By Edward T. Howe
Bridgeport, by a special act of the General Assembly in October 1800,
became the first borough created in Connecticut. Prior to that it was part of the town of Stratford in southwestern Connecticut.
On land originally occupied by the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe, European settlement began along the Pequonnock River in the 17th century. There the English formed a farming and fishing community that subsequently evolved into two villages–Newfield and Stratfield. By the mid-18th century Newfield had become a prosperous manufacturing and trading port.
Bridgeport Becomes Connecticut’s First Borough
In 1798 the General Assembly formally recognized the Village of Newfield allowing it to create a much-needed fire company. Two years later the General Assembly incorporated Newfield as the Borough of Bridgeport. Those residing in the borough, as dual residents of the borough and town, paid taxes to both jurisdictions.
Through the act of incorporation, the borough specifically had the right to: elect a warden (chief executive, six burgesses, a clerk, a treasurer, and bailiff); sue and be sued; purchase, hold, and convey real and personal property; make by-laws (e.g., regarding markets, highways, streets, vessels, and animals); create a fire department; and levy taxes on polls and ratable estates.
In 1821 the General Assembly incorporated the Town of Bridgeport that contained both the village of Stratfield and the borough of Bridgeport. The petition came from conservative Stratford inhabitants who feared the increasing power of the borough to dominate town affairs. Finally, responding to the increasing desire of town residents, the General Assembly created the City of Bridgeport in 1836. The incorporation of the city meant an end for the borough of Bridgeport.
Edward T. Howe, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics Emeritus at Siena College at Albany, New York.