Steerage Rock - Photo Ca. 1902
The town of Brimfield lies on the eastern line of Hampden County. It is bounded on the north by the town of Warren, Worcester County; east by the town of Sturbridge, Worcester County; south by the towns of Wales and Tolland; and on the west by Monson and Palmer. The land is high, forming part of the watershed between the Thames and Connecticut rivers. The highest elevations are about 1.200 feet above sea level. There are no mountains, but in the western portion of the town a well-defined range of hills rises to a height of 500 or 600 feet at the highest points.
A range of hills lies on the western part of Brimfield. On one of the highest summits a massive bowlder bears the destinctive name of "Steerage rock." Tradition ascribes the name of the rock to the fact that it was visited by the Indians, when journeying through the regions, that they might take correct bearing for any point which they desire to reach. Perhaps to facilitate these observations, the surrounding hills had been burned over, so that at the time of the first survey by white men, preparatory to settlement, the timber on the hills had been destroyed, while the valleys were principally covered by a strong growth of native grasses.
The first steps toward the settlement of what became the bown of Brimfield were taken in the year 1701, when on the 20th of June the general court, in compliance with the petition of 21 citizens of Springfield, appointed a "prudential committee" of five Springfield men - Major John PYNCHON, Captain Thomas COLTON, James WARRINGER, David MORGAN, and Joseph STEBBINS - to lay out a new township, to the eastward of Springfield, to allot lands, and to have the general management of the affairs of the settlement. The township was to be eight milessquare, and grants of land were to be made to 60 to 70 families, but no more than 120 acres were to be assigned to any one person.
The committee, accompanied by 20 other persons from Springfield, visited the region on the 22nd of September, 1701, and spent some time in the selection of a town site. The location first chosen was what is known as Grout's hill, now in the town of Monson; but further investitation showed better land lying near the eastern side of the township, and the site was changed accordingly.
Thirteen grnts of land were made December 31, 1701, on the condition that work thereon should be begun the next spring. However, this agreement was not carried out, and nothing further was done for years.
The war exisiting between England and France, the hostile dispositon of the Indians, and the distance of Brimfield from the stronger settlements, exposed its settlers to many dangers, and the development of the township proceeded slowly. In 1717 the general court, on petition, extended the town limits three miles further east, so as to embrace some desirable land in that direction. The tract laid ot included the territory now covered by the towns of Brimfield, Monson, Wales, and Holland, as well as certain tracts since included within the limits of Warren and of Palmer. Because of the slow development, so much dissatisfaction arose that the general court was petitioned to appoint a new committee, and this was done June 12, 1723. Members of the committee were: Hon. John CHANDLER, Henry DWIGHT, Esq., and Joseph JENNINGS. Six years later, in September, 1929, this committee made an unpopular report, recommending annulment of the grants of land made by the former committee, and a new allotment. Those affected addressed the general court in a memorial, setting forth the injustice which would be done them if they were deprived of lands which they had improved. The result was a1735 Reaffirimation of the original grants, plus a few additonal.
Original Grants of 120 acres awarded December 31, 1701; Reaffirmed June 18, 1731
* Grant also made to one son
The first town meeting, on a warrent issuded by John SHERMAN, under authority from the general court, was held March 16, 1731, before the final settlement of the 1701 land grants.
AOn May 4, 1731, John STEBBINS, Robert MOULTON, and David SHAW were elected to represent the interests of the town before the general court.
On May 24, 1731, Robert MOULTON was choses as the representative of the town to the general court, (as the legislature was then designated.)