Haystack Monument in Mission Park
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The Haystack Monument in Mission Park stands as a tribute to the work of American missionaries. (Some would like to equate this work to the current efforts of global aid volunteers.) In 1806, a group of Williams students met beneath a haystack to discuss theological issues and here pledged themselves to serving as missionaries abroad. Foremost among these students was Samuel J. Mills (1783-1818). With others, Mills convinced the General Association of Congregational Ministers of Massachusetts to form the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1810.
In 1854, one of the Haystack alumni returned to Williamstown and marked the location of the students' prayer site. A year later, a group of Williams alumni purchased the surrounding land and soon incorporated the Mission Park Association for the purpose of "improving the grounds...and of erecting and placing thereon suitable monuments and other memorials, to commemorate the origin and progress of American Missions." In 1866, funds were donated to erect a memorial, and the twelve-foot high monument was dedicated by Mark Hopkins following the Baccalaureate Discourse on July 28, 1867.
Since this time, Williams has hosted anniversaries of the Haystack Prayer Meeting, drawing missionaries and other participants from around the world.