The center piece of the Town Seal of Bloomfield is a drum. But it is not just any drum. It is
a Brown drum, the product of a family cottage industry that spans generations and reflects the changes in life of this special Hartford County community. Bloomfield has responded to the steady beat of a changing nation and a changing world and continues to offer its residents a solid and reliable place to call home.
Author Bernard Mason in his small volume “How to Make Drums…” writes: “My drum is full of mystery, full of voices. They are heard in its deep rhythmic reverberations, these voices, and they speak always of olden things, yet in the same breath they seem to speak of youth and more youth to come.“ Made by members of the Brown family on Brown Road throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, Brown drums still in existence are considered treasures. It has been said that “A Brown Drum is to
a drummer what a Stradivarius is to a violinist.”
Next to the drum on the Town Seal is a long-barreled musket, which recalls the military contributions of the citizens of the community to the United States in its decades of development. There is an outline of the shape of the community and there are the two dates listed most central to the history of the Town – 1735 and 1835 – and the listing of the name by which the town was known through all of its early history: Wintonbury.
There is only one Wintonbury in the world, for the name is a combination of three other
communities from which people seceded to form a new entity. Most of the initial settlers of Wintonbury came from Windsor to the east. Formed by Puritans from Dorchester, Mass. in 1633, Windsor flourished as an agricultural and trading settlement. Newer arrivals sought new lands and moved westward by the 1640s to a fertile area that was called Messenger’s Farm. To the north and west, the community of Simsbury was taking shape and to the south, the town of Farmington was expanding as well.
In 1735 neighbors from the three contiguous towns of Windsor, Farmington and Simsbury got together and petitioned by Connecticut
General Assembly for permission to establish their own ecclesiastical society. Using part of the name of each of the three contributing communities, the people of Wintonbury were successful in gaining the church privilege. In 1738 the Rev. Hezekiah Bissell was ordained as the first resident pastor. Although the church society was set, it took another 100 years for the town to be incorporated – and when it was, it was under a new name – Bloomfield!
It must be wondered why a community that was known as Wintonbury for its entire existence suddenly would have a name change when it came time to incorporate. Town legend suggests that when the petition for incorporation was presented, influential local resident Sen. Francis Gillette crossed out Wintonbury and inserted Bloomfield on the charter. The Gillette family at a previous time had left the Wintonbury Congregational Parish and became part of the local Baptist gathering. It is thought that Gillette felt that his town name choice would relate to everyone across the people landscape of the growing community.
In the century and a half after its incorporation, Bloomfield would see significant changes
to its population. By the middle of the twentieth century, a number of Jewish families had migrated north from Hartford into the Bloomfield area and places of worship and education were established by them. Transportation links between Connecticut’s Capital City and its northern suburb of Bloomfield also brought a number of African-American families into the southern parts of Bloomfield and into the life of the community. In 1970 Bloomfield was named an “All-America City” because of the way the educational and other institutions in the town had welcomed the diversity of new residents.
Diversity is still a hallmark of Bloomfield 50 years later. Not only do the residents reflect a wide variety of ethnic traditions, the landscape is very diverse – from the urban Blue Hills neighborhood on the southern border to the wide open countryside around Wintonbury Hills Golf Course in the northern part of the town. In Bloomfield the visitor can walk around the neat Town Center area and just a few minutes later be out in beautiful natural landscape in Penwood State Park, one of the real treasures of Bloomfield.
At one time, what is now Penwood State Park was the farm home and retreat of Hartford
industrialist Curtis H. Veeder. In 1895 Veeder invented a cyclometer that displayed the number of miles traveled on a bicycle. He founded the Veeder Manufacturing Company, which produced a number of very successful measuring devices, including those which were able to calibrate the flow from gas pumps into automobiles. In 1928 he acquired the Root Company of Bristol and the merged entity has been called Veeder-Root ever since.
Although Penwood State Park has a number of locations for picnicking and field sports, it is most utilized for its hiking trails, some of which use the roads that Veeder had carved out more than 100 years ago. From a viewing location called The Pinnacle there are extensive vistas south toward Talcott Mountain and west all the way to the Berkshires in the Kent area. One special hiking destination is Lake Louise, named for Veeder’s wife. It features a rustic wooden walkway by the lakeside and interpretive nature signs.
At the entrance to the park is a simple bronze plaque inscribed with the words: “Donated to
the people of Connecticut as a State Park by Curtis H. Veeder, a great love of nature – 1944.” One of the lesser known facts about Penwood, which gets its name because “Veeder” is the Dutch word for “pen,” is that Veeder’s cabin on the mountain was the safe-house for the Governor of Connecticut during World War II. The cabin burned down in 1992 but Veeder’s barn remains and serves as the headquarters of the park. Located off State Route 185, the park is great for visiting in any season of the year.
With a population of just over 20,000 and an area of about 26 square miles, Bloomfield is an ideal day trip destination. Among the notable buildings in the town is the Old Farm Schoolhouse on Park Avenue, built in 1795. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, it is home to the Wintonbury Historical Society. Another special place is the Auerfarm Educational Center on Auer Farm Road, an interactive agricultural location. The sounds of different drummers echo through Bloomfield with a message of welcome for visitors!