Deerfield — Settlement, Indian Purchase

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      Thus far the affairs of the colony had been under the direct control of the mother-town, and all its officers appointed there. Finding serious inconvenience in this arrangement, Samuel Hinsdale was sent, with a statement of these facts, to Dedham. Upon a consideration of this communication, a committee, consisting of Samuel Hinsdale and Richard Miller, of Pocomptuck; Peter Tilton and Samuel Smith, of Hadley; and Lieut. William Allis, of Hatfield, were appointed to have a general oversight of their affairs. A code of rules for their guidance was prepared. One item was, "This Committee and the inhabitants there, with the advice of the elders of the two neighboring churches, shall have liberty to procure an orthodox Minister to dispense the word of God amongst them," and for this purpose "to assess two shillings on each common right at Petumtuck."
      This action of Dedham was not satisfactory to the adventurers, and they resolved to make a bold stroke for ecclesiastical and territorial elbow-room and power. Hinsdale was again sent down the Bay Path, this time to invoke a higher power. The success of his mission may be read in the following order passed by the General Court, May, 1673:

      "In ansr to the petition of the inhabitants of Paucomptucke, Samuel Hinsdale Samson Frary, &c., the Court judgeth it meete to allow the petitioners the liberty of a township, and doe therefore grant them such an addition of land to the eight thousand acres formerly granted to Dedham, as that the whole to be to the content of seven miles square, provided an able and orthodox minister within three years be settled among them, and that a farme of two hundred and fifty acres be layd out for the country's use."

      A committee of six, Hinsdale being one, was named, who should have power "to order all their prudentiall affairs till they shall be in a capacity, by meete persons from among themselves, to manage their owne affairs." This committee was only to be advised with about settling a minister, leaving these sturdy independents free from interference by the churches at Hadley, Hatfield, or Northampton.
      This "liberty of a township," in default of any subsequent action to that end, must be taken as the act of incorporation for the town. The territory of Pocomptuck as laid out under this grant is almost identical with that now occupied by the towns of Deerfield, Greenfield, and Gill.
      The growth of this little hamlet was steady; Samuel Hinsdale, the pioneer, breaking ground in 1668, and building a house in 1669. Sampson Frary, the second settler, followed the next year. In 1673 there were at least twenty families on the ground. Their houses, doubtless of logs, and covered with thatch, stood along the plateau where stands the "Old Street" to-day. This is about one mile long and half a mile wide, lying at the west foot of Pocomptuck Mountain. On three sides lay the meadows, spreading two miles north and south and about one mile to the west. Beyond this narrow circuit, the unbroken forest stretched away to Canada on the north, to the Hudson on the west, and to Lancaster on the east; while on the south the nearest settlement was Hatfield, fourteen miles distant, through which was the only communication with the civilized world.
      This hardy yeomanry, some of them born in England and well on in years, all seeking a permanent home for wife and children in the New World, appear to have lived here in quiet contentment. Peace and plenty smiled upon them. The rich alluvial meadow was easy of cultivation. The virgin soil yielded abundant harvests of wheat, peas, rye, Indian corn, beans, and flax. The men became skilled in woodcraft, and the forests afforded an abundance of game, while the waters teemed with fish. Highways were built, the common field inclosed with a substantial fence, to protect their crops from their flocks and herds, which roamed in the surrounding woods. A minister of their own choice was going out and in before them, and the young colony seemed firmly established on an enduring foundation of prosperity. The dark cloud looming in the distance was unobserved or unnoticed. The settlers had lived on the most friendly terms with the few Indians with whom they came in contact, and had no doubt of their fidelity. The news of the outbreak in far-off Plymouth brought no fears to them. None dreamed of the devastation and war which were so soon to descend upon their homes.

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