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Amherst is a town in Hampshire Countymarker, Massachusettsmarker, United Statesmarker in the Connecticut River valley. As of the 2000 census, the population was 34,874. The town is home to Amherst Collegemarker, Hampshire Collegemarker, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, three of the Five Colleges. The name of the town is correctly pronounced without the h ("AM-erst"), unlike some other towns of the same name.

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

Amherst is part of the Springfield, Massachusettsmarker 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 Springfieldmarker 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" [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 Hadleymarker. 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 British 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.
UMass, looking southeast


Historical population of
1790 1,233
1800 1,258
1810 1,469
1820 1,917
1830 2,631
1840 2,550
1850 3,057
1860 3,206
1870 4,035
1880 4,298
1890 4,512
1900 5,028
1910 5,112
1920 5,550
1930 5,888
1940 6,410
1950 10,856
1960 13,718
1970 26,331
1980 33,229
1990 35,228
2000 34,874
2005 34,047 (estimate)

As of the 2008 U.S. Census, there were 35,564 people, 9,174 households, and 4,550 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,283.4 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 76.7% 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.

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 Collegemarker, and Hampshire Collegemarker.

Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of October 18, 2006
Party Total Voters Percentage

Democratic 8,350 49.18%

Republican 1,076 6.34%

Unaffiliated 7,228 42.57%

Other Parties 326 1.92%
Total 16,980 100%


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. Rideshare (non-profit) has a free service with RideBoards for the 5 colleges, and services available to the general community. Rides offered and needed populate the site - and travel locally and nationally.

Rail service is available through Amtrak at the Amherst station (AMM) on the daily Vermonter service between Washington D.C.marker and St. Albans, VT. More frequent service to New York Citymarker and Washington D.C. is available from Springfieldmarker.

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

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

Notable residents


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.
  • Loren Weisman (b. 1974), Music Producer, Drummer and Author. Attended public schools in Amherst.
  • Jesse Barrett-Mills, filmmaker
  • Leon Bromell, drum circle enthusiast. Attended public schools in Amherst
  • Josh Wolf comedian
  • Shayna Seymor, reporter for the nightly news show Chronicle on WCVB-Boston
  • Eric Mabius, actor, star of ABC show Ugly Betty, attended Amherst Schools

Live in Amherst

Points of interest

See also


External links

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