Discover Historic Williamstown! Week 2

Posted by on May 4, 2020 in Talks | Comments Off on Discover Historic Williamstown! Week 2

Discover Historic Williamstown! Week 2

Historic Site 2. The Haystack Monument

You’ll have to delve into the depths of the Williams College campus to find our next historical marker which stands at the (supposed) site of the very haystack beneath which Williams students Samuel J. Mills, James Richards, Francis L. Robbins, Harvey Loomis, and Byram Green sheltered during a thunderstorm in 1806.

If you can find this marker and historic site, take a photo of it, or of you standing next to it, and send it along to [email protected]

Haystacks looked quite different in 1806 than they do today. We are used to seeing rolled bales of hay wrapped in Tyvek, but the image above is an example of the type of  haystack the five Williams students probably sheltered under or, more accurately, within.

The distinctive “beehive” shape is also represented on the Haystack Monument.

“The field is the world” (Matthew 13:38) reads the inscription beneath the globe atop the Haystack Monument. From that meeting under a haystack in 1806, came the impetus for the formation, in 1810, of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). By the mid-19th century over four dozen Williams graduates were serving as missionaries in the American West, the Middle East, Africa, India and Hawai’i.

Whatever your feelings are about the missionary movement, there is no question that what happened at the site of this historical marker changed the world.

You can learn more at the Williams College Chaplains’ Office webpage.  The video and an article by Douglas Showalter’s can be found here:  Into All the World:  the Story of the Haystack.

This week’s historical marker is located on the land known as Mission Park – seen in the map and aerial view above.

“The bonds of secrecy were so strong among these students that for many years after the Haystack Prayer Meeting its date, its exact location, and even the names of all the participants were not known. Fortunately, in 1854, Byram Green, the last surviving participant, put a cedar stake in the ground where the haystack had been…”
– The Rev. Dr. Douglas K. Showalter

That land, known as Sloan’s Meadow, was purchased by the Williams Society of Alumni and renamed it Mission Park.

In 1857, after the 1856 Haystack Jubilee (50th anniversary) celebration, the Mission Park Association was incorporated with its members holding the property “for the purpose of . . . erecting and placing thereon suitable monuments, and other memorials to commemorate the origin and progress of American missions . . .”

The Society of Alumni donated Mission Park to the College in 1885.

Paid for by Harvey Rice (Williams Class of 1824), the Haystack Monument was dedicated in July 1867. Although Rice originally planned a life-size haystack made of sandstone, a monument was decided upon. Made of ‘silver blue’ marble, it was erected by the Berkshire Marble Company of Alford, MA. Several of the trees around the monument were brought by groups from around the world, contributing species not commonly found in Williamstown to the arboretum of Williams College. We hope you will photograph the monument and surrounding trees so we may add them to our collection for posterity.

You can find a PDF of the 1867 “Proceedings at the Dedication of the Missionary Monument in Mission Park” here:

WCMA’s 2018 exhibit, “‘The Field is the World:’ Williams, Hawai’i, and Material Histories in the Making” looked at the legacy of the Missionary Movement. More about the exhibit can be found here:  “‘The Field is the World:’ Williams, Hawai’i, and Material Histories in the Making.”

Good luck in your search and we hope you will photograph the monument, marker, and surrounding trees so we may add them to our collection for posterity.  Thank you!