For two hundred and fifty years the Iroquois Confederacy dominated New York State. Originally a system of alliances formed by the visionary leader Hiawatha, the Confederacy encompassed five to seven tribes who agreed to defend their borders in common and live at peace with one another. The Confederacy was symbolized by the Tree of Peace planted at the Onondaga nation near Syracuse. Although the Iroquois had slavery and practiced torture of captives, the Confederacy was notable for its democratic system and the rights of women, two ideas which influenced early denizens of the United States.
Many of the Iroquois remained allies of the British, thus George Washington sent General John Sullivan on a scorched-earth campaign against the Iroquois in 1789, effectively wiping them out. The birthplace of Ta-Ga-Ju-Te (Chief Logan), a Cayuga ally of the United States, is marked at Jennings Pond on Bald Hill Road.
In the early 1790s, two gentlemen named John Watkins and Royal Flint purchased more than 300,000 acres at 75 cents per acre; their land included the present Town of Newfield.
Watkins and Flint sold pieces of their land to other speculators and over the years the parcels were subdivided into smaller and smaller tracts.
Newfield began to attract families of settlers in the early 1800s when the town was still part of the Town of Spencer in Tioga County. In 1811, it was cut from Spencer and named Cayuta; in 1822 it was renamed Newfield and joined with the other towns forming the newly created county of Tompkins.
The Newfield Covered Bridge is located in the very center of the hamlet and is the unofficial symbol of the town. The bridge is watched over by the Keepers of the Newfield Covered Bridge, a noncompensated position which is reappointed each year by the Tompkins County Board of Representatives. For all but three years since 1973, the official Keepers have been Grant and Marie Musser, a Lansing couple who are, without a doubt, the most knowledgeable individuals in Tompkins County on the subject of American covered bridges.
Newfield is governed by a five-member town board, which currently holds its regular meetings on the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the town hall. Town board meetings are open to the public and are required once per month by state law. The board members discuss and act upon the routine business of the town and reports are received from all town officers. Newfield also has a five-member planning board which is appointed by the town board. The planning helped draft and see passed the town’s first comprehensive plan in 2013.