The Buttonwood Tree, Deerfield


The spot where Quinton and Abigail built their home in Deerfield is easily identified. Its location is diagrammed on the map which is for sale at Memorial Hall, and it is shown as being inside the fortified stockade. A dormitory for Freshman boys attending Deerfield Academy stands there today, and a plaque on a large granite boulder in the front yard marks this as where the young minister, Samuel Mather, boarded with a Deerfield family. Though the plaque doesn’t give the name of tat family, we know from many other sources that it was Quinton Stockwell’s We have stood on that little knoll where the house was located, and we have read the inscription which, before giving an account of the minister’s life and accomplishment, says:

In Memory of Rev. Samuel Mather, M.A. Pioneer Minister of Deerfield 1673-76 who lived in a house on this site

We have studied the surroundings, trying to visualize this stout little fortified house on Meetinghouse Hill to which settlers came for refuge and which was known as “Stockwell’s Fort.” We know that in the fall of 1675 it was burned in the savage assault of Indians just before the massacre at Bloody Brook, and as our story unfolds we shall follow the attempts of Quinton Stockwell to rebuild his home. What is there to be seen while we stand here to form a bond for us with the past? The soil? The gentle rise of slope on this low hill? “The Street,” stretching to north and south, lifeline of the village? From the first it was laid out to be wide enough for two ox teams to meet and pass easily. The very air? As we lift our heads to breathe deeply of the quiet and peacefulness to be experienced there now, we spot our symbol across the common on the campus. The old buttonball tree! Of course! The Pocumtuk buttonball! It was a full grown specimen long before Deerfield was even a gleam in the eye of a New Englander. It has seen the whole history of the town…it [may be] 550 years old in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Would that it could tell the history it has witnessed!…Did Quentin and Abigail find pleasure and comfort in glancing across at it as they paused momentarily while at some household or barnyard task? The tree was almost directly across the wide road from them, and its beauty at each season of the year must have been outstanding even then.

-From The Stockwell Family, Irene Dixon Stockwell, 1982


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