Col. Ephraim Williams had cake and a military salute to mark his 298th birthday. At left, with Marilyn Faulkner. Past birthdays in 2010 and 2012.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's namesake marked his 298th birthday on Sunday with a military salute and the requisite cake.
The celebration for Col. Ephraim Williams has been hosted by the Williams Inn for nearly three decades.
Carl and Marilyn Faulkner had started the annual event not long after purchasing the inn in 1979.
"When we were in New Orleans, we had Mardi Gras. Then we were in Plymouth, and there was Thanksgiving," said Carl Faulkner. They took note of the Williams in the name of the inn the town and the college and decided that Williams' birthday was worth remarking on.
"It was on March 7. That's Cabin Fever time," said Faulkner, making it the right time for a celebratory break in the long Berkshire winter.
Traffic was shut down briefly on Route 7 between the inn and the 1753 Field House across the road for the salute by the Silver Grey Militia flintlock team and a swirl of drums. The occasion continued inside with a rendition of "Happy Birthday" and the colonel cutting his birthday cake.
Williams was born 1715 in Newton to Ephraim and Elizabeth William and would follow his father to Stockbridge. The Williams were influential in the development of the region. Ephraim Williams was charged with the building of Fort Massachusetts in what was then West Hoosac and later commanded a line of forts along the frontier.
He was granted some 200 acres West Hoosac but would never settle here. In 1755, he was killed in an ambush on hs way to Fort Edwards during the French and Indian War.
Amongst Williams' lengthy bequests distributing money, buckles, spoons, books and hundreds of acres of land is a charge for "Support and maintenance of a free School (in a township west of fort Massachusetts, Commonly Called the west township) for Ever ... also that the Governour & General Court give the Said township the name of Williamstown.
The town was dutifully incorporated 10 years after his death; the school 37 years later, possibly because of a boundary dispute with New York prevented a third stipulation — that the town be in Massachusetts — was still unsettled for decades after his death, according to "Williamstown: The First Hundred Years."
Faulkner noted on Sunday that there are no images of Williams, but a memorial was set at the spot where he and his soldiers were killed in an ambush near the shores of Lake George. Williams' bones were eventually brought to Williamstown and interred in Thompson Chapel.
The colonel was very much alive, however, on Sunday and looking for his age. Williams' been portrayed by several well-known residents, most recently environmental writer Lauren R. Stevens has donned the frock coat and tri-corner.
The colonel also usually makes an appearance at the Holiday Walk and other significant town events.