Deerfield, Massachusetts

Deerfield, Massachusetts
Deerfield, Massachusetts
—  Town  —
Sheldon Homestead in c. 1912

Location in Franklin County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°32′40″N 72°36′22″W / 42.54444°N 72.60611°W / 42.54444; -72.60611Coordinates: 42°32′40″N 72°36′22″W / 42.54444°N 72.60611°W / 42.54444; -72.60611
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Franklin
Settled 1673
Incorporated 1677
 - Type Open town meeting
 - Total 33.4 sq mi (86.4 km2)
 - Land 32.3 sq mi (83.6 km2)
 - Water 1.1 sq mi (2.7 km2)
Elevation 150 ft (46 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 4,750
 - Density 147.1/sq mi (56.8/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 01342
Area code(s) 413
FIPS code 25-16670
GNIS feature ID 0618162

Deerfield is a town in Franklin County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 4,750 as of the 2000 census. Deerfield is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area in Western Massachusetts, lying only 30 miles (48 km) north of the city of Springfield.

Deerfield includes the villages of South Deerfield and Historic Deerfield; the latter is an historic district that preserves colonial and Federal houses, features house museums, and a museum about Massachusetts' colonial period. The district has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is a center of heritage tourism in the Pioneer Valley near the Connecticut River.

Deerfield has numerous schools, including Deerfield Academy, a private secondary school preparatory school; Frontier Regional High School, Deerfield Elementary and two separate private junior boarding schools, a co-ed school, Bement School and Eaglebrook School, which is all boys.



Deerfield was the northwesternmost outpost of New England settlement for several decades during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It occupies a fertile portion of the Connecticut River Valley and was vulnerable to attack because of its position near the Berkshire Mountains. For these reasons it became the site of several Anglo-French and Indian skirmishes during its early history, as well as intertribal warfare.[1]

At the time of the English colonists' arrival, the Deerfield area was inhabited by the Algonquian-speaking Pocumtuck nation, with a major village by the same name. First settled by English colonists in 1673, Deerfield was incorporated in 1677. Settlement was the result of a court case in which the government in Boston agreed to return some of the land of the town of Dedham to Native American control, and allowed some of Dedham's residents to acquire land in the new township of Pocumtuck. To obtain this land, their agent John Plympton signed a treaty with some Pocumtuck men, including one named Chaulk. He had no authority to deed the land to the colonists, and appeared to have only a rough idea of what he was signing. Native Americans and English had quite differing ideas about property and land use, which contributed to their conflicts, along with competition for resources.

The settlers expelled the Pocumtuck tribe by force, who in turn sought French protection from colonists in Canada. At the Battle of Bloody Brook on September, 18, 1675, the dispossessed Indians destroyed a small force under the command of Captain Thomas Lathrop before being driven off by reinforcements. Colonial casualties numbered about sixty. In retaliation, at dawn on May 19, 1676, Captain William Turner led an army of settlers in a surprise attack on Peskeompskut, in present-day Montague, then a traditional native gathering place. They killed 200 natives, mostly women and children. When the men of the tribe returned, they routed Turner, who died of a mortal wound at Green River.

On February 29, 1704, during Queen Anne's War, joint French and Indian forces attacked the town in what has become known as the 1704 Raid on Deerfield. Under the command of Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville were 47 Canadiens and 200 Abenaki, Kanienkehaka and Wyandot, as well as a few Pocumtuck. They struck at dawn, razing Deerfield and killing 56 colonists, including 22 men, 9 women, and 25 children. They took as captives 109 survivors, including women and children, and "carried" them away on a months-long trek to Quebec. Many died along the way or were killed when they could not keep up.

Deerfield and other communities collected funds to ransom the captives, and negotiations were conducted between colonial governments. When New England released the French pirate, Canada arranged redemption of numerous Deerfield people, among them the minister John Williams. He wrote a captivity narrative about his experience, which was published in 1707 and became well known. Because of losses to war and disease, the Mohawk and other tribes often adopted younger captives into their tribes. Such was the case with Williams' daughter Eunice, eight years old when captured. She became thoroughly assimilated, at age 16 marrying a Mohawk man. Most of the Deerfield captives eventually returned to New England. During this period, other captives remained by choice in French and Native communities such as Kahnawake for the rest of their lives.

As the frontier moved north, Deerfield became another colonial town with an unquiet early history. In 1753 Greenfield was set off and incorporated. During the early nineteenth century, Deerfield's role in agricultural production of the Northeast declined. It was overtaken by the rapid development of the Midwestern United States into the nation's breadbasket, with transportation to eastern markets and New York City enhanced by construction of the Erie Canal.

During the Colonial Revival movement of the late nineteenth century, Deerfield citizens rediscovered the town's past. Residents founded the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association in 1870, and erected monuments to commemorate various events, including the Bloody Brook and 1704 attacks. In 1890, Charlotte Alice Baker returned to Deerfield to restore her family home, the Frary House.[2] Assisted by the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, her project was one of the first in historic preservation in western Massachusetts. Today, tourism is the town's principal industry. Historic Deerfield, a National Historic Landmark district with eleven house museums and a regional museum and visitors' center, and the Yankee Candle Company are major attractions.

An account of the town's early history was written by local historian George Sheldon and published in the late nineteenth century.[3] By this time, South Deerfield and other New England villages were already absorbing a new wave of Eastern European immigration, particularly from Poland. The new people influenced Deerfield's demographics and culture. They were mostly Catholic peasants, who built their own churches and first worked as laborers, forming a community later known as Old Polonia. Later twentieth-century immigrants from Poland tended to be more educated, but settled in the larger cities. Immigrants in smaller communities followed different paths, and their descendants often moved to cities for more opportunities.[4]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 33.4 square miles (87 km2), of which, 32.3 square miles (84 km2) of it is land and 1.1 square miles (2.8 km2) of it (3.18%) is water. Deerfield is located in the northern Pioneer Valley, and is bordered by Greenfield to the north, Montague to the northeast, Sunderland to the southeast, Whately to the south, Conway to the west, and Shelburne to the northwest. The town center is located eight miles south of Greenfield, 29 miles north of Springfield, and 93 miles west of Boston.

Deerfield's northern point is located at the confluence of the Deerfield River and the Connecticut River, with the former flowing through the northwest corner of town and the latter forming the eastern border of town. Several brooks and the Mill River also flow through town. In the southeast corner of town, North Sugarloaf Mountain rises above the Connecticut, giving a good view of the valley and the center of town. North of the mountain, the Pocumtuck Range rises along the eastern side of town.

Interstate 91 passes from south to north through the central part of town, crossing the Deerfield River near the river's southern bend to the west. The road is mirrored by U.S. Route 5 and Route 10, which are combined throughout the town. Additionally, Route 116 passes through town, combining with Routes 5 and 10 for a one-mile stretch, passing into Whately briefly before separating and crossing through the southern part of town and over the Connecticut River at the Sunderland Bridge. All three routes historically crossed through the center of the village prior to the building of I-91, but were rerouted to a more direct route closer to the highway.

A portion of the Springfield Terminal freight rail line passes through town, before branching off eastward and westward around Greenfield. The nearest Amtrak passenger service is in Springfield. Deerfield has bus service through Peter Pan, with the nearest small air service in nearby Gill and Northampton. The nearest national air service can be reached at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.


Historical populations
Year Pop. ±%
1850 2,421
1860 3,073 +26.9%
1870 3,632 +18.2%
1880 3,543 −2.5%
1890 2,910 −17.9%
1900 1,969 −32.3%
1910 2,209 +12.2%
1920 2,803 +26.9%
1930 2,882 +2.8%
1940 2,684 −6.9%
1950 3,086 +15.0%
1960 3,338 +8.2%
1970 3,850 +15.3%
1980 4,517 +17.3%
1990 5,018 +11.1%
2000 4,750 −5.3%
2001* 4,769 +0.4%
2002* 4,777 +0.2%
2003* 4,780 +0.1%
2004* 4,786 +0.1%
2005* 4,769 −0.4%
2006* 4,737 −0.7%
2007* 4,719 −0.4%
2008* 4,720 +0.0%
2009* 4,683 −0.8%
2010 5,125 +9.4%
* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

As of the census[15] of 2000, there were 4,750 people, 1,965 households, and 1,310 families residing in the town. By population, Deerfield ranked fourth of the 26 towns in Franklin County, and 247th of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. The population density was 147.1 people per square mile (56.8/km²), which ranked fifth in the county and 269th in the Commonwealth. There were 2,060 housing units at an average density of 63.8 per square mile (24.6/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.24% White, 0.48% African American, 0.11% Native American, 0.86% Asian, 0.48% from other races, and 0.82% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.56% of the population.

There were 1,965 households out of which 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.9% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.3% were non-families. 26.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the town the population was spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 29.3% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 97.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $49,764, and the median income for a family was $64,909. Males had a median income of $40,413 versus $31,069 for females. The per capita income for the town was $24,555. About 2.2% of families and 4.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.3% of those under age 18 and 6.5% of those age 65 or over.


Deerfield employs the open town meeting form of government, and is led by a board of selectmen. The town has its own police, fire and public works departments. Like the fire department, the post office has two branches, in South Deerfield (where most of the town offices are) and in Old Deerfield Village, near the Memorial Hall and the Old Town Hall. The town's Tilton Library is connected to the regional library network, and is located in South Deerfield. The nearest hospital, Franklin Medical Center, is located in Greenfield, as are many of the regional state offices.

On the state level, Deerfield is represented in the Massachusetts House of Representatives by the First Franklin district, which includes the southeastern third of Franklin County and towns in north central Hampshire County. In the Massachusetts Senate, the town is represented by the Hampshire and Franklin district, which includes much of eastern Franklin and Hampshire Counties.[16] The town is patrolled by the Second (Shelburne Falls) Barracks of Troop "B" of the Massachusetts State Police.[17]

On the national level, Deerfield is represented in the United States House of Representatives as part of Massachusetts's 1st congressional district, and has been represented by John Olver of Amherst since June 1991. Massachusetts is currently represented in the United States Senate by two Senators, John Kerry, as well as Scott Brown as a result of the death of Ted Kennedy on August 25, 2009.


Deerfield is the central member of Frontier Regional and Union 38 School Districts, which also includes Conway, Whately and Sunderland. Each town operates its own elementary school, with Deerfield Elementary School serving the town's students from kindergarten through sixth grades. All four towns send seventh through twelfth grade students to Frontier Regional School in the town. Frontier's athletics teams are nicknamed the Red Hawks, and the team colors are red and blue. There are many art programs available during and after school at Frontier. Several private schools in the town include The Bement School (a coeducational boarding school, grades K-9), the Eaglebrook School (a private boys' boarding school for grades 6-9), and the Deerfield Academy, a private prep school. There are other private schools in the Greenfield area.

The nearest community college, Greenfield Community College, is located in Greenfield. The nearest state colleges are Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, in North Adams; and Westfield State College; and the nearest state university is the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The nearest private colleges, including members of the Five Colleges and Seven Sisters, are located southeast in the Northampton area.

Historic Deerfield includes a museum with a focus on decorative arts, early American material culture and history. Its house museums offer interpretation of society, history and culture from the colonial era through the late nineteenth century.



  1. ^ National Geographic Society (1997). Exploring America's Historic Places. National Geographic Society. 
  2. ^ Coleman, Emma Lewis (1912). A Historic and Present Day Guide to Old Deerfield, p. 54. Boston: Emma Lewis Coleman
  3. ^ Sheldon, George (1896). A History of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Greenfield, Massachusetts: E. A. Hall & Co.
  4. ^ Elzbieta M. Gozdziak, "Eastern Europeans", in David W. Haines, (ed.), (1996). Refugees in America in the 1990s: A Reference Handbook, pp. 124-130. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Publishing Group
  5. ^ "TOTAL POPULATION (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 13, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  7. ^ "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  8. ^ "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ "1950 Census of Population". Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ "1920 Census of Population". Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  11. ^ "1890 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  12. ^ "1870 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  13. ^ "1860 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c.. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  14. ^ "1850 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c.. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  15. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  16. ^ List of Massachusetts Legislators by City and Town
  17. ^ Station B-2, SP Shelburne Falls, Executive Office of Public Safety, Massachusetts State Gov.

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