Amherst, Massachusetts

Amherst, Massachusetts

Infobox Settlement
official_name = Amherst, Massachusetts
nickname = A-town, The Herst

imagesize = 250px
image_caption = Downtown Amherst. Shops along the west side of South Pleasant Street, February 2005.

mapsize = 250px
map_caption = Location in Hampshire County in Massachusetts

mapsize1 =
map_caption1 =
subdivision_type = Country
subdivision_name = United States
subdivision_type1 = State
subdivision_name1 = Massachusetts
subdivision_type2 = County
subdivision_name2 = Hampshire
established_title = Settled
established_date = 1703
established_title2 = Incorporated
established_date2 = 1775
established_title3 =
established_date3 =
government_type = Representative town meeting
leader_title =
leader_name =
leader_title1 =
leader_name1 =
area_magnitude =
area_total_km2 = 71.9
area_total_sq_mi = 27.8
area_land_km2 = 71.8
area_land_sq_mi = 27.7
area_water_km2 = 0.1
area_water_sq_mi = 0.0
population_as_of = 2000
settlement_type = Town
population_total = 34874
population_density_km2 = 485.8
population_density_sq_mi = 1258.2
elevation_m = 90
elevation_ft = 295
timezone = Eastern
utc_offset = -5
timezone_DST = Eastern
utc_offset_DST = -4
latd = 42 |latm = 22 |lats = 49 |latNS = N
longd = 72 |longm = 31 |longs = 25 |longEW = W
website = []
postal_code_type = ZIP code
postal_code = 01002
area_code = 413
blank_name = FIPS code
blank_info = 25-01325
blank1_name = GNIS feature ID
blank1_info = 0618195
footnotes =

Amherst is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States in the Connecticut River valley. As of the 2000 census, the population was 34,874. The town is home to Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, three of the Five Colleges. The name of the town is pronounced correctly (by natives and long-term residents) without the "h" ("AM-erst"), [ [] , [] , [] ] unlike some other towns of the same name. [See, e.g., [] , an Amherst College alumni website, among many other sources.]

The communities of Amherst Center, North Amherst, and South Amherst are census-designated places.

Amherst is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.


The earliest known document of the lands now comprising Amherst is the deed of purchase dated December 1658 between John Pynchon of Springfield and three native inhabitants, referred to as Umpanchla, Quonquont and Chickwalopp. [Carpenter, Edward W. (1896). "The History of the Town of Amherst, Massachusetts", pp. 1-2. Press of Carpenter & Morehouse.] According to the deed, "ye Indians of Nolwotogg (Norwottuck) upon ye River of Quinecticott (Connecticut)" sold the entire area in exchange for "two Hundred fatham of Wampam & Twenty fatham, and one large Coate at Eight fatham wch Chickwollop set of, of trusts, besides severall small giftes" [sic] . Amherst will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2009. The Amherst 250th Anniversary Celebration Committee has been established to oversee the creation and implementation of Town-wide activities throughout 2009.

When the first permanent English settlements arrived in 1727, this land and the surrounding area (including present-day South Hadley and Granby) belonged to the town of Hadley. It gained precinct status in 1734 and eventually township in 1776, shortly before the colonies declared their independence.

Upon its incorporation, the colonial governor assigned to them the name Amherst after Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst. Many colonial governors at the time were scattering his name amidst the influx of new town applications, which is why several towns in the Northeast bear the name. Amherst was a hero of the French and Indian War who, according to popular legend, singlehandedly won Canada for the English and banished France from North America. He supported the American side in the Revolutionary war and resigned his commission rather than fight for the British. This too made him quite popular in New England. Amherst is also infamous for considering, in a letter to a peer, the use of smallpox-covered blankets in warfare against the Native Americans. It is for this reason that there have been occasional "ad hoc" movements to rename the town. Among the new names suggested for the town has been "Emily" after Emily Dickinson (see Notable Residents below).

In 1786, as the American Revolution was ending, many soldiers returning home found themselves in debt as they were unable to attend to business and property while they were away fighting. Farmers who were unable to pay taxes and debts had their property and livestock confiscated by the courts. Daniel Shays, a Pelham resident who was promoted from the ranks to be a Captain in the Revolutionary Army, organized Shays's Rebellion.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 27.8 square miles (71.9 km²), of which, 27.7 square miles (71.8 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.14%) is water. For interactive mapping provided by the Town of Amherst, see External Links on this page.


As of the 2000 U.S. Census, there were 34,874 people, 9,174 households, and 4,550 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,258.2 people per square mile (485.7/km²). There were 9,427 housing units at an average density of 340.1/sq mi (131.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 79.33% White, 5.10% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American, 9.02% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 2.89% from other races, and 3.35% from two or more races. 6.19% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 9,174 households out of which 27.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 10.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.4% were non-families. 28.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the town the population was spread out with 12.8% under the age of 18, 50.0% from 18 to 24, 17.2% from 25 to 44, 13.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 92.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.8 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $40,017, and the median income for a family was $61,237. Males had a median income of $44,795 versus $32,672 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,427. About 7.2% of families and 20.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.3% of those under age 18 and 3.5% of those age 65 or over. The reason for the large population living below the poverty line is because of the large number of students that live in Amherst.Fact|date=July 2007

Of residents 25 years old or older, 41.7% have a graduate or professional degree, and only 4.9% did not graduate from high school. The largest industry is education, health, and social services, in which 51.9% of employed persons work.

These statistics include some but not all of the large student population, many of whom only reside in the town part of the year. Amherst is home to thousands of part-time and full-time residents associated with the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, and Hampshire College.


Amherst is among relatively few towns of its size in Massachusetts in not having moved to a mayor-council or council-manager form of government. Instead, it has maintained the traditional town meeting (legislative) and select board (executive), though with the important modification, allowed through a special state law, whereby Town Meeting is made up of elected representatives of each precinct in the town. In addition, the select board hires a town manager to handle the day-to-day administrative details of running a town.

In recent years, some have sought to abolish the 254-member Town Meeting with a new charter that would create a directly-elected mayor and a nine-member Town Council. The charter was rejected by voters in Spring 2003 by fourteen votes, and defeated again on March 29, 2005 by 252 votes.


The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA), funded by local governments and the Five Colleges, provides public transportation in the area.

Rail service is available through Amtrak at the Amherst station (AMH) on the daily Vermonter service between Washington D.C. and St. Albans, VT. More frequent service to New York City and Washington D.C. is available from Springfield. (Approximately 30 minutes driving time from Amherst.)

The closest major domestic and limited international air service is available through Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Hartford, Connecticut. Bradley is located approximately one hour's driving time from Amherst. Major international service is available through Logan International Airport (BOS) in Boston, 90 miles away.

General aviation service is close by, at Northampton Airport (7B2), Westover Metropolitan Airport (CEF) and Turners Falls Airport (0B5).

Notable residents


* Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) born and lived in Amherst, one of the most prominent and celebrated American poets.
* Noah Webster (1758-1843) Author of "An American Dictionary of the English Language"
* Osmyn Baker (1800-1875) born in Amherst, United States Congressman and lawyercite book | title = Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896 | publisher = Marquis Who's Who | date = 1967]
* Mason Cook Darling (1801-1866) born in Amherst, United States Congressman from Wisconsin and first mayor of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
* Edward Dickinson, (1803-1874), born in Amherst, lawyer, United States Congressman, and father of Emily Dickinson.
* William S. Clark (1825-1886) Christian scientist, academician, politician, businessman; principal founder of the Massachusetts Agricultural College (now the University of Massachusetts, Amherst), founder of the Sapporo Agricultural College (now the Hokkaido University).
* Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885) born in Amherst, noted author best known for her novel "Ramona".
* Arthur Lithgow (1915-2004) lived and died in Amherst, noted actor, producer and director of Shakespeare plays, founder of the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Ohio (today known as the Great Lakes Theatre Festival), former director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ, father of actor John Lithgow.
* Harlan Fiske Stone (1872-1946), attended public schools in Amherst and Amherst College; dean of the Columbia Law School, 52nd Attorney General of the United States, and Chief Justice of the United States
* Robert Frost (1874-1963) poet
* Robert Francis (1901-1987) poet
* Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) devised the Dewey Decimal System while an assistant librarian at Amherst College in 1876
* Chinua Achebe (b. 1930) was a professor at the University of Massachusetts from 1972 to 1976.

Born or raised in Amherst

* Steve Porter, Music producer
*Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML, attended public schools in Amherst and graduated from the University of Massachusetts.
* Uma Thurman (b. 1970) Oscar-nominated actress, whose father Robert Thurman taught at Amherst College.
* Jesse Barrett-Mills, filmmaker

Live in Amherst

* Christopher Benfey, author of "The Great Wave", professor at Mount Holyoke College
* Augusten Burroughs, author of "Running with Scissors"
* Norton Juster, author of "The Phantom Tollbooth"
* Julius Lester, author and professor at the University of Massachusetts
* Michael Lesy, author of "Wisconsin Death Trip", professor at Hampshire College.
* J Mascis of alternative rock group Dinosaur Jr
* James Tate, (b. 1943) poet and professor at University of Massachusetts
* Joseph Ellis, historian and author of "Founding Brothers"
* Holly Black, writer and author of "Tithe", "Valiant", "Ironside", and co-author of the "Spiderwick Chronicles".
* Uma Thurman, actress
* Martín Espada, poet, professor at the University of Massachusetts and author of the 2006 "The Republic of Poetry", among others.
* Archie Shepp, jazz musician and emeritus professor at the University of Massachusetts
*John Elder Robison, author, Look Me in the Eye, also older brother of Augusten Burroughs

Points of interest

* Dickinson Homestead, birthplace and lifelong residence of poet Emily Dickinson, now a museum [] . She is buried nearby in West Cemetery on Triangle Street.
* [ Amherst Cinema Arts Center] , a local theater showing mostly art and independent films
* W. E. B. Du Bois Library at UMass is the tallest library in the US, at 26 stories tall.
* Amherst College Museum of Natural History, including the Hitchcock Ichnological Cabinet
* Theodore Baird Residence, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright
* The Horse Caves are located at the base of Mount Norwottuck in the Mount Holyoke Range State Park
* National Yiddish Book Center

ee also

*Amherst (Amtrak station)


External links

* [ Town of Amherst Official Site]
* [ Amherst Downtown]
* [ Amherst Bulletin newspaper]
* [ Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce]
**Property maps and more: [ Town of Amherst GIS]
**3D Buildings at the Google 3D Warehouse: [ Amherst 3D Warehouse page]

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