The first tract of what was originally the Union State Forest was purchased for $3.57 an acre in 1905 making it the second oldest state forest. Then State Forester, Austin Hawes, wanted the second State Forest to be in the pine type, as Connecticut had to import most of its softwood lumber at the time.
The majority of the acreage came much later when was purchased in 1944 from the Quinebaug Forestry Company. The Wells family had started the Quinebaug Forestry Company to buy up woodlots and abandoned farmland to manage as forestland and use the pine to make shipping boxes for the American Optical Company. The company is also operated a sawmill in Sturbridge, Massachusetts and later became known for creating Old Sturbridge Village. The state ended up purchasing a total of 4,586 acres from the company. Bigelow Hollow State Park was part of Nipmuck State Forest was split out and designated a State Park in 1948.