Ephraim Williams Jr., Founder of Williams College, is born in Newton, Mass.
Reverend Stephen West, first Vice President of Williams College, was born on this date at Tolland, Connecticut.
Ephraim Williams Jr. drafted a will that would have dedicated an endowment “for the promoting & propagating of Christian knowledge amongst the Indians at Stockbridge,” hinting at a possible alternate history to what eventually became Williams College. Ephraim Williams Jr. later revised his will, removed any reference to the Native inhabitants of Stockbridge, and relocated the school he intended to found to an emerging settlement in northern Berkshire county, now called Williamstown. View an image of the document in the Library Catalog.
Williamstown’s first proprietors’ meeting is held in Seth Hudson’s house near Hemlock Brook.
Ephraim Williams, Jr. writes the will that leaves funds to establish the Free School that will later become Williams College. The same document conveys enslaved people, indelibly associating the founding of the College to wealth accumulated through enslavement. View high-resolution images of the will in the Library Catalog.
The college’s founding benefactor, Ephraim Williams, Jr., dies at Lake George in the Battle of the Bloody Morning Scout.
The Massachusetts General Court grants the charter to establish the Free School in Williamstown.
By the act, or charter, the ‘Trustees of the Donation of Ephraim Williams, Esq., for Maintaining a Free-School in Williamstown’ are appointed to erect a school “for the instruction of youth, in such manner as most effectually to answer the pious, generous and charitable intention of the testator”, i.e. Ephraim Williams, Jr.
Advertisements announce the sale of lottery tickets to support construction of the schoolhouse that will eventually be named West College.
When the funds from Ephraim Williams’s estate were transferred to the trustees of the Free School, it was found that the sum, $11,277, was not sufficient to erect a school house. Consequently, the School trustees petitioned the Massachusetts General Court to hold a lottery to aid in funding construction of the building. In 1789, the petition was granted and in 1790, lottery tickets were advertised in such newspapers as the Massachusetts Centinel. Over $3449 was realized in this way.
The Williamstown Free School, precursor to Williams College, opens its doors to its first students.
The trustees of the Williamstown Free School write to the Massachusetts General Court asking to convert the School to a college named Williams Hall.
In their petition, the trustees stress the need to keep college-bound students in Massachusetts, the moral ambiance (or lack of urban “allurements“) of the rural location, and the School’s affordability, which would bring education “more within the power of the midling and lower class of citizens“.
The Williamstown Free School becomes Williams College. The Trustees of the Williamstown Free School receive the charter from the General Court converting the School into Williams College.
Williams College first opens on this day in 1793.
Williams celebrates its first Commencement in the old town meeting house.
In early years, commencement was a time for students to exhibit the knowledge and skills they had acquired during their years at Williams. Orations and disputations were organized, in Latin, English and French, on such far-ranging topics as the slave trade, American government, the French Revolution, and the education of women. It was common at these first commencements for each student to speak several times; in 1795, for example, every senior appeared on the program four times. As the number of graduates grew each year, however, fewer students were selected to speak.
The Adelphic Union–the first extra-curricular society at Williams–is officially established. Its membership initially comprised all the students in the College.
Williams College trustees abolish the position of professor of French.
“The first Williams professor, appointed in 1795, sold books on the side to survive on his $400 annual salary… Although Samuel Mackay survived, his professorship didn’t–being abolished by the trustees in 1799. The French option was stressed in the first Laws of Williams College to attract students from Canada, some historians have said. Mackay himself came from Canada and taught French well, according to contemporary reports. But New England was turning against all things French by the turn of the century. Williams students even petitioned the U.S. President in favor of war against France in 1798, seeing that country as a dangerous source of ‘anarchy and atheism’ stemming from their revolution. Although President John Adams responded politely, it was the Williams trustees who took action, terminating Samuel Mackay’s teaching post on Sept. 3, 1799. Fifty-four years would pass before the French professorship reappeared in the Williams Catalogue.” (Source: Williams 1793-1993, A Pictorial History)
Mark Hopkins, Williams’s fourth president, is born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
“Voted: That the Treasurer be directed to procure a New College Seal, and also a screw for the same.” (Board of Trustees minutes)
Gordon Hall (Class of 1808) and Luther Rice (Class of 1810) are ordained. They are two of the first five missionaries sponsored by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
Zephaniah Swift Moore, second president of Williams College, and the Trustees petition the Massachusetts General Court to move Williams College to Northampton.
The Massachusetts Legislature refuses the petition of the President and Trustees to remove Williams College to Northampton.
“… The Committee pray leave to state, that they do most highly appreciate, and most profoundly respect the motives of the petitioners; these are unquestionably founded in a truly honorable, and elevated desire, to extend the usefulness of this respectable College, in promoting learning, virtue, piety, and religion; and, under these impressions, the Committee feel the most sincere regret, that their perception of duty, compels them to submit to the two Houses, that it is neither lawful, nor expedient, to grant the prayer of the petition…”
Zephaniah Swift Moore, second president of Williams College, resigns his presidency. Moore was enticed to Williamstown upon assurance by several trustees that the college would soon be moving south to more civilized surroundings. In a letter dated July, 1821, after the legislature found it neither “lawful nor expedient” to grant a petition by Moore and a majority of the trustees to relocate the college, Moore announced his resignation, effective after the fall commencement of the same year. In response to Moore’s impending departure, about half the student body proposed to withdraw (many intending to follow Moore to Amherst) leaving enrollment at a dangerously low level.
Williams alumni approve the newly composed preamble and bylaws of the Society of Alumni, thereby forming the first alumni society anywhere.
Williams College’s second president, Zephaniah Swift Moore, was enticed to Williamstown upon assurance by several trustees that the college would soon be moving south to more civilized surroundings. In a letter dated July, 1821, after the legislature found it neither “lawful nor expedient” to grant a petition by Moore and a majority of the trustees to relocate the college, Moore announced his resignation, effective after the fall commencement of the same year. In response to Moore’s impending departure, about half the student body proposed to withdraw (many intending to follow Moore to Amherst) leaving enrollment at a dangerously low level. Concerned for the College’s welfare and faced with the threat declining enrollment posed to the continued existence of the college, Emory Washburn (1817) and Daniel Noble (1796) were motivated to act. Washburn published notices in regional newspapers, calling upon all graduates of the college to meet for the purpose of forming a society dedicated to the support, protection and improvement of Williams College. Two weeks later, 23 percent of the living alumni attended the meeting, approved the preamble and bylaws of the society, and formed the first society of alumni to be established worldwide.
“It was directed by the Faculty that there shall be no instrumental music at Commencement . . . or at any Exhibition except in the house, and that not more than four musicians shall be employed at Commencement, nor more than two at the Exhibitions.” (from the Records of the Faculty of Williams College)
Four members of the Class of 1827 are fined $5 for playing cards. (Faculty Meeting Minutes)
Edward Clark (Class of 1831) is fined $5 and suspended for a term for firing off firecrackers. (Faculty Meeting Minutes)
John R. Hickok (non-graduate of the Class of 1831) is fined 50 cents for attending a dancing school. (Faculty Meeting Minutes)
Erasmus D. Towner (Class of 1833, non-graduate) was expelled for repeatedly setting a college out-building on fire. A year later, another student confessed to kindling the fire, and the college voted to let Towner return to Williams. (Faculty Meeting Minutes)
James A. Garfield, Williams Class of 1856 and the 20th President of the United States, is born in Orange Township, Ohio.
July 4th riots result in the expulsion of several students.
“Voted that Alexander H. Strong, for being engaged in the disorderly conduct at Adams last Saturday, & for being found, on the evening of the 4th of July, disguised in his dress, for the purpose, as he confesses, of throwing fire balls around college, be cut off from college.” (from the Records of the Faculty of Williams College, July 7, 1832)
Kappa Alpha is the first fraternity established at Williams.
Legend has it that fourteen Williams students traveled to Union College to pick up a Phi Beta Kappa charter, but instead came back with one for the social fraternity.
The first expedition of Williams’s Lyceum of Natural History sails out of Boston bound for the Bay of Fundy and Nova Scotia. The first student expedition ever, the group is lead by Profs. Albert Hopkins and Ebenezer Emmons.
The faculty vote on the time the prayer bell will be rung.
“Hereafter from…November ’till the close of the first term, the prayer bell shall be rung at 1/2 past four on Saturday, Sabbath, and Wednesday evenings.” Source: Williams College Records of the Faculty, 1821-1871.
Hopkins Observatory is dedicated.
Nathaniel Hawthorne attends Williams College’s Commencement.
During the summer of 1838, Nathaniel Hawthorne spent several weeks in the Williamstown area. In addition to describing Williams’s August commencement ceremonies, he wrote numerous entries regarding Greylock and its startling cloud formations which he termed ‘cloud-scenery’: “It was like a dream to look at it: and the students ought to be day-dreamers, all of them,–when cloud-land is one and the same thing with the substantial earth.” The American note-books is said to contain the first use in print of the name ‘Graylock,’ a name some claim was bestowed by Albert Hopkins, Williams’ professor of natural philosophy and astronomy.
Samuel Chapman Armstrong, Class of 1862 and founder of Hampton Institute, is born on the island of Maui.
The original East College–featuring four floors–burns to the ground.
David Dudley Field, Jr. (Class of 1825) gives a ‘literary picnic’ for Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville on Monument Mountain in Great Barrington, MA.
Herman Melville, with a party of friends and relatives, stays overnight in the observatory on Mount Greylock. Evert Duyckinck, one of the party, wrote to his wife: “The ascent of Saddleback the highest mountain in Massachusetts came off grandly with a party of eleven?–a night encampment in an old box called an observatory on the summit & of course sleepless. But people don?t go there to sleep: so a huge bonfire was lighted. Wrapped in buffaloes [robes] we stalked around in the cloud Ossianic ghosts. The sun rise was a failure; not so the sweeping clouds below us rolling in vapory masses, through their looped raggedness disclosing the lower world.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson speaks before the Adelphic Union, the student literary-debating society. Apparently James A. Garfield (Class of 1856 and future U.S. President) is so moved by the talk that he cannot sleep that night.
Members of the Lyceum of Natural History dedicate Jackson Hall, their new headquarters located in the Berkshire Quad.
The first intercollegiate baseball game is held between Williams and Amherst. Amherst wins 66-32.
“Third term begins at Williams and undergraduates form a battalion and drilled an hour daily.” Excitement created by the surrender of Fort Sumter caused many to enlist and the ensuing years of incoming classes were smaller. Three hundred seventeen Williams men, representatives of 38 classes from 1825 to 1870, answered Lincoln’s call and eight non-graduates entered the Confederate army. In 1863, the faculty made military training a required exercise with a schedule of three 40-minute drills a week. Students who had been in actual service could be excused from drills upon application.
Source: George L. Raymond journal, 1862.
Williams faculty vote to allow students to go out of town without excuse on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons provided they are not absent from any college exercise.
The Alpine Club, the oldest mountain climbing organization in the country, takes its first walk to Birch and Prospect Glens. The Club’s mission was to “explore the interesting places in the vicinity, to become acquainted… with the natural history of the localities, and also to improve the pedestrian powers of the members.” The first members were nine Williamstown women: Miss Dewey, Miss Tatlock, Miss Ruth Sabin, Miss Bessie Sabin, Miss Whitman, Miss Foote, Miss Kilby, Miss Louisa Hopkins, and Miss Carrie Hopkins. Williams Professor Albert Hopkins was elected Chronicler of the Club.
The Williams faculty vote to require student attendance at military drill.
Faculty Meeting Minutes:
1863 Sept 23. Voted that the students be required to attend the military drill except they are excused by the Faculty. That the time of drill be on Mondays, Tuesdays, + Fridays – Forty minutes for each drill.
1863 Sept 30. Voted that students who have been in actual service in the defense of the Country be excused from military drill upon application.
A group of seniors and juniors meet to establish a provisional chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at Williams.
Williams President Mark Hopkins dedicates the Mission Park Haystack Monument. The monument, proclaiming, “The Field is the World,” was funded by a donation from the Honorable Harvey Rice (Williams 1824).
The Soldier’s Monument is dedicated on Alumni Day. Williams is the first college to commemorate its Civil War dead in this way.
Williams students rebel against a faculty ruling that awards a zero for any absence from recitation, whether the absence was officially excused or not. In the student newspaper Vidette, Marshall Hapgood, non-graduate of the Class of 1872, described the students’ disagreement with a new faculty regulation . “Tuesday, November 10 . Today will be a great day in the history of Williams College . . . our main object was to consider the matter of withdrawing from College; so we adjourned to another room and there decide to withdraw until the obnoxious rule is taken back. After Chapel exercises at night we have a general College meeting and everyone except three of the one hundred and seventy or upwards members sign a resolution to withdraw. So I consider myself no longer a member of College. In eve play Back Gammon and Checkers.” Over the next several weeks, President Mark Hopkins and the faculty softened the rule, and students returned to class.
The Society of Alumni appoints a committee to “examine into the expediency of admitting women as students to college.”
Prof. John Bascom, David Dudley Field, Francis H. Dewey, Clement Hugh Hill, and Rev. Henry Hopkins were appointed to study the introduction of coeducation and submit their report at the 1872 Society of Alumni meeting. The majority opinion advised postponing “the further consideration of the subject to another generation…” The minority report, written by Bascom and also signed by David Dudley Field, supported the admittance of women.
The student newspaper, the Vidette, announces that East College has been wired for telegraphic communication.
One of Williams’s favorite sayings is born. At the annual dinner of the Williams Alumni Association James A. Garfield waxed rhapsodic about former President Mark Hopkins’s impact on education at the college. As no one took notes, we are uncertain of the exact words Garfield used. The saying, however, was soon coined: “The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other.”
James A. Garfield, Class of 1856 and 20th President of the U.S., is shot by a disgruntled office seeker in a Washington, D.C., railroad station.
A violent storm destroys the Chadbourne Gymnasium, the setting for the annual alumni dinner, smashing dishes, tables, and the building itself.
Students vote 247 to 42 in favor of inaugurating a campus-wide honor code.
A portion of the east side of (old) Clark Hall is loosened by the rain and tumbles to the ground.
With Morgan Hall ablaze, President Harry Hopkins calls in the North Adams fire department. Four men and two hose carts respond to help extinguish the fire by 9 pm. Damages are estimated at $30-35,000. Two thirds of the occupants of the dorm, built in 1882, are away for Thanksgiving recess. When repairs are finished Morgan will have electric lights throughout.
President Theodore Roosevelt attends the dedication of Thompson Memorial Chapel during Commencement weekend.
The Williams Record posts Tuesday evening election returns in the office at Jesup Hall.
“Especial effort is made to announce results in a definite concise form”.
The previous Thursday evening a Torch Light parade was held with the North Adams band leading the Republicans and their red and green torches around the town and then to the Opera House for a rally. William Howard Taft, friend of President Theodore Roosevelt and his Secretary of War, became our next president. The ticket of Taft and Sherman carried 29 states.
The Williams Record reports that the Trustees have voted to demolish College Hall, best known for serving the worst food on campus.
The “Apple Growing Committee” of the Good Government Club sets the date for Orchard Day.
State Pomologist F.C. Sears and Professor R. Reese, both of Massachusetts Agriculture College, will give a series of talks on Nov. 19 dealing with apple raising and marketing. A large turnout is expected with faculty, undergraduates plus townspeople. All students wishing to join the committee are invited to the 7:30 meeting this evening at 17 Jesup Hall.
The cane contest is deemed so disorderly and raucous that the President and Dean abolish this Freshman-Sophomore rush.
James S. Alexander, Jr. (Class of 1917) is one of the first Americans to hear of the signing of the Armistice. Alexander, a staff member of Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Foch’s headquarters and the American Mission, was wakened at 5:45 a.m. and spent the entire day and evening “translating for General Pershing the annexes to the armistice agreement.” Alexander wrote to his mother following the cessation of First World War hostilities telling of the celebrations along with descriptions of his encounters with the great damage done by the war: “To see whole villages pounded to powder is appalling.” James first arrived in France with 13 other men from Williams and many others from American schools who had volunteered for ambulance service. He subsequently joined the A.E.F. and was a Headquarters secretary and a liaison officer. It was in this position that he became one of the first Americans to hear of the signing of the Armistice. Alexander’s first-hand account and observations (drawings, maps, conversations) of his enlistment, training and service in the War are among the collections of the Williams College Archives.
Charles W. Whittlesey (Class of 1905) is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Whittlesey’s papers are housed in the College Archives.
Dean Howes investigates the whereabouts of a distillery on campus. Howes wrote to the U.S. Internal Revenue Collector: “I should be very glad if you are willing to furnish me with any definite information with reference to your discovery of an illicit distillery in one of our college buildings. I am informed that you have recently made a discovery of this character, and I should be very much obliged if you could inform me as to the building in which the discovery was made, and also, if possible, the location of the room.” Source: Williams College Dean (Howes) Records (Accession 2005-996).
Ephraim Williams Jr.’s remains are reinterred at Williams College.
Having been removed from his grave site at Lake George, the remains of Ephraim Williams, Jr. were reinterred in the new crypt in the basement of Thompson Chapel during Commencement ceremonies. Governor Calvin Coolidge, who had received an honorary degree from Williams the previous fall, spoke to the gathering. He is purported to have remarked, turning to Col. Williams’s urn which was draped with an American flag: “And there he lies, underneath the flag for which he fought and died.” Members of the audience later noted that Ephraim had died fighting for King George II.
Carl Sandburg delivers a speech titled “An American Miscellany” before the Williams Forum in Jesup Hall.
The Lawrence Hall Art Museum opens with an exhibit of paintings and drawings by the late Mrs. Asa Morton. Mrs. Morton was the daughter of Joseph Ames, a noted portrait painter of the 19th century and wife of Romance Language professor Asa Henry Morton. She studied in France at the Julian Studio.
The Williams Record reports on the new road over Petersburgh Mountain pass. Work had begun the previous September on a highway that “cut off some 13 miles” from the trek to Troy. The route had temporary surfacing until 1929 when the winter storms and thaws settled the roadbed. New York and Massachusetts purchased 100 feet on both sides of the roadway to eliminate hot dog shanties and filling stations, and possible eyesores.
The sinking of the Mohawk off the coast of New Jersey claimed the lives of Professor Herdman Cleland, and Williams seniors William Dwight Symmes, Lloyd Houghton Crowfoot, and Julius Palmer. The group was bound to the Yucatan for a geological expedition. Three Williams students survived this traumatic event. One year and one day later, the Symmes Gate was presented to the college by the parents of William Symmes in honor of those who lost their lives.
The Williams Record reports that Latin will no longer be considered a requirement for admission to the college.
The Williams Record reports that compulsory daily chapel attendance has been abolished. Sunday service is still required.
The Williams Forum announces that André Malraux has canceled his speaking engagement. The “noted French lecturer and communist” canceled so that he could interview President F. D. Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia.
The college seismograph records a 14 second “earthquake” as the 75 foot brick chimney of the Greylock Hotel falls. The Williams Record, on the following Saturday, describes the end of the hotel’s long and colorful career. Professor Freeman Foote attended the demolition with a stop watch and Professor E. Perry recorded the time that the first waves hit the seismograph–“exactly nothing flat to travel down main street to the Geology building”.
The Shakespeare first folio is stolen from the Chapin Library by a man posing as a professor of English who presents a forged letter of introduction. The rare volume is retrieved by the FBI later in the year.
Williams ambulance donated to the North African front for service with the British forces, following the earlier donation of three vehicles. Costing $1350, the machine was paid for by $450 in student contributions, $650 from a sinking fund, and $250 from faculty contributions. (North Adams Transcript, Tuesday, April 15, 1941.)
The term ends and three seniors graduate. There are no Commencement exercises.
The V-12 program at Williams, in which 1076 men were trained, ends.
The Williams Glee Club broadcasts from Adams Memorial Theatre. “From five to five thirty (E.S.T.) over NBC” — James P. Baxter’s March 9th note to fellow alumni encourages them to tune in to this program that was sponsored by the Monsanto Chemical Company.
Williams awards 328 B.A. degrees at the college’s first outdoor commencement exercises. The exercises are held on the lawn behind Chapin Hall. Two graduates are awarded Honors in Math without the traditional thesis due to the fact that they studied for the actuarial exams. Twenty-two reserve commissions are awarded. One hundred seventy-six graduates are veterans of the Second World War. Nine B.A. degrees are awarded in February of the same year. Honorary degrees are awarded to: Charles F. Boyton (1928), Samuel E. Morison, James R. Miller, Charles D. Makepeace, and Edwin C. Kendall.
Gelett Burgess, author of “Purple Cow” verses, dies at age 85 in Carmel, Calif. The editors of the Williams College humor magazine chose Purple Cow for the title of their publication in October 1907. Burgess’s sequel to the rhyme that brought him more fame than all his other works combined: “Ah, yes I wrote the ‘Purple Cow’– I’m sorry, now I wrote it! But I can tell you, anyhow, I’ll kill you if you quote it.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks at Williams College.
Hopkins Observatory begins its move to make room for Prospect. The Observatory is raised onto greased rails in anticipation of its move northwards to make room for the construction of the dorm. This is the second move the Observatory has made.
The Angevine Committee releases the report that will lead to the eventual demise of the Williams fraternity system.
Williams students attend the first annual Inter-Collegiate Conference of African-American students held at Columbia.
Lady Bird Johnson speaks at Convocation and helps launch the Williams Center for Environmental Studies.
The first Winter Study Program begins at Williams.
Members of the Afro-American Student Association take over Hopkins Hall to raise awareness of their demands to improve opportunities for African-American students.
Board of Trustees approve “to admit women on a regular coeducation basis beginning in the fall of 1971.”
President Jack Sawyer announces that Williams will admit women as transfer students in fall 1970.
In opposition to the Vietnam War, Williams students vote to strike.
The first female Assistant Dean at Williams, Nancy McIntire, begins work.
First time women (seven total) walked across the stage at commencement to receive a Williams diploma from the College President.
The Women’s Center moves from Mears to Hardy House.
President John Chandler announces the creation of the Williams-Exeter Programme with the purchase of four buildings in Oxford.
The Jewish Religious Center is dedicated. Rabbi Alan Berg leads the Torah procession to the JRC. The new building replaces the small Kuskin Room located in Thompson Memorial Chapel.
Williams hosts the 150th Saturday morning edition of “ESPN College GameDay”
The 122nd Williams-Amherst Homecoming game was featured on ESPN College GameDay, marking the show’s first broadcast from a Division III school. While the announcers found the concept of an “Eph” odd, they were truly perplexed by the “Lord Jeffs.” Williams defeated Amherst 20-0.
College Archives and Chapin Library begin to move their collections out of Stetson Hall in anticipation of the renovation of Stetson Hall and the construction of a new library.
The staff spends months packing over 13,900 boxes and crates. The collections move takes a little over three weeks.
Class of 2012 celebrates Family Days this weekend. Williams College’s first Parents’ Weekend was designated by the Undergraduate Council for May 5-6, 1951.
Parents were invited to a tea with President and Mrs. Baxter in the Faculty club after the Williams baseball game vs. Wesleyan