Sir Jeffrey

The area now called “Amherst County” was Monacan land for 1000s of years before the first Europeans arrived.

Sir Jeffrey Amherst, painted by Joshua Reynolds in 1765.

Once the Europeans arrived on the scene they had a tendency to name every feature and land mass in sight. In the case of the county, it was named after Sir Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1797), a British Baron who was eventually promoted to Field Marshal after his service in the Seven Years’ War. The North American campaign, called the French and Indian Wars (1754-63), pitted the British against French forces and their Native American allies. Amherst fought most of these battles on Canadian soil, leading to the moniker “Conquerer of Canada.” While Amherst achieved many victories, he did so at a great cost. In a letter dated 16 July 1763 then General Amherst approved a suggestion to distribute blankets to “inoculate the Indians” with smallpox from gifts of contaminated blankets (the idea was suggested by Gen Bouquet in a letter dated 13 July 1763). Gen Amherst went further and suggested that he “… try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race” (Source Peter d’Errico and the website link is here. The county of Amherst was formed in 1761 when it was separated from Albemarle County. In 1806, Nelson County was created, leaving Amherst with its modern-day boundaries.