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Deerfield Town

Deerfield Town Hall is located at 8 Conway Street, South Deerfield, MA 01373; phone: 413-665-2130.

Deerfield as described in 1937 [1]

The Town of Dedham having been awarded a grant of land in 1663, the site of Deerfield was 'laid out' in the Pocumtuck country just west of the Connecticut River in 1665. Not a single Dedham man settled there until 1669, when Samuel Hinsdell of Dedham, a squatter, began the cultivation of the fertile soil, where the Pocumtucks had grown their corn and pumpkins and tobacco; and by 1672 Samson Frary and others had joined him. After two expeditions to Boston, Hinsdell got the consent of the General Court to form a township.

A minister was procured and the little town began to thrive. In 1673 it had twenty families, and two years later its population numbered 125. But seeming peace and prosperity were to prove only an illusion: with the outbreak of King Philip's War began the interminable series of Indian and French attacks on Deerfield which for thirty years kept its inhabitants in constant terror. The two most famous of these the — Bloody Brook massacre of 1675 and the great Deerfield raid of 1704 — practically emptied the town: the first, in fact, wholly, and the second of all save its garrison. In 1675 the garrison was withdrawn, the families were scattered among the towns lower in the valley, and for seven years Deerfield's houses were empty.

Not to be discouraged, the survivors in 1678 presented a petition to the General Court asking leave to return. They had their way, the town was re-established in 1682, and in 1686 was held its first town meeting. John Williams, destined to become Deerfield's most famous citizen, came to take over the church in the same year, induced by the handsome offer of 'sixteen cow-commons of meadow-land,' a 'homelott,' and a house 'forty-two foot long, twenty foot wide, with a lentoo.' Of Williams's part in the great raid of 1704, during Queen Anne's War, when half the town was burned, 49 inhabitants killed, and Williams himself with no others taken captive to Canada, it is sufficient here to say that Williams's own account of it in The Redeemed Captive remains the best.

With its slow rehabilitation after the great raid, Deerfield had really ended its active life, and began to become the long reminiscence which it seems destined to be. Agriculturally, its importance died with the opening of the West, though it still grows its tobacco and cucumbers; a development of handicrafts late in the eighteenth century was of short duration; and a revival of them again in the early part of the present century — needlework, hand-weaving, basket-making — is only now (1937) making headway. Actually, the town's chief industry is its schools. Deerfield Academy is one of the oldest boarding schools in the country: this and Eaglebrook, a preparatory school for boys, and Bement, co-educational, add about five hundred to the town's population.

  1. Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for Massachusetts, Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People, American Guide Series, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1937.
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