Potter Family History  

Memoirs of Eliphalet Nott: for sixty-two years president of Union College by Cornelius Van Santvoord, Taylor Lewis.

He was President of Union College from August 1804 - January 29, 1866.  He married Gertrude Peebles Tibbits of Troy; wealthy widow of Benjamin Tibbits.  His wife Gertrude died in January 1841 after a lengthy illiness.  Later that year he married Urania E. Sheldon of Utica, NY.  Eliphalet Nott died January 29, 1866.

Painting owned Trevor A. McClurg Potter

The building is dedicated to Eliphalet Nott (1773-1866), president of Union College for sixty-two years.  A Presbyterian minister and inventor, Nott was a major leader of American Education.  His many innovations included a scientific curriculum and the introduction of engineering at a liberal arts college.  

Genealogical Notes on Contributions to the family history of some of the First Settlers of Connecticut and Massachusetts, by Nathaniel Goodwin in 1856.  See pages 165 to 169.

Eliphalet Nott was the father of Sarah Maria Nott (Potter) the first wife of Alonzo Potter.

Eliphalet Nott was born on June 25, 1773 in Ashford, Connecticut.  He was the youngest child of Stephen and Deborah (Sheldon) Nott, they had nine children.  In 1759 the family home burned down with nearly all the contents.  In the fire the library of books from his grandfather Rev. Abraham Nott were lost.  They were able to afford a small home with help from friends.  Misfortunes continued and the family moved again and again.  They ended up on sixty acres of waste land, in the hilliest and roughest part of Connecticut.

Though the family was poor they were very religious.  Eliphalet was home schooled by his mother.  Eliphalet was a intelligent boy.  He was able to read by the end of the age of three and by the end of age four he read though the bible.  At an early age he had a good memory and could repeat long passages.  He was most fond of Psalms which he learned and could recite, when other children were learning their alphabet.  He was eager to learn.  The church of Ashford was four miles away so the family worshipped at the Baptist meeting house which was much closer.  When his mother could not attend due to her health Eliphalet would attend and take notes and recite the sermans to his mother. 

Eliphalet had lived at home with his parents until he was eight. That winter he went to live with a married sister forty miles away.  When he returned in the Spring his brother Samuel had been made pastor of the Congregation Church of Franklin, Connecticut.  Samuel agreed to take Eliphalet and his sister Deborah and give them a home in his family to relieve his struggling parents.  Eliphalet did not stay more than a year or two before he wanted to leave because his brother was a rigid disciplinarian.  He wanted to go to sea but was persuaded to come back to his parents’ home.  One day while working in the field he saw and ran over to Dr. Palmer a physician and asked him to make him a doctor.  Dr. Palmer said if you keep up with your study in a few years he would.  He continued his studies at home with his mothers help until her death October 24, 1787.   At the age of fourteen he went to Dr. Palmer who began to train him.  One day he was asked to assist in a surgery and fainted on the ground.  He determined he did not have the nerves for strong enough for this and abandoned the profession of a physician.  
When Eliphalet was sixteen he joined his brother Samuel's church.  At the age of twenty-one, he persuaded Rhode Island College (later named Brown University) to allow him to take the exit examinations required of seniors for a Baccalaureate degree.  He passed without difficulty; but there was a rule that he could not be awarded a BA degree without ever having taken any formal course work at the college.  The faculty circumvented this rule by awarding him a Master of Arts degree.

On July 4, 1796 he married Sarah Maria Benedict daughter of Joel & Sarah Maria Benedict.  After additional study, Nott was licensed to preach in 1796.  After traveling in parts of Connecticut and New York, Nott settled in Cherry Valley, NY where he became pastor of its only Presbyterian Church and principal of its only academy.  His wife Sarah Maria died after giving birth to their child on March 9, 1804. 

In 1804, Nott became president of Union College, a post he held for 62 years.  He initiated an extensive building program and introduced a scientific course as an alternative to the traditional classical curriculum.  He published a number of pamphlets on slavery, temperance, and education and contributed to science by his experiments with heat.  Nott was granted over 30 patents and was the inventor of the first anthracite coal base-burner stove. 

Nott Memorial Hall, Union College, Schenectady, NY

Eliphalet Nott
​( 1773 - 1866 )

The Nott Memorial Stands as a Memorial of Eliphalet Nott

The Nott Memorial was conceived by President Nott in consultation with the French architect Joseph Jacques Ramee (1764-1842).  In 1813 Ramee created designs for a planned campus with a circular building as an alumni or graduates' hall.  Its placement and surroundings are in accordance with the Renaissance tradition of the Ideal City, espoused by Piero della Francesca.  The Nott Memorial was designed by architect Edward Tuckerman Potter, the grandson of President Nott, the son of Bishop Alonzo Potter, and a Union College graduate (1864).