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In the Classroom > Course Overview > Unit Overview
Lessons: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15

Lesson 14: Meeting House

Lesson Central Question:

In This Lesson:

What has changed in the Deerfield Village?

Lesson Length
Key Ideas

Lesson Length

1 class period (85 minutes)

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background

Between the First and Second Great Awakenings, Massachusetts saw a trend toward the disestablishment of the church -- a democratization of religion. The First Amendment in the new Federal Constitution forbade the adoption of an officially established church, perhaps because of past religious conflicts in Europe, which plagued the continent over the centuries.

The gradual disestablishment of the Congregational Church in Massachusetts during the post-Federal period reflects this movement. Such legislation illustrated the waning influence of the Congregational Church on the secular and religious daily lives of the inhabitants. Although the church still occupied a prominent place in the lives of the Deerfield residents, the building was now owned by the congregation and used only for worship. Although grander in scale, the building retained its early English Puritan attributes of simplicity, piety, and order.

Teacher Background Essay: Development of the Meeting House

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Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand:

  • Deerfield became prosperous because of the river trade and improved agricultural practices. This prosperity led to increased refinement.

Students will be able to:

  • Make the connections between the changing ideals of "decencies" of life, new modes of behavior, and consumption, which together resulted in what is known as the middle class.
  • Use information gained from this and other periods to develop a continuum showing the growth of the Deerfield community
  • "Read" a building and understand architectural terminology.

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In Preparation for Teaching

1. Read Teacher Background Essay: Development of the Meeting House

Further Background reading:
McGowan, Susan and Amelia Miller. Family and Landscape. Deerfield, Massachusetts: Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, 1996.

Editor: Peter Benes. New England Meeting House and Church: 1630-1850. Dublin Seminar: Boston: Boston UP, 1979.


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Primary and Secondary Sources:

Unless otherwise noted, all are available on the American Centuries website.

  1. Meeting House references and images.

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Activity Materials in Context
  • Invite the students to research the First and Second Great Awakenings in New England. Identify the following in terms of the "awakenings": Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield.
  • Reassemble in the class and discuss the events and the ramifications of those events.
  • Read the teacher/student essay.
  • Ask students to sketch the floor plan of the fourth Deerfield Meeting House, its exterior design, location in the town, interior seating arrangements, symbolism, and ornamentation.

Summarize the changing role of the church from the Colonial Period (1680-1720) to the Federal Period (1780-1820) in Deerfield as it impacted your selected family.


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Written summary of the changing role of the church.

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