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Seating of the Meeting House
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Where a family sat in the meetinghouse was a measure of the social status of the male head of the household. The town itself decided upon the rank of each pew and a committee decided where the people sat. Age was the principal criterion in the 1600s, but wealth, military titles, and holding town office became key factors in the 18th century. Seating the meetinghouse became the subject of frequent legislation and social agitation. This chart reflects the seating of the Meeting House in Deerfield, Massachusetts, shortly after the American Revolution. Men and women are no longer segregated and families sit together. Box pews with doors have replaced the older backless benches. These little box-like spaces created a more draft-free and family-centered worship space. Many congregations began selling or renting pews to parishioners in this period.
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