Ephraim Williams

Ephraim Williams

Williams, Ephraim, 1715-55, American soldier, founder of Williams College, b. Newton, Mass. After several years as a sailor, he lived in Massachusetts and took part in defending the frontier against Native Americans. He was a captain in King George's War. In recognition of his service he was given command of the Massachusetts posts W of the Connecticut River and 200 acres (80.9 hectares) of land in Massachusetts, where Adams and Williamstown now stand. Made a colonel in 1755, Williams was killed leading troops of Sir William Johnson's command in the first action of the battle of Lake George in the French and Indian War. His will directed that his property be used for establishing a free school. Out of the academy thus founded at Williamstown, Williams College developed.

Ephraim Williams Jr. (March 7, 1715September 8,1755) was the benefactor of Williams College, located in northwestern Massachusetts.

Life and Death

Ephraim Jr. was the eldest son of Ephraim Sr. (1691–1754) and Elizabeth Jackson Williams (d.1718). He was born in Newton, Massachusetts, and was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died in 1718. In his youth, Ephraim Jr. was a sailor. In 1742, he moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where his parents had relocated, and joined the local militia. He was commissioned Captain in 1745 and put in charge of building and defending Fort Massachusetts. 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). Ephraim Jr. served in both King George's War (1745–1748) and the French and Indian War (1754–1763). It was during the Battle of Lake George that he was shot in the head during an ambush by the French.

Ephraim left his sizeable estate to support the founding of a free school on his land in western Massachusetts. 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 Jr.

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