Historical Note

In the summer of 1806, in what was then known as Sloan's Meadow, five students discussed and debated the missionary service. Their meeting was suddenly interrupted by a thunderstorm and the students: Samuel J. Mills, James Richards, Francis L. Robbins, Harvey Loomis, and Byram Green took shelter under a haystack until the sky cleared. "The brevity of the shower, the strangeness of the place of refuge, and the peculiarity of their topic of prayer and conference all took hold of their imaginations and their memories." (Perry, 359.) The story of the meeting spread outside of Williamstown and was exaggerated over time, although few locals knew anything about it. Inquiries to the college about the meeting went unanswered until Byram Green returned to Williamstown in the spring of 1854. He pointed out the meeting site to Professors Hopkins and Perry, described the discussion that had taken place, and a monument was erected there in 1867 in honor of the five men. As well as being the first documented resolution ever made by Americans to begin foreign missionary work, the 1806 Haystack meeting has been credited with leading to the formation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions gave students an opportunity to go abroad and spread the teachings of Christianity, and later evolving into the United Church Board for World Ministries, which still exists today.

Important dates in the Haystack Meeting history are as follows:

1806 Original meeting at Sloan's Meadow.
1808 Samuel Mills forms The Brethren, a secret fraternity dedicated to spread his message about the missionary service. Some members of the Brethren would later go on to the Andover Theological Seminary, and eventually form the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
1854 Green returns, describes original meeting and points out the site of the haystack. Society of Alumni and the Board of Trustees pass resolution to purchase Sloan's Meadow and rename it "Mission Park or Grounds."
1856 Semi-centennial of the Haystack Meeting celebrated.
1867 Marble monument erected and dedicated on the site of the meeting, donated by the Honorable Harvey Rice, Class of 1824.
1906 Centennial of the meeting celebrated in Williamstown and North Adams.
1956 157th Annual Meeting of the ABCFM and Sesquicentennial celebrated in Williamstown.
1981 175th Anniversary of the meeting celebrated in Williamstown.
2006 200th Anniversary of the meeting celebrated in Williamstown.

Haystack Celebration Collection, 1815-2007

Paul A. Chadbourne
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