Mr. Williston wanted to provide educational opportunities to the ‘average working man,’ the types of men working in his then-bustling factory. In that way and many others, the history of the school is intertwined with Easthampton’s business community, and both have had many ups and downs.

Williston controlled the school throughout his life, and consequently, its success rose and fell with his own finances. It flourished when Williston began producing those fabric-covered buttons, but it also suffered when the manufacturing heyday of Easthampton and of Western Mass. as a whole drew to a close.

By the late 19th to early 20th century, the manufacturing sector in Easthampton started to decline, and Mr. Williston was no longer the force he had once been. The school began to decline along with the town, and there was no institutional framework for fundraising because it was Williston’s school, and for a very long time he wanted to do things his way.

In the 1950s, the Williston homestead was donated by the Williston family to the school, which, under the direction of then headmaster Phillip Stevens, soon became the new home to the school on Payson Ave.

Stevens was charged with devoting much of the school’s resources to moving of the school from the center of town to the Williston family property. And after the move, it had virtually no endowment.

Williston School continued to struggle financially throughout the ’50s and ’60s, as did the nearby women’s school, the Northampton School for Girls.

In 1971, Williston and Northampton followed a national trend among boarding schools and small colleges and merged to become one co-educational institution, still located on the Williston grounds.

Easthampton’s church was formally organized November 17, 1785, but was without a regular pastor until Rev. Payson Williston accepted a call. He was ordained August 13, 1789. The introductory prayer at the service was by Rev. Enoch Hale of Westhampton, the brother of Nathan Hale of Revolutionary fame. Mr. Williston's pastorate continued until he retired in 1833.

"Once upon a time (in the early 1800‘s) there arrived at the Easthampton parsonage a clergyman of distinguished presence from Europe. The quick eye of Mrs Emily Graves Williston detected there were on his coat buttons [of a unique manufacture.] She cut off one of those buttons. She picked it apart to learn how it was made, of what material and how put together. Then she carefully remade the button. In the morning the clergyman departed without knowing that he had left a secret behind: the button that filled a long felt want and promptly put Sam Williston on the escalator to good fortune."


The introduction of what became known as the Williston fabric button was the boon he needed to revive his finances and soon Samuel Williston had a thousand families working for him in a circle thirty or forty miles distant and part of his fortune went to found the Williston School in 1841.

Reverand Payson’s son Samuel Williston was born June 17, 1795.

In 1826 he commenced the manufacture of covered buttons. How this came about is a local legend which goes as follows . . .

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