Brookfield, Massachusetts

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Brookfield is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 3,051 at the 2000 census.

Contents

History

Brookfield was first settled in 1660 and was officially incorporated in 1718. The town was settled by men from Ipswich as part of the Quaboag Plantation lands, though the settlers would be temporarily removed from the lands by attacks during King Philip's War.

During the winter of 1776, General Henry Knox passed through the town with cannon from Fort Ticonderoga to end the Siege of Boston. A marker along Route 9 commemorates his route.[1]

In March 1778, Joshua Spooner, a wealthy farmer in Brookfield, was beaten to death and his body stuffed down a well. Four people were hanged for the crime: two British soldiers, a young Continental soldier, and Spooner's wife, Bathsheba, who was charged with instigating the murder. She was thirty-two years old and five months pregnant when executed. Newspapers described the case as "the most extraordinary crime ever perpetrated in New England."

Bathsheba was the mother of three young children, and in her own words felt "an utter aversion" for her husband, who was known to be an abusive drunk.

A year before the murder, she took in and nursed a sixteen-year-old Continental soldier who was returning from a year's enlistment under George Washington. The two became lovers and conceived a child.

Divorces were all but impossible for women at that time, and adulteresses were stripped to the waist and publicly whipped. Bathsheba's pregnancy occasioned a series of desperate plots to murder her husband, finally brought to fruition with the aid of two British deserters from General John Burgoyne's defeated army.

As the daughter of the state's most prominent and despised Loyalist, Bathsheba bore the brunt of the political, cultural, and gender prejudices of her day. When she sought a stay of execution to deliver her baby, the Massachusetts Council rejected her petition, and she was promptly hanged before a crowd of 5,000 spectators.[2]

Across from the former Brookfield Inn on West Main Street (Route 9), is a memorial that designates this part of the road as the George Washington Memorial Highway. In 1789, our first president traveled through five of the New England states. This tour has become the basis for all of the “George Washington slept here” claims—and although Washington watered his horses here, he never slept in Brookfield. It seems his party would have spent the night in Brookfield except that the innkeeper, Mrs. Bannister, was in bed with a terrible headache. When awakened, she mistook him for a college president and sent him on to the neighboring town of Spencer. On learning of her mistake, she supposedly said: "Bless me! One look at that good man would have cured my aching head.”

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