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Colonel Rufus Graves (1758-1845)

Rufus Graves was born in Sunderland and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1791.  He was made a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army in 1799 under President John Adams in anticipation of a war with the French that did not come to pass, and he never had to serve.  He lectured on chemistry at Dartmouth from 1812 until 1815 and did the same at Amherst during the College's first year.  A man of extraordinary energy and a dreamer whose enthusiasms were renowned, he was the architect of the first bridge to cross the Connecticut River, connecting Hanover, New Hampshire and Norwich, Vermont.

Colonel Graves believed passionately in the importance of the College, and he traveled the countryside raising money for Amherst's Charity Fund.  His efforts were so extensive that his horse was as familiar a sight as he was across the Pioneer Valley and beyond.  In fact, even after the horse was sold, the animal was so used to turning into every house during the Colonel's solicitation visits that he persisted in the habit with his new owner.  A tireless fundraiser, Colonel Graves was unable to sustain his own business as a pharmacist or to maintain his attempts at farming.  His wife, also a dedicated supporter of the College, kept things afloat as best she could, and eventually the family moved to Ohio.  Colonel Graves died there in 1845.

In a 1921 article published in the Amherst Graduates' Quarterly, W.S. Tyler wrote about Colonel Graves, "No one man founded Amherst College, but among many who were instrumental Colonel Rufus Graves deserves to be remembered with especial gratitude.  His enthusiasm for the Collegiate and Charitable Institution at Amherst refused to be balked by any obstacle, and when others declared the project impossible, he accomplished the raising of the Charity Fund of $50,000 which called the College into being."


Valdina Chirico
PO Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002-5000

Phone: (413) 542-8234


charity fund ledger

Original Charity Fund ledger
Archives and Special Collections

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