The Headmaster

Deerfield: Old Pocumtuck Valley

Deerfield: Old Pocumtuck Valley

George Sheldon
originally published in 1898 in Historic Towns of New England
Edited and adapted by Laurel O’Donnell

To every one familiar with the history of the old Bay State, the name of Deerfield naturally brings to mind two diverse pictures: one, the giant trees of the primeval forest under whose sombre shade the white-haired Eliot prayed, and the sluggish stream beside whose banks he gathered its roving denizens for a test of civilization; the other, that scene of woe and desolation, when, under a wintry sky, the glare of burning houses lighted up a wide expanse of snow, shaded by dark columns of wavering smoke, and splashed here and there with red. The first picture suggests possibilities, the second results. The connecting link between the two is the fact that out of the labors of Eliot on the river Charles grew directly the settlement of the English on the Pocumtuck.

Back of all was the interest in the newly discovered heathen, which sent currents of gold from England across the seas to the Indian missions. Of all these that of the Apostle Eliot was the head and front. His first attempt, at Newton, was a failure, from its proximity to a Christian town. On his petition, the General Court granted him a tract in the wilderness where he and the uncontaminated native could come face to face with the God of Nature. This tract was claimed by the town of Dedham, and, after a successful legal contest, the General Court gave the claimant in lieu of it the right to select eight thousand acres in any unoccupied part of the colony. After wide search this grant was laid out on Pocumtuck River, and the selection was ratified by the Court, October 11, 1665.

Old Deerfield Street, 1671-1898
Old Deerfield Street, 1671-1898.

Edited & adapted by Laurel O’Donnell.
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This page was last updated on 14 May 2006