began as part of the Township of Sangerfield in what was then Herkimer
County. The Town of Bridgewater was taken from Sangerfield
in 1797. Community life had begun, as the Masonic Lodge was in being
by that time and in 1798 the Congregational Church was organized.
of the Utica to New Berlin plank road made a four-way point at
the center of the village where today’s Route 20 intersects
Route 8. It became a stage coach station with several inns, blacksmith
shops, sawmills, stores, and small industries. The roads permitted
the shipment of grain, hides, pork, and whiskey. Large droves of
cattle and hogs passed through on their way to Utica and Albany.
high water mark of the town was in the 1830s, with a population of
more than 1600. A decline set in with the opening of the
Erie and other canals. This decline was increased later by the
The spread of manufacturing in factories gradually led to the disappearance
of many craft shops. By the outbreak of the Civil War the area’s
population was down to 1258.
The Civil War period was a trying one, as the township furnished
at least 100 men for the Union forces, of whom 13 or more lost their
while in service. The townspeople were involved in
the national issues, particularly slavery. There was a station on
railroad” run by Dr. Trowbridge in the village.
Soon thereafter the town had a railroad built through it to
Richfield Springs. To facilitate the project the locality sold $50,000 worth
of bonds. This railroad became part of the Delaware, Lackawanna and
Western system. Another railroad was completed from here to New Berlin
in 1893, known as the Unadilla Valley Railroad.
has always been the life of the town and has taken several overlapping
forms. In the early years some grain was converted into
whiskey and some into food for hogs and cattle. Sheep raising soon
was quite prevalent. Beginning in the early 1800s and steadily growing
was the hop-raising industry. Dairy stock became more numerous by 1850,
with butter and cheese for market. This led to cheese factories.
The social life of the town was lively, with plenty of music, dancing,
and sports. For many years the town fielded good baseball teams, beginning
in early 1880. There was a band also.
World War I failed to change the town much. World War II followed,
with approximately 125 area persons seeing military service. Three
young men did not return. Quite a few were in service in Korea, one
of whom was killed in action.
the years the numerous district schools consolidated. In the 1890s
the Bridgewater Union School, later known as the high school,
came into being. In 1929 a central school district was established
and a new school built. It was dedicated in 1932. It was taken into
the Mount Markham District in 1969. The building is now a grade school
in the larger district.
The need for fire protection led in 1914 to the formation of a local
fire company. This organization, beginning with little equipment, has
steadily grown to become a well equipped force, capable of protecting
Within the last 25 years considerable but not generally recognized
changes have come upon the townspeople. The widespread practice in
the past of many family-sized dairy farms has largely disappeared.
A small number of larger farms operate instead. Large area s of former
dairy farms have gone into comparatively few enterprises devoted
to crop farming such as grains, beans and potatoes on a large scale.
Beginning about 1965 the generally stable population of the
area began to increase. From a figure of roughly 800, which it had been for many
years, by 1973 the population increased to about 1260. The reason for
this was the appearance of mobile homes here in the early 1960s.
Bridgewater today remains mostly agricultural. It has some of the
most fertile flat lands around. The village has raised many of the
old abandoned and fire damaged buildings and they are now being replace
with profitable business. The town population is at a slow but steady
growth. The Bridgewater Historical Society was formed in 1992 with
the interest centered on gathering and preserving the towns history.