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Deerfield historian George Sheldon traced the ownership of slaves living in Deerfield, Massachusetts, from as early as 1695 into the late 18th century. Quoting liberally from a 1749 sermon delivered "to the negroes in Deerfield" by the Reverend Jonathan Ashley (1712-1780), Sheldon is able to convey the minister's attitude on the subject of slavery. George Sheldon, himself, never approved of slavery. He was likely inspired to document the history of Deerfield's slaves due to his childhood memories of Cato, a former slave owned by the Reverend Jonathan Ashley. George Sheldon had little patience for those who preferred to minimize or forget the region's slave-owning past, seeing "no reason?why we should not face the facts relating to it [slavery], found in church and town records, and old family manuscripts."