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Deerfield, Massachusetts, USA (South Deerfield) - 1848 - Deerfield

DEERFIELD is the oldest town in Franklin county. In 1669, a tract of 8,000 acres of land was granted by the general court at Pocumtuck to a company at Dedham, embracing most of the interval lying on Pocumtuck or Deerfield river, and the plain southerly as far as Hatfield bounds. The proprietors first met at Dedham in 1670; at which time it was agreed to lay out the lots at Pocumtuck. By subsequent grants it comprehended within its limits the present towns of Deerfield, Conway, Shelburne, Greenfield, and Gill. Whether the whole was purchased from the natives does not appear. A deed, however, of a part of the early grant, is still extant; it was made to John Pynchon, Esq., of Springfield, "for the use and behoof of major Eleazer Lusher, ensign Daniel Fisher and other English at Dedham, their associates and successors" by Chauk, alais Chaque, the sachern of Pocumtuck, and his brother Wapahoale, and is dated Feb. 24, 1665, prior to the grant by government. The deed is witnessed by Wequonock, who "helped the Sachem in making the bargain;" and reserves to the Indians "the right of fishing in the rivers and waters; hunting deer, or other wild animals; the gathering of walnuts, chesnuts, and other nuts, and things on the commons." The first settlement at Deerfield commenced in 1670. and within four years a considerable number of buildings were erected. In 1686, the Rev. John Williams was settled as minister of the place, on a salary of £60, to be paid in wheat at three shillings and three-pence the bushel, pease at two shillings and sixpence, Indian corn at two shillings, and salted pork at two-pence halfpenny the pound.

Deerfield is finely situated on the west bank of Connecticut river. Deerfield river, a large and beautiful stream, meanders through the center of the town, and on its banks are large tracts of interval land, the quality of which is equal to any in the state. The principal street runs north and south on a beautiful elevation above the meadows, which spreads out from the foot of East or Deerfield mountain.

The engraving on the opposite page, is a view (looking to the northward) in the central part of the village, showing the Unitarian Congregational church, and some other public buildings. The ancient house, which escaped destruction at the time the Indians burnt the town in 1704, is seen in the distance, standing a few feet westward of the church. Deerfield is principally an agricultural town. In 1837, there was one manufactory of cutlery, which employed seventy hands; the value of cutlery manufactured was $100,000. The value of palm leaf hats manufactured was $7,800; the value of corn brooms made was $10,990; the value of pocket books, &c., $11,000. Population, 1,952. Distance, 3 miles south from Greenfield, 18 miles north of Northampton, 60 to Hartford, Conn., and 95 from Boston.

The above is a north-western view of the monument at Bloody Brook, erected in memory of Capt. Lathrop and his men, who fell on this spot, in an ambuscade of the Indians. This monument stands perhaps 30 or 40 rods southerly from the Congregational church. South-easterly from the monument is seen Sugar-loaf Mountain, a conical peak of red sand-stone, about 650 feet in height. In 1835, the 160th anniversary of the destruction of Capt. Lathrop and his men was commemorated in this place. The Hon. Edward Everett, now governor of Massachusetts, was appointed orator for the occasion, and General Epaphas Hoyt, of Deerfield, was appointed to make the address at the laying of the corner stone for the monument. About six thousand persons were present on this occasion. Governor Everett delivered his address under a walnut tree, a few rods eastward of the monument, the top of which is seen rising between the two mountainous elevations in the back ground. About forty years after Capt. Lathrop and his men were killed, a rude monument was erected to their memory, but the different occupants of the soil removed it so many times, that it was a matter of uncertainty where he or his men were buried. In 1835, the committee of investigation, guided by the tradition of some aged people, found the spot where he and, about thirty of his men were interred; the grave was just in front of the door-yard of Stephen Whitney, Esq., and about twenty feet northwest of his front door. Their bones were in a state of tolerable preservation, but fell to pieces on exposure to the air. "A grave, probably containing the bones of the ninety-six Indians who were slain on that day, was likewise found by accident about the same time, nearly one hundred rods west of the road leading from Bloody Brook to Conway, by Mr. Artemas Williams, and a little more than half a mile south-west of the grave of Lathrop."

The monument is six feet square and about twenty feet in height; it is constructed of marble, by Mr. Woods, of Sunderland. On its completion an address was delivered at its foot by Mr. Luther B. Lincoln, of Deerfield. The following is the inscription on the monument

On this ground Capt. Thomas Lothrop and eighty-four men under his command, including eighteen teamsters from Deerfield, conveying stores from that town to Hadley, were ambuscaded by about 700 Indians, and the Captain and. seventy six men slain, Sept. 18th, 1675, (old style.) The soldiers who fell were described by a cotemporary Historian, as "a choice company of young men, the very flower of the County of Essex, none of whom were ashamed to speak with the enemy in the gate."

"And Sangwinette tells you where the dead
Made the earth wet, and turn'd the unwilling waters red." This monument erected August, 1838.

The bearing and distance of the grave of the slain (south 21 rods) is inscribed on the monument, and a stone slab placed on the spot. In order to defend the frontier settlements from the Indians in Philip's war, a considerable number of soldiers were posted at Hadley, and it became necessary to procure provisions and forage for their subsistence. The Indians having burnt the principal part of Deerfield, it was abandoned by the inhabitants; their grain, consisting of about 3,000 bushels of wheat, remained stacked in the fields, having escaped the conflagration. Determining to avail himself of this supply, the commanding officer at Hadley detached Capt. Lathrop and his company, with a number of teams and drivers, to thrash it and transport it to head-quarters. Having thrashed the grain and loaded his teams, Capt. Lathrop, on the 18th of September, commenced his march for Hadley. As no Indians had been seen in the vicinity, he did not probably apprehend any danger. The following account of the fatal attack of the savages at Bloody Brook is taken from Hoyt's Indian Wars, published at Greenfield in 1824.

"For the distance of about three miles, after leaving Deerfield meadow, Lathrop's march lay through a very level country, closely wooded, where he was every moment exposed to an attack on either flank; at the termination of this distance, near the south point of Sugar-loaf Hill, the road approximated Connecticut river, and the left was in some measure protected. At the village now called Muddy Brook, in the southerly part of Deerfield, the road crossed a small stream, bordered by a narrow morass, from which the village has its name; though more appropriately it should be denominated Bloody Brook, by which it was sometimes known. Before arriving at the point of intersection with the brook, the road for about half a mile ran parallel with the morass, then, crossing, it continued directly to the south point of Sugar-loaf Hill, traversing what is now the home lots, on the east side of the village. As the morass was thickly covered with brush, the place of crossing afforded a favorable point of surprise. On discovering Lathrop's march, a body of upwards of seven hundred Indians planted themselves in ambuscade at this point, and lay eagerly waiting to pounce upon him while passing the morass. Without scouring the woods in his front and flanks, or suspecting the snare laid for him, Lathrop arrived at the fatal spot; crossed the morass with the principal part of his force, and probably halted, to allow time for his teams to drag through their loads. The critical moment had arrived - the Indians instantly poured a heavy and destructive fire upon the column, and rushed furiously to close attack. Confusion and dismay succeeded. The troops broke and scattered, fiercely pursued by the Indians, whose great superiority enabled them to attack at all points. Hopeless was the situation of the scattered troops, and they resolved to sell their lives in a vigorous struggle. Covering themselves with trees, the bloody conflict now became a severe trial of skill in sharp shooting, in which life was the stake. Difficult would it be to describe the havoc, barbarity, and misery that ensued; 'fury raged, and shuddering pity quit the sanguine field,' while desperation stood pitted, at 'fearful odds,' to unrelenting ferocity. The dead, the dying, the wounded, strewed the ground in all directions; and Lathrop's devoted, force was soon reduced to a small number, and resistance became faint. At length the unequal struggle terminated in the annihilation of nearly the whole of the English; only seven or eight escaped from the bloody scene, to relate the dismal tale; and the wounded were indiscriminately butchered. Capt. Lathrop fell in the early part of the action. The whole loss, including teamsters, amounted to ninety."

Capt. Mosely, who was at Deerfield with his company, between four and five miles distant, hearing the musketry, hurried on to the relief of Lathrop, but it was too late; he found the Indians had done their bloody work, and were stripping the dead. Rushing on in close order, he broke through the enemy, and, charging back and forth, cut down all within the range of his shot. After several hours of gallant fighting, the savages were compelled to seek for safety in the surrounding swamps and forests. Lieutenants Savage and Pickering greatly distinguished themselves by their skill and bravery. Just at the close of the action, Major Treat, of Connecticut, who on the morning of this day had marched towards Northfield, arrived on the ground with one hundred men, consisting of English, Pequot and Mohegan Indians, and shared in the final pursuit of the enemy. Captain Mosely lost but two men in the various attacks, and seven or eight only were wounded. The loss of the Indians in the various attacks of the day was estimated at ninety-six, the greatest proportion of which fell in the engagement with Mosely. On the approach of night, Treat and Mosely proceeded to Deerfield, where they encamped for the night, and the next morning returned to the field of slaughter to bury the dead. The day after this disaster, the Indians appeared at Deerfield, on the west side of the river in that town, and, displaying the garments they had stripped from Lathrop's slain, made demonstrations of an attack on the fortified house, which then contained a garrison of oniy twenty-seven men. The commander held out delusive appearances of a strong force, caused his trumpet signals to be given, as if to call in additional troops, which so intimidated the Indians that they withdrew without making an attack. This post, however, was afterwards abandoned by the garrison, and the place was soon after destroyed by the enemy.

During the French and Indian wars, Deerfield was often exposed to the incursions of the French and their savage allies. In the evening of the 29th of February, 1704, Major Hertel de Rouville, with 200 French and 142 Indians, after a tedious march of between 2 and 300 miles through deep snow, arrived at an elevated pine forest, about two miles north of the village, (now called Petty's plain,) bordering Deerfield meadow, where they lay concealed till after midnight. Finding all quiet, and the snow being covered with a crust sufficient to support the men, Rouville left his snow-shoes and packs at the foot of the elevation, and, crossing Deerfield river, began his march through an open meadow before daylight with the utmost caution, which, however, was unnecessary, as the guard had retired to rest a little before daylight. Arriving at the north-west quarter of the fort, where the snow had drifted in many places nearly to the top of the palisades, the enemy entered the place, and found all in a profound sleep. Parties detached in different directions broke into the houses and dragged the astonished people from their beds, and wherever resistance was made they were generally killed. A party forced the door of the house of the Rev. Mr. Williams, who, awakened by the noise, seized a pistol from his bed tester and snapped it. at one of the Indians who were entering his room. He was seized, bound, and kept standing in his shirt for near an hour. His house in the mean time was plundered, and two of his children, with a black female servant, were murdered before the door. They then permitted him and Mrs. Williams, with five other chilthen, to put on. their clothes. The house of Capt. John Sheldon was attacked, but as the door at which the Indians attempted to enter was firmly bolted, they found it difficult to penetrate. They then perforated it with their tomahawks, and, thrusting through a musket, fired and killed the captain's wife, as she was rising from a bed in an adjoining room. The captain's son and wife, awakened by the assault, leaped from a chamber window, at the east end of the house, by which the latter strained her ankle, and was seized by the Indians, but the husband escaped to the woods and reached Hatfield. After gaining possession of the house, which was one of the largest in the place, the enemy reserved it as a depot for the prisoners as they were collected from other parts of the village. The whole number made prisoners was 112, and the number of killed was forty-seven. Having collected the prisoners, plundered and set fire to the buildings, Rouville left the place when the sun was about an hour high. Every building within the fort was reduced to ashes except the meeting-house and that of Captain Sheldon, which was the last fired, and saved by the English. who assembled immediately after the enemy left the place. This house is still standing near the center of the village, of which the annexed engraving is a representation.

The ground plan of the building is 42 by 21 feet. The timber used in the construction of this house is of a large size and firm texture, most of which remains sound even to the sills, and the primitive clapboards at the gables are in a good state of preservation: the walls are lined with brick. The door, showing the perforation made by the tomahawks, still remains. Other parts of the building have been repaired, and the general appearance of the house does not exhibit so antique an appearance as its age would indicate. The night following the attack, the enemy encamped in the meadow, in what is now Greenfield, about four miles from Deerfield village, where, by clearing away the snow and constructing slight cabins of brush, the prisoners were as comfortably lodged as circumstances would admit. On the second day of their journey Mrs. Williams, who had lain in but a few weeks previous, became exhausted through fatigue, and, proving burdensome, her Indian master sunk his tomahawk into her head and left her dead at the foot of a hill near Green river. The march of the captives on Connecticut river continued for several days without any incident of note, excepting now and then murdering an exhausted captive and taking off the scalp. At the mouth of White river, Rouvilie divided his force into several parties; that which Mr. Williams accompanied proceeded down Onion river to Lake Champlain, and from thence into Canada. After his arrival there he was generally treated with civility, and often with humanity. In 1706 a flag-ship was sent to Quebec, and Mr. Williams and fiftyseven other captives were redeemed and brought to Boston. All the surviving children of Mr. Williams returned, with the exception of his daughter Eunice, who was left behind, being about ten years old. She adopted the Indian manners, to one of whom she was married, and adopted the Catholic faith. She repeatedly visited her relatives in New England; every inducement was offered to make her remain among her connexions, hut she uniformly persisted in wearing her blanket and counting her beads. She left a number of descendants, one of whom, a grandson, was educated at Longineadow, and afterward became a missionary to the Oneida Indians. Twenty-eight of the captives remained in Canada, and, mixing with the French and Indians, adopted their manners and customs, and were thus lost to their friends. The journal which Rouville kept while on his expedition against Deerfield is said to be still in existence, having been preserved in one of the Canadian convents; also a small church bell, which the Indians took from Deerfield, when it was destroyed. It was conveyed on a sledge as far as Lake Champlain and buried, and was afterwards taken up and conveyed to Canada, and is now hanging in an Indian church in St. Regis.

[From the Boston Post Boy, Sept. 1st, 1746]

Friday sev'night some of oue soldiers going from Deerfield to Colerain, were fired upon by a party of the Indiansm and one Mr. Bliss, a Connecticut soldier, was kill'd, scalp'd and his body left inhumanly cut and mangled by them.

And last Monday seven men and a young woman being in a field, at Deerfield, making of hay, were surpris'd by about 40 of the enemy Indians, and five of the men were killed on the spot; the young woman they struck three times, with their hatchets, and wounded her terribly on both sides of her head. The people of this town, being alarmed, went out after the enemy; when they hastened ofi leaving the wounded young woman, and the bodies of the men they had slain on the ground. The other two men escaped, and the young woman was brought into Deerfield, but is not like to live.

The names of those kill'd were Samuel Allen, two of the widow Amsdel's sons, Eleazer Hawkes, Jun., all of Deerfield, and one - Gillet, a soldier from Connecticut; the young woman wounded aforesaid was daughter to the aforesaid Allen. One of the Indians was kill'd upon their assault; and some of them had thrown his body into a pond, which was soon after found and his scalp taken off and bro't in by our men. It is supposed another of the enemy is mortally wounded, as a Tract was discovered where one of themn had been carried off who had bled a great quantity.

The following are inscriptions copied from monuments in the old burying-ground in this place:

Here lies buried the body of Lievt. Mehuman Hinsdell, died May ye 9, 1736, in the 63d year of his age, who was the first male child born in this place, and was twice captivated by the Indian Salvages. - Math. 5th. 7th. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Here lyeth the body of Mrs. Eunice Williams, the vertuous & desirable consort of the Revrd. Mr. John Williams, & daughter to ye Revrd. Mr. Eleazer & Mrs. Esther Mather of Northampton. She was born Augt. 2, 1664, and fell by rage of ye barbarous Enemy March 1, 1703-4 - Prov. 31. 28. Her children rise up and call her Blessed.

Here lyes ye body of the Reud. Mr. John Williams, the beloved & faithful pastor of this place, who dyed on June ye 12th, 1729, in the 65th year of his age. Reu. 14. 13. Write blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.

Historical Collections Relating to the History... John Warner Barber, Worcester, Warren Lazell, 1848

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Deerfield, Massachusetts, USA (South Deerfield)

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