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In the Classroom > Course Overview > Unit Overview > Lesson 1
Lesson 1
A Glimpse at Deerfield in the Connecticut River Valley

The machine had truly come to the garden. In 1846, work crews built the railroad north from Northampton to Greenfield, passing through Deerfield on the hill east of the village. The railroad made it easier to transport produce to market. It also fostered competition from other agricultural regions. In order to stay competitive, many local farmers diversified their crops. In the 1850s, they added such field crops as broomcorn, onions, and tobacco.

The Civil War (1861-1865) had a tremendous effect on the Deerfield community. Some of Deerfield's young men were killed in battle; others who had traveled during the war sought and found opportunities in other locations. Cities, manufacturing towns, and the potentials of the American west drew them away from home and away from agriculture. As family size diminished, sons moved away, and the post-war economy declined, the dynamics of property ownership changed. One effect of the shift was to permit the few families who continued to farm to consolidate land use and farm more efficiently. Another was to transfer ownership of property to women, increasing their rights and stature within the community. In subsequent decades, these women and their female descendants would lead both the Arts and Crafts and Preservation Movements in the town.

Along with the rest of the nation, Deerfield experienced a burst of revived interest in the American colonial period during the late 19th century. This look backwards was inspired by a number of forces: the celebration of the Nation's 100th birthday (1876); the worldwide Arts and Crafts movement; and the threat of a cultural identity crisis caused by the swell of immigrants from Eastern Europe who came to work the Valley farms. Everything was changing -- farming, transportation, communication, and population. How did Deerfield propose to cope with change and yet stay the same?


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