goodsell Everitt, E. E. Holmes and William Austin.
Brookfield—also known as Mink Hollow and Brookfield Hollow—is situated in the northwestern part of the township, about half a mile south of the New York state line and a mile east of the line of Potter county. Brown run, a branch of the North Fork, flows from the north through the place, pursuing a slightly south-west course. When the first settlers came into the township mink were found along this run, hence the name Mink Hollow. The first settler on the site of the village was John H. Brown, a Revolutionary soldier, who came about 1812. The village at present contains a church, a school house, a store and postoffice, and a cheese factory, around which are clustered a few farm homes.
The exact date of the establishment of the postoffice has not been ascertained. Isaac H. Metcalf, who came into the township in 1824, and who was appointed soon after coming, was the first postmaster, the office being at his house, a custom followed by his successors until 1866, when it was permanently located at Brookfield. Dr. Ethan B. Bacon was the second postmaster and held the office a number of years. J. P. Sleeper was appointed bout 1845, and was succeeded by Joseph W. Davis, who was appointed by President Buchanan, and who held the office up to the beginning of the Civil War, when Andrew J. Simmons was appointed. He served until 1882, and was succeeded by Charles Stanburrough, who held until 1885, when C. C. Kizer was appointed. In Mary, 1888, R. R. Ramsey secured the office and held it until August 1, 1893, when G. O. Manwaring was appointed. Mr. Manwaring soon after resigned and the office lapsed. The patrons of the office immediately petitioned for its re-establishment, and it was re-established May 20, 1894, with S. M. Baker, postmaster.
The first store in the township was opened in this neighborhood, in the early thirties, by William Simmons, on his place, about a mile southeast of Brookfield, at first he kept the goods for sale in his house, but soon afterwards erected a small store building on the south side of the road a few rods east of his dwelling. He got his goods from Joel Parkhurst, of Elkland, with whom he appears to have been in partnership. His customers were his neighbors, and he took his pay in money and labor, generally the latter. A day’s chopping was the price of a yard of sheeting or a yard of calico. Fifty cents a day was the usual price for labor. Mr. Simmons sold goods here for many years, being in business either directly or indirectly until his death, in January, 1880. J. P. Sleeper and Joseph Montanye also sold goods in the Simmons store. The second store—long known as the Gardner store—was built in Brookfield, at an early day, by George Bacon and David Gardner. Many others followed them in business here, some of whom succeeded in building up a large trade, while others, especially during recent years, failed to do a profitable business, the trade of this section having been diverted to Westfield, North Fork and Troupsburg. The store has been vacant for more than two years. In 1866 Andrew J. Simmons erected a store building at Brookfield, in which he kept the postoffice and sold goods until his father’s death, when he moved back to the old homestead. This building is also vacant. The cheese factory, which is No. 2 of the series of factories operated by O. H. Snyder, of North Fork, Potter county, Pennsylvania, was built in 1866 by Wood & McBride. In 1894 the output was 166,000 pounds of cheese, for which a good price was obtained.
Brookfield Farmers’ Alliance and Industrial Association, No. 317, which was organized February 25, 1892, meets here in the school house. It numbers twenty members and is prosperous.
Austinburg is situated in the northeastern part of the township on Troup’s creek. The first settler here was Bedford George, whose home stood on the bank of the creek, near the mouth of South Fork. A school house was built here between 1835 and 1840. About the same time E. P. Eddy built a saw-mill, first run by water and later by steam. This mill was purchased twenty years ago by Richard Schoonover. In July, 1881, it was destroyed by fire. He rebuilt it and still owns and operates it. In 1861-62 church buildings were erected by the Free Will Baptist and the Methodist Episcopal societies. The first store was opened in 1863 by Richard Schoonover, who ran it one year. in 1871 William Austin located here and opened a general store, continuing until 1892, when he was burned out. In 1877 a postoffice was established through his efforts. He was appointed the first postmaster and the office was named Austinburg. In 1892 R. P. Schoonover opened the present store in a new building, and was appointed postmaster as Mr. Austin’s successor. A cheese factory, built in 1883, is owned and operated by E. A. Bean, of Knoxville. Its average annual output is 100,000 pounds. E. E. Shumway owns and operates a feed mill, and J. Cartwright performs the labors and duties of the village blacksmith.
Austinburg Tent, No. 194, K. O. T. M., meets in the hall over R. P. Schoonover’s store. It was organized September 14, 1893, and now numbers twenty-seven members.
Sylvester is the name of a postoffice established August 23, 1880, on the California road, in the central part of the township. It was named in honor of Sylvester L. Plank, oldest son of Lovel Plank, the pioneer. Spencer B. Plank, the first postmaster, held the office until April 20, 1891, when he resigned, because of ill health, and C. C. Mead, the present incumbent, was appointed. Mr. Plank also conducted a general store until 1886, when he sold out to Mr. Mead. There is a cheese factory here operated by O. H. Snyder. The Baptist church, Sylvester Grange hall and a few residences are the only other buildings in the village.
Sylvester Grange, No. 1078, was organized February 9, 1893. In 1894
it erected a two-story, frame hall building costing $600. This grange has
grown steadily and now numbers fifty-seven members.