2020 HISTORICAL GRAVESTONE PRESERVATION PROJECT
The Laurel Hill Cemetery is a historic burying ground in Deerfield, MA. Its location is east of Old Deerfield Village, across U.S. Route 5. The postponed 150th reunion of the Dickinson Family Association will take place in Deerfield, and since the DFA has contributed toward a major cleaning and restoration project undertaken in the summer and fall of 2020, we are posting here a few photos of the cemetery showing the work that was done and some of the Dickinson gravestones and monuments found there.
The work was carried out by Chris Harris, and a more detailed description can be found at this link: Project Report. Chris and his crew are to be commended for a magnificent and important job done. As members of one of the prominent families buried here, we of the DFA are grateful to them for this outstanding preservation project.
Maps of the cemetery may be found at the cemetery website. Dickinson graves are found in the West section, in rows 10, 16 and 18. We hope to arrange for some guided tours during the 2021 reunion, but all attendees are welcome to visit the cemetery and explore it on their own.
IF STONES COULD TALK
Notes on some of the Dickinsons buried at Laurel Hill[More information on several of these people is available in Ken Dickinson’s articles in the DFA Newsletters of November 2019, and January, April, and December 2020]
Thomas Dickinson (1718-1814) was born in Hatfield and moved to Deerfield around 1753. Several of his nine sons have gravestones in Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Eliphalet Dickinson (1749-1827)
Eliphalet Dickinson served in the Revolutionary War and was called “Uncle Liff”. He and his brother, Thomas Wells Dickinson (b. 1751) were among the 15 “Proprietors of the New School” which met in 1787 to establish a school for Deerfield. The schoolhouse was built by 1788 and opened in that year. This school was the seed for Deerfield Academy, which was founded in 1797. Four men from the original proprietors (not the Dickinsons) were among the first trustees of Deerfield Academy.
Two of Eliphalet’s sons, Jackson and William are buried in Laurel Hill. Their stones are pictured below.
Thomas Wells was a colonel in the Revolutionary War. One of his sons, Rodolphus, is the subject of an article by Ken Dickinson in the December 2020 DFA Newsletter. Another son, Thomas Wells Dickinson, M.D. (known as “Wells”) was a farmer and physician. His gravestone and that of his wife, Lucy, are pictured below.
Lucy Hoyt Dickinson (1799-1854) Thomas Wells, M.D. (1784-1849)
Another brother of Eliphalet and Col. Thomas Wells was Consider Dickinson. He was the youngest of the nine children born to Capt. Thomas Dickinson. A large granite monument stands at the gravesites of Consider Dickinson (1761-1854) and his two wives. One side of the monument tells of his first wife, Filana Field, and another of his second wife, Esther Harding.
Consider was a farmer and fur trader and served in the Rev. war. He had no children. His widow Esther lived until 1875 and when she died she left her land to the town of Deerfield. The inscription on the fourth side of the monument describes her bequest:
“The large property of this family, acquired by years of careful industry and frugality, was given for a High School, Library and Reading Room, free to the inhabitants of Deerfield.”
The private school, Deerfield Academy, had done very well financially in its early years, but by the time Esther died it was not prospering. Therefore, funds from Deerfield Academy were transferred to Dickinson Academy and a new building was built on Esther’s property. It was known as Dickinson Academy and Deerfield High School and included a free library and reading room for the town. In time, Dickinson Academy faded, and Deerfield Academy re-emerged and grew to its present prestigious state.[Currently, the high school for local youth, and those of some surrounding towns is Frontier Regional H.S. in South Deerfield.]
refs. A History of Deerfield Massachusetts, vol. 2, George Sheldon, 1896; Descendants of Nathaniel Dickinson, 3rd ed., Dickinson Family Association, 2006.