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Amherst (/ˈæmərst/ (About this soundlisten)) is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Connecticut River valley. As of the 2010 census, the population was 37,819, making it the highest populated municipality in Hampshire County (although the county seat is Northampton). The town is home to Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, three of the Five Colleges. The name of the town is pronounced without the h (“AM-erst”) by natives and long-time residents, giving rise to the local saying, “only the ‘h’ is silent”, in reference both to the pronunciation and to the town’s politically active populace.
Amherst has three census-designated places: Amherst Center, North Amherst, and South Amherst.
Amherst is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. Lying 22 miles (35 km) north of the city of Springfield, Amherst is considered the northernmost town in the Hartford-Springfield Metropolitan Region, “The Knowledge Corridor”. Amherst is also located in the Pioneer Valley, which encompasses Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties.
The earliest known document of the lands now comprising Amherst is the deed of purchase dated December 1658 between John Pynchon of Springfield and three native inhabitants, referred to as Umpanchla, Quonquont, and Chickwalopp. According to the deed, “ye Indians of Nolwotogg (Norwottuck) upon ye River of Quinecticott (Connecticut)” sold the entire area in exchange for “two Hundred fatham of Wampam & Twenty fatham, and one large Coate at Eight fatham wch Chickwollop set of, of trusts, besides severall small giftes” .
Amherst was first visited by Europeans no later than 1665, when Nathaniel Dickinson surveyed the lands for its mother town Hadley. The first permanent English settlements arrived in 1727. It remained a part of Hadley, even when it gained precinct status in 1734, before becoming a township in 1759.