In the spring of 1773 three adventuresome pioneers came from the valley near Herkimer and settled along the north bank of the Mohawk River opposite the fording place. Mark Damuth, Christian Reall and George J. Weaver built log homes and cleared the wilderness land to make a home for their families. The annual spring flooding of the Mohawk drove them further north to the area of Deerfield corners where they started rebuilding their settlement. They remained here until the summer of 1776 when the settlement was broken up by a raid of Tories and Indians. The settlers had just enough time to hide their possessions and escape with their families to Stone Arabia, a small fort in what is now Schuyler. The houses and crops were destroyed and the earliest settlement of Deerfield was left in ruins.
The first white male child, the son of George M. Weaver, was born in Deerfield on January 15, 1787. The Weavers played important roles in the development of Deerfield and Oneida County. Christian Reall who had his cabin on the bank of Reall's Creek did not stay long and migrated west. Mark Damuth ventured west also to join the Realls.
North Gage Post Office 1898
Under an Act of the State Legislature, dated March 15, 1798, Oneida County was established and the Town of Deerfield was organized. In 1803 Timothy Smith, after first settling at Deerfield Corner, moved with his family and settled on Jeam's Hill, later renamed Smith Hill. Pratt Smith, one of the sons of Timothy, stayed in Deerfield and became one of the most prominent and successful farmers in the county.
Vegetable farming was a very profitable industry in the southern part of Deerfield, providing fresh produce to customers in the city. Most of this farming was done on the farms of Weaver, Clapp, Smith, Burton, Marsh, Coventry and Wells located in the area of Herkimer Road, Trenton Road, Walker Road and Cosby Manor Road. Jacob Schermerhorn built the first frame house in Deerfield on what is now Schermerhorn Hill.
Agriculture was a mainstay of the early settlers in this area with cheesemaking becoming a profitable way of preserving milk for marketing. Many cheese factories existed in the area but unfortunately none were preserved. A post office was established at North Gage in 1831 and continued until 1903.
Camaron Hill Bridge
The Camaron Hill Bridge, a covered bridge which spanned the West Canada Creek, was constructed in 1803 at the foot of Camaron Hill on land donated by the Camaron family. Troops serving in the War of 1812 tramped over this bridge to Military Road and then on to Sackett's Harbor. The bridge was deemed unsafe in 1937 and was burned by agreement of officials from Oneida and Herkimer County.
In 1838 land was donated for a Catholic church on Bell Hill. This church, The Church of the Holy Cross, served its congregation of about 500 people until 1868 when the Mass was said for the last time. St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church was organized and built in 1872, at Deerfield Corners, shortly after the closing of the church on Bell Hill.
Early North Gage residents maintained religious practices by meeting in nearby homes or outdoors before the Presbyterian and Baptist Society of Deerfield was organized. Under the direction of Presbyterian officials from Utica, a Union Church was established with Deacon Duncan Blue as the first elder.
North Gage Church
In 1798 the Second Baptist Society was formed and the Baptist Church was later erected, which is now the New York State Register of Historic Place. The Episcopal Church was organized as a Union Sabbath School and services begun in 1874 with the congregation meeting just north of the Corners.
The first school in Deerfield was a log cabin erected in 1807 at North Gage on Schermerhorn property. Aaron Reed was the first teacher. By 1865 there were eleven school districts employing eleven teachers. These one-room schools served 745 pupils and the total budget was about $2,693.
The settlement at Deerfield Corners was prospering when the Deerfield Post Office was established in 1855. Many businesses existed in the area from the Corners to the north side of the Mohawk River. Brick manufacturing thrived with as many as seven brick yards operating at one time. Jesse Auert had a general store and operated the Union Hotel at the Corners. There was a varnish factory, slaughterhouse, florist, wagon shop, a freight company and numerous other small businesses and professional offices.
In 1891 Utica annexed from Deerfield a small section on both sides of North Genesee Street to the new site of the Mohawk River which had been moved about a mile northward to provide for the location of the New York Central Railroad tracks. On May 9, 1916 Utica annexed the southern portion of Deerfield, including all of what is now North Utica. Deerfield lost its four-corners as well as its business district and lost a combined population of 1,700 people in the two annexations.
Deerfield Old Horse Car 1902
Prominent residents of Deerfield included Dr. Alexander Coventry, a Scottish immigrant who owned a farm on Walker Road in Deerfield. The brick house has remained in the Coventry family of the Hughes family since its construction. Dr. Coventry was instrumental in the establishment of the Oneida County Medial Society and the Agricultural Society and was a prominent leader in the community.
Horatio Seymour, “The Sage of Deerfield,” lived on his farm estate called “Marysland” on a hill overlooking Utica, now part of the site of the SUNY Institute of Technology. He was Mayor of Utica, twice governor of New York State, ran for President of the United States and lost to Ulysses S. Grant in 1860. He was a gentle man as well as a prominent politician.
Today, Deerfield is a quiet “bedroom” community with many housing developments, many civic and social organizations, and several park and recreation facilities. WKTV and WUTR television stations are located on top of Smith Hill. Deerfield is a town that is special to its residents, encompassing the energy of its suburban community and the serenity of its countryside.