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New Fairfield 1916 – one hundred years ago, a century ago, a long time ago!
February 5, 2017
What was New Fairfield like then? First, a little trivia about 1916.
Woodrow Wilson was re-elected President of the USA on November 7, 1916.
Boys Scouts of America was formed on June 15, 1916.
John D. Rockefeller became the first billionaire of the United States.
President Wilson signs the Emergency Revenue Act, doubling the rate of income tax and adding inheritance and munitions profit tax.
World War 1, also known as the “Great War”, began in 1914 and did not end until November 1918.
New Fairfield lost one of its sons in this war. George A. Fairchild, PFC U.S.Army was killed in action on April 20, 1918.
A 1916 Maxwell automobile could be purchased for $655.
What was happening in New Fairfield?
New Fairfield was a farming community, primarily dairy farms. There was still some small industry in the center of town such as a wagon factory, small shops related to the hat industry of Danbury, a chair factory and possibly several others. There were two or three small stores, but a trip to Danbury would be needed for most necessities. Much of the food for the winter months was canned, salted or cured. Most houses had a cold dirt floor cellar which would keep many root vegetables, apples and even butter useable through most of the winter.
Diseases like measles, chicken pox and scarlet fever reached epidemic proportions and sometimes claimed lives. A few of the doctors in Danbury would come to town for extreme health related issues.
Some of the mills were still operating, including saw mills and grist mills. During the winter months tremendous logs would be cut in the wood lots and dragged to the nearest saw mill. In the early 1900s lumber milled in town was used in the First Congregational Church in Danbury.
Since everyone burned wood, every family had a huge wood pile, some feeding two or three stoves in the house. Many farmers had a “wood lot” as their farm may have been cleared of trees. The New Fairfield Congregational Church had a wood lot located on Short Woods Road for many years. In the 1850 Methodist Church records it showed a cord of wood sold for 42 cents.
There were seven school districts in town, but at times one or two of them would be closed due to lack of students in that district.
A few families had a telephone as far back as 1907. This phone system required that five cents be placed in the phone box to get the operator.
It would be four years before electricity came to town.
Lake Candlewood and Margerie Reservoir had not been created.
The Board of Selectmen for the year 1916 included Henry Backer, James S. Whitehead and Arthur Chase.
Mr. Backer’s farm would be taken for the creation of Lake Candlewood and part of the property owned by Mr. Chase would be taken for the creation of Margerie Reservoir.
Just as we cannot even begin to think of what folks living in New Fairfield in the year 3016 will be doing neither could those living here in 1916. They would be amazed.
This photo taken in 1941 shows Arthur Chase (smoking the pipe) and his father-in-law, Byron Foster cutting firewood. Mr. Chase was Selectman in 1916. His farm was located at the intersection of Routes 37 and 39. It is now the home of the New Fairfield Shopping Center. (photo courtesy of the New Fairfield Historical Society)