The Thomas Dickinson House in Deerfield is an early center hall house built in 1762. Capt. Thomas Dickinson, a slave owner, led the local militia in the Revolutionary War. There was an unsuccessful attempt to cultivate silkworms on the property in 1852.
Happy Thanksgiving! Located along the main street of the village of Deerfield is a house, now painted a shade of yellow, which was built in 1748. It was originally the home of Dr. Thomas Williams. He was appointed surgeon to the to the regular and provincial troops by Royal Governor William Shirley and served in King George’s War and the French and Indian War. George Sheldon, in his book, A History of Deerfield Massachusetts (1895), writes that Dr. Williams (b. 1718)
came to Dfd. 1789; lived on No. 9; became a prominent figure as a man of affairs, as well as in his profession; was surgeon in the abortive Can[adian] expedition 1746 and for the line of forts; he left Fort Mass. only two days before its capture in 1746; was surgeon in the regt. of his brother Ephraim, at the battle of Lake George, Sept. 8, 1755, and dressed the wounds of Baron Dieskau, the captured commander of the Fr. army; in the campaign of 1756 he was lieut.-col.; rep 2 yrs; selectman 2; town clerk 17; judge of probate and justice of the court of common pleas; and had an extensive professional practice; d. Sept. 28, 1775.
A slave owner himself, Dr. Williams kept records of the treatment he gave to enslaved Africans and free blacks in Deerfield. Slave owners sometimes paid their debts to the doctor with their slaves’ labor. Upon the death of Dr. Williams, his practice was continued by his apprentice, Dr. Elihu Ashley (1750-1817), a son of Rev. Jonathan Ashley, who lived a few houses down the street from the doctor’s house.
Early in the nineteenth century, the exterior of the house was updated in the Federal style, when the original gambrel roof was removed, the front portico was added, and fanlights (not pictured above) were placed in the gable ends.
The Congregational Church in South Deerfield was organized in 1818 and services were held in a schoolhouse on North Main Street. The current church building was constructed in 1821 to the north of the schoolhouse. The church was moved to its present location, at 71 North Main Street, in 1848. That year, there was a split in the church and the Second, or “Monument,” Church was founded, but the two congregations reunited in 1865.
In 1877 a house on Deerfield‘s Town Common on the Old Albany Road was moved back to make way for a new main school building constructed by Deerfield Academy (and since demolished). The house was believed at the time to have been the one built in 1707 for Reverend John Williams. Survivor of the 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield and subsequent captivity in Canada, Rev. Williams wrote the book The Redeemed Captive about his experiences. His new house replaced the one destroyed in the raid. The current Williams House was actually built in 1760 on the site of the 1707 house by Rev. John Williams’ son, Elijah Williams, who was a shopkeeper and tavern-owner. When the house was in danger of being torn down in 1877, Deerfield historian George Sheldon wrote a series of articles (collected in the book The Rev. John Williams House, published in 1918) that raised awareness of the home’s importance and helped save it from destruction. Today the house is used by Deerfield Academy as the Elijah Williams Dormitory. The house’s original Connecticut River Valley doorway, crafted in 1760 by Samuel Partridge, a renowned joiner, was removed in 2001 to preserve and display it (the doorway is now in Historic Deerfield‘s Flynt Center of Early New England Life). The current doorway is a reproduction.
The Village Library Association was founded in South Deerfield in 1871 and in 1893 it became the South Deerfield Village Library, supported by town funds. The library had several homes, moving from a room in a private building to a newly erected room in the Congregational Chapel in 1876, it moved again in 1906 to the ground floor of Tilton’s Grocery Store. Chauncey B. Tilton, a local grocer, had died in 1900. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts later ruled that money he had left for charitable purposes could be used for literary or educational purposes. This enabled the construction of Tilton Library, built in 1915-1916 as a permanent home for the South Deerfield Village Library. In the late twentieth century, Tilton Library merged with Old Deerfield’s Dickinson Library to become the town of Deerfield’s public library.
Catholics from western Ukraine who had settled in the area of South Deerfield formed Descent of the Holy Ghost parish in 1920. Land was soon purchased on Sugarloaf Street from Charles Mosher. An 1850s carriage shed on the property was moved to a new foundation and adapted to become what is now called Descent of the Holy Spirit Ukrainian Catholic Church. Across the street is Holy Family Roman Catholic Church.
The David Saxton House, on Old Main Street in Deerfield, was operated for a time as a tavern and was a meeting place for Whigs (Patriots) during the American Revolution. As recorded in George Sheldon’s A History of Deerfield, Massachusetts, Vol. 2 (1896):
The big dish of tea made in Boston harbor, December 16th, 1773, stimulated the blood of two continents. David Field was in Boston that day, and when he brought the news there was a jollification meeting at David Saxton’s tavern. When the meeting broke up the mellow Whigs woke the echoes of the night by proclaiming about the town the exploits of those men.
Recent dendrochronology testing has identified the construction date of the house as 1763. I believe this house is the one described by George Sheldon in his book entitled The Little Brown House on the Albany Road (1915).