Timothy Dwight was born May 15, 1752 in Northampton, Massachusetts. The Dwight family had a long association with Yale College, as it was then known. His paternal grandfather, Colonel Timothy Dwight, was born October 19, 1694, and died April 30, 1771. His father, a merchant and farmer known as Major Timothy Dwight, was born May 27, 1726, graduated from Yale in 1744, served in the American Revolutionary War, and died June 10, 1777. His mother Mary Edwards (1734–1807) was the third daughter of theologian Jonathan Edwards. He was said to have learned the alphabet at a single lesson, and to have been able to read the Bible before he was four years old. He had 12 younger siblings, including journalist Theodore Dwight (1764–1846).