Eliphalet Nott

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Eliphalet Nott
Portrait of Eliphalet Nott
President of Union College
In office
Preceded byJonathan Maxcy
Succeeded byLaurens Perseus Hickok
President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
In office
Preceded byJohn Chester
Succeeded byNathan S.S. Beman
Personal details
Born(1773-06-25)25 June 1773
Ashford, Connecticut Colony
Died25 January 1866(1866-01-25) (aged 92)
Schenectady, New York
Sarah Marie Benedict
(m. 1796; died 1804)

Gertrude Peebles
(m. 1807; died 1841)

Urania Sheldon
(m. 1842; his death 1866)
Alma materRhode Island College (now Brown University)
OccupationPresbyterian minister, inventor, educator
Known forLong-term president of Union College

Eliphalet Nott (June 25, 1773 – January 25, 1866), was a famed Presbyterian minister, inventor, educational pioneer, and long-term president of Union College, Schenectady, New York.

Early life[edit]

Nott was born at Ashford, Connecticut, on June 25, 1773. He was the second son, and youngest of nine children, born to Stephen Nott and Deborah (née Selden) Nott.[1]

In 1795, he earned a degree from Rhode Island College (which later became known as Brown University).[1]


Cover of pamphlet created from 1804 Nott sermon, On the Death of Hamilton.
Opening text of sermon.

Around 1802, he was called to the Presbyterian Church at Albany, where he took a prominent position as a preacher and was heard by large congregations. Among his successful pulpit efforts at Albany was a sermon on the death of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, entitled On the Death of Hamilton, condemning the practice of dueling, that had profound influence in curtailing the custom and remains recognized to this day as an exemplary period example of the orator's art.[2]

College presidency[edit]

In 1804, at the age of 31, Nott became president of Union College, a role he served in until his death in 1866, during which time more than 4,000 students are estimated to have graduated from Union. He also served as president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from 1829 to 1845,[3] where he "visited the school at least every third week and was compensated with one dollar per visit plus all graduation fees."[4]

Upon assuming the presidency of Union, he reportedly found the College financially embarrassed and successfully worked to place it on sound footings. In the early 1830s, after the founding of the Union Triad fraternities, Nott called for the dissolution of all fraternities. He was dissuaded from this by a member of Delta Phi named John Jay Hyde.[1]

In 1805, the College of New Jersey conferred upon him the title of D.D. (Doctor of Divinity), and in 1828, he received the title of LL.D. His publications include collections of sermons, Counsels to Young Men (1810), and Lectures on Temperance (1847). In 1814, Nott was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society.[5] A number of imprints authored by Nott, or related to him in some way, reside in the society's collections.[6]

Inventor and real estate investor[edit]

As a scientist, he studied heat and obtaining some thirty or more patents for applications of heat to steam engines, but was best known in his day as the inventor of the first stove for anthracite coal, which was named for him.[2]

Nott was an important land speculator and developer, partnering with his nephew Henry Sheldon Anable,[7] buying several farms on the Long Island shore of the East River that became the sites of industrial enterprises.[8]

Personal life[edit]

He married Sarah Marie "Sally" Benedict (1774–1804), the daughter of Rev. Joel Benedict of Plainfield, Connecticut, under whose instruction in early life he pursued his classical and mathematical studies. Before Sally's death at the age of 29 on March 10, 1804, they were the parents of:[9]

  • Sarah Marie Nott (1799–1839), who married Bishop Alonzo Potter, brother of Bishop Horatio Potter.[10]
  • John Nott (1801–1878), who married Mary Ann Lawrence (1824–1911) in 1830.[1]
  • Benjamin Nott (1802–1881), who married Elizabeth Cooper (1808–1867), parents of Charles C. Nott.[11]

In 1807, he married Gertrude Peebles Tibbits (1771–1841), who died in January 1841.[4][12]

In 1842, a year and a half after the death of his second wife, Nott married the much younger Urania Elizabeth Sheldon (1806–1886),[13] a Troy Female Seminary graduate who was a well-known superintendent of several women's schools and the leader of several local benevolent associations.[14]

Beginning in 1860, Nott suffered a series of strokes while serving as president.[14] He died on January 25, 1866, in Schenectady, New York, and was buried at the Vale Cemetery in Schenectady. His widow died on April 19, 1886, at age 80.[14]


The Nott Memorial

The Nott Memorial, a centerpiece of the Union College's campus, was built by his grandson, and Union graduate, Edward Tuckerman Potter and named in Nott's honor.[15]

Nott Road in Rexford, New York, the location of his farm, is named for him, as are Nott Street and Nott Terrace, which border Union College in Schenectady, New York. He remains the longest serving college president in the United States to this day.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d Hislop, Codman (1971). Eliphalet Nott. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 9780819540379. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b Mott, Elphalet (1804). A Collection of the Facts and Documents, relative to the Death of Major-General Alexander Hamilton; with comments ... By the editor of the Evening Post [i.e. W. Coleman]. J. Riley & Company. p. 104. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  3. ^ Nason, Henry B. (1887). Biographical Record of the Officers and Graduates of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1824-1886 (PDF). W.H. Young and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Rensselaer President Eliphalet Nott". archives.rpi.edu/. Rensselaer Libraries, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  5. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  6. ^ AAS catalog search results for "Eliphalet Nott"
  7. ^ "History Topics: Names of Long Island City". Greater Astoria Historical Society. 2007. Archived from the original on 2018-07-05. Retrieved 2017-12-15. Built in 1868 by Henry Anable son-in-law developer of Dr. E. Nott of Hunter's Point. During construction, a large mastodon bone was found and put on display in a local store window.
  8. ^ Jennifer Brisbane (2014). "Historical Relationships between Land Elevation and Socioeconomic Status in New York City: A Mixed Methods GIS Approach". City University of New York. pp. 114–115. Retrieved 2018-11-14. On June 17, 1835, a representative of the Eliphalet Nott, the president of Union College in Schenectady, bought the land from the family for $100,000 as speculative property.
  9. ^ Eliphalet Nott, A Discourse, Delivered in the Presbyterian Church, in the city of Albany: Before the Ladies' Society, for the Relief of Distresed Women and Children, March 18th, 1804 (Albany, NY: Charles R. and George Webster, 1804), 37.
  10. ^ Hodges, George (1915). Henry Codman Potter, Seventh Bishop of New York. Macmillan. p. 118. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  11. ^ Genealogical Notes of New York and New England Families. Heritage Books. 2000. p. 162. ISBN 9780788419560. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  12. ^ Garraty, John Arthur; Carnes, Mark Christopher (1999). American National Biography. Oxford University Press. p. 537. ISBN 9780195127959. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  13. ^ Wilkie, Franc Bangs (1891). Personal Reminicsences of Thirty-five Years of Journalism. F.J. Schulte. pp. 16–17. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  14. ^ a b c Harris, A. Richard (15 September 2014). "Behind the Great Leader: The Story and Influence of Urania Nott". Union College. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  15. ^ Life by C van Santvoord (ed. Tayler Lewis, 1876).
  16. ^ "Presidents of Union College". www.union.edu. Union College. Retrieved 8 August 2019.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Jonathan Maxcy
President of Union College
Succeeded by
Laurens Perseus Hickok
Preceded by
John Chester
President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Succeeded by
Nathan S.S. Beman