Amherst Massachusetts, 1890
Amherst, territorially, is a long narrow township in the northern part of Hampshire County, 84 miles west of Boston. It is bounded on the north by Sunderland and Leverett, east by Shutesbury, Pelham and Belchertown, south by Granby and west by Hadley ; being 9 miles in length by 3½ in width. The area in acres is stated at 16,865, of which 2,656 are woodland. The geological formation consists of lower sandstone, middle shales and sandstones and calcareous gneiss. Steatite, or soapstone, appears in one or two localities. There are several medicinal springs in the easterly part of the town, of which practical use is made by one or more local sanitariums.
[Amherst College, entrance to grounds.]
The scenic aspect of the town is very beautiful, it being diversified by valleys, plains and swelling eminences. Forests of oak and maple constitute about a twentieth of the area, and the town has nearly 25,000 fruit trees. From College Hill, as well as other points, extensive and enchanting prospects are obtained. Pulpit Hill is an elevation in the northern section of the town. Hilliard's Knob, at the southern border, rises to a height of 1,120 feet above sea-level, commanding a wide view of the Connecticut River, valley, and outflanking mountains. Mill River, in the northwestern part of the town, runs through a beautiful glen, and has, in its course, two or three paper mills. Fort River, gathering its branches in the central part of the town, also affords mill sites. The New London and Northern Railroad of the Vermont Central system of railroads, by connection with the Fitchburg and the Boston and Albany railroads, affords ample means for travel and transportation. The carriage roads here are excellent, and an iron bridge 50 feet in length spans one of the streams. The number of inhabitants in 1885 was 4,199 ; of dwelling houses, 878 ; and of farms 311. Of the agricultural products the dairy yields a larger sum than any other ; being for the year mentioned $144,407. The butter and cheese made here are considered of superior quality. The total farm product was $400,820. The principal manufactures are paper, coaches, boots and shoes, palm-leaf hats, corn-brooms, and cabinet ware. Large items are clothing and straw-goods, $335,530 ; food preparations, $173,112, with a total of $718,524 for manufactured goods. The post-offices are Amherst (centre), North and South Amherst. There are a national bank and a savings bank ; the latter having deposits, on January 1, 1889, to the amount of $1,119,395. The assessed valuation of the town in 1888 was $3,027,072, and the rate of taxation $15.25 per $1,000. The town has a graded school system, including a high school ; with thirteen school-houses, etc., valued at $65,000. There are, beside, about twenty private schools, having buildings and other property to the value of $647,355. Of these are Amherst College, incorporated in 1825; Massachusetts Agricultural College, incorporated in 1863 ; Mount Pleasant Institute, incorporated in 1846. Home schools and kindergartens make up a large proportion of the remainder. The buildings of Amherst College occupy a commanding site in the central part of the town, and consist of halls, lecture-rooms, dormitories, and a handsome granite church edifice. Walker Hall and Williston Hall, devoted to science, the Woods Cabinet of Geology, the Appleton Cabinet of Zoölogy, and the Lawrence Observatory (one of the finest view-points in the State), are principal buildings ; to which has been added an excellent gymnasium.
The Massachusetts Agricultural College is situated on elevated ground about a mile north of the central village. The buildings are of brick, and the grounds spacious, there being a farm attached. The work of the college, especially in the experiment department, is of great value to the agricultural interests of the State. In the town there are not less than twelve public and institution libraries, having an aggregate of upwards of 55,500 volumes. The two colleges have above 48,000 volumes.
Amherst, originally known as " Hadley Third Precinct," was incorporated February 13, 1759 ; being named in honor of General Jeffrey Amherst. The first church was organized, and the Rev. David Parsons, D.D., was settled as first minister, on the 7th of November, 1739. The second parish was incorporated in 1783, and Rev. Ichabod Draper, the first minister, ordained in 1785. He was followed in 1710 by the Rev. Nathan Perkins. The south parish was incorporated in 1824, and the north in 1826. In 1746 it was voted " to give John Nash forty shillings to sound ye kunk [conch shell] for this yeare," — for the purpose of calling the people to church. In 1793, a bell weighing 932 pounds took the place of the primitive instrument for this purpose. The Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists and Catholics also have church edifices.
General Ebenezer Mattoon, a Revolutionary officer and a member of Congress, born in this town in 1755, died here in 1843. Silas Wright, a member of Congress in 1827-29, and 1833-44, was born in Amherst in 1795, and died in Canton, N.Y., in 1847.
pp. 109-112 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890