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 correctly pronounced without the
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. 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" . 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 1759.
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
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.