Brooklyn is a small town full of history and heroes

Brooklyn is one of my favorite towns in The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. Located at the intersection of Route 169 and Route 6, I travel though Brooklyn frequently as I make my way around the The Last Green Valley.

From historical heroes, to amazing natural resources and family fun events, this little town has it all. In the next couple of months Brooklyn will be bustling with activity, and I wanted to share some of that with you in today’s column in hopes that you, too, will plan a visit to Brooklyn.

Several years ago, TLGV published a delightful booklet titled “For the Common Good: A Guide to Historic and Scenic Town Commons & Greens of The Last Green Valley.” The listing for Brooklyn was written by both Dennis Landis and Elaine Knowlton of the Brooklyn Historical Society and information about the historical features of the Brooklyn town green are taken from that source.

The area encompassed by Brooklyn, originally known as Mortlake, was part of Canterbury and Pomfret until it separated from them and incorporated in 1786. The green, located at the intersection of Hartford and Pomfret Roads, was acquired in 1733 as a location for a Congregational meetinghouse and school. Then encompassing two and a half acres, it has since been significantly reduced in size by road incursions and Department of Transportation annexations. Today it is bounded by Putnam Place, Route 169 and Green Roads. (north, south and west) and bisected diagonally by busy Route 6 and Wolf Den Road.

The green is owned by the Unitarian Universalist Society, and situated around the green are Trinity Parish Episcopal (1866), the town library and town hall (1820), the Federated Church of Christ (1871), a bank and several private houses dating from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. On the green is the Old Brooklyn Meeting House (now the Unitarian Universalist Church) which, along with the green, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the course of its history, the Brooklyn green was home to the first Meetinghouse (1734), the original schoolhouse, the second, Georgian-style meetinghouse (1771) and several horse sheds. There are no war memorials on the green; these are located across Route 169. The most notable is a 25-feet high equestrian statue next to the post office honoring Israel Putnam, the local Revolutionary War hero known for issuing the command, “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He is also recognized for having slain the last known she-wolf in Connecticut after being lowered into her den. The purported site of this encounter is in Mashamoquet State Park, but it gives its name to Wolf Den Road.

Behind the equestrian statue, below which lie Putnam’s remains, is the Daniel P. Tyler Law Office, a museum operated by the Brooklyn Historical Society. A simple boulder citing Putnam’s response to the Lexington alarm can be found south of the World War I Veterans’ Memorial in front of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Next month from Aug. 23 through Aug. 26 is the Brooklyn Fair, sponsored by the Windham County Agricultural Society. The Brooklyn Fair is a very family-friendly agricultural fair with excellent exhibits and shows of farm livestock, contests, concessions, home and garden products, rides for children of all ages and live musical entertainment.

I always enjoy a visit to the Brooklyn Fair. It is just the right size to keep me interested, but not exhausted! I always make a point to check out the education exhibits and especially the livestock shows and competitions. My favorite is the working steer competition when youngsters show off the training of their working steers as they maneuver a wagon or stone boat through an obstacle course. Working steers and oxen were the farm tractors of a pre-combustion engine age, and it is nice to see this farm tradition continued and exhibited.

For more information on the Brooklyn Fair, hours, admissions, exhibits, concessions and entertainment check out their website at: www.brooklynfair.org

For the past several years the Town of Brooklyn has also celebrated the Brooklyn Fall Festival. This year the festival is scheduled for Sept. 29 and is extra special with the 300th birthday celebration of Israel Putnam. The festival includes an apple pie contest, a scarecrow display, arts and craft and more. The Federated Church will be selling soup and bread and there will be a children’s play yard. The U.S. Post Office will also offer a special cancellation that day at the post office in the center of town.

Putnam was one of Connecticut’s best-known participants in the war for independence and the name Putnam is synonymous with Connecticut hero.

In honor of Putnam’s birthday, a special addition to the Brooklyn Fall Festival includes a Revolutionary War Encampment adjacent to the Israel Putnam statue; the encampment will then march to the Federated Church with a birthday cake for Israel Putnam around 2:30 p.m. The Sons of American Revolution will also be on hand for most of the day in the backyard behind the post office, where Sheldon’s Horse, the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons, the first commissioned cavalry, will be stationed.

There are many reasons to visit the town of Brooklyn and with the coming Brooklyn Fair and Brooklyn Fall Festival you have two more excellent reasons to enjoy this special town.

We live and work in a region with picturesque hill towns like Brooklyn, the final resting place of Israel Putnam, and historic mill towns like Putnam, the town that carries his name. Each of our towns contributes to the quality of life we have come to appreciate and expect as residents of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. I hope you will join me as we care for, enjoy, and pass on this special place we call home.

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 35 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org