Deerfield Massachusetts, 1890


Deerfield
is the oldest and one of the most fertile and beautiful towns of Franklin County. It lies on the west bank of the Connecticut River, and has Greenfield on the north, Montague and Sunderland on the east, Whately on the south, and Conway and Shelburne on the west. The assessed area is 20,483 acres; which includes 3,247 acres of woodland.

The surface of the town is beautifully varied, here spreading out into broad and verdant intervales, there rising into picturesque and rocky eminences, as Arthur's Seat in the northwest, the Deerfield Hills in the northeast, and in the southeast the conical mass of red sandstone named "Sugar Loaf," rising grandly from the Connecticut River to thc height of 500 feet. The summit of this mountain affords a splendid view of the valley of the Connecticut River and bordering villages. It is highly probable that this eminence, and Mount Toby on the opposite side, once formed a barrier to the waters of the river, and that a large lake then spread over the alluvial lands of Montague and Deerfield. Pocomtuck Rock, near the centre of the town, overlooking the village and the valley, is another picturesque object. The geological formation of this vicinity is the lower sandstone; and specimens of amethyst, carnelian, chalcedony, agate, stilbite and heulandite are found. In the easterly part of this town there is a trap-rock ledge of great extent.

While the broad and beautiful Connecticut River flows along the eastern border of the town, presenting scenes of remarkable richness and variety, the Deerfield River, entering the northwest corner, winds in graceful curves through the centre, and then, sweeping northward, receives the waters of Green River, and enters the Connecticut near the northeast angle of the town. Mill River passes through the southwest section, and receives from the base of Sugar-Loaf Hill the celebrated "Bloody Brook," which, with Sugar-Loaf Brook, drains the southern slope of the town. The base line of the Trigonometrical Survey of the State, 73,882 feet in length, commences at the former brook, extending on level ground southward nearly to the great swamp in Hatfield. The Connecticut River Railroad, running parallel with the river, divides the town into nearly equal sections, and crosses the Deerfield River by a bridge 750 feet in length, and 90 feet above the water. There are also three other long bridges, where the Fitchburg road and a branch cross this river and the Connecticut; two carriage bridges across the same river, and several across the Deerfield River, most of them of iron, and handsome structures. The Fitchburg Railroad follows the north bank of the Deerfield River through the town.

The principal manufactures of the town are cutlery and pocket-books; of the first of which, in 1885, the product had the value of about $125,000; and of the latter and similar goods about $85,000. There are also three mills making various lumber and boxes, one or more grain mills, and several small manufactures; the aggregate value of all for the year named being $278,347. Farming is the leading business of the town, and in this many have become wealthy. The farms number 313; and hay, dairy products, wool, hides and meats, and tobacco are the leading products. The last, in the year mentioned, reached the value of $61,233; and cereals, $35,595. The aggregate of farm products was $428,381. The valuation in 1888 was $1,235,204, with a tax-rate of $15.40 on $1,000. The population was 3,042 voters 749, sheltered in 637 dwelling-houses. There are fourteen public school-houses, having a value of about $10,000. The Deerfield Academy (which is also the Dickinson High School) has buildings valued at $25,000. The Dickinson Public Library has some 3,000 volumes, and the Pocomtuck Valley Memorial Association has upwards of 5,000, with a museum of aboriginal antiquities, in a suitable building. The churches here are a Trinitarian and a Unitarian Congregational, a Methodist Episcopal and a Roman Catholic.

The post-offices are Deerfield, and East, West and South Deerfield. Other villages bear the names of Cheapside, Great River, Green River, Hoosac, Mill and Bar Village, Mill River, Pine Nook, Sugar Loaf and Wapping. There are the usual social and civic associations.

Deerfield furnished for the grand army of the Republic in the late war 320 soldiers; and to perpetuate the memory of those who were lost, it has erected a beautiful monument of Portland sand-stone.

The Indian name of this place was Pocomtuck; and it was deeded by the Indians to John Pynchon, Esq., on the 24th of February, 1665. Four years later, the grant of the land was made by the General Court; and the town was incorporated May 24, 1682. It was a favorite resort of the Indians; and articles of their domestic and military life are frequently discovered. "I have on my own land," says Mr. George Sheldon, "the site of an Indian village; and I can locate some of the wigwams, and also a burial-place from which I have taken up many skeletons."

The Pocomtuck tribe and the early white settlers dwelt together in peace until the opening of Philip's War in 1675, when, the fidelity of the Indians being suspected, they were ordered to deliver up their arms. This they promised to do; but, on the night prior to the day appointed for the delivery, they secretly fled. Captains Beers and Lothrop, pursuing, made an attack August 26th, and killed 26 of them near the base of Sugar-Loaf Hill; the remainder fled to Philip. On the first of September following, the Indians came suddenly upon Deerfield, killed one person, and burned most of the buildings. Soon afterwards, Captain Lothrop, with 84 soldiers, called the "Flower of Essex County," guarding men and teams, went from Hadley to Deerfield to secure the grain left by the settlers in their flight. On returning, September 18th, his party was suddenly surrounded by 700 or 800 savages just as it was crossing Bloody Brook, at the south point of Sugar-Loaf Hill; and only seven or eight escaped to relate the story of the massacre. Captain Mosely, hearing the roar of the conflict, hurried on from Deerfield with his men as fast as possible; but the slaughter had been effected ere he reached the spot, and the Indians were engaged in mangling the bodies of the dead. He attacked them gallantly, and, after several hours of desperate fighting, caused them to retreat. The number of the enemy killed was 96. A marble monument was erected over the remains of Captain Lothrop and his men in 1838.

Long a frontier settlement, this place suffered more, perhaps, than any other town from Indian outrage and ferocity. In the night of February 29, 1704, Major Hertel de Rouville, with a force of 342 French and Indians, entered the fort which was a large enclosure, embracing the church and several dwelling-houses, and which had been left unguarded and massacred or took captive all whom they found. The number taken prisoners was 112; and 47 persons, old and young, were slain. A flag-ship sent from Boston to Quebec, in 1706, returned with the Rev. John Williams and 56 redeemed captives, among whom were four of his children. His other child, Eunice, grew up among the Indians, accepted one of them as her husband, and, with him, visited once or twice her early home in Massachusetts. From her was descended the Rev. Eleazer Williams, the pretended son of Louis XVI. of France,

Deerfield has given these distinguished men to the country : General Epaphras Hoyt (1765-1850), historian and antiquary; Edward Hitchcock, LL.D. (1793-1864), an eminent clergyman and geologist; Richard Hildreth (1807-1865), journalist and author; John Williams, D.D. (1817), P. E. bishop of Connecticut; Rufus Saxton (1824), brevet brigadier-general U. S. army, 1865.

pp. 269-271 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890

Gazetteer