Petition for the name of Amherst




Petition for the name of Amherst


Amherst (Mass.)


This is a letter of petition to Thomas Pownall, Governor of the Province of Massachusetts. John Nash, Isaac Ward, and Nehimieh Dickinson propose that the new town that is separating from Hadley should be named after Baron Jeffery Amherst.


Nash, John; Ward, Isaac; Dickinson, Nehimieh


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Folder: Amherst--Name

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June 5, 1757 Hadley 2nd Precinct

To His Excellency Thomas Pownall Esqr. Govr & Comdr in Chief and over his Magty Provinces of the Masstts Bay in New England:

May it please yr. Excellncy
We yeoman of the town of Hadley in the 2d Precinct
would for sundry reasons wh. hereinafter will appear with serious entreaty pray for yr attention in filling the blank wh appears in the act of the Gnl Court for errecting the second precinct in the town of Hadley in
the county of Hampshire in an independt District.

Since it is the custom for the Gnl. Court to establish new Districts in the several provinces, leaving the naming of the District thus errected to the choice and wisdom of yr excellncy together with the Honbl Council, and since informtn has come to the knowledge of a number of Inhabitants of the District about to be errectd which gives them concern as to the name wh yr excellcy may be inducd to affix we humbly pray to be consider 1st yr excellncy cannot be unmindful of the services which Sir Jeffery Amherst K,B has renderd the colony in the attack on the town of Louisburgh, nor of the fact that a main part in that attack was borne by troops en-listed from the county of Hampshire in wh. the new District is to be errected. Nor are we on our part forgetful of the distinguished friendship wh. has ex-isted between yrslf and Sir Jeffery wh. of itself brings his name to our most kindly liking. We do therefore pray that the blank now existing in the act just passed may be filled with the name of Amherst in token of our regard for the worthy
knight and of yor own admirable friendship for
the same.

2nd We are the more earnest In our petition from
the information above referrd to wh. makes us
fear that a part of our Inhabitants, with
designs against the reputation of our new
District, may persuade yr excelinCY to give us
a name wh. Is as sounding brass and
tinkling cymbals.

[Page 2]

These men be it understood by yr excellncy are not payers of parish rates in the Town of Hadley but have estates in the town beyond the River now called Northampton and they lie in wait to induce you to give us the name refused by them.

This Town of Northampton In the early histy of the colony was called North wattock or Nort-wootock, wh. doth appear from the records of the Gill court in 1656. This name they wish for us, while we would not with uncharity say ought against these worthy yeomen —
yet it does seem to some of our simpleminded people
that the inhabitants of Northampton are trying to put on us a name wh. they cast off from themselves to prevent our hoped for prosperity and we humbly pray yr excellency to protect the people of this District in the independence of their own choice. (A matter wh. we have to recently contested with His MagStY Govermt to be now light¬ly esteemed)[crossed out] And moreover we would resptfly direct yr attention to the name which is in danger of being hung like a millstone about the neck of this new and struggling District.

It is known here among us that the name North wattuck is not even the name as it stands in the Indian tongue. It Is there Norwotuck. Yet yr petitioners do beg that even the original name be not given us but Amherst instead. Yr Exellency may be attracted by the sound of the Indian name and we confess it has a goodly sound in the ears of those who have not known the uses to wh. it has been put. These men of Northampton will also tell you of Its meaning wh. is in our language “extensiveness” or wide—spreading” and is well suited to the far reaching valley wh. we behold from our estates in the new District.

[Page 3]

This name wh. has so goodly a sound and so suitable a meaning was refused by the aforesaid people of Northampton and is now offensive to us because of certain purposes to wh. it has been put, which we will now inform yr excellncy of.

It is a thing quite common among the Indians inhabitants of this province to speak of their burial—places as Norwotucks. The reason of this we have not been able more fully to find than this: that as the name means wide reaching or far extending, and as

the ignorant and savage notions of the soul are mainly that it is wide-reaching like the air, so they have come to name the place where the body lies without the soul by the name of the thing which is not there. This method of naming yr exeliCY will recognize as common among savage people.

This usage of the word would not be offensive to yr. petitioners were it the only one, for we regard our chief concern to be with death and it might be not wanting in edification that the name of our new Town shall add to the solemn nature of our pilgrim days. But we have one more usage to describe to yr exellncy wh. will be yet more pertinent against its being imposed on us.

When yr petitioners first cast their lot with the colony
of this Province we did often hear young Indian boys of the age of 10 or 12 yrs called Norwotucks and that by the older Indian youths in a tone of contempt. It drew little attention from us till we were troubled by the rumor that the same name would(?) be given our new Town. Then we dilligently inquired, and for some time

[Page 4]

were wanting in success, for it seems to be a (private [crossed out]) usage of the Indians wh. they come(?) unwillingly to divulge to the white man. At length one of our number of great intercourse with the tribe found the reason for this usage. An old Indian told him that it was only given to Indian boys when they began to shoot with the bow and arrow, and as their arrows then reached wide of the mark they were called Norwotucks or wide reachers. Moreover, he said, all Indian boys try hard to become good shooters that they may as speedily as possible escape this name, and are then named Hooducks. This usage of the name Norwatucks we have confirmed by assiduous toil and investigation and do now present it to yr. excellency as the chief reason why it be not given to New District errected from the 2nd precinct of the Town of Hadley.

Yr petitioners humbly supplicate yr Excellcy & Honor to take the case under consideration, and grant us the name of Amherst in such manner as in yr wisdom and justice you shall see meet.

John Nash

Isaac Ward

Nehimieh Dickinson



Nash, John; Ward, Isaac; Dickinson, Nehimieh, “Petition for the name of Amherst,” Digital Amherst, accessed July 12, 2024,