Joseph Stebbins House, Deerfield, Massachusetts

The Joseph Stebbins House on Old Main Street in Deerfield, around 1920. Image from the White Pine Architectural Monographs Volume VI No. 5 (1920).

The house in 2023:

This house was built in 1773 by Joseph Stebbins (1718-1797) for his son, Joseph Stebbins Jr. (1749-1816). A year later, Joseph married Lucy Frary, and they raised their large family here in this house. Over the next 23 years they had 13 children: Tirzah, Charlotte, Dennis, Charlotte, Joseph, Lucy, Avice, Arabella, Caroline, Aurelia, Baxter, Mehitable, and Maria. Large families such as theirs were not uncommon in 18th century New England, but it is interesting to note that, in an era of high infant mortality rates, 11 of their 13 children managed to survive to adulthood.

Joseph Stebbins was primarily a farmer, but he also served as an officer during the American Revolution. He fought at Bunker Hill in 1775 and in the Saratoga Campaign in 1777, and he was eventually promoted to lieutenant colonel after the war. During Shays Rebellion of 1786-1787 he was part of the militia force that suppressed the rebellion here in Western Massachusetts, and in 1788 he rose to the rank of a full colonel in the state militia.

Joseph and Lucy’s youngest son Baxter eventually inherited the property, and it was subsequently owned by a succession of other Stebbins family members throughout the 19th century. It was finally sold out of the family in 1897, and in 1898 it was purchased by Jennie Maria Arms Sheldon, a noted entomologist and historian. She was the curator of the Memorial Hall Museum here in Deerfield, and she was also the second wife of George Sheldon, a local historian who published many works on the history of Deerfield and the surrounding area. She owned the house when the top photo was taken around 1920, and it would remain in her possession until her death in 1938.

The house was later rented to Deerfield Academy, and then it was purchased outright by the school in 1952. It is one of the many homes on Old Main Street that are owned by Deerfield Academy, and over the years it has been used for faculty housing. Today, it has seen few changes since the top photo was taken, aside from the removal of historically-inaccurate shutters, and it stands as a good example of a gambrel-roof Georgian home here in Deerfield.

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