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In the Classroom > Unit Overview > Lesson 8

Lesson Eight
Changes in Deerfield, Massachusetts Shown on Maps

Maps and charts and drawings allow us to present vast amounts of information in a small amount of space. These two examples should, more accurately, be called plans rather than maps. Both depict the village of Deerfield, Massachusetts, one as it was in 1794 and the other 36 years later, in 1830.

Both are details of larger works and were drawn by hand. In each case, the artist made the decision as to what he would include and what perspective he would take. You will note that both seem to have been drawn from a hilltop to the east of the village. Perhaps both men really did climb the hill to the east to make a sketch of the town's buildings and the path of the Deerfield River. Students should be asked to locate the points of the compass and add the directions to the map.

By comparing the two plans, differences can be noted in the landscape and in the townscape over the thirty-six years.

The 1794 example, by David Hoyt, Jr. (1757-1803), was executed when he was thirty-seven years old. Mr. Hoyt was an innholder and a farmer, but he was also a surveyor. Was he asked to draw the map or did he draw it for his own pleasure? The answer lies in a document filed with records of Deerfield Town Meetings, dated June 18, 1794. The directive from the "House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts" orders that the Selectmen of towns "take or cause to be taken" accurate plans of their respective towns upon a scale of two hundred rods to an inch [16 feet=1 rod]. It further states that said map shall indicate the rivers, bridges, roads, and houses for public worship.

Looking at the village, we can count thirty-four small squares, representing buildings [probably houses and shops] and a meetinghouse, located in the center of town on the west side of the street. We talk about the towns in the Connecticut River Valley being both linear and nuclear. Mr. Hoyt's map illustrates that clearly. In addition to buildings along the main street, he has defined the roadways that lead out of town - over the Deerfield River, over the mountain (Pocumtuck Ridge) and both north and south into the common fields and beyond, north to Greenfield. There is some evidence of buildings and another curious squiggle on or beside the Deerfield River. What are they? - ferry houses, perhaps, and a boat? It is important to notice the path the river takes in 1794 and compare it with the new course it has taken by 1830. Whenever you see that kind of a difference, you should think about what caused the change - a flood, a serious storm, or an occurrence generated by man. The answer may be found in town records, in the newspapers, or sometimes in private papers - correspondence, diaries, etc.

Again, in 1830, the General Court requested a map of towns in the Commonwealth be drawn. The results of the 1794 request were published, but the maps from 1830 were not.

The roadways on the 1830 example are similar to those in 1794 with a few additions into the north and south meadows, but note how the path of the river has changed, leaving only a small meander to remind us of its course in the nineteenth century. Although the meetinghouse appears to be in the same location in both plans, we know that by 1830 a new meetinghouse has been built and is off the Common to the north, unlike the buildings for worship (four, over the course of time from 1670 to 1823) in the years before 1824, all of which were located right on the Common.

Mr. Arthur W. Hoyt (1811-1899) was only nineteen when he drew this map and would become, as an adult, a civil engineer. His mountains are less dramatic, not really discernible as mountains, but more as woods represented by stylized trees.

The town street in 1830 has both a meetinghouse and a school, and has added an "Academy" on the north side of the road over the mountain. This is Deerfield Academy, which was built in 1797-1798 and opened January 1, 1799. And one must assume that the population has increased, since Arthur W. Hoyt illustrates fifty-one houses and shops. Curiously he shows no buildings on Albany Road, the road that leads from the center of town to the Deerfield River and beyond, although the town history reveals that five houses and shops were built there in the years after 1760. The earlier map showed only two of the buildings on Albany Road. The way he has spaced the buildings suggests a true rendering, with some close together and some farther apart as we can see they are today.

Both maps have information to give us if we know the questions to ask. The study is enhanced by comparing these two maps or plans with a modern-day plan of the town of Deerfield and the immediate landscape around it.


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