Deerfield — Permanent Settlement

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

      Upon the return of peace the scattered inhabitants began to look with longing eyes toward Pocomptuck, and some of the most adventurous returned and began to rebuild their ruined homes. On the 17th of September, 1677, as Sergt. John Plympton, Quintus Stockwell, Benoni Stebbins, John Root, and Samuel Russell were so engaged, they were surprised by a party of Pocomptuck and Nipmuck Indians under Asphelon, who fired upon them and then rushed up with knife and tomahawk. Root was killed and the others captured. Earlier in the day this same party had made a destructive assault upon Hatfield, where they killed 12, wounded 4, and took captive 17 of its inhabitants (all but one of the latter women and children). The Pocomptuck captives were soon joined with these, when the whole party began the fearful march to Canada, the first party of whites ever carried there from New England. It was near dark when they moved, and toward morning they camped in a deep hollow near the mouth of Hearthstone Brook. The next morning the party crossed the Connecticut at Sheldon's Rocks, and again at Peskcompskut, reaching Northfield Meadows the next night. Here they intended stopping to hunt, but, a party of English going in pursuit, they crossed the river and scattered. Benoni Stebbins made his escape soon after. Upon reaching Canada, Sergt. Plympton was tortured to death by fire at a celebration of their success. The rest of the captives, save two who sank on the march, were redeemed through the heroic valor of Benjamin Wait and Stephen Jennings. A full account of their adventurous journey may be looked for in another part of this work.
      This attempt of Stockwell and others to re-settle Pocomptuck was not an unconsidered affair, but fully in accord with public sentiment and the policy of the government. In October, 1677, the General Court issued an order that the inhabitants of Pocomptuck should repair to that place and prepare to settle in the spring, and build in a compact manner; that stuff should be got out, ready to put up a fortification as soon as spring opened, and a garrison of 20 soldiers be posted there, who are to help the inhabitants in this work. A committee was appointed to arrange the business, and make due compensation to any whose land is occupied in carrying out the order: "Maj. John Pynchon, Lieut. John Mosely, Ens. Samuel Loomis, Lieut. William Clarke, Mr. Peter Tylton, and Lieut. William Allis, or any three of them, Maj. Pynchon being one," were empowered to act in the matter. Nothing appears to have been done under this order. Probably the committee did not consider it prudent. Oct. 5, 1678, "the small remnant that is left" of Pocomptuck's "poor inhabitants" made a piteous appeal to the General Court for help, representing that nearly half of the best land in the centre of the town belonged to those who are "never likely to come to a settlement among" them, "neither are like to put such tenants upon it as shall be likely to advance the good of the place, in civil or sacred respects;" that they are anxious to settle at once, but it cannot be done to advantage if these "proprietors may not be begged, or will not be bought (on very easy terms), out of their rights." A prominent reason given for haste is that "our reverend and esteemed minister, Mr. Mather, hath been invited from us, and great danger there is from losing him," but "have had it from" him "that if the place were free from that incumberment, he could find a sufficient number of men, pious and discreet, that would enter into the plantation with him, and so build up a church in the place." They "count it as rich a tract of land as any upon the river, and judge it sufficient to entertain and maintain as great number of inhabitants as most of the upland towns." The court refer them to "the proprietors for the attaining of their interest in the lands." An appeal was made to the proprietors, and individuals among them gave up every tenth acre into a common stock. The settlement, however, was still delayed. In the spring of 1680, Mr. Mather being about to leave them, the inhabitants made an appeal to the County Court. That body, under a law passed the year previous, appointed a new committee for this plantation. This committee made grants to encourage new settlers, but little else was accomplished, and Mr. Mather left them for Branford, Conn. In 1681 the power of this committee was confirmed by the General Court. It was made up of Lieut. William Clarke, Peter Tilton, Lieut. Philip Smith, Medad Pumry, and John Allis.

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03 Aug 2005