Ephraim Williams's Signature
A Free School in the Township West of Fort Massachusetts
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Draft of Ephraim Williams, Jr.'s will, ca. August 1755.
(Not on view--original located in the Williams Family Papers, New York Historical Society, New York)

Ephraim Williams, Jr.'s wallet.
(Gift of Mrs. Frances Billings Nims)

Ephraim Jr. had this unsigned and undated will drafted as he was camped with Gen. Johnson's army on the shores of Lake George. It was therefore written several weeks after the will that he had composed and signed in Albany in July, the same document which was later probated in the Hampshire County court. In its bequests to specific family members and friends, this document seems to vary only slightly from his earlier will. Ephraim closed this will, as he did the Albany document, with his bequest to support and maintain a "free school in the township west of Fort Massachusetts," with any remaining funds going to found a second school in East Hoosac near the fort. Ephraim made this bequest provided the west township be located in Massachusetts and that its name be changed. While Ephraim's earlier will specified that he wished the town to be named Williamstown, this draft leaves the name blank.

Following Ephraim Jr.'s death, executors Israel Williams and John Worthington inventoried Ephraim's real and personal property in order to settle his estate. Residual funds from the settlement were managed by these men until 1785 when, the two provisions of the will having been met, they transferred 3383.3.7, or approximately $11,277, to the Trustees of the Donation of Ephraim Williams, Esq., for Maintaining a Free School in Williamstown. The Trustees proceeded to hold a lottery to support the construction of a school building and, in 1791, opened the Williamstown Free School in the building we call West College. Soon afterwards, the Trustees petitioned the Massachusetts Legislature to convert the free school into a college. The petition was granted, and Williams College opened its doors on October 9th, 1793.

Select an area of Ephraim Jr.'s life to learn more.
Bloody Morning Scout
Free School
An Officer