Marquis de Lafayette Trail

by Carla Charter

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United States as a nation, the Marquis de Lafayette visited the United States, which included a tour of New England.  The stops he made during his visit to the northern  states will soon become linked as a part of  the Lafayette Historical Trail, according to Julien Icher, Lafayette Trail Manager. The trail will run through both urban areas and the countryside, stretching across New England.

Among the stops Lafayette made during his visit was one in Boston where he participated in the Bunker Hill Celebration by laying the Cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument. Travelling with him was his personal secretary Auguste Levasseur who was in charge of collecting notes and who published a book entitled ‘Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825: Journal of a Voyage to the United States. The book was published in both French and English.

Another stop included Rider Tavern, now home of the Charlton, Massachusetts Historical Society.  The tavern is located along Stafford Street which was then a thoroughfare connecting Massachusetts and Connecticut. When Icher visited the site, he said, he was able to receive a tour of the building by the historical society president.

According to Barbara G. Rhoad, member of the Ascutney Trails Association in Vermont, Lafayette’s visit holds a special place in the trail association’s history.  “According to old records, area residents decided to build a road to the top of Mt. Ascutney so he could see the view of valley below.    The road was started but not completed for his visit so he never made it up the road.”
Lafayette’s visit to Windsor, Vermont started on June 28, 1825. It began in Claremont NH crossing the bridge over the Connecticut River, said Rhoad, who is also archivist for the Windsor Vermont Historical Society. “Believe it or not, the toll keeper collected a toll for his carriage to cross the bridge. Horse and coach from Claremont was $6.00!”
He was accompanied by his son George Washington Lafayette among other dignitaries.  Prominent members of the town of Windsor greeted Lafayette including Abner Forbes, Col Jesse Lull, Horace Everett, Jonathan Hubbard, and Erastus Torrey.

Lafayette rode into Windsor in a regal carriage pulled by six white horses.  He was greeted by a military escort in uniform, the Jefferson Artillery and a rifle company from Hartland, Vermont, as well as Governor Van Ness of Vermont and other state and local officials.
Ceremonies to honor Lafayette in Windsor were held at the Pettes Coffee House with a speech by Honorable Horace Everett.  Lafayette then gave a speech and then was greeted by many hundreds of the Revolutionary Veterans who came to pay their respects.  This occurred in one day and then he was off to Woodstock, Vermont, Rhoad continued.

The idea of the trail was born during the 2016 annual meeting of the American Friends of Lafayette, of which Icher is a member.  As part of the gathering, there was a Garden Party at the Counsoulate General of France in Cambridge.  Valery Freland Counsel General of France was looking for opportunities to increase mutual understanding between France and America. Icher proposed the idea of the Lafayette Trail.

The project began with Icher collecting data on Lafayette’s visit from historical societies, libraries and county and state organizations.  Then he cross referenced this data with Levasseur’s narratives.

There is also a road signage component with signs which will mark the footsteps of Lafayette.

In Massachusetts Senator Adam G. Hines (D) representing Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden Counties brought forward a bill, Senate S.2265, allowing portions of public highways in his district to be designated as part of the Lafayette Trail.  The Senate has endorsed the bill and it is currently getting a 3rd reading in the house, Icher said.

By 2019 it is hoped the Lafayette Trail will be expanded to 24 states. There are more than 170 stops planned in New England and it is believed there will be more than 800 stops once the trail is completed, Icher said. It is hoped the Lafayette Trail will be completed by 2024, the bicentennial of Lafayette’s visit.  When completed, people will be able to access a map of the trail through a downloadable app. More information about the Lafayette Trail can be found at www.thelafayettetrail.com.