Memories of War in Amherst

Memories of War in Amherst

The conflict in Ukraine has us all thinking about war, in its various forms. There are a number of war memorials in the town and its colleges, from the meditative war memorial at Amherst College with its panoramic view, to the Italianate Memorial Hall at UMass, and the Civil War tablets now in the Bangs center. And in 2018 Amherst College published an article about the collegiate experience during World War I – once known as ‘the war to end wars’ – which mentions the Black Cats of Amherst.
** And on Friday, March 11, History Bites will return to hosting live lectures when Mr John Hanson will deliver a lecture at noon in the Jones Library Woodbury Room. His topic: Reading Early Epitaphs in Amherst’s West Cemetery.
Early Architecture at Amherst College

Early Architecture at Amherst College

Our popular History Bites lecture series is starting its 2022 season. On Friday, February 25, a noon, we will host a Zoom lecture from Mr Blair Kamin:

Amherst in the Beginning: The Making of an Academic Acropolis

This talk describes how the people of the town of Amherst gave birth to the College—and how the Acropolis-like plan of the early College and its Greek Revival centerpiece reflected their highest aspirations. We’ll also consider the Northampton architect who likely designed Johnson Chapel and Adam Johnson, the childless Pelham farmer who left his fortune to the College, allowing the fledgling but cash-poor institution to complete construction of the edifice that bears his name.

“In a dynamic society like ours, the old sometimes needs to give way to the new, not just for ‘progress’ but to make way for new landmarks and new stories. Still, when we seek to convey the power of the past, it’s hard to compete with the arresting, three-dimensional reality of architecture, whether it takes the form of the over-the-top Tiffany dome at the Chicago Cultural Center or the restrained purity of Johnson Chapel.”

Blair Kamin, the former architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune, is the author of “Amherst College: The Campus Guide,” published by Princeton Architectural Press. He is a winner of numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

Mr Kamin will speak over Zoom at noon on Friday, February 25. The Zoom link is:

And on Friday, March 11, Mr John Hanson will deliver a live lecture at noon in the Jones Library Woodbury Room. His topic: Reading Early Epitaphs in Amherst’s West Cemetery.

Lovejoy’s Nuclear War

Lovejoy’s Nuclear War

In the early 1970s, Northeast Utilities had developed plans to build twin nuclear power plants on the Montague plains. As one step in the permitting process, they put up a weather monitoring tower, to record the local weather for a 12-month period.

There was local opposition to the plant, as well as support, and in the early morning hours of Washington’s birthday in 1974, a local farmer and Quaker activist named Sam Lovejoy loosed the guy wires on the weather tower, causing it to collapse. In the tradition of Quaker civil disobedience, he then turned himself in to the local police, and demanded to be put on trial for his actions.

Lovejoy’s actions galvanized both sides of the debate, and a local group made a film about Lovejoy, his trial, and the larger conversation: Lovejoy’s Nuclear War.

Reminder: On Friday, February 25, at noon, Mr Blair Kamin will deliver a Zoom lecture on the early history of Amherst College’s architecture. Here is the link.
Amherst Historical Society’s Founder’s Day

Amherst Historical Society’s Founder’s Day

REMINDER: the Amherst Historical Society’s Annual Meeting and Founder’s Day Presentation is this Saturday, February 12, at 2 PM. The Founder’s Day talk will be given by Debora Bridges and her daughter, Anika Lopes, who will talk about the restoration of Amherst’s marble Civil War tablets.

The tablets were donated to the town in 1893 by the E M Stanton Post 147 of the Grand Army of the Republic. They were originally displayed in the Town Hall, before being moved to the Police Station, and then going into storage in 1997.

In 2021, after 24 years in storage, the cleaned and refurbished tablets were put on display in the Bangs Center. Their restoration owes a great deal to the efforts of Mr Dudley Bridges, Sr, whose memory will be honored on Saturday by his daughter, Debora, and her daughter, Anika Lopes, who completed his work after his death.

Here is the Zoom link:

Coming up: our popular History Bites series will begin its spring 2022 season at noon on Friday, February 25, when Mr Blair Kamin will give a presentation about early architecture at Amherst College. The lecture is being given with technical help from Amherst Media. Here is the Zoom link:

Shays Rebellion

Shays Rebellion

235 years ago, on the night of February 3 – 4, 1787, General Benjamin Lincoln led his militia of 3,000 men on a forced march through a snowstorm from Pelham to Petersham, to surprise the rebel encampment of Shays’ Rebellion. The rebels had fled after their failed attack on the federal armory in Springfield on January 25, in which four rebels were killed and 20 wounded.

It was not the last battle of the rebellion. Many of the rebels escaped to New Hampshire and Vermont (Vermont was an independent republic at the time), and on February 27 a rebel force marched on Stockbridge, Massachusetts. They were met in Sheffield, Mass, by the forces of Brigadier John Ashley; thirty rebels were wounded in the battle.

Shays’ Rebellion led to the Constitutional Convention of 1787; for many at the time, it highlighted the need for a stronger federal government.  The Amherst Historical Society is fortunate to have a presentation by Dr Barbara Mathews on the political context of the rebellion.

Reminder: The Amherst Historical Society’s annual meeting and Founder’s Day program honoring the late Dudley Bridges will be held next weekend, on SaturdayFebruary 12, at 2PM.
The meeting agenda, minutes from the 2021 meeting, and other documents are on googledrive and may be viewed with this link:
And our popular History Bites lecture series will begin its spring 2022 season at noon on Friday, February 25, when Mr Blair Kamin will talk about the early architecture of Amherst College. The zoom link is here.
Black Soldiers, White Officers

Black Soldiers, White Officers

This week we honored Dr Martin Luther King Jr. In that context, we can remember the Black families who have lived in Amherst through the decades, and the Black soldiers from Amherst who fought in the Civil War. In 2013 the Amherst Historical Society hosted a lecture – ‘Black Soldiers, White Officers’ – given by Robert Romer, who wrote Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts (2009). In this lecture he tells a few of the stories of those families. Specifically, he focusses on the stories of a Black soldier, Charles Finnemore (1838 – 1920) and a White officer, Christopher Pennell (1842 – 1864), and uses them to indicate a wider story.

Please note that our annual Founder’s Day Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, February 12, at 2PM, and will be held over Zoom (link TBA).

And our Friday noon History Bites lecture series is starting up again on Friday, February 25. Our first lecture will be by Mr Blair Kamins, an Amherst college graduate who will talk about the early architecture at Amherst College.
The Zoom link for the lecture is