A Piece of the Junkins Garrison in Old Deerfield, MA

From JFA newsletter no. 8, Summer 1993

December 17, 1984, Roland, Donald and Daniel Junkins made a visit to the Frary House in Old Deerfield, Mass. While there, they discovered a piece of the Junkins Garrison incorporated into the house. While at the Frary house, they were given a little booklet written by J. M. Arms Sheldon, entitled "Tribute to C. Alice Baker." The booklet is a reprint of a paper read at the Field Meeting of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, held in Deerfield, September 8, 1909. Most the following material comes directly from this paper.

Alice Baker lost her father when she was but 6 years old. In her early years she lived with her mother in Springfield. She attended Old Deerfield Academy and about 1845 became one of its brightest students. With a mind so eager for knowledge and a heart so full of kindliness for those less favored than herself, she soon aided the teachers in their work, and in 1853, she held the position of assistant teacher at the Academy.

In 1853, a new teacher appeared at the Academy. A young lady from Cambridge, Susan Minot Lane. The two came together, and it was not long before the union was complete, as each chose the other for a life companion.

In the autumn of 1854, when Alice Baker was twenty-one years old, she decided to go west and, with Miss Lane, open a school in Chicago. They believed that a woman had the right to do whatever she was fitted by birth and training to do thoroughly and well. Casting public sentiment to the winds, they went west, established a school, and in a few years, this school was one of the leading educational forces of the city of Chicago.

In 1865, Miss Lane and Miss Baker decided to leave Chicago and go back east. They opened a private school in Boston and made a home with Alice's mother in Cambridge. The Boston school soon took its rightful place among the leading schools in the city. Miss Baker's specialty was history. When we have said this, however, we have given not the faintest conception of the truth. She made history a living, pulsating thing. Hear her give a lesson and you felt you must go home, and make history the study of your life.

No boy or girl in Miss Baker's class could be dull or indifferent. The ozone of that northwest breeze vitalized nerves and muscles till they tingled. "She can make a cobblestone live!" was the involuntary exclamation of an admiring schoolgirl.

It is seldom that a teacher, possessing the true teacher's instinct, is also an investigator in unexplored fields, but such was Miss Baker. In 1860, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association was organized at Deerfield. Its president, George Sheldon, recognizing the rare ability of Miss Baker, asked her to prepare a paper for the first annual meeting in February 1871.

The next year, 1872, Miss Baker presented a paper of "The Settlement at Deerfield;" in 1877, one on "Ministers and Meetinghouses;" the next year, 1878, she spoke on "Ensign John Sheldon;" and in 1879, on "Christina Otis," These papers of the first decade of the Association's life gave character to the institution and helped to make its foundation broad and strong. The president and Miss Baker worked together, each helping the other.

Until 1890, Miss Baker usually spent her summer vacations in York, by the sea she loved. In 1890, she decided to have a home in Deerfield, dear to her heart. The oldest house in the tow, and one of the oldest in the Connecticut Valley, dating back to 1698, and possibly to an earlier year, was then tottering to its fall. It seemed to stand merely by force of habit. Only one possessing the true historic instinct could have seen its possibilities.

Aided by another enthusiast, she threw herself into the work of restoration. She helped personally in freeing the beautiful brown paneled walls and doors of their varied coats of paint, and even cleaned some of the old-time brick. The joy of the summertime was carried through the winter, and many an evening was spent in talking over the furnishings of the different rooms. Many of the items used to restore the old house were brought from other abandoned houses of the same period.

A panel, which is the china closet door under the back stairs, was brought from the Junkins Garrison house. The building, now destroyed, was deserted except by hens when Miss Baker rescued the panel in a very filthy condition. She scrubbed it and treasured it to be ready when needed, as she had kept the drawers which are below it. At last, the fine colonial home was ready for occupancy, and was christened, for good reason, "Frary House." Samson Frary was a pioneer settler of Pocumtuck who drew this lot in 1671 and who probably built the house after 1683. His great-granddaughter, Lucy Frary, was the great-great-grandmother of Miss Baker, and therefore, Frary House was her ancestral home.

In February 1893, after only a few years' enjoyment of Frary House, Miss Susan Lane, the life-long companion of Miss Baker, died, followed six years later, in 1899, by Miss Baker. In this same year, the Junkins Garrison was burned to the ground by vandals. All that is left today is the cellar hole and this panel which is the china closet door at the frary House. This serene colonial house with its harmonious furnishings will tell future generations of Junkins of the pathetic and thrilling story of the home life of their ancestors.1

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