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Brookfield History

brookfield history

Wisconsin history is a tapestry of hearty pioneers who created a land of unparalleled opportunity for future generations, and Brookfield’s own past reflects a progressive spirit and enduring idealism. Centuries ago, French explorers opened European eyes to Wisconsin’s rich potential, and an indelible French cultural imprint was left on the region. However, French influence in the region waned after 1763 when Britain gained rights to the territory following the French and Indian Wars. English interest in the land was purely speculative at this time, and the crown relinquished this “Northwest Territory” to the United States following the American Revolution. Early 19th century settlements stabilized the region, and the area that would one day become Brookfield became part of Milwaukee County in the Territory of Wisconsin in 1836.

Brookfield’s earliest recorded settler, William Howe, claimed the land in 1820.

Further settlement in the area followed, with farmers staking their claim to the region’s rich, black soil. The town began to take shape one parcel at a time. A tavern and inn were built in 1836, and Brookfield’s first schoolhouse had been built by 1840.

The division of Milwaukee County in 1846 created Waukesha County, which contained 16 townships – including the Town of Brookfield. Brookfield covered 36 square miles and had 1,944 inhabitants by 1850, when the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad (now the Canadian Pacific Railway) built a railroad here. Erecting a depot in 1853, the railroad created the Brookfield Junction, which served as a commercial and social center for the surrounding farms. The town retained its agricultural character during the succeeding decades, and the first suburban development (Kinsey’s Garvendale) wasn’t built until the 1920s.

The baby boom that followed World War II hit the area, and residents who sought to retain Brookfield’s unique character began an incorporation drive. Their dreams reached fruition when the City of Brookfield was incorporated in 1954. While agriculture still dominated land use, the city’s founders planned the orderly development of commerce and industry. Their vision has paid dividends many times over, and Brookfield’s residents thrive in one of southeastern Wisconsin’s most commercially diverse communities.

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