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OLD POCUMTUCK VALLEY
BY GEORGE SHELDON
TO every one familiar with the history of the old Bay State, the name of Deerfield naturally brings to mind two diverse pictures: one, the giant trees of the primeval forest under whose sombre shade the white-haired Eliot prayed, and the sluggish stream beside whose banks he gathered its roving denizens for a test of civilization; the other, that scene of woe and desolation, when, under a wintry sky, the glare of burning houses lighted up a wide expanse of snow, shaded by dark columns of wavering smoke, and splashed here and there with red. The first picture suggests possibilities, the second results. The connecting link between the two is the fact that out of the labors of Eliot on the river Charles grew directly the settlement of the English on the Pocumtuck.
Back of all was the interest in the newly discovered heathen, which sent currents of gold from England across the seas to the Indian missions. Of all these that of the Apostle Eliot was the head and front. His first attempt, at Newton, was a failure, from its proximity to a Christian town. On his petition, the General Court granted him a tract in the wilderness where he and the uncontaminated native could come face to face with the God of Nature. This tract was claimed by the town of Dedham, and, after a successful legal contest, the General Court gave the claimant in lieu of it the right to select eight thousand acres in any unoccupied part of the colony. After wide search this grant was laid out on Pocumtuck River, and the selection was ratified by the Court, October 11, 1665.
power, however, was only leave to purchase of the native owners. The
laws recognized the rights of the Indians to the soil, and no
Englishman was allowed to buy or even receive as a gift any land from
an Indian without leave of the General Court. The oft-repeated
slander that the fair purchase of land from the Indians was peculiar
to William Penn, can be refuted in general by a study of our early
statute books, and in particular by an examination of the original
deeds from the Indians, now in our Memorial Hall.
OLD DEERFIELD STREET, 1671-1898
It will be seen by these deeds that the Indians reserved the right of hunting, fishing and gathering nuts all, in fact, that was of any real value to them. The critic says that in such trades the price was nominal and that the Indian was outrageously cheated. Fortunately, in this case existing evidence proves that Dedham paid the natives more than the English market price, in hard cash, and besides gave one acre at Natick for every four here.
The money to pay for the eight thousand acres was raised by a tax on the landholders of Dedham, the owners paying in proportion to the number of shares or "cow commons" held; and their ownership of the new territory was in the same proportion. There were five hundred and twenty-two shares in all, held in common, covering the whole of Dedham.
In 1671 a committee from Dedham laid out highways, set apart tracts for the support of the ministry, laid out a "Town Plott," and large sections of plow-land and of mow-land.
In each of these sections individuals were assigned by lot their respective number of cow commons. Later the woodlands were divided in the same manner. For generations this land was bought and sold, not by the acre, but by the cow common, fractions thereof being sheep or goat commons, five of these being a unit.
The "Town Plott," laid out in 1671, is the Old Deerfield Street of to-day.
The first settlers at Pocumtuck were not, as generally supposed, the original Dedham owners. The shares of the latter had been for years on the market, and many had passed to outsiders. But only picked men were allowed to become proprietors. This fact is illustrated by votes like the following:
"Dec. 4, 1671. John Plimpton is allowed to purchase land of John Bacon at Pawcumtucke provided that the said John Plimpton doe settle thereupon in his owne person." On the same day the request of Daniel Weld for leave to purchase was refused. No reason was assigned, and Mr. Weld was admitted soon after.
16, 1671-2. Lieft. Fisher is alowed libertie to sell 6 cow common
rights and one sheepe common right at Paucomtuck to Nathaniel
Suttlife of Medfield."
FRARY HOUSE, 1698
Oldest in the county
The pioneer settler here was Samuel Hinsdell, of Medford. He had bought shares, and, impatient of delay in making the division, he became a squatter, and in 1669 turned the first furrow in the virgin soil of Pocumtuck. Samson Frary was a close second, if not a contemporary; "Samson Frary's cellar" is mentioned in the report of the Committee, May, 1671.
The settlers increased rapidly. May 7, 1673, the General Court gave them "Liberty of a Towneship," which is Deerfield's only "Act of Incorporation." Soon after, a rude meeting-house was built, and Samuel Mather served as a minister among them.
loose sheet of paper has been found dated Nov. 7, 1673, with a record
of a town-meeting. This was signed by the following, who must be
called the earliest settlers:
The action of this meeting was chiefly on the division of land, but it was voted that "all charges respecting the ministers sallerye or maintenance bee leuied and raised on lands for the present." Another page shows a meeting November 17, 1674, when the plantation was called Deerfield. We have no clue as to why or by what authority it was so called.
The newcomers found the meadows free from trees, with a rich soil which soon yielded abundantly of wheat, rye, peas, oats, beans, flax, grass and Indian corn. The meadows were enclosed with a common fence to keep out the common stock, which roamed at will on the common land outside.
The war of 1675 is called "Philip's War" because Philip was able to incite the tribes to hostilities against the whites, rather than because it was carried on under his direction. A seer and a patriot Philip may have been, but he was not a warrior. It is not known that he was ever in a single conflict.
When the first blood was shed at far-away Swanzey, in June, 1675, the men of Pocumtuck were not disquieted. With the Indians about them they had lived for years in perfect harmony. But when the blow fell on Captains Beers and Lothrop under the shadow of their own Wequamps, war became a reality. As a measure of defense two or three houses were slightly fortified, and none too soon. The village was marked for destruction. On the morning of September, 1, 1675, the Indians gathered in the adjoining woods, awaiting the hour when the men, scattered about the meadows at their work could be shot down one by one, leaving the women and children to the mercy of the Indians. This plan was frustrated. The Indians were discovered early in the morning by James Eggleston, while looking for his horse. Eggleston was shot and the alarm given. The people fled to the forts. These were easily defended by the men, but beyond the range of their muskets ruin and devastation held sway.
Deerfield was the first town in the Connecticut Valley to be assaulted, and the alarm was general. The news reached Hadley the same day while the inhabitants were gathered in the meeting-house observing a fast; "and," says Mather, "they were driven from the holy service they were attending by a most sudden and violent alarm which routed them the whole day after." Their alarm and rout were needless; no enemy appeared. Yet these words of the historian are the narrow foundation on which Stiles and others gradually built up the romantic myth of Goffe, as the guardian and deliverer of Hadley.
September 2, the tactics at Deerfield were successfully repeated by the Indians at Northfield. Eight men were killed in the meadows, but enough were left in the village to hold the stockade. September 4, Captain Richard Beers with his company who were marching to their relief, were surprised, and himself and twenty men were slain. September 5, Major Robert Treat, with a superior force, brought off the beleaguered survivors.
Sunday, September 12, another blow fell upon Deerfield. The place had now a garrison under Captain Samuel Appleton. The Indians could see from the hills the soldiers gathering in one of the forts for public worship. They laid an ambush to waylay the soldiers and people returning after service to the north fort, but all escaped their fire save one, who was wounded. Nathaniel Cornbury, left to sentinel the north fort, was captured, and never again heard from. Appleton rallied his men, and the marauders, after inflicting much loss on the settlers, drew off to Pine Hill.
But a sadder blow was to fall upon the dwellers in this little vale. The accumulated result of their industry and toil was to disappear in flame and ashes. In their wanton destruction the Indians had spared the wheat in the field for their own future supply; "3000 bushels standing in stacks," says Mather. This wheat was needed at headquarters to feed the gathering troops, and Colonel Pynchon, the Commander-in-Chief, gave orders to have it threshed and sent to Hadley. Captain Thomas Lothrop, with his company, was sent to convoy the teams transporting it.
September 18, 1675, "that most fatal day, the saddest that ever befel New England," says a contemporary, "Captain Lothrop, with his choice company of young men, the very flower of the county of Essex," marched boldly down the street, across South Meadows, up Long Hill, into the woods stretching away to Hatfield Meadows. Confident in his strength, scorning the enemy, Captain Lothrop pushed on through the narrow path, with not a flanker or vanguard thrown out. Extending along his left lay a swampy thicket through which crept a nameless brook. Gradually, the swamp narrowed, and turned to the right across the line of march. At this spot the combined force of the enemy lay in ambush, and into this trap marched Lothrop and his men. While the teams were slowly dragging their loads through the mire, it is said the soldiers laid down their guns to pluck and eat the grapes which grew in abundance by the way. Be this true or not, at this spot they were surprised and stunned by the fierce war-whoop, the flash and roar of muskets with their bolts of death. Captain Lothrop and many of his command fell at the first fire. The men of Pocumtuck sank, the "Flower of Essex" wilted before the blast, and,
"Sanguinetto tells ye where the dead
Made the earth wet, and turn'd the unwilling waters red."
The sluggish stream was baptized for aye, "Bloody Brook."
Captain Samuel Moseley, who was searching the woods for Indians, hearing the firing, was soon on the ground. Too late to save, he did his best to avenge; he charged repeatedly, scattering the enemy, who swarmed as often as dispersed. But he defied all their efforts to surround him. His men exhausted with their long efforts, Moseley was about to retire, when just in the nick of time Major Treat appeared, with a force of English and Mohegans. The enemy were driven westward and were pursued until nightfall. The united force then marched to Deerfield, bearing wounded, and leaving the dead where they fell.
Mather says, "this was a black and fatal day wherein there was eight persons made widows and six and twenty children made orphans, all in one little Plantation." That plantation was Deerfield, and these were the heavy tidings which the worn-out soldiers carried to the stricken survivors of the hamlet. Of the seventeen fathers and brothers who left them in the morning, not one returned to tell the tale. The next morning, Treat and Moseley marched to Bloody Brook and buried the slain—"64 men in one dreadful grave." The names of sixty-three are known, and also of seven wounded. John Stebbins, ancestor of the Deerfield tribe of that name, is the only man in Lothrop's command known to have escaped unhurt.
The reported force of the enemy was a thousand warriors, and their loss ninety-six. This must be taken with a grain of allowance.
Deerfield was now considered untenable, and the poor remnant of her people were scattered in the towns below.
October 5, Springfield was attacked. The Indians laid the same plan as at Deerfield and Northfield. Only notice given by a friendly Indian during the night before saved the town from total destruction. The assailants were Indians who had lived for generations neighbors and friends of the Springfield people. On the 4th they had made earnest protestations of friendship, on the strength of which the garrison had marched to Hadley. This deliberate treachery was probably planned by Philip.
October 19, a large party made an attack on Hatfield, but was repulsed.
As the spring of 1676 advanced, a large body of Indians collected at Peskeompskut for the purpose of catching a year's stock of shad and salmon. Parties from thence occasionally harassed the settlers below, who knew that when the fishing season was over, the enemy would constantly infest the valley, and watch every chance to kill the unprotected. They therefore determined to take the initiative, and at nightfall of May i8, a party of about a hundred and fifty men under Captain William Turner made a night march, surprised the camp at daylight the next morning and destroyed many of the enemy.
The homeward march was delayed so long that Indians from neighboring camps began to appear. A released captive reported that Philip with a thousand warriors was at hand, and as the enemy swarmed on rear and flank, the retreat became almost a panic. The straggling and the wounded were cut off. Captain Turner was shot while crossing Green River, about a mile from the battle-field, and the party, under Captain Samuel Holyoke, reached Hatfield with the loss of forty-two men.
The warring Indians never recovered from the blow at Peskeompskut. Besides their slain, they lost their year's stock of fish, and the hundreds of acres of Indian corn they had planted with the assurance of a permanent abode in that region. The broken, disheartened clans drifted aimlessly eastward. They quarrelled among themselves. Philip, with a few followers, skulked back to Pokanoket, where he fell, August 12, 1676. The war ended soon after.
In the spring of 1677, some of the old settlers came back and planted their deserted fields; preparations for building were well advanced by some of the more venturesome, when, September 19, they were surprised by Ashpelon with a party of Indians from Canada, and all were either killed or captured.
In 1679 the General Court passed an act regulating the resettlement of deserted towns, requiring the consent of certain authorities who should prescribe
"In what form, way & manner, such townes shallbe settled & erected, wherein they are required to haue a principal respect to neerness and conveniency of habitation for securitie against enemyes & more comfort for Xtian comunion & enjoyment of God's worship & education of children in schools & civility."
By virtue of this act a committee was appointed under whose direction a resettlement of the town began in the spring of 1682. Induced by grants of land, new settlers appeared, and the plantation progressed rapidly. In 1686, sixty Proprietors are named. This year, young John Williams appears on the scene as candidate for the ministry; and, September 21, he received a "call." He was married July 20, 1687, to Eunice, daughter of Rev. Eleazer Mather, of Northampton. October 18, 1688, he was ordained, and the First Church was organized.
second meeting-house was built in 1684, the third in 1695, the
fourth, a very elaborate one, in I 729, the fifth, the present brick
structure, in 1824, and it is still occupied by the First Church. In
all these, save the last, the worshippers were "seated" by
THIRD MEETING-HOUSE, 1695-1729
(Old Indian house on the right.)
In 1688, on the news of the Revolution in England, the seizure of Andros in Boston and the call for the election of representatives to organize a new government for the Colony, the men of Deerfield acted promptly. Lieutenant Thomas Wells, a commissioned officer under Andros, was selected to represent the town, and the selectmen sent to Boston a certificate to that effect. These men were fully aware that in the case of a failure of the movement, the vindictive Andros would wreak his vengeance upon all concerned. Shrewd men were at the fore, and Randolph himself might search the town records in vain for any trace of these proceedings or other treasonable action.
King William's War, the town was harassed by the enemy; drought and
insects ruined the crops, and a fatal distemper prevailed. There was
question of deserting the place, but bolder counsels controlled.
Baron Castine with an army from Canada attempted a surprise of the
town, September 15, 1694, but he was discovered just in time to close
the gates, and was driven back with small loss to the defenders.
Another army organized in Canada for the same purpose turned back on
being discovered by scouts. During this trial Deerfield suffered
great losses, but pluck carried her through.
PARSON WILLIAMS'S HOUSE
Built by the town, 1707—standing 1898
Queen Anne's War broke out in 1702. The population here was about three hundred souls. The fortifications on Meeting-house Hill were strengthened, and the house of the commander, Captain Wells, about forty rods south, was palisaded. In May, 1703, Lord Cornbury, Governor of New York, sent word that he had learned through his spies of an expedition fitting out against Deerfield. Soon after, Major Peter Schuyler sent a similar warning to Rev. John Williams. These warnings were emphasized in July by news that the Eastern Indians had made a simultaneous attack on all the settlements in Maine, only six weeks after signing a treaty of peace with the most solemn declarations of eternal friendship. Twenty soldiers were sent here to reinforce the home guard, and all were on the alert; two men, however, were captured October 8, and were carried to Canada. On the alarm which followed sixteen more men were sent here. October 21, Rev. John Williams writes, on behalf of the town, to Governor Dudley:
". . . We have been driven from our houses & home lots into the fort. (there are but to houselots in the fort); some a mile, some two miles, whereby we have suffered much loss. We have in the alarms several times been wholly taken off from any business, the whole town kept in, our children of 12 or 13 years and under we have been afraid to improve in the field for fear of the enemy. . . . We have been crowded togather into houses to the preventing of indoor affairs being carryd on to any advantage, . . . several say they would freely leave all they have & go away were it not that it would be disobedience to authority & a discouraging their bretheren. The frontier difficulties of a place so remote from others & so exposed as ours, are more than can be known, if not felt. . . ."
can add to this simple and pathetic statement.
DOOR OF "OLD INDIAN HOUSE" HACKED BY INDIANS
Now in Memorial Hall.
months dragged slowly on, and no enemy. The deep winter snows seemed
a safe barrier against invasion. The people, breathing more freely,
gradually resumed their wonted ways; but dark clouds loomed up, all
unseen, just beyond the northern horizon. In the early morning of
February 29, 1703-4, like a thunderbolt from a clear sky, an army of
French and Indians under Hertel de Rouville burst upon the sleeping
town, and killed or captured nearly all of the garrison and
inhabitants within the fort. Through criminal carelessness the snow
had been allowed to drift against the palisades, until, being covered
with a hard crust, it afforded an easy and noiseless entrance, so
that the enemy were dispersed among the houses before they were
TOMBSTONES OF REV. JOHN WILLIAMS AND HIS WIFE
The captives were collected in the house of Ensign John Sheldon, which, being fired by the enemy only on their retreat, was easily saved, and stood until 1848. It was popularly considered the only one not burned, and has gone into history as the "Old Indian House." Its front door, hacked by the Indians, is now preserved in Memorial Hall. By sunrise the torch and tomahawk had done their work. The blood of forty-nine murdered men, women and children reddened the snow. Twenty-nine men, twenty-four women and fifty-eight children were made captive, and in a few hours the spoil-encumbered enemy were on their three-hundred miles' march over the desolate snows to Canada. Twenty of the captives were murdered on the route, one of them Eunice Williams, wife of the minister. The spot where she fell is marked by a monument of enduring granite.
The desolated town was at once made a military post, and strongly garrisoned. Of the survivors, the men were impressed into the service, and the non-combatants sent to the towns below. Persistent efforts were made to recover the captives. Ensign Sheldon was sent three times to Canada on this errand. One by one, and against great odds, most of the surviving men and women were recovered; but a large proportion of the children remained in Canada. Many of their descendants have been traced by Miss Baker, author of True Stories of New England Captives, among them some of the most distinguished men and women of Canadian history.
The inhabitants of Deerfield gradually returned to their desolate hearthstones and abandoned fields, and held their own during the war, but not without severe suffering and a considerable loss of life. Peace was established by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
Nine years of quiet followed, in which the town prospered. The Indians mingled freely with the people, bartering the products of their hunting for English goods. A permanent peace was hoped for, but this hope was blasted on the outbreak of the Eastern Indians in 1722. Incited by the Canadians, the northern tribes joined in the war; and Father Rasle's war brought the usual frontier scenes of fire and carnage; the trading Indians being the most effective leaders or guides for marauding parties. Many Deerfield men were in the service, notably as scouts. Inured to hardship, skilled in woodcraft, they were more than a match for the savage in his own haunts and in his own methods of warfare.
1729, before the new meeting-house was finished, the people were
called to mourn the death of their loved and revered pastor, Rev.
John Williams, so widely known as "The Redeemed Captive."
His successor was Rev. Jonathan Ashley, who was ordained in 1732 and
died in 1780.
STEPHEN WILLIAMS, 1693-1782
A CAPTIVE OF FEBRUARY 29, 1703-4
Rev. Stephen Williams, a son of Rev. John Williams, the first pastor, was born in Deerfield in 1693, taken captive to Canada in 1704, redeemed in 1705, graduated at Harvard in 1713, settled as minister at Longmeadow in 1716, dying there in 1782; he was Chaplain in the Louisburg expedition in 1745, and in the regiment of Col. Ephraim Williams in his fatal campaign in 1755, and again in the Canadian campaign of 1756. His portrait, reproduced on page 428, was painted about 1748; it is now in the Memorial Hall of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, within fourscore rods of the spot where the original was born, and whence he was carried into captivity.
On the closing of Father Rasle's war the settlement expanded; trade and home manufactures flourished. Deerfield remained no longer the frontier town of the valley, and the brunt of the next border war (of 1743) was felt by the outlying settlements. The one sad blow upon this town fell at a little hamlet called The Bars. August 25, 1746, the families of Samuel Allen and John Amsden, while working in a hay-field on Stebbins Meadow, with a small guard, were surprised by a party of Indians from Canada, and five men were killed, one girl wounded and one boy captured. This followed close on the fall of Fort Massachusetts, and danger of French invasion was felt to be imminent. Active measures were taken for defense; the forts were repaired and the woods filled with scouts.
The closing war with France found Deerfield more strongly bulwarked, and still less exposed to attack. No blood was shed within her narrowed bounds. Her citizens held prominent positions, and did their part in the campaigns which resulted in the conquest of Canada and the consequent immunity from savage depredations. The nest destroyed, the sting of the hornets was no longer felt or feared. The last raid on Massachusetts soil is described in the following mutilated despatch to the military authorities in Deerfield:
"COLRAIN, March ye 21, 1759.
"SIR :—These are to inform you that yesterday as Joe McKoon [Kowen] & his wife were coming from Daniel Donitsons & had got so far as where Morrison's house was burned this day year, they was fired upon by the enemy about sunset. I have been down this morning on the spot and find no Blood Shed, but see where they led off Both the above mentioned; they had their little child with them. I believe they are gone home. I think their number small, for there was about 10 or 12 came [torn off]"
The most important civil events of this period were the divisions of the township. In 1753 the Green River District, which included what is now Greenfield and Gill, was made a distinct municipality. The next year the construction of a bridge over the Pocumtuck River at Cheapside was a prominent issue; the discussion ended in establishing a ferry at the north end of Pine Hill in 1758. That year the people in the vicinity of Sugar Loaf petitioned the General Court—but without success—for liberty to form a ministerial and educational connection with the town of Sunderland, and to be exempted from paying certain town taxes in consequence. In 1767 the inhabitants of Deerfield-Southwest were set off into a town named Conway; and Deerfield-Northwest became the town of Shelburne in 1768. The same year Bloody Brook people caught the division fever, but it did not carry them off.
A permanent peace being settled and an unstable currency fixed on a firm cash basis, business projects multiplied, and Deerfield became the centre of exchange and supply for a large territory. The mechanics, or "tradesmen" as they were called, and their apprentices, rivalled in numbers the agricultural population. Here were found the gunsmith, blacksmith, nailer and silversmith, the maker of snowshoes and moccasins, the tanner, currier, shoemaker and saddler, the pillion, knapsack and wallet-maker, the carpenter and joiner, the clapboard and shingle-maker, the makers of wooden shovels, corn-fans, flax-brakes, hackels, looms and spinning-wheels, cart-ropes and bed-lines, and pewter buttons, the tailor, hatter, furrier, feltmaker, barber and wigmaker, the cartwright, millwright, cabinet-maker, watchmaker, the brickmaker and mason, the miller, the carder, clothier, fuller, spinner, weaver of duck and common fabrics, the potter, the gravestone-cutter, the cooper, the potash-maker, the skilled forger who turned out loom and plow irons, farm and kitchen utensils. There were doctors and lawyers, the judge and the sheriff; storekeepers were many, and tavern-keepers galore. To all these the old account-books in Memorial Hall bear testimony.
Many leading men held commissions from the King in both civil and military service. These were rather a distinctive class, holding their heads quite high, and when the Revolution broke out they were generally loyal to the King, making heavy odds against the Whigs. But new leaders came to the front, who, so far as they had character and force, held their own after the war, and the old Tory leaders were relegated to the rear.
At the opening of the Revolutionary War the parties were nearly equal in numbers; on one yea and nay test vote there was a tie. Excitement ran high. In 1774 the "Sons of Liberty" erected a Liberty Pole, and at the same time a "Tory Pole," whatever that might be. The mob spirit was rampant. Through it the fires of patriotism found vent; but it was always under the control of the leaders, and its most common office was to "humble the Tories," and compel them to sign obnoxious declarations of neutrality, or of submission to the will of the Committees of Safety and Correspondence. A Tory of this period wrote: "Oh Tempora, all nature seems to be in confusion; every person in fear of what his Neighbor may do to him. Such times never was seen in New England."
In October, 1774, a company of minute-men was organized here as part of a regiment under the Provincial Congress. November 14, staff-officers were chosen. David Field, colonel, and David Dickinson, major, were both of Deerfield. December 5, the town raised money to buy ammunition by selling lumber from its woodland. January 5, 1775, an emissary from General Gage was here, advising the Tories to go to Boston. "The standard will be set up in March," he said, "and those who do not go in and lay down their arms may meet with bad luck." He was discovered, but had the good luck to escape a mob; another agent who came a few days later was not so fortunate.
But the culmination of all the secret machinations and open preparations was at hand. April 20, at a town-meeting, votes were passed to pay wages to the minute-men for what they had done; "to encourage them in perfecting themselves in the Military Art," provision was made for "practicing one half-day in each week."
The voters could hardly have left the meeting-house, when the sound of a galloping horse was heard, and the hoarse call, "To arms! To arms!" broke upon the air. The horse bloody with spurring and the rider covered with dust brought the news of Concord and Lexington. The half-day drills had done their work. Before the clock in the meeting-house steeple struck the midnight hour, fifty minute-men, under Captain Jonas Locke, Lieutenant Thomas Bardwell and Lieutenant Joseph Stebbins, were on the march to Cambridge. This company was soon broken up; Captain Locke entered the Commissary Department, while Lieutenant Stebbins enlisted a new company, with which he assisted General Putnam in constructing the redoubt on Bunker Hill, and in its defense the next day, the ever-glorious 17th of June. One Deerfield man was killed and several were wounded.
Independence Day should be celebrated, in Deerfield, June 26, for on that day in 1776 the town
"Voted that this Town will (if ye Honorable Congress shall for ye safety of ye United Colonies declare them INDEPENDENT of ye Kingdom of Great Britain) Solemnly Engage with their LIVES and FORTUNES to Support them in ye Measure, and that ye Clerk be directed to make an attested copy of this Vote and forward ye same to Mr. Saxton, Representative for this town, to be laid before the General Court for their Information."
Here was treason proclaimed and recorded, and every voter was exposed to its penalty. Ten days later the Continental Congress issued the world-stirring Declaration of Independence.
On Burgoyne's invasion in 1777 a company under Captain Joseph Stebbins and Lieutenant John Bardwell marched for Bennington. They were too late for the battle at Walloomsack, and found the meeting-house filled with Stark's Hessian prisoners. But they had their share in the work and glory of rounding up and capturing the proud soldiers of Burgoyne.
Deerfield had statesmen as well as soldiers. May 1, 1780, the town met to consider the new Constitution of Massachusetts; the clerk read the instrument "paragraph by paragraph with pauses between." After due discussion, a committee was chosen to " peruse the Constitution . . . and make such objections to it as they think ought to be made." Three town-meetings were held, the committee reported, and finally a vote was passed " not to accept the third Article in the Declaration of Rights," and that a candidate for governor must "Declare himself of the Protestant Religion" instead of "Christian Religion." The term of eight years instead of fifteen was voted as the time when the Constitution should be revised. With these changes, our civic wisdom approved of this important State paper.
did her full duty in furnishing her quota of men and supplies through
the war. Occasionally, in the later years of the struggle, the Tories
temporarily obstructed the necessary town legislation. Some of these
soon found themselves behind the bars, and others in enforced silence
under penalty of like restraint. The minister, Mr. Ashley, who had
been firm in his loyalty, died in 1780, and the Tories lost one of
their strongest supports. Not until 1787 could the town unite upon
his successor, when Rev. John Taylor was ordained. The uprising
called Shays' Rebellion did much to harmonize the warring factions,
as all united to put it down. Three companies, under Captains Joseph
Stebbins, Samuel Childs and Thomas W. Dickinson, were sent to the
field of action.
this time, harmony prevailed, and the career of the town was that of
an industrious, hard-working, prosperous, intellectual people.
Libraries and literary societies were established, which are still
flourishing. Deerfield Academy was founded in 1797, and endowed
largely through the liberality of the citizens. Its influence was
felt for generations, as its pupils from far and wide were scions of
leading families. Among its faculty and graduates may be named men of
national reputation, in the scientific, the historical, the
ecclesiastical, the military, the artistic and the industrial world.
BUFFET FROM "PARSON WILLIAMS'S" HOUSE
Now in Memorial Hall.
Failing health obliged Mr. Taylor to resign; and in 1807 the Rev. Samuel Willard succeeded him in the ministry, when, in the separation of the Congregational churches, Deerfield led the van on the liberal side.
The political storms of the first two decades of the century raged here with strength and vigor. In the War of 1812 a "Professor of the Art of War" was added to the faculty of the Deerfield Academy, and a Peace Party circulated their protesting publications.
Deerfield was early at the front in the antislavery agitation, and in the war lost some of her best blood. The names of her dead in that righteous war are carved on a fitting monument pointing aloft from the midst of her ancient training-field.
One great attraction in the old town is the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, chartered in 1870. It owns and occupies the old academy building, which it secured when the new Free Dickinson Academy was established in 1878. Its museum occupies the entire structure, and contains an exhaustive, characteristic collection of the implements, utensils and general household belongings of the colonial days; and also of the original lords of the valley, the Pocumtuck Indians.
In the ante-railroad days, Cheapside, at the head of Pocumtuck River navigation, was a thriving business village, with large imports of foreign wet and dry goods, and large exports of lumber, woodenware and brooms; Deerfield was long famous for its stall-fed beef, as many a New York and Boston epicure did testify; but the advent of the iron horse soon brought about the departure of the fall boat, and the passing of the stall-fed ox. The old town is no longer a centre of political power, or of trade and manufactures. The generous additions of territory to her original Grant have been bestowed upon the children of her loins, now flourishing towns about her. The advent of factories has absorbed one by one her multifarious mechanical industries. Her young men and maidens are seeking elsewhere spheres of action in fields till now undreamed of.
But Old Deerfield still retains much of her best. Still, as of old, she is an intellectual centre. Still beautifully situated, she lies in the embrace of the broad green meadows, with here and there a gleam of silver from the sinuous Pocumtuck. Her ancient houses, shadowed by towering elms, hoary with age, her charming wooded heights, her romantic gorges and tumbling brooks, her restful quiet, her famous past, all in harmony with the thought and feeling of her inhabitants, still attract alike men and women of letters, the artist and the historical student.