The Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) was a French aristocrat and military officer who commanded American troops in the Revolutionary War. He became a critical force in the thirteen colonies’ achievement of independence from Great Britain. His heroism made him a popular personality throughout the new nation. In 1824-26, to commemorate the country’s fiftieth birthday, Lafayette made a grand tour of all twenty-four U.S. states. During his extended tour, adoring crowds, parades, and speeches greeted him at every stop.
Late in the tour, on June 28, 1826, Lafayette finally crossed from New Hampshire into Windsor, Vermont, through the Cornish covered bridge. Traveling by carriage over rough roads, he reached Montpelier, where he stayed overnight. The next day he traveled to Burlington.
A building on the University of Vermont campus had burned down in 1824, so the university was about to build a new structure. Construction was almost beginning when Lafayette arrived, so he was invited to lay the cornerstone for what would become the Old Mill.
He then proceeded to Grasse Mount, home of Governor Van Ness, where a grand party was thrown in his honor, with bands on the lawn. Lafayette then boarded a steamship for New York. A statue of Lafayette was erected one the university green to commemorate his visit, and it stands there to this day.
On May 12, 2017, Dr. Gérard Charpentier lectured for the AFLCR on this fascinating personality.