Amherst, a town of Hampshire county, Mass.. 82 m. W. of Boston, on a branch of the Connecticut river; pop. in 1870, 4,035. The situa tion of the town affords extensive views of the Connecticut valley and adjacent mountain ranges. It contains 5 Congregational churches, 1 Baptist, and 1 Episcopal. The preparatory high school is considered one of the best in the state. There are 4 paper mills, an establishment for the preparation of palm leaf for hats, bonnets, etc, and one for their manufacture. A weekly newspaper, and a semi-monthly periodical are published in the town. The Massachusetts agricultural college, with its extensive dormitories and greenhouses, is about a mile N. of the town, and possesses with other objects of interest the Durfee plant house, which is well stocked with rare and beautiful plants. Since its opening in 1866 this institution has become the largest and most successful agricultural school in the country. Amherst college, one of the chief seats of learning in New England, was founded in this town in 1821, under the auspices of the Orthodox Congregational-ists. Its projectors had in view the gratuitous education of young men for the ministry, and the charity fund devoted exclusively to this object now amounts to about $70,000. There is a large number of scholarships available to needy students, and no earnest young man is allowed to leave for want of money.
This fund now amounts to $100,000. The Rev. Zephaniah Swift Moore was the first president of the college, He died in 1823, and was succeeded by the Rev. Heman Humphrey, who retained the office till 1845, and performed important services to the institution, having safely carried it through the most perplexing embarrassments. The Rev. Edward Hitchcock followed him, and resigned in 1854, when the present incumbent, the Rev. William A. Stearns, D. D., LL. D., was inaugurated. The managers of the institution had to struggle against many discouragements at the outset, and not a dollar was appropriated in its aid from the state treasury during the first 25 years of its existence. The state appropriations to the present time amount to $52,500, a portion of which was for the endowment of the "Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History." The college has received many munificent donations from individuals. Dr. William J. Walker, a resident of Charles-town, Mass., and a graduate of Harvard college, besides giving to the institution during the latter years of his life upward of $90,000 toward the erection of a building for scientific purposes, and founding a professorship of mathematics and astronomy, left a legacy for similar purposes of nearly $150,000. The next largest giver is Samuel A. Hitchcock of Brimfield, who has contributed to the college $175,000. The donations of the Hon. Samuel Williston, an eminent manufacturer in Easthampton, Mass., who has long been one of the most ardent friends of the institution, amount to about $150,-000. The funds for the college church recently erected were given by W. F. Stearns, son of the president of the college.
Amherst college has 12 public buildings besides the president's house, including an edifice for scientific and other purposes recently built at the cost of more than $120,000, and a church for such as do not prefer to worship with other denominations. In the tower is a chime of bells, presented by the late George Howe of Boston, and beneath it a small room for tablets in commemoration of the young men who fell in the war. A gallery of art has been started. In 1847 a handsome edifice was erected to be employed as a cabinet of natural history and an astronomical observatory, chiefly by the efforts of the Hon. J. B. Woods of Enfield. The library, a fine building, was constructed in 1853, of Pelham granite. The college possesses a valuable philosophical and astronomical apparatus, an extensive geological and conchological museum, collections of meteorites and geological specimens, a Nineveh gallery containing about 200 specimens from the ruins of ancient Nineveh and Babylon, a museum of Indian relics, and the Hitchcock ichnological collection. In this unique cabinet, named after the late President Hitchcock, are to be found about 1,400 specimens, containing at least 20,000 tracks of animals in stone, together with plaster and clay casts of tracks of living and fossil animals.
There is in the curriculum a regular department of physical training, under the care of a physician. There are 13 professors and 8 lecturers and instructors. The libraries of the college and various literary societies contain about 36,000 volumes. The number of under graduates is 244. In 1869 the whole number of graduates was 1,829, of whom 1,449 survived. Of the whole number, 751 became clergymen, 75 missionaries, 129 physicians, 186 lawyers, and 208 teachers.