HISTORY OF BETHEL, CONNECTICUT
Bethel covers 17 square miles of rolling hills in northern Fairfield County, 10 minutes from Danbury.
Bethel was a part of Danbury until 1855.
Around 1700 or earlier the first settlement of Bethel.
1730s or 1740s some of the earliest homes, such as the saltbox at 27 Grassy Plain Street and another at 63 Grassy Plain Street, were built around this time.
1759 church members such as Ebenezer Hickok, Lemuel Beebe, Isaac Hoyt, Thomas Starr, and Phineas Judd found it both difficult to travel to church in Danbury and when there, to get a seat. They petitioned the General Assembly to form two distinct ecclesiastical societies, the First and Second Congregational Societies, creating a new second parish in the eastern portion of Danbury. The new area was called Bethel (which means house of God).
1760 71 people were members of the church. Bethel ran most of its affairs through the church. (Bethel's first Congregational minister was Noah Wetmore)
1760 Captain Benjamin Hickock built the house at 245 Greenwood Avenue and used it as a tavern.
1775-1782 American Revolution.
1777 (April) the city's records were burned by the British in the British raid on Danbury..
Late 18th century to mid-20th century hat manufacturing was the basis of the town's economy.
Late 1700s P. T. Barnums grandfather built one of the town's earliest hotels, the Barnum Tavern. (It still stands.)
Late 1700s and early 1800s shoemaking was another important industry.
Early 19th century comb-making, primarily of cowhorn, was an important industry to the town.
1810 Phineas Taylor Barnum, the great circus showman, was born in Bethel and remained there until the winter of 1834-35. He lived at 55 Greenwood Avenue. He worked as a merchant in his dads general store. Later he ran his own fruit and confectionery store.
1819-1835 the Barnum Tavern run by P.T. Barnum's parents. It was later known as the Israel H. Wilson Hotel.
1820-1850 comb-making was at its peak. There were at least 20 factories devoted to comb-making in Bethel.
1820 Oliver Shepard, the first postmaster, appointed.
1830 Barnum built a house for his new bride, Charity Hullet at 44 Chestnut Street (still standing).
Winter of 1834-1835 Barnum leaves Bethel.
1842 the original part of the library built.
1842-1843 the Second Meeting House on Main Street built.
second half of the 19th Century tobacco for cigars was grown on farms in the Stony Hill and Plumtrees Districts. Bethel has also been home to factories producing silk, slippers, corsets, and bicycle seats.
1855 Bethel incorporated as a town independent of Danbury.
1860 the Bethel Opera House on Greenwood Avenue built by Augustus A. Fisher. It once served as a silent movie theater, the Barnum Theatre. It was known as Fisher's Hall, then Nichols' Opera House.
1861 the United Methodist Church structure (the oldest church building in Bethel) built.
1861-1865 the Civil War.
1865 the Second Meeting House building ceased being used as a house of worship. (It was moved and now is home to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Bethel Historical Society.)
1867 the third First Congregational Church of Bethel on Main Street built.
Circa 1867 building of the Plumtrees School (which still exists at the corner of Plumtrees and Taylor Roads).
1879 the town created its own water supply from the Eureka Reservoir.
Late 1880s electricity became available.
1881 P. T. Barnum donated a 18-foot high bronze Triton fountain to the town.
1883 St. Mary Church on Greenwood Avenue built.
1891 two years before his death, Barnum visited Bethel for the last time.
1892 dedication of a memorial statue to the those Bethelites who died in the Civil War. The statue is at Center Cemetery on South Street.
1909 Maria Parloa gave the town $2,000 dollars to start a library.
1909 the St. Thomas Episcopal Church built.
1914 the Seelye family donated the current library building.
1924 the P.T. Barnum Triton fountain having froze and cracked, was disassembled and hauled away.
1928 the old P.T. Barnum Triton fountain was replaced by the Doughboy statue, sculpted by E.M. Viquesney of Spencer, Ind.
1930s & 1940s the Bethel Opera House was called Leeja Hall and was used for town meetings as well as a high school gym. It now houses a restaurant, shops and White Light Studio.
1932 the first vodka distillery in the U.S. opened in Bethel. Rudolph Kunett produced the first bottle of Smirnoff vodka. He had purchased the Smirnoff family's secret vodka recipe.
1939 Mr. Kunett sold his distillery to Heublein Inc.
1950 to1960 the town's population was 8,200.
early 1960s Interstate 84 constructed.
By 1968 the last working hat factory had closed.
1970s & 1980s two industrial parks, Berkshire Corporate Park and the Francis J. Clark Industrial Park, constructed.
1986 the Bethel Historical Society and the Connecticut Historical Society made an historic survey of 85 sites in the downtown area.
1993 Patrick Wild appointed the town's first historian.
The Bethel Answer Book http://www.munic.state.ct.us/BETHEL/histo.htm
Bethel Chamber of Commerce http://www.bethelchamber.com/townhistorygovernment.html
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