New England Outpost

New England Merchancts in the 17th Century

Deerfield: Old Pocumtuck Valley

The newcomers found the meadows free from trees, with a rich soil which soon yielded abundantly of wheat, rye, peas, oats, beans, flax, grass and Indian corn. The meadows were enclosed with a common fence to keep out the common stock, which roamed at will on the common land outside.

The war of 1675 is called “Philip’s War” because Philip was able to incite the tribes to hostilities against the whites, rather than because it was carried on under his direction. A seer and a patriot Philip may have been, but he was not a warrior. It is not known that he was ever in a single conflict.

When the first blood was shed at far-away Swanzey, in June, 1675, the men of Pocumtuck were not disquieted. With the Indians about them they had lived for years in perfect harmony. But when the blow fell on Captains Beers and Lothrop under the shadow of their own Wequamps, war became a reality. As a measure of defense two or three houses were slightly fortified, and none too soon. The village was marked for destruction.

On the morning of September 1, 1675, the Indians gathered in the adjoining woods, awaiting the hour when the men, scattered about the meadows at their work could be shot down one by one, leaving the women and children to the mercy of the Indians. This plan was frustrated. The Indians were discovered early in the morning by James Eggleston, while looking for his horse. Eggleston was shot and the alarm given. The people fled to the forts. These were easily defended by the men, but beyond the range of their muskets ruin and devastation held sway.

Deerfield was the first town in the Connecticut Valley to be assaulted, and the alarm was general. The news reached Hadley the same day while the inhabitants were gathered in the meeting-house observing a fast; “and,” says Mather, “they were driven from the holy service they were attending by a most sudden and violent alarm which routed them the whole day after.” Their alarm and rout were needless; no enemy appeared. Yet these words of the historian are the narrow foundation on which Stiles and others gradually built up the romantic myth of Goffe, as the guardian and deliverer of Hadley.

September 2, the tactics at Deerfield were successfully repeated by the Indians at Northfield. Eight men were killed in the meadows, but enough were left in the village to hold the stockade. September 4, Captain Richard Beers with his company who were marching to their relief, were surprised, and himself and twenty men were slain. September 5, Major Robert Treat, with a superior force, brought off the beleaguered survivors.

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