The History Work Group

The current History Work Group consists of dedicated professional and avocational historians, archaeologists and teachers who are delving into numerous topics related to Deerfield’s history, which extends back some 11,000 years.  Indigenous Peoples/Native Americans left evidence of their early visits and long-term residence across Deerfield’s landscape; early English settlement began in 1673; settlers from other European countries followed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The geography of Deerfield has also changed, as Conway, Ashfield, Greenfield and Gill were all spun off as daughter towns.

We intend a deep dive into the town’s history to explore and document elements of the town’s past that have been detailed in earlier studies, but more importantly, perhaps discover and record aspects of our history that have been forgotten, overlooked, or intentionally omitted.  Deerfield’s town and church records contain an enormous amount of information about its growth and development and the townsfolk at large. 
 

Digitizing Records

To make these data available for our 350th anniversary and the scholarship which we hope will emerge, members of the History Work Group have spent the past several years digitizing over 6,000 pages of town and church records.  These documents will play a key role in helping us to understand Deerfield’s past, and perhaps to set new goals for the future.  The following records have been

digitized and are available for study:

  • Town meeting records (1680-1868), 4 volumes, 824 pp
     

  • Proprietors’ land records (1721-1799 – transcribed in 1869), 263 pp
     

  • Proprietors’ meeting records (1699-1799), 238 pp
     

  • Selectmen’s records (1817-1883), 2 volumes, 622 pp
     

  • Tax evaluations (1770-1836) - yearly for State, Town, Ministerial and Road taxes, 1,128 pp
     

  • Deerfield – Civil War participants (267 individuals) – many were wounded, killed

      or died in the Confederacy’s prison camp at Andersonville.
 

  • Deerfield census data: 1790-1840
     

  • Surveys of 251 town roads
     

  • Records of the South Deerfield Congregational Church (1818-1949), 7 volumes, 1,441 pp.
     

  • For comparative purposes, roughly 1,000 pages of early town meeting records from Conway and Hatfield, and early church records from Hatfield, Sunderland and Whately have been photographed.

Topics under Current Study

Numerous avenues of study are available.  The History Work Group hopes to relate a great deal of what we discover through this web page, video broadcasts, during presentations sponsored by local organizations in multiple localities throughout town, and at larger conferences hosted by Historic Deerfield and the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA).  Some materials may be presented during poster sessions and through one or more publications.

The following are some of the topics currently being researched:
 

  • 11,000 years of Indigenous Peoples/Native American occupation in the Connecticut and Deerfield River valleys;
     

  • The environmental/geological evolution of Deerfield’s landscape;
     

  • The Native American community at Pocumtuck and surrounding region during the seventeenth century;
     

  • The Dedham grant, the Praying Indian town of Natick and early English settlement of the town;
     

  • King Philip’s War in the Connecticut Valley

    • Bloody Brook monument and the question of memory
       

  • Evolution of Deerfield’s paths and trails and the road-bridge-ferry system that emerged;
     

  • Early turpentine industry and its role in the maritime economy of the Massachusetts Bay Colony;
     

  • The growth of industry along the Green River and its local, national and international significance (Visit the Museum of Our Industrial Heritage in Greenfield).
     

  • The settlement of “Bloody Brook” or “South Deerfield” beginning in 1749, and other areas beyond Old Deerfield Village;
     

  • History of the South Deerfield Congregational Church and its social and legal functions within the village;
     

  • Three centuries of schooling;
     

  • Deerfield’s strategies for treating the Poor (establishing residence, warning out, the work house, etc.);
     

  • Politics in Deerfield: local, state and national elections;
     

  • Deerfield residents, abolition and “Bloody Kansas";
     

  • Participation in the Revolutionary War, Shay’s Rebellion, Mexican-American War, and Civil War.

If you would like to conduct your own explorations and share your research with others during our 350th anniversary in 2023, we would welcome your participation. Contact us here