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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > The Land 1780-1820 > Public Space
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920


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, Green-
field, 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,

Southern view of Deerfield, (central part.)

ensign Daniel Fisher, and other English at Dedham, their asso-
ciates and successors," by Chauk, alias Chaque, the sachem 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 bar-
gain;" and reserves to the Indians " the right of fishing in the
rivers and waters; hunting deer, or other wild animals; the gath-
ering of walnuts, chesnuts, and other nuts, and things on the com-
mons." 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 shil-
lings and three-pence the bushel, pease at two shillings and six-
pence, 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.

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Public Space : Common Institutions


New England towns usually set aside land for the use of the church. These meetinghouse lots were typically located in or near the center of the town. The general court of Massachusetts had, since 1631, required each township to set aside land for a training field for a weekly militia drill. The open area in the center of the town often met this purpose. As time passed, this open area outlived its original uses. It became a place to graze sheep and cattle, to walk, and to picnic. It was also the space upon or around which the town located public buildings such as the meetinghouse and the center district school. Although the town militia still trained here, the parcel acquired a new name more in keeping with the many peaceable activities it now supported: the "town common." Its new name defined its ownership. It was indeed a piece of land owned "in common" by the proprietors of the town. Remnants of such commons survive in many New England towns to this day.

William Barber made this woodcut of the Deerfield, Massachusetts, town common in 1839. Deerfield's common was typical of many New England town commons in the early nineteenth century. Its military associations receded in importance, although the town militia still mustered here on "Training Day" in the fall and spring. A park-like atmosphere attracted pleasure seekers like the couple depicted strolling amongst the carefully planted shade trees. A brick schoolhouse to the pair's left served the children of the town's central school district. The school also hosted lyceums, lectures, and town meetings. A new brick meetinghouse, the first built "solely for worship," replaced the old meetinghouse torn down in 1826.


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"Historical Collections, being a General Collection of Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes &c.,

publisher   Dorr, Holland and Company
date   1839
location   Worcester, Massachusetts
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Books/Book
accession #   #L00.001ex

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See Also...

Pocumtuck Hotel

Building Contract for Deerfield Street School

Brick Church

John Sheldon (1658-1733) House

"Old Indian House"

"Historical Collections, being a General Collection of Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes &c.",

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