Deerfield MA


Deerfield is a town in Franklin County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 4,750 at the 2000 census. Located in Western Massachusetts, it includes the village of South Deerfield. The town is home to Deerfield Academy, a private college preparatory school.

History

At the time of the Europeans’ arrival, Deerfield was inhabited by the Pocumtuck nation. First settled by european colonists in 1673, Deerfield was incorporated in 1677. Settlement was the result of a court case in which the government in Boston agreed to return some of the land of the town of Dedham to native control, and allowed some of Dedham’s residents to acquire land in the new township of Pocumtuck. To obtain this land, their agent, John Pynchon, signed a treaty with some Pocumtucks, including one named Chaulk — who had no authority to deed over the land, and only a rough idea of what he was signing. The settlers then expelled by force the Pocumtuck tribe, who would seek French protection. At Bloody Brook, on 18 September 1675, the dispossessed Indians would destroy a small force under the command of Captain Thomas Lathrop, before being driven off by reinforcements. Colonial casualties numbered about sixty. In retaliation, at dawn on 19 May 1676, Captain William Turner led an army of settlers in a surprise attack on Peskeompskut, in present day Montague, then a traditional native gathering place. They killed 200 natives, mostly women and children. When the men of the tribe returned, Turner was routed, and died of a mortal wound at Green River. On February 29, 1704, during Queen Anne’s War, joint French and Indian forces attacked the town in what has become known as the Deerfield Massacre. Under the command of Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville were 47 Québécois and 200 Abenaki, Kanienkehaka and Wyandot, as well as a few Pocumtuck. They struck at dawn, razing Deerfield and killing 56 colonists, including twenty-two men, nine women, and twenty-five children. One hundred and nine survivors, including women and children, were taken captive and forced on a months-long trek to Quebec. Many died along the way. Some eventually returned to New England, but others remained in French and Native communities such as Wendake, Quebec for the rest of their lives. As the frontier moved north, Deerfield became just another colonial town with an unquiet early history, to be recorded by George Sheldon. In 1753, Greenfield would be set off and incorporated. Later, a wave of Eastern European immigration, particularly from Poland, would influence Deerfield’s demographics and culture. As the 19th century rolled on, Deerfield’s role in agricultural production declined. This was, in part, due to development of the Midwestern United States into the nation’s breadbasket. During the Colonial Revival movement, Deerfield rediscovered its past to attract tourism. The Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association was founded in 1870, and monuments were erected to commemorate various conflicts with indigenous peoples, including the Bloody Brook and 1704 attacks. In 1890, Charlotte Alice Baker returned to Deerfield to restore her family home, the Frary House. Assisted by the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, her effort was one of the first attempts at historic preservation of an old building in western Massachusetts. Today, tourism remains the town’s principal industry.

Frary House in c. 1905
Old Main Street in c. 1910
Post Office in c. 1910
Mountain Road in c. 1910

Notable residents

  • Heman Allen (of Milton), congressman

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 86.4 km² (33.4 mi²). 83.6 km² (32.3 mi²) of it is land and 2.7 km² (1.1 mi²) of it (3.18%) is water. Deerfield is drained by the Deerfield and Connecticut rivers.

Demographics

As of the census2 of 2000, there were 4,750 people, 1,965 households, and 1,310 families residing in the town. The population density was 56.8/km² (147.1/mi²). There were 2,060 housing units at an average density of 24.6/km² (63.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.24% White, 0.48% African American, 0.11% Native American, 0.86% Asian, 0.48% from other races, and 0.82% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.56% of the population. There were 1,965 households out of which 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.9% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.3% were non-families. 26.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.92. In the town the population was spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 29.3% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 97.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.6 males. The median income for a household in the town was $49,764, and the median income for a family was $64,909. Males had a median income of $40,413 versus $31,069 for females. The per capita income for the town was $24,555. About 2.2% of families and 4.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.3% of those under age 18 and 6.5% of those age 65 or over.

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