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SCHENECTADY DIGITAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

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You are here: Home » People » Our Hall of Fame » Eliphalet Nott

Our Hall of Fame: Eliphalet Nott (1773-1866)

Go back to: Joseph Yates | ahead to: George Featherstonhaugh

[This information is from pp. 12-13 of Our Hall of Fame, a booklet produced in 1938 by what was then called the Schenectady Public Library. It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 920 S324, and copies are also available for borrowing.]

Portrait of Eliphalet Nott

Portrait: Eliphalet Nott

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Eliphalet Nott, for sixty-two years president of Union College, was born in Ashford, Conn., June 25, 1773. He received his early education at home under the instruction of his mother. Later he studied under his brother who was a minister in Franklin. At the age of sixteen he taught in the village school at Franklin and the next year became principal of Plainfield Academy.

After spending less than a year at Brown University he took special examinations and was graduated from that institution in 1795 with the degree of master of arts.

In 1796 young Nott entered the Presbyterian ministry and was sent to the wilderness of upper New York State where he became pastor of a church in Cherry Valley, and founded an academy. Two years later he moved to Albany and was installed as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of that city. He became widely known as one of the most gifted pulpit orators of his time.

His primary interest, however, was in education and in 1804 he was made president of Union College in Schenectady which position he held until his death. He found the college without suitable funds, buildings, or a library. The state legislature authorized lotteries for the purpose of raising money and these were so successful that Nott was able to put the college on a firmer financial basis. Being dissatisfied with the cramped quarters of the downtown buildings, he purchased, on the security of his own name, two hundred fifty acres of land on part of which the college now stands. He engaged Jacques Ramee, distinguished engineer and landscape artist, to plan the buildings and grounds.

Under Nott's guidance Union College achieved a high reputation for the excellence of its instruction. He remade the curriculum, taught many hours daily, and built up a good faculty. His sympathy, humanity, and broad religious point of view appealed strongly to the young men, over four thousand of whom received degrees during his presidency.

Nott's interest extended beyond the affairs of the college and as early as 1811 he advocated the abolition of slavery. In addition to his work as educator he was something of a mechanical genius having had about thirty patents granted to him. Among other things he invented the first stove for burning anthracite.

He suffered a paralytic stroke which forced him to give up some of the duties of his office in 1859. He remained president of the college, however, until his death on January 29, 1866.

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http://www.schenectadyhistory.org/people/ohof/nott.html updated July 30, 2009

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