Matthew Vassar, founder of the college, was born in East Dereham, parish of Tuddingham, Norfolk County, England, the son of Ann Bennett and James Vassar, farmers and dissenters.

"...it has alway been a mooted question on what day I was born, the family record reporting it at mid-night, Father insisting it was before 12 O'ck at night, and Mother after 12 O'ck an the 28th April 1792."     Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, ed., The Autobiography and Letters of Matthew Vassar

James Vassar, with wife and children, emigrated to the United States. "They were the first of the Family name that left their Fatherland and were induced to seek this new Western continent more for the love of civic and religious freedom than from any pecuniary consideration."     From an unpublished manuscript by Matthew Vassar

James Vassar settled in Dutchess County, purchasing a farm on Wappingers Creek near Manchester Bridge. In 1799, his brother Thomas Vassar sowed the first acre of barley grown in Dutchess County.