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Farming in the Connecticut River Valley where Deerfield, Massachusetts, is located and where Dennis Stebbins lived became a hard way of making a living in the 1830s. When the Erie Canal was finished in 1825, it opened up western farmlands to the eastern markets making it hard for New England farmers to compete. The use of the canal cut transportation costs a lot, making western farm products cheaper. Younger sons, like William and Dennis, Jr. in the Stebbins family moved away from hometowns to find work in jobs like the new railroads.