1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Amherst (Massachusetts)

AMHERST, a village of Amherst township, Hampshire county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., in the central part of the state, about 7 m. N.E. of Northampton. Pop. of the township (1890) 4512; (1900) 5028; (1910, U. S. census) 5112. It is served by the Boston & Maine and the Central Vermont railways, and by interurban electric railways to Northampton, Holyoke, Sunderland and Pelham. The village is picturesquely situated on a plateau within a rampart of hills on the E. side of the Connecticut river valley. About 3 m. to the S. are the Holyoke Mountains (so called), while on the three remaining sides the land slopes to meadows, beyond which rise on the W. the Hampshire and Berkshire Hills, on the N. the Sugar Loaf Mountains and Mt. Toby, and on the E. the Pelham Hills, including Mt Lincoln (1246 ft.). Two small rivers (Mill and Fort) flow through the township. Amherst is a quiet, pleasing, academic village of attractive homes. It is noteworthy as the seat of Amherst College, one of the best known of the smaller colleges of the United States. Amherst Academy (opened about 1814, chartered 1816), a co-educational school at which Mary Lyon, the founder of Mt. Holyoke College, was educated, preceded the college (not co-educational), which was opened in 1821 and was chartered in 1825. It was originally a collegiate charitable institution, its basis being a fund for the schooling of ministers, and the charity element has remained very large relatively to other colleges. The principal college buildings are College Hall (1828); College Chapel (1828); the Henry T. Morgan Library; Williston Hall, containing the Mather Art Museum, the rooms of the Young Men’s Christian Association, and several lecture-rooms; Walker Hall, with college offices and lecture-rooms; Hitchcock Hall; Barrett Hall (1859), the first college gymnasium built in the United States, now used as a lecture hall; the Pratt Gymnasium and Natatorium and the Pratt Health Cottage, whose donors also gave to the college the Pratt Field; an astronomical observatory; and the two dormitories, North College and South College, supplemented by several fraternity houses. The natural history collections (including the very large ichnological collection of President Hitchcock, and Audubon’s collection of birds) are of exceptional richness. At Amherst is also the Massachusetts Agricultural College (co-educational; 1867) and experiment station (1887). Among the presidents of Amherst College have been in 1845–1854 and in 1876–1890 respectively—Edward Hitchcock, the famous geologist, and the Rev. Julius H. Seelye (1824–1895), a well-known educationalist. The township seems to have been first settled in 1731; it was incorporated in 1759 as a “district” (i.e. having all the rights of a township save corporate representation in the legislature) and in 1776 as a “town” (township). It was originally part of Hadley. Its name was given to it in honour of General Jeffrey Amherst (1717–1797). During the Shays’ Rebellion Amherst was a centre of disaffection and a rallying-point of the insurgents. Noah Webster lived in the village from 1812 to 1822, when working on his Dictionary; and Emily Dickinson and Helen M. Fiske (later Helen Hunt-Jackson, “H. H.”) were born here.

See William Seymour Tyler, A History of Amherst College (New York, 1896), and Carpenter and Morehouse, The History of the Town of Amherst (New York, 1896).