Edward Hitchcock was born on May 23, 1828 in Amherst, Massachussets, United States. He was of sturdy New England stock, the son of Professor, later President Edward Hitchcock, of Amherst College, and of Orra (White) Hitchcock, an educated and profoundly religious woman. Almost his entire life was spent in the beautiful valley about Amherst and along the Connecticut River. He grew up a healthy, active youth, developed in body largely by the many chores required of him but fond of the simple sports of the times. The physical benefits from these early years were evident in his vigorous, virile manhood. He had no patience with effeminacy in young men.