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

The First Turn, 1680-1720
Lesson 3: The Original Layout of the Town of Deerfield

Unit Central Questions: In This Lesson:

What do primary and secondary sources teach us about the characteristics of "everyday life" of individuals living in Deerfield at the four turns of the centuries?

What do these characteristics reveal about changes in the town since its beginning as an English settlement?

Lesson Length
Key Ideas
Activity 1

Lesson Length

One 45 minute session.

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background

English colonists, Congregationalist descendants of the Puritans, settled in the Deerfield area in the seventeenth century. Their settlement - the way the town was set up and the land distributed, the way the governance structures were organized, and the ways people behaved - reflected their religious beliefs and interpretations of the Bible. They felt it was their moral duty to tame the wilderness, "civilize" the natives, and bring order to the environment.

The proprietors of this settlement carefully distributed the land to ensure that each family owned at least some, although the amount of land was not distributed equally. This was in contrast to many English villages of the time, where people often had no hope of land ownership. The plan of the town permanently transformed the land in Deerfield, from the source of livelihood for a mixed agricultural, hunting and gathering people without permanent dwellings or fixed claims to the land [the Native Americans], to an ordered and owned landscape of English agriculture and husbandry.

In the period 1680-1720, English settlers had individually-owned house lots in a nucleated village laid out along a single street, surrounded by long fertile farm fields which were commonly held and worked. Wood lots, separate from home lots, were used mainly for fuel.

For more information read:
Teacher Background Essay: The Landscape in the Colonial Period

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Intended Learning Outcomes


1. Students will understand that a group of English Congregationalists, descendants of the Puritans, settled in Deerfield in the seventeenth century.
2. Students will understand the original design of the English settlement at Deerfield.
3. Students will understand the reasoning behind the design of the settlement and the distribution of land there.
4. Students will understand that the proprietors of the settlement carefully distributed the land to ensure that each family head received at least some land. In this way every family could provide for its own needs. However, the size of the lots was not the same for everyone.
5. Students will understand that elements of the early settlement of Deerfield can still be seen in the town layout and in some of the early 18th century houses which survive.


1. Students will be able to read and analyze historical maps.
2. Students will be able to analyze a drawing of the period.

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In Preparation for Teaching

1. Read the Teacher Background Essay: The Landscape in the Colonial Period

2. Print map copies

3. Print Woodbridge drawing copies

4. Print modern images of the Severance Hawks house, Lot 18, and the Wells-Thorn House from Activity 1, below.

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Primary and Secondary Sources:

1. Teacher Background Essay: The Landscape in the Colonial Period

2. Individual copies of 1996 plot map, 1671 map fragment, and 1728 Dudley Woodbridge drawing.

3. Modern images of the Severance Hawks house, Lot 18, and the Wells-Thorn House.


1. Colored pencils

2. Individual student notebooks

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Activities Materials in Context

Activity 1
A. The Original Layout of Deerfield

1. Inform students that English colonists settled in Deerfield during the seventeenth century (1600s). Ask a student to point out the place on the Native American time line (constructed in Lesson Two) which represents when the English settled in Deerfield.

2. Distribute copies of 1996 plot map.

a. Explain that this is a modern map (1996) of lots of land in Deerfield.

b. Instruct students to identify points of compass on map.

c. Ask students to locate the buildings noted in the map key (they are identified by the letters a - j).

d. Instruct students to write the names of the buildings (gas station, brick church, post office, etc.) on the appropriate places on the map (using abbreviations where necessary).

e. Have students color these lots.

3. Ask students: What do you notice about most of the lots? (Most of them are long, with some smaller lots clustering in certain parts. Main Street divides the town into two parts.)

4. Distribute copies of 1671 map which shows the original survey and laying out of Deerfield lots. Tell students that this is a fragment of the original survey map. It includes farm and wood lots, and also the northern section of Main Street from lots 43 and 1 extending south to lots 32 and 13, near the area of the Brick Church today. (Note: The Main Street section of the 1671 map is in the far right quadrant of the map, near the center of the page.)

a. Ask students to identify the northern section of Main Street, from lots 43 and 1, expending south to lots 32 and 13, on the modern map.

b. Ask students to find the same section of Main Street on the old map and line it up next to the modern map, matching the points of compass.

c. Ask students what they notice about the lots in the old map as compared to the lots in the modern map. (Many of the original long, narrow lots laid out in the seventeenth century remain.)

d. Instruct students to notice the Deerfield River which meanders through the western part of the town.

5. Tell students that towns in New England didn't just grow randomly. They were carefully planned communities, planned and settled by people whose religious beliefs taught them that a well-organized, disciplined, and ordered environment was in keeping with the teachings of the Bible. The maps show the orderly plan of the town. Also, point out that the settlers believed:

a. They had a right to what they considered "vacant land."

b. It was their moral duty to bring "order" out the "chaos" of the wilderness by creating productive farms and towns.

c. That the Natives were "savages" because they lived in an untamed wilderness.

d. Note that attendance at religious worship and at town meetings was required.

e. People were highly dependent on one another. Discuss. Ask students to speculate about the ways in which people were dependent.

6. Using the 1671 map, instruct students to identify a group of lots that all have the same number (e.g. all lots with the number 3). Ask students to color these in a single color. Instruct them to find another group of lots with matching numbers and color these in a different color. Through discussion and observation of the maps, guide students to understand that:

a. Each number represents the land given to a particular family. Lands were distributed to the settlers for particular purposes (house lots along the street large enough for gardens, wood lots, farm lots). Note where these lands were located, lot size, proximity to water, and proximity of each family's farm lots to their house lots.

b. Every family had land so that they could feed themselves, however, all families didn't all have the same amount of land. Wealthy people had bigger house lots.

c. Unlike the Native Americans, the English settlers believed in individual deeded rights to land. This means that they owned their land outright.

d. The land to be farmed was situated on the fertile flood plain. [Optional activity: Try to locate the main street and farm lots from the 1671 survey map on the topographical map (from lesson one).]

e. The main street was situated on a higher area which would not be threatened by floods. Homes were arranged along the main street, nearby one another, which encouraged the development of an orderly, interdependent community. People could watch to be sure neighbors were behaving as they should, and could see when others needed help.

7. Ask students: What is similar in the two maps? (The layout of the northern part of the town intersected by Main Street.)

8. Ask students: What is included in the old map that is missing from the new one? (The lots north of Main Street and west of the Deerfield River.) These are farm lots.

9. Ask students: Why do you think the farm lots were so long and narrow? (Oxen were used for plowing and it was hard to turn them, so having long, narrow lots, minimized the turns.)

10. Distribute copies of Dudley Woodbridge's 1728 drawing. Point out that Woodbridge drew this fifty-seven years after the 1671 survey map was made. Instruct students to study the drawing and write three things they notice in the drawing in their social studies notebook.

11. Ask students what they think this drawing is. (It is something like a doodle on paper that had some numbers on it.) Inform students that Dudley Woodbridge was a Harvard College graduate who visited Deerfield and stayed in Mehuman Hinsdale's house (south of the common) from Oct. 3-10,1728 - lot 14I. The house is not there now.

12. Ask students: What does "Delineated at Deerfield" mean?

13. Discuss with the students elements of the drawing, such as the meeting houses, the various sized houses, people, trees and animals.

14. Ask students if there are things on this drawing that are on the map fragment. (No - although the houses might give an idea of what Main Street looked like that you can't tell from a map.)

15. Inform students that churches in New England were once known as Meeting Houses.

16. Tell the students that although many things have changed since the time of the old map fragment and the drawing, there are some things on these documents (like the long lots and a few of the buildings) that you still can see in modern Deerfield. Pass out pictures from Family and Landscape to show the 1712, 1713, and 1720's houses.

17. Instruct students to consider the layout and distribution of land in the town, and to write a paragraph about this in their notebooks. Ask them to address these questions:

  • Why was a map drawn in 1671?
  • What did the English settlers believe about land ownership? (The English system of ownership called for clear division of land.)
  • Did everyone have a similar size house lot? (Not completely.)
  • Why were the houses nearby one another on the main street and not nearer to the farm land?
  • Did everyone have a similar amount of farm land? (Not completely.)
  • Did every farm lot have access to water? (Yes.)
  • Can you see an attempt at fairness in the distribution of land? (Every family had some land, although wealthy people had larger home lots.)
  • From the Dudley Woodbridge drawing, can you say something about the kinds of houses seen in Deerfield in the early eighteenth century?

18. Homework - complete the above paragraph, and make a "Dudley Woodbridge type drawing" of your own neighborhood. Stand in front of your house and make doodles of what you see.



1996 map






colored pencils



1671 map






1728 Dudley Woodbridge drawing

student notebooks

Modern images of houses:

Severance/Hawks House
Lot 18, photo 1
Lot 18, photo 2
Wells-Thorn house, photo 1
Wells-Thorn house, photo 2
Wells-Thorn house, photo 3

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Use the paragraph writing activity (step 17) and the homework (step 18) to assess the degree to which individual students have achieved the intended learning outcomes for this lesson.


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