Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: How Commonality Saved Captain Charles Williamson And Western New York

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Captain Charles Williamson was responsible for developing much of the Genesee Country between Preemption Line and the Genesee River. Source: Main, William, Charles Williamson, Cowan & Co., Ltd., Perth, 1899, frontpiece

He was a proud Tory and Captain in the British army who volunteered to fight for King George III against the rebellious colonists. She was a proud Patriot whose father graciously saw in this prisoner of war a common human element.

Before we get into this backstory, let’s review why it’s so important.

In December 1786, the states of New York and Massachusetts agreed to resolve a conflict started by the kings of England. Those monarchs made a royal mess of Western New York, at one time or another granting rights to all or portions of it to no less than five colonies.

By the end of the American Revolution, three states had claims to the Greater Western New York region: New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut (a sliver along the southern tier). With Connecticut quickly quitting its claim, New York and Massachusetts stood nose-to-nose. With the Articles of Confederation dissolving, the two states decided to circumvent that ineffective parchment and meet in neutral territory. Ironically, this meeting took place in the state of Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: How Commonality Saved Captain Charles Williamson And Western New York”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Timothy Barnard, A Soldier’s Story

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Previous: Competing Memories Turn Lafayette’s Rochester Visit From History To Mystery

Siege of Yorktown (1781), by Auguste Couder (1789–1873) Rochambeau (center L), Washington (center R), Marquis de La Fayette (behind Washington, L), Marquis de Saint Simon (behind Washington, R), Duke of Lauzun (L, mounted) and Comte de Ménonville (R of Washington). Source: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“Another Revolutionary Patriot Gone.” That was the lead, buried at the very bottom of the third of seven dense columns on page two in the Tuesday, April 13, 1847, edition of the Geneva Courier. Three perfunctory sentences followed.

“Hon. TIMOTHY BARNARD, father of Hon. DANIEL D. BARNARD, the distinguished ex-member of Congress of the Albany district, died at Mendon on the 29th inst. Judge Barnard took an active part in the revolutionary struggle, and for his services he drew a pension until his death. For many years judge Barnard was associate judge of the old county of Ontario, and after Monroe county was set off; he held the same office in the latter county.”1

That was it. That was the sum total of nearly 91 years of life.

But there was more to Timothy Barnard. He represented all that made America great; that first generation of rebels turned heroes turned pioneers turned nation-builders. In a way, Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Timothy Barnard, A Soldier’s Story”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Making Of The Buffalo And Erie Road

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Previous: Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The State Of Greater Western New York In 1825

At the turn of the 19th century, a dense forest covered the southwest corner of New York State—what is now Chautauqua County. A rough trail that followed the Lake Erie shore represented the only visible evidence of human occupation. Except for what appeared to be remnants of a chimney right on the lake.1 The trail was brutal. Settlers journeying to Connecticut’s lands in the future state of Ohio preferred to take the water route over Lake Erie from Black Rock, just off Buffalo Creek.2

That chimney might well have been the ruins of what Sir William Johnson described as a Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Making Of The Buffalo And Erie Road”

Lafayette On The Folly Of Tolerance

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James Madison served as the fourth President of the United States from 1809 to 1817, immediately preceding James Monroe. History textbooks refer to him as the “Father of the Constitution” as he acted as the driving force in drafting both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A short three years prior to that seminal event, Madison traveled from Baltimore to Fort Stanwix to negotiate with the Iroquois Confederacy. Accompanying him was a young French general and a protégé of George Washington. That would be the Marquis de Lafayette.

This chance meeting formed what would become a lifelong bond between the two men. Very early on, Madison recognized Lafayette’s affinity with the American Indians, as well as Continue Reading “Lafayette On The Folly Of Tolerance”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Lafayette Prepares To Enter The Greater Western New York Region

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Previous: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Visit (Part II)

The sun rose the morning of Friday, June 3, 1825, at 4:05am local time in Waterford, Pennsylvania.1 Lafayette had two weeks—14 days—to travel 550 miles and visit almost two dozen towns and villages before the June 17th dedication of the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. He was determined to meet every community he promised to visit. Speed was of the essence.

But he couldn’t show it. At least not in a too obvious way.

Roughly three hours after the break of dawn, at about 7 o’clock, Lafayette’s party left Waterford for the seat of the County, Erie, Pennsylvania.2 Though technically still in the Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Lafayette Prepares To Enter The Greater Western New York Region”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Visit (Part II)

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Previous: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Visit (Part I)

Marquis de Lafayette commemerative announcing, “The Nation’s Guest. In Commemoration of the Magnanimous and Illustrious Lafayette’s Visit to the United States of North America in the Forty-Ninth Year of Her Independence,” Perkins and Scheffer (1825). Source: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Once again, only this time with greater speed, Lafayette marched through Virginia. That did not mean Lafayette didn’t have spare time for the local folk. Levasseur provides the following anecdote from a few miles outside of Norfolk, Virginia. It expresses the feelings for the General shared by almost every American during his tour:

“We were sitting in our carriage when the landlord presented himself, asked to see the general, and eagerly pressed him to alight for a moment and come into his house. ‘If,’ said he, ‘you have only five minutes to stay, do not refuse them, since to me they will be so many minutes of happiness.’ The general yielded to his entreaty, and we followed him into a lower room, where we observed a plainness bordering on poverty, but a remarkable degree of cleanliness. Welcome Lafayette, was inscribed with charcoal upon the white wall, enwreathed with boughs from the fir trees of the neighbouring wood. Near the fire-place, where pine wood was crackling, stood a small table covered with a very clean Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Visit (Part II)”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Visit (Part I)

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Previous: Why Lafayette?

“The spirits of the defenders of the American liberty are visiting him during his passage, the genu protectors of America drive away the storms,” Moreau and Dubouloz (1825). Source: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

When Lafayette arrived at the harbor in New York, he came with two traveling companions. They would remain with him for the entire journey. During this excursion, they would witness and experience the raw emotion of the reunion between old friends.

The most prominent of Lafayette’s party was his son, Georges Washington Louis Gilbert de La Fayette. Contemporary American newspaper accounts refer to him as “George Washington Lafayette.” This makes sense, given the patriotic zeal that enveloped the country.

Lafayette’s son was born on Christmas Eve 1779. This was the year Lafayette was Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Visit (Part I)”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Why Lafayette?

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Previous: America Welcomes The Nation’s Guest

Lafayette (right) and Washington at Valley Forge. By John Ward Dunsmore (1907)

America stood poised on the cusp of celebrating the golden anniversary of its birth as a nation. With all the rising patriotism came a burst of nostalgia. America’s first and greatest generation—the heroes of the Revolutionary War—were fast leaving their mortal coil. The heirs of that founding cohort desperately wanted one last chance to hear the tales of that victory from those that were there.

Of all the people they might select to focus on, why choose a Frenchman born to the aristocracy?

Well, for one thing, his life story shows he had long ago shorn off the mantle of gentry. Indeed, he not only had the physical scars of Brandywine to prove it, he also had the Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Why Lafayette?”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: America In 1824

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Previous: A Message From An Old Friend

The year is 2024. Do you remember 2018? If you’re a political junkie, you may recall it was the year Brett Kavanaugh won confirmation to the Supreme Court. If you enjoy reading People Magazine, then you’ll note it was the year Meghan Markle married into the British royal family. If you prefer business, it was the year both Sears and Toys ‘R’ Us declared bankruptcy.

If you’re an adult, each of those stories endure vividly in your memory. They don’t seem that far distant. And if any of those subject areas carry emotional weight with you, those scars remain to this day.

Now imagine the year 1824. What major event happened in the year 1818 that sticks in Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: America In 1824”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Duty That Held Him Back

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Previous: What Took Congress So Long?

Take a look at his name: Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette, Marquis de La Fayette. It exudes aristocracy. With Lafayette, that was a mixed blessing.

On one hand, it meant he benefited from an elite schooling in proper behavior. On the other hand, it meant proper behavior shackled him. It would make him a hero to some. It would also earn him real shackles.

Born in south central France on September 6, 1757, he followed in the military tradition footsteps of both sides of his family. On his father’s side, one of his ancestors served as a Marshal of France and accompanied Joan of Arc’s army during the Siege of Orléans in 1429. His maternal great-grandfather commanded the Second Company of Musketeers (a.k.a., the “Black Musketeers”) until his retirement in 1770.1

For the curious, the “Black Musketeers” had black horses while the First Company “Grey Musketeers” mounted gray horses. The Musketeers were a special forces unit that Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Duty That Held Him Back”

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