Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cemetery: Old Deerfield Burying Ground

It's not unusual for me to take a right at the brown Historic Deerfield sign on Routes 5 & 10 while heading south toward home from visiting family or friends in the northern reaches of this great Commonwealth, driving slow down Main Street, Old Deerfield, oohing and ahhing at the beautiful old homes and civic structures lining both sides of that quaint and cozy avenue in a village that seems to stand untouched by time. It's a nice ride, as Main Street forks right into Mill Village Road at its southern end (a left at the fork brings you right back out to 5 & 10), following the Deerfield River for a ways as the road takes you through abundant acres of vegetables and flowers, past farms and cows and wonderful smells that make you glad to live in New England. I always mourn the old drive-in theater as I pass the spot where it once stood, now houses and humans, right before Mill Village Road rejoins Routes 5 & 10.

Last Friday, I happened to be doing my drive-through living history tour, and decided to take advantage of the great weather - and the fact that the area is pretty mellow on a weekday right about now, especially with Deerfield Academy out for the summer - stopping off at the Old Burying Ground, at the end of Albany Road, which runs off the west side of Main near the Academy, to explore and take a few photos. It had been years since I had been there...indeed the memory is fuzzy...partying around Halloween...a bunch of us loaded into my sister-in-law's purple Gremlin...ach. Funny how a couple more decades along the road will bring out the reverence in someone.

This stone and tablet just inside the gate lists the names of the interred. It's a beautiful spot to rest, even for the living, with a couple of wooden benches overlooking the cemetery.

The restless stones seek their place in the earth. Where are those they mark?

Some families occupy large sections of the cemetery, a perpetual reunion. The small stones are most often children, the tears wept for them by pioneer mothers and fathers long since dry, the hearth that comforted them, centuries cold.

This mound covers the mass grave of the settlers killed in the February 29, 1704 attack on the village by 200 to 300 French soldiers and their Indian cohorts during Queen Anne's War. The marauders massacred 56 men, women and children before taking 112 villagers captive and forcing them on an unforgiving, 300-mile winter-march to Canada. 21 died on the tragic journey: 3 infants (out of 4), 4 children (out of 35), 4 men (out of 26) and 10 women (out of 26). The 21 teenagers captured in Deerfield survived the march to Canada.

The stones cast long shadows in the grass as the day begins drawing to a close. A beautiful late afternoon can be a melancholy thing, the light and sun and warmth finally just right and...fading fast, with nothing to keep it in place. Below and behind the shadows of the cemetery, the playing fields of Deerfield Academy bask in the glow of the uninterrupted sun, the bleachers empty, waiting for life.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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jhm said...

I found your site googling for a picture of the Deerfield Drive-in that you mention here. We lived on the road that you might remember immediately after the entrance to the drive-in, coming from 5&10, in a house we built in the mid 70's.

If you have any photos of the theater, or can suggest any source that I might search online, please e-mail at: jhm@mtdata.com

JustAnnie said...

HI there, I Like JHM, googled looking for this cemetery. I have ancestors buried here, in the mound, I saw the photo you had posted and felt sadness and yet joy in finding them. It's wonderful you took the time to help us unable to actually get there, be able to see the graves and surrounding area plus all the other information you have posted. Thanks again, it means so much for me to be able to at lest see where my ancestors were laid to rest..

David said...

Do you have an address for the cemetery?

Mark T. Alamed said...

The cemetery is located at the end of Old Albany Road, Deerfield, MA.

sid said...

Found your site as I am planning a trip East to visit Deerfield and Hatfield. My long past familly members are in the mound at Deerfield and the senior progenitor Zecharaiah Field is burried at Hatfield 1666.

Anonymous said...

Do me a favor and post all the names of the dead in this graveyard, I seem to have a bunch of genetic cousins who died in that massacre...
Thanks, JR

Anonymous said...

Do me a favor and post all the names of the dead in this graveyard, I seem to have a bunch of genetic cousins who died in that massacre...
Thanks, JR

DLa Rue said...

This site has the photos, or is set up to receive them if there are none for the person named:


I do research on burying grounds in the greater Boston area and am working on stones for those with professional medical associations at the moment (i.e., MDs, midwives, etc.) I'd be curious if anyone knowledgeable about the stones in this area can tell me where Elihu Ashely, whose diary was published a few years ago by UMass Press, is buried, or would have a picture of his stone.

In exchange, I'll offer a free tour of the colonial Boston or Cambridge Burying ground of your choice...or similar help on any research project I can assist with, if anyone can help me: www.freewebs.com/buryinggroundstours - DLa Rue

DLa Rue said...

I should mention that I've already searched "Find-a-Grave" and looked up searchable records on Ancestry to the extent that I could w/a limited membership.