Homeward bound

Approaching on the Thruway from the East, a sign greets traffic whizzing through the chilly drizzle -- "Buffalo: An All-American City."

My hometown of Amherst is a bucolic suburb northeast of the city. Amherst is comfortably middle class, with 88 percent of its 116,000 residents describing themselves as white. For six of the past seven years, Amherst was designated as the nation's safest city in City Crime Rankings. It's a nice place to live and a great place to eat.

Incorporated in 1818, the town is named after Lord Jeffrey Amherst, America's first bioterrorist.

In one portrait, Amherst stands beneath a dark and foreboding sky, gazing moodily toward the west, daydreaming of conquest and genocide:

Commander-in-chief of British forces in North America during the French and Indian War, Amherst held the country's indigenous people in contempt. Amherst believed that the best way to control Indians was with strict regulation and punishment rather than "bribery" with provisions. In a letter, Amherst wrote
...it would be happy for the Provinces there was not an Indian settlement within a thousand Miles of them, and when they are properly punished, I care not how soon they move their Habitations, for the Inhabitants of the Woods are the fittest Companions for them, they being more nearly allied to the Brute than to the Human Creation.

In the summer of 1763, with weapons and gunpowder provided by disgruntled French insurgents, Indians staged an assault that overtook four forts in what became known as Pontiac's Rebellion. Amherst was so infuriated that he directed a colonel under his command "to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race."

Delaware Indians were invited to a peace-making meeting at Fort Pitt on the Pennsylvania frontier. Smallpox had broken out at the fort. "Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians," Amherst asked the colonel. "We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them."

Amherst ordered that two blankets and a handkerchief from smallpox victims in the fort's infirmary be given to the Indians as a gesture of goodwill. By the spring of 1764, smallpox was raging among the Indians.

My hometown.

Jeffrey Amherst and Smallpox Blankets
Morgan Quinto Awards
Town of Amherst, New York
PBS's History of Biowarfare
Lord Amherst Motor Hotel


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