By Julie McCay Turner
Editor’s Note: Because there are so many more wonderful images from Jeff ‘JHo’ Hoyland, Richard Krusemark and Mike Nosal, watch for the Liberty Pole Capping photogravure, click this link!
Massachusetts’ Patriot’s Day celebrations began on Saturday when the Bedford Minuteman Company invited their nearest and dearest — Colonial re-enactors and community members alike — to their 53rd annual parade and Liberty Pole Capping exercises at Willson Park.
Bedford’s Liberty Pole is a descendent of the stately elm at the corner of Essex and Washington Streets that became a popular rallying site for Boston colonists, beginning with a protest against the Stamp Act in 1765.
Flags and banners snapped in a brisk breeze as 21 companies of colonial re-enactors gathered for the now-traditional march from Bedford Common along The Great Road to Willson Park. It was a morning of many parts: A gathering of dignitaries in Bedford’s historic 200-year-old meeting house, the march to Willson Park, speeches, presentations, and a bit of drama involving Bedford’s colonial patriots and British Regulars.
Looking out on the marchers gathering on Bedford Common from the Bacon Room at First Parish, Major General Dwyer Dennis, Chief Master Sergeant Patricia Hickey, and Colonel Roman Hund represented Hanscom Air Force Base. Minuteman National Park’s new Superintendent BJ Dunn was present, along with a score of local dignitaries, re-enactors, and friends.
Senior Minister of First Parish Church and Bedford Minuteman Company Chaplain Rev. John Gibbons welcomed the group, announcing that First Parish celebrates the 200th anniversary of Bedford’s historic meeting house this year.
The Parade to Willson Park
Bedford Minuteman Company Commander James Ringwood led the marchers along The Great Road with Cornet Seth Cargiulo carrying the Bedford Flag. The Minutemen stepped off at the stroke of 10:30 and headed toward Willson Park, pausing at Fitch Tavern to review visiting companies and to fetch the Liberty Pole.
Rev. Megan Lynes, minister at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, gave the invocation. “Here in the town of Bedford, our history reminds us that we were the heartbeat of the American Revolution,” Lynes said. “Our forebears fought, sometimes to their death, for freedom and tolerance. We carry their spirit with us today.”
Rev. Lynes and Rev. Gibbons announced a moment of silence for State Senator Brian Donnelly. State Senator Mike Barrett and State Representative Ken Gordon sent their regrets, in order to attend their colleague’s funeral.
Chair of Bedford’s Selectmen Margot Fleischman was inducted as the Bedford Minuteman Company’s Honorary Commander by master of ceremonies 1st Lieutenant Michael Hand, and her tricorn now sports a handsome white cockade. ” I will wear my tricorn hat with great pride,” said Fleischman, “as a symbol of our cherished tradition of remembering and acknowledging – through reenactment and education – the sacrifices that past Bedford residents made to secure our freedom.
Fleischman’s remarks included quotations from President Jimmy Carter’s acceptance of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, poet Langston Hughes, Daniel Webster, and Montana Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin — the first woman to hold national office in the United States.
Speaking as a ‘Colonial Dame’ vexed by life under British control, Town Historian Sharon McDonald said, ” My youngest granddaughter asked me why [the deprivation] was happening, and I told her Parliament has taken against us because of the tea we dumped into the harbor a year ago last December –and they say they won’t open the port again until we pay for the tea. But it’s not the tea, it’s the taxes Parliament laid on us! They think they can control us!”
The Minuteman Company’s annual award to a student leader at Bedford High School was renamed this year as the “Marion Bryan ‘Be a Good Citizen’ Award” to honor Bedford’s long-time and much-loved substitute teacher who has, “Mentored generations of Bedford students to ‘Be a Good Citizen.’ Her legacy of community service and good citizenship is legendary, and we are grateful for her positive impact on our future citizens,” noted Hand.
The award went to Emma Pulizzi, a co-anchor and news editor for BHS Live, who represented Bedford during Student Government Day at the State House and who also servesas a Peer Leader at the high school. “I’m honored to receive this award,” Pullizzi said, “and am especially thrilled to be here with Mrs. Bryan.”
Then the fun began.
Minuteman Louis Ornsdorf had just begun his climb to the top of the Liberty Pole when British Regulars stormed in, pulling Ornsdorf to the ground, and hauling him off on charges of “Treason against the Crown!”
Before the excitement died down, Jim Griffiths broke rank, doffed his coat, snatched the Liberty cap (knit by former Captain Roy Kring) from the ground, and scrambled to the top of the Liberty Pole. After ‘capping’ the pole, Griffiths flung himself in the air, horizontal to the ground, to hold a thrilling weathervane pose long enough for photographer Jeff ‘JHo’ Hoyland to capture a one-in-a-million image. On his way back to earth, Griffiths taunted the Regulars by stopping short of the ground before jumping down and being taken into custody.
Lt. Paul O’Shaugnessy, speaking for the 10th Regiment of Foot, chided the assembly who replied with jeers and boos as their Colonial counterparts might have done. Delivering an edited version of Thomas Gage’s 1774 proclamation For the encouragement of Piety and Virtue, O’Shaughnessy intoned, “I further exhort the infatuated multitudes of this Province, who have long suffered themselves to be conducted by certain well-known Incendiaries and Traitors, by every means in their power, to a general reformation of manners, restitution of peace and good order, and a proper subjection to the laws and orders of this Province.”
A Wreath Was Laid
To mark the service of Bedford’s patriots, from Colonial days to the present, at the permanent marker on Willson Park.
The Final Presentation
To honor the long-time participation of the British Regulars in Bedford’s Liberty Pole Capping exercises, Captain Ringwood ended the morning’s ceremony by presenting an engraved bowl, of a design attributed to Colonial silversmith Paul Revere, to Lt. O’Shaughnessy and the 10th Regiment of Foot.