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Ephraim Williams Jr. ( – September 8, 1755) was a soldier from the Province of Massachusetts Bay who was killed in the French and Indian War. He was the benefactor of Williams College, located in northwestern Massachusetts.


Ephraim Jr. was the eldest son of Ephraim Sr. (1691–1754) and Elizabeth Jackson Williams (d.1718). He was born in Newton, Massachusettsmarker, and was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died in 1718. His family was influential in western Massachusetts; so influential, in fact, that they were often referred to as the "River Gods" (referencing the Connecticut River, the major waterway in the area). In his youth, Ephraim Jr. was a sailor.

Military service

In 1742, he moved to Stockbridge, Massachusettsmarker, where his parents had relocated, and joined the local militia. He was commissioned captain. In 1745, during King George's War (1745–1748), he was put in charge of building and defending Fort Massachusetts. During the French and Indian War (1754–1763), Williams took part in William Johnson's expedition against Crown Point, New Yorkmarker. He was shot in the head and killed during an ambush by the French in the Battle of Lake George.


Ephraim left his sizeable estate to support the founding of a free school on his land in western Massachusetts, on the condition that the town be named after him (Williamstown, Massachusetts) and that the free school be made on land he donated. The school was founded in 1791 and converted to a college (Williams College) in 1793.

Ebenezer Fitch, the first President of Williams College, wrote a biographical sketch of Ephraim Jr. in 1802. He described the college's benefactor as follows: "In his person, he was large and fleshy...His address was easy, and his manners pleasing and conciliating. Affable and facetious, he could make himself agreeable in all companies; and was very generally esteemed, respected, and beloved."

Ephraim Jr. also appears in an early version of "Yankee Doodle":

Brother Ephraim sold his Cow
And bought him a Commission;
And then he went to Canada
To fight for the Nation;

But when Ephraim he came home
He proved an arrant Coward,
He wouldn't fight the Frenchmen there
For fear of being devour'd.

There are no known portraits of Ephraim Williams.


  1. Wyllis Eaton Wright, Colonel Ephraim Williams, a documentary life (1970), p. 4.

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