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Farming in the Connecticut River Valley where Deerfield, Massachusetts, is located and where Dennis Stebbins lived became a difficult means of making a living in the 1830s. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 opened up the higher productivity of western lands to the eastern markets making New England farmers hard-pressed to compete. The use of the canal cut transportation costs considerably. Younger sons, like William and Dennis, Jr. in the Stebbins family moved away from hometowns to seek work in occupations like the new railroads.