Between 1930 and 1945,
Plainfield, along with the rest of the nation, underwent the trauma
of the Great Depression and challenge of another world war.
The period brought about a prolonged crisis and significant
change. With textile
employers closing their factories, Plainfield began its struggle to
develop a diversified economy.
history of Plainfield officially began with its incorporation by an
act of the General Court of Connecticut in May 1699.
In the year it was accepted by the legislature as a township
and in the five decades preceding it, the area where Plainfield is
located was known to European settlers as the Quinebaug country, an
English transcription of the Indian name for the tribe or band of
Native Americans inhabiting the area, and for the river which flows
through eastern Connecticut before joining the Shetucket river at
to the lands along the Quinebaug River, whether Native American or
European, were attracted by the same physical features and natural
resources – fertile land consisting of meadows and upland, and abundant
water from the area’s springs, streams and rivers.
very name Plainfield, bestowed by Governor Fitz-John Winthrop in 1700,
testifies to the importance placed on those fertile open fields along
the Quinebaug which yielded heavy crops of Indian corn to the Quinebaug
Indians as well as abundant harvests of wheat and rye to European
farmers who first came to work the land in the late 1680s and 1690s.
The settlement of Connecticut was in some measure a consequence
of the Great Migration that took place in the 1630s when some 20,000
English Puritans fled Old England for New England.
The need to provide farms for children and grandchildren led
to expansion beyond the original river towns to the frontier, including
to historian Benjamin Trumbull, “there were a small number of families
on the lands” in 1653 when the Winthrop family purchased the land
that would become Plainfield, “but the planters were few until 1689.”
the Winthrops and James Fitch, Jr., who also claimed the land, recruited
settlers willing to relocate in the frontier conditions of eastern
Connecticut. Those drawn
by the Winthrops planted themselves on the east band of the Quinebaug;
those attracted by Fitch settled on the west side, and would, four
years after the incorporation of Plainfield, establish their own town
by settlers to form a new town began in 1693, but it was not until
1699 that a petition was seriously considered by the General Court.
By that time Fitz-John Winthrop was Governor and he drew up
his own self-serving request.
In May 1699, the powers and privileges of a township were granted,
provided they did not prejudice any particular person’s property,
i.e. the Winthrop family’s claim to Quinebaug Country.
A committee was named to establish town boundaries, but not
to lay out the lands and end the Fitch-Winthrop conflict over ownership.
the 1701 meeting did nothing to settle the feud between the Winthrops
and Fitch, the settlers took charge of their affairs.
Plainfield Academy was founded in 1770,
just prior to the Revolutionary War. It’s purpose: “to
provide improved facilities for the more complete education of the
youth of the vicinity.” The founders, the Plainfield Academy
Association, built a brick schoolhouse and organized a course of study
“in the common English branches.”
The early academies in New England bore
no denominational name; there was no need for such designation, for
there was just one church – the Congregational – in the
early towns. That denomination controlled the government of town and
state. Often the pastor was the prime mover in establishing an academy.
It was quite natural the trustees should be from that church, and
since they elected their own successors, they remained largely of
In 1784, Plainfield Academy was incorporated
and added a Classical Department, preparing boys for college, usually
Yale University. In that era, boys often graduated from Yale at 15
or 16 years of age; the age requirement for entrance to academies
was usually 10 years.
In 1825, an impressive stone building
to house the academy was erected on what became Academy Hill overlooking
the Congregational Church and present-day State Route 12.
After 1840, the Academy ran into difficulties
because of “the multiplication of literary institutions around,”
and by the 1850s, girls were admitted as students in the English Department.
Due to the growth of secondary education and a shortage of teachers
following the Civil War, Plainfield Academy closed in 1890.
Thirty-four men petitioned the General Court in 1783 to incorporate
the Plainfield Academy. The incorporators, called “proprietors,”
were not looking for a money investment, as academies didn’t
pay. In fact, the shareholders often had to meet deficits.
The directors/trustees of the academy
Hon. Samuel Huntington of Norwich (one of the four Connecticut signers
of the Declaration of Independence)
Hon. Eliphalet Dyer of Windham
Rev. Levi Hart of Preston
Rev. Joseph Huntington of Coventry
And Plainfield residents General John Douglas, Major Andrew Backus,
Dr. Elisha Perkins, William Robertson, Samuel Fox, Captain Joseph
Dunlap, Ebenezer Eaton and Hezekiah Spaulding