Historic Deerfield MA

Historic Deerfield Winter Lecture Series: "Risky Business"

Historic Deerfield will present a free winter lecture series, "Risky Business: Getting Ahead in the Early Republic," exploring the fascinating histories of individuals willing to bend or even break established customs and laws in their quest to "get ahead" in the new republic, on Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. in January, February, and March at the Deerfield Community Center, 16 Memorial Street, in Old Deerfield.

A rising generation of citizens vigorously pursued happiness in the decades following the American Revolution. For some, this meant taking morally dubious and potentially disastrous shortcuts to fame and fortune. Join us as we learn more about the lively and unconventional careers of two women who made crime pay, an artistic counterfeiter, and a creative biographer. 

The first lecture, entitled "Making Crime Pay: The Dangerous Careers of Ann Carson and Mary Clarke," will be presented by Susan Branson, Professor of History, Syracuse University, on Sunday, January 28.

The lecture series continues with "Soldier, Engraver, Counterfeiter: Richard Brunton's Life on the Fringe in America's New Republic," presented by Deborah Child, Independent Scholar, on Sunday, February 25. 

The final lecture, "'Parson Weems' and the (Re)making of George Washington," will be presented by Steven Bullock, Professor of History, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, on Sunday, March 25.

Winter Hours and Admission Information

The Flynt Center of Early New England Life will be open Saturdays and Sundays, December 30, 2017 - April 8, 2018, 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.  Visitors can enjoy current exhibitions and "The Museum's Attic" gallery.  Seasonal Winter Admission: $7 Adults, $5 Youth (ages 6-17), under 6, Deerfield residents, and members free. Historic Deerfield's museum houses are closed to the public during the winter months (January-mid-April), however pre-arranged tours-by-appointment, school tours and group tours can still be scheduled. For more information, call (413) 775-7214. The museum will reopen for the 2018 Season on Saturday, April 14, 2018.

About Historic Deerfield, Inc.

Historic Deerfield, Inc., is dedicated to the heritage and preservation of Deerfield, Massachusetts, and the Connecticut River Valley. Its museums and programs provide today's audiences with experiences that create an understanding and appreciation of New England's historic villages and countryside.


Historic Deerfield Receives Important Gifts of Porter Family Materials, Giving First-Hand Account of American Revolution

Hand-written orders from George Washington, Benedict Arnold, Among the Collection of Papers

Historic Deerfield, Inc., recently received the gifts of important materials from the years of the Revolutionary War from Samuel and David Cooley, relating to their family, the Porters of Hadley, Massachusetts. The manuscripts will be housed in the Memorial Libraries at Historic Deerfield.  The papers come from two brothers, Eleazar Porter (1728-1797) and Elisha Porter (1742-1796).
"This joint gift embraces the stories of brothers," said Philip Zea, President of Historic Deerfield. "The generous gift of heirlooms by Sam and Dave Cooley as well as the revolutionary stories through paper and artifacts of Eleazar and Elisha Porter."
Eleazar Porter was a graduate of Yale University who practiced law in Hadley, and also served as Justice of the Peace, a Judge of Probate, and a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. Elisha Porter was a Harvard College graduate who served in the Revolutionary War as the colonel of the Fourth Hampshire Regiment (Western Massachusetts), participating in the battles of Bunker Hill and Saratoga, and serving in Canada and New London.  Elisha was charged with escorting General John Burgoyne of the British Army to Boston after his surrender at Saratoga.
These important papers were kept in private hands, descending through the family, until now. Elisha's papers provide an intimate view of the Revolution from an officer just outside the limelight who had a front row seat to history. Elisha Porter's papers contain important letters, including a February 10, 1776, letter signed by General George Washington at Cambridge instructing Colonel Porter to move his regiment north to Canada via Fort Number Four and Onion River in relief of Montgomery/Arnold's failed expeditions. There are also letters signed by general officers Philip Schuyler, Baron de Woedtke, David Wooster, Timothy Danielson, and a dispatch with the signature of Benedict Arnold. Porter's 1781 commission from the State of Massachusetts-Bay bears the bold signature of John Hancock. In addition, the materials include correspondence with local dignitaries, broadsides, muster rolls, and receipts regarding equipping troops.
Also included in this gift are rare parts of the uniform of Elisha Porter, including the epaulettes he had made in 1778. The receipt for the epaulettes is included in this collection.
Eleazar Porter's papers provide valuable insight into local court proceedings in pre-Revolutionary Hadley. The papers include writs, orders, summonses, and receipts for various cases heard before him as a judge.
These papers are a fascinating resource for any scholar of the Revolution, as well as local historians.  Historic Deerfield plans to have these materials on view in the future, and they can be accessed by researchers via the Memorial Libraries at this time.

Epaulettes, American, made from imported British or European materials, 1778. Part of a military uniform worn by Colonel Elisha Porter (1742-1796) of Hadley, Massachusetts, an important example of late 18th-century officer's uniform owned and worn in the Connecticut River Valley. 2017.30.8, Historic Deerfield. Gift of the Cooley Family, Hartford, Connecticut, direct descendants of Col. Elisha Porter. 

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