Glimpse at Deerfield in the Connecticut River Valley
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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