On March 24, 1920 the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill, which was signed into law the following day by Governor Calvin Coolidge formalizing the separation and incorporation of East Brookfield. Being the youngest, our town became known as the “Baby Town of the Commonwealth”, yet ironically it was once the industrial center of one of the oldest and largest settlements within the commonwealth.
Before European settlers arrived, East Brookfield was home to the Lashaway and Quaboag Indian Tribes, who used the Seven Mile and Quaboag rivers as routes of commerce. These same routes by land later became part of the historical Baypath and Boston Post Roads.
In 1686, James Ford is the first name documented in association with the original settlement, Quaboag Plantation, later the town of Brookfield. It is possible that Mr. Ford may have been part of a small group of pioneer settlers that chose this area because of its fertile land and abundant water supply. Although there were many turbulent times due to sickness and Indian hostilities, Quaboag Plantation prospered. In 1673 a significant portion of the plantation became the town of Brookfield, which then included the villages of West Brookfield, North Brookfield, East Brookfield and Podunk.
The early 1700s were a period of industrial expansion for our eastern township. This included the establishment of a series of mills along the Five Mile and Seven Mile rivers. In 1738 inhabitants of the village of Podunk, a southern portion of East Brookfield, submitted the first of a number of petitions for separation from Brookfield. This petition was denied. Nevertheless, the village of East Brookfield was on its way to becoming an independent center of industrial activity and part of the great Industrial Revolution that swept Northeast America during the 1800s.
The Western Railroad arrived in East Brookfield in 1839, contributing greatly to its industrial expansion, as it connected our town to the major cities of Worcester and Springfield with connections to Boston. Another form of railway transportation also serviced East Brookfield. In 1896 the Warren, Brookfield and Spencer Street Railway Company began service through our town. Trolley service expanded in 1901 with the Worcester, Brookfield and Spencer Street Railway Company. Industries such as textile, shoes, pottery, brick, cast iron and steel tools, bicycles and carriage wheels all benefited greatly from the railroads. In addition, a small group of enterprising officials from the street railway company purchased land on Lake Lashaway to create Lashaway Park for the summer amusement of people from the city.
Many residents of East Brookfield contributed to the development and success of our community. A small group of notable families and individuals gained recognition beyond our borders. Warren Tarbell moved to East Brookfield as a businessman and became very active in local and state politics. Mr. Tarbell eventually became a State Senator for Worcester and Hamden Counties and was instrumental in the separation and incorporation of East Brookfield. The Plimpton family contributed with numerous innovations. James L Plimpton revolutionized the design of roller skates and the sport of roller-skating. Henry Plimpton incorporated the use of ball and roller bearings for specific applications such as carriage wheels. In addition, Henry Plimpton was the first in this area to install electricity in his home through the assistance of his friend Thomas Edison. Our most noted citizen was Connie Mack (Cornelius McGillicuddy), “The Grand Old Man of Baseball”. Mr. Mack transformed major league baseball yet he was widely known for his accomplishments as the highly successful manager, and owner of the Philadelphia Athletics, (presently the Oakland A’s). The “Tall Tactician”, as known by fans and colleagues, became the oldest and most victorious manager in the major leagues with a managing career spanning nearly 50 years.
Our Town Today
Nineteen twenty-nine marked a turning point for East Brookfield as industry felt the effects of the Great Depression. This began the transformation of an industrial center to a residential community. The Hurricane of 1938 and the Flood of 1955 also contributed as they forced some businesses to close permanently. Although some companies continued to flourish and develop into the 1970s, a steady transformation was taking place with perhaps the first housing development started in early 1939 along North Brookfield Road.
Today our town’s expansive woodlands and rural character attract many people who wish to live in a small country town but have easy commuting access to major metropolitan areas. Primarily a bedroom community, East Brookfield offers a friendly, safe close-knit environment with strong family and civic values. Largely residential, our town consists mainly of New England style single-family homes, some with historic significance, and boasts a diverse collection of small businesses and family restaurants. The residents of East Brookfield enjoy the services of a first rate Police, Fire, Highway and Water departments as well as an excellent Library and school system. In addition, many popular community activities are offered throughout the year.