Deerfield — Permanent Settlement

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

      There is no record of a town-meeting, but John Sheldon, Benjamin Hastings, Benoni Stebbins, and Thomas French—a majority of the selectmen—took the responsibility, appointed Lieut. Thomas Wells, and sent him, with credentials over their own hands, to join the revolutionary party. This was a bold step. No news had been received of the success of William and of the flight of James to France, and this act was treason, and they subject to the penalty of treason in case of a failure of the revolution,—a penalty sure to fall upon Lieut. Wells, for he held his commission from Andross himself. Capt. John Bull, so well known in Connecticut history, was here with his company at the same time, and joined in the revolt. June 26th, the military was reorganized, the old officers being chosen anew. The town was free from Indian raids this year, but watching and warding were constant, and all labor in the fields was carried on under apprehension of immediate danger.
      Schenectady was burned by the enemy in February, 1690-91. On the 26th, the news having reached here, a town-meeting was held, and a vote passed to fortify Meeting-house Hill by stockade, to be finished in ten days! To carry out this order, 202 rods of trench three or four feet deep was to be dug in the frozen ground, 4000 or 5000 sticks of timber to be cut, hauled, hewed on two sides, and set together in the trench, and the whole available force not over 50 men. This year, Lieut. Wells died,—"a sad frown of God in this juncture of affairs,"—and his brother Jonathan succeeded him in office. In December great excitement was created by the arrival of 150 Indians, with passes from the mayor of Albany, who located on the plateau east of Josiah A. Allen's; the men engaged in hunting, the women and children remaining in camp. Some were thought to be old enemies, and trouble was anticipated. A minute company was organized, under Capt. Jona. Wells, Lieut. David Hoyt, and Ens. John Sheldon. Scouts were kept constantly out, and a message of inquiry was sent to Albany. A company of soldiers from the towns below marched up, to make a show of strength. Col. Pynchon issued a proclamation, fixing rules for their guidance, warning them to leave in the spring. No serious difficulty occurred. At one time "nine or ten of them were insolent toward a lad of Deerfield, and took some of his father's corn and pumking without leave." Early in the spring a messenger from Albany came to call them home, bringing news that a large army of French and Indians were on the march, and would fall upon this town about the middle of May, 1692. Capt. Whiting, with 50 men from Connecticut, came up about the 1st of February, and assisted in putting the fortification in good condition, and the people were determined to defend it. Further news came that the French army of 400 men might be expected Sunday, May 16th. The inhabitants all gathered within the stockade; the soldiers were ready for instant action. The invading army, however, came to surprise rather than fight. One of their vanguard having been taken by a party of scouts, and a surprise here being impossible, the commander, turning toward the east, succeeded in surprising Wells, Me., on the 10th of June.
      The spring of 1692 found the people suffering from the want of the necessaries of life. For obvious reasons, their crops had been growing less and less, and in 1692 the corn crop—their chief reliance—had been cut off by worms, while consumption had been largely increased by garrison-soldiers and scouting-parties. Feb. 8, 1693, the General Court was asked to furnish them ammunition and abate their taxes for 1692, and until "we recover ourselves from the low estate we are now in." In response, the court directed the fortifications to be put in repair and ammunition furnished at the expense of the province.

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