The Valley News has been selected to add two journalists — a photojournalist and a climate and environment reporter — to our newsroom through Report for America, a national service program that boosts local news by harnessing community support.

Please consider donating to this effort.

Vermont’s first Lafayette Trail marker unveiled in Royalton

  • Julien Icher, of Toulouse, France, photographs Sarah Gillens, of Plainfield, N.H., on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Royalton, Vt., in front of the newly-unveiled historic marker in memory of French General Marquis de Lafayette's visit to Royalton on June 25, 1825. Icher is working on creating a trail of all the stops the general made during his 24-state visit. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Julien Icher, of Toulouse, France, blows a tin horn from the Royalton Historical Society on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Royalton, Vt. Horns were used to announce the arrival of French General Marquis de Lafayette's visit to Royalton on June 25, 1825. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • In 1825, French General Marquis de Lafayette stayed in the second building from the left in Royalton, Vt. during his visit. John Dumville, of South Royalton, Vt., displays a copy of the photograph before the unveiling of a historical marker in memory of the visit by the general. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/1/2020 8:40:14 PM
Modified: 11/1/2020 9:06:21 PM

ROYALTON — When the Marquis de Lafayette entered Royalton on June 28, 1825, Jacob Fox ran out of his stagecoach stop.

He was holding a glass of wine — “probably the best in the house,” said John Dumville, the longtime head of the Royalton Historical Society — and was eager to present it to the Revolutionary War hero on his “farewell tour” of the United States about 40 years later.

Lafayette, who at 19 was made a major general in the Continental Army and was a key player in gaining France’s support for the emerging American side, then attended a gathering at Smith Hotel with state and town dignitaries. Across the street, a special building was constructed for visitors to eat and drink.

Last week, a group gathered near the Royalton Green to unveil a historic marker that is part of the growing Lafayette Trail, a nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing all the stops the famed general made on his tour, in which he visited all 24 states in a 13-month stretch in 1824 and 1825. The marker, located on the corner of Bridge Street and Route 14 in Royalton Village, is the first the organization has placed in Vermont.

“It’s been done,” said Julien Icher, a French citizen who founded the Lafayette Trail in 2018, during the ceremony. The Vermont Legislature recently approved the trail in Vermont. “The big hurdle is behind us.”

So far, 25 markers have been approved and six have been placed. The goal is to have 175 in place by 2024 to mark the bicentennial of Lafayette’s tour. The William G. Pomeroy Foundation is helping to fund the markers, which cost about $1,500 each.

“People want to know more about why this man and not any other from France is being celebrated as a national hero so they’re looking for answers,” Icher said. “Part of the answer lies in the Revolutionary War. The fact that he was young. The fact that he risked his personal fortune for an idea.”

Quite the town gathering took place on that 1825 day in Royalton Village. Revolutionary War veterans were part of the celebration. A young Calvin Skinner recorded his impressions of the general and the celebration.

“He is quite cynical about one of the Revolutionary War soldiers who he thought was a pompous ass and apparently his gun misfired during the salute and young Calvin thought it was quite wonderful,” said Dumville.

Sarah Gillens, of Plainfield, learned about Lafayette’s Farewell Tour after coming across a Daughters of the American Revolution marker near the Cornish Bridge, which inspired her to read a book about it.

“Everybody turned out when he came to town,” Gillens said. “Julien has the same enthusiasm. He loves our country. He’s very knowledgeable.”

A marker was also placed in Newport on Wednesday and in Cornish on Friday. Lafayette stopped in Newport on June 27, 1825. According to a description in Edmund Wheeler’s 1879 book, The History of Newport, New Hampshire, From 1766 to 1878, provided to the Valley News by Laura McCrillis Kessler, Lafayette arrived “amid the acclamations of the multitude, the waving of banners, the ringing of bells, and the booming of cannon ... A beautiful triumphal arch was erected at the village bridge, over which the General was to pass, and also over the gateways at the residences of Mr. (William) Cheney and Mr. (James) Breck. Bright eyes and waving handkerchiefs greeted him from every window as he passed. As he left, all hearts followed him with benedictions.”

There were two receptions for Lafayette in Newport, hosted by prominent businessmen Cheney and the other by Breck, as the two rivals couldn’t agree who should host the general.

“There are people here who are aware of it, his coming through, but at the same time looking at whole new generations of residents of town that, with the placement of this new marker, will certainly bring a much higher visibility and probably renew interest in Lafayette,” said McCrillis Kessler, a member of the executive board of Newport Historical Society and historian general for the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

Lafayette didn’t hold the same reputation in France that he does in the U.S., Icher said. He never clearly chose a side, upsetting both the left and the right. Through the Lafayette Trail, Icher sees the general as being able to unite Americans once again.

“Lafayette himself stands out because he was very early in his life an abolitionist and I think today he is able to provide a common ground in a … divided country, very much like he did in 1824,” Icher said. “Throughout his life he always wanted to create a civic society here where every individual would have unalienable rights. That compass drove his actions throughout his life.”

For more information about The Lafayette Trail, visit thelafayettetrail.org. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784
603-298-8711

 

© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy