With the current nationwide conversation around naming and re-naming, whether it is of Army bases, athletic teams or university buildings, it can be instructive to remember why and how things were named in the first place. For instance, in our neighborhood, Belchertown was officially incorporated in 1761 as Cold Spring; later the name was changed to Belcher’s Town, and then to Belchertown (Wikipedia), and Shutesbury was established as Roadtown in 1735 and incorporated as Shutesbury in 1761 — named for colonial governor Samuel Shute (shutesbury.org).
Many of our local geographical features owe their names to the efforts of Dr Edward Hitchcock of Amherst College. We may now be glad that not all of his naming efforts were successful; otherwise we might have ‘Mount Hiawatha’ instead of Nonotuck, and Wildwood Cemetery would be on ‘Mount Pleasanter,’ thus outdoing Mount Pleasant.
You may enjoy listening to Dr Howell ‘Chick’ Chickering describe some of Professor Hitchcock’s efforts, here.
The mission of the Amherst Historical Society is to connect people to the town of Amherst, its history, and its culture.
The Society was founded in 1899 by Mabel Loomis Todd, and in 1916 it moved into the historic Simeon Strong house. Over the years, the Society has collected a wide variety of resources for learning about the town of Amherst. We have artifacts dating back to the earliest days of the town, and papers and photographs from more recent years. On our website you may find links to walking tours of Amherst, a list of books about Amherst, and even a collection of historic postcards.
We host a biweekly lecture series, ‘History Bites,’ as well as evening performances and historic tours. Our eighteenth-century garden is maintained by the Garden Club of Amherst, and last year we hosted a Thursday evening farmers’ and artisans’ market on our front lawn.