Ephraim Williams Jr. (1715-1755)

1753 The first settlers arrive in the west township (later Williamstown).

1754 The French and Indian War erupts in May when George Washington is attacked by the French at Fort Necessity in Pennsylvania. Indians destroy a good portion of Hoosick Falls in May, and raid Stockbridge in early September. Ephraim Jr. is reinstated as commander of Fort Massachusetts. The settlers in the west township petition the colonial government for help in defending themselves against the French and Indians. Consistent with the advice of Ephraim Jr.'s cousin, Israel Williams (1709-1789), the military commander of the western district of Massachusetts, the government of the colony fails to respond to the petition. The task of informing the settlers of the government's position falls to Ephraim Jr.

1755 The year begins with a sharp disappointment for Ephraim Jr. Governor Shirley is planning a campaign to capture the French outpost at Crown Point on Lake Champlain and offers Ephraim a commission in his regiment a full, royal commission, not simply one in the provincial forces. However, Shirley learns that his officers are to be sent from England and thus must withdraw his offer. Subsequently, General William Johnson (1715-1774) is given command of the Crown Point expedition, and Ephraim Jr. accepts a provincial commission in it. Also during the spring, he supposedly courts nineteen-year-old Sarah Williams (1736-1817), daughter of his cousin Israel, but without success.

Shortly after arriving at the military rendezvous in Albany, Ephraim Jr. learns of the defeat of General Edward Braddock on the Monongahela River. Comprehending the seriousness of the campaign ahead of him, he completes a new will on July 22nd and mails it to Israel Williams. In it, he leaves the remainder of his estate, following bequests to family members, to establish and maintain a free school in the township west of Fort Massachusetts, the future Williamstown. He probably had in mind a village school offering instruction at the most elementary level.

By August, Ephraim Jr.'s regiment has marched north to the "Great Carrying Place" on the upper Hudson, later called Fort Edward, and thence to a camp on the shores of Lake George. On September 8th, Ephraim Jr., in command of 1,000 soldiers and 200 Indians, is sent back to Fort Edward to assist the troops there in protecting the supply base from the French who have been sighted in the area. On the road, the company is ambushed by 1,400 French and Indians- Ephraim Jr. is shot and killed.

By Sylvia Kennick Brown, College Archivist