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March 13, 2014

Fairfield, CT 375th Anniversary- Elizabeth Schenck's great History of Fairfield



 Preserver of History


Elizabeth Hubbell Schenck, born in Southport in 1832  could trace her family on both sides back to the town's settlement. The first Hubbell arrived in Fairfield in about 1663. Mrs. Schenck gave the town her monumental 1,000 page The History of Fairfield, that took more than over two decades to write.





My Vol. I as you can see is well used. It was the 1879 Centennial commemoration of the burning of Fairfield on July 7/8 1779, that inspired the citizens' interest in the history of the town and recollections of their colonial forefathers and mothers. Around that time Mrs. Schenck started writing a column called Centennial Reminiscenses of Fairfield, for the Replublican Standard, a Bridgeport newspaper. The following year the Library Association asked her to continue to write the history of the town. She responded: "Gentlemen: I accept your invitation with pleasure and if I don't accomplish all that may be expected of the historian on one of the most interesting towns in Connecticut, rest assure it will not be from any lack of diligence or research on my part. E.H. Schenck." 

She began this epic task which first requires research, then the writing, then editing,  then publishing when she was 47 years old. And when she finished Vol I, in 1889 that covered 1639-1700,  she was 67 years old, but  her eyes and health were failing. 

Vol I covers, Discovery and Settlement, Wars and Rumors of War, Progress of Fairfield, Interesting Decade, The Decade of the English Revolution, Churches and  Schools and Government. 






In the preface of Vol. II completed in 1904, Mrs. Schenck  was 72 years old and wrote,
"In presenting the second volume of the History of Fairfield to the public the author has labored under many disadvantages in delay from ill health for four or five years after publication of the first volume. The closely written State records have proved too severe a strain upon the eyes, the historian has hitherto largely depended on the published records by the last State librarian." Mrs. Schenck urged the State Legislature to set aside money for the publication and preservation of the State records. She said she regretted that she had to end compiling the history because of her age and the great strain upon her health. Therefore the history of Fairfield which she financed and published herself, ends in 1818. Vol II covered, War with the French and Indians, Church and State, Growth of Prosperty of Fairfield, War between England, France and Spain, French and English War in America, Seven Years' War, American Revolution, End of the Revolution and Freedom in America. In addition lists of names who served on various committees, military service records, genealogies, letters describing the burning of Fairfield, sections of diaries, marriages, births and baptism records etc. It's value is indeed a starting point of a study of Fairfield. Elizabeth Schenck, born in 1832 and died in 1911. She  began The Fairfield History when she years 47 years old and completed it in 1904 when she was 72 years old and she died seven years later. We owe her a great deal  of thanks and a tribute for this work that has helped many historians since to partially fill in  those years between 1818 and today but it has never been done in such detail.The next topic, The Historian, Teacher and Principal: Elizabeth V. H. Banks. 









Other books about Fairfield
Elizabeth Banks - This is Fairfield - 1639 - 1940, More About the Hill
Greenfield Hill and Greens Farms Connecticut, by George Penfield Jennings
Biography of a Community 1639-1989 by Thomas J. Farnham
Naval History opt Fairfield County Men in the Revolution, by Elsie N. Danenberg
Black Rock, Seaport of Old Fairfield Connecticut 1644-1870, by Cornelia Penfield Lathrop
Images of America-Fairfield Connecticut, by Barbara E. Austen, Barbara D. Bryan






Sources: The Two Elizabeths by Marcia Miner-Fairfield Citizen-New March 1996
           The History of the Hubbell Family by Walter Hubbell
           Fairfield Museum and History Center file on Elizabeth Hubbell