Yale traces its beginnings to "An Act for Liberty to Erect a Collegiate School" passed by the General Court of the Colony of Connecticut and dated October 9, 1701. Soon thereafter, a group of ten Congregationalist ministers led by James Pierpont, all of whom were Harvard alumni (Harvard having been the only college in North America when they were school-aged), met in Branford, Connecticut, to pool their books to form the school's first library. The group is now known as "The Founders." Yale was founded to train ministers.
Originally called the Collegiate School, the institution opened in the home of its first rector, Abraham Pierson, in Killingworth (now Clinton). It later moved to Saybrook, and then Wethersfield. In 1718, the college moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where it remains to this day.[citations needed]
In the meanwhile, a rift was forming at Harvard between its sixth president Increase Mather (Harvard A.B., 1656) and the rest of the Harvard clergy, which Mather viewed as increasingly liberal, ecclesiastically lax, and overly broad in Church polity. The relationship worsened after Mather resigned, and the administration repeatedly rejected his son and ideological colleague, Cotton Mather (Harvard A.B., 1678), for the position of the Harvard presidency. The feud caused the Mathers to champion the success of the Collegiate School in the hopes that it would maintain the Puritan religious orthodoxy in a way that Harvard had not.
In 1718, at the behest of either Rector Andrew or Governor Gurdon Saltonstall, Cotton Mather contacted a successful businessman in Wales named Elihu Yale to ask him for financial help in constructing a new building for the college. Yale, who had made a fortune through trade while living in India as a representative of the East India Company, donated nine bales of goods, which were sold for more than £560, a substantial sum at the time. Yale also donated 417 books and a portrait of King George I. Cotton Mather suggested that the school change its name to Yale College in gratitude to its benefactor, and to increase the chances that he would give the college another large donation or bequest. Elihu Yale was away in India when the news of the school's name change reached his home in Wrexham, North Wales, a trip from which he never returned. And while he did ultimately leave his fortunes to the "Collegiate School within His Majesties Colony of Connecticot," the institution was never able to successfully lay claim to it.