Pole Capping Again Leads Off Area’s Ceremonies, Celebrations

April 4, 2023
Pole Capping Reenactment from 2018. Photo Bob Bass.

Saturday morning’s capping of the liberty pole at Willson Park commemorates an event that “may or may not have happened here,” said Jim Ringwood of the Bedford Minuteman Company, “But it evokes the history of the colonial period.”

As this year’s first lieutenant, Ringwood will serve as master of ceremonies for the event, which every year is the first in a series of celebrations focusing on the hostilities that launched what became the American Revolution on April 19, 1775.

“Bedford is the tip of the iceberg, on Saturday morning, for events later in the day and then the following weekend,” said Peter Secor, this year’s captain of the Minutemen.

Pole capping is scheduled for Saturday morning at the intersection of The Great Road, Concord, and North Roads. The green triangle is named Willson Park, acknowledged for Jonathan Willson, captain of the original Bedford Minutemen, who was fatally shot on April 19 during a skirmish in Lincoln as volunteers exchanged fire with British troops retreating from Concord.

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(Trivia break – the roadway that links North and Concord Roads, on the northwest leg of Willson Park, is named Park Row.)

Pole-capping re-enacts pre-Revolution activism, with the red cap a statement of defiance to the British crown.

The Bedford Minutemen lead the parade to Wilson Park in 2014. Image Richard Krusemark

Colonial marchers from several area towns will stand in formation as the Bedford company steps off at 10:15 a.m., carrying the liberty pole, which will be installed into a newly-rebuilt wooden stanchion on the park turf. (Secor thanked longtime Minuteman Dr. Roy Kring for arranging for the replacement.)

Historically in Bedford, a Minuteman shinnies up the pole and attaches the knit cap to the top. This year the company invited a detachment from the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps from Bedford High School to participate in the parade, and one of the students will have the honor of climbing and capping. 

All the colonial marchers then parade in formation past the reviewing stand.

“We are the only group in the region that has anything to do with a liberty pole,” Ringwood stated, noting that the custom actually had its origin during the time of the Roman Empire.

Secor added, “It’s terrific to have the first event – there has been a lot of preparation this year. All the other companies are excited to be here.” Ringwood added, “There’s a social aspect of it for all the area groups and they get into shape for the season.”

Indeed, early Saturday afternoon Minutemen from Bedford and nearby towns will reconvene around Meriam’s Corner – Lexington and Old Bedford Roads – in Concord to commemorate the 1775 fighting there. Secor said there also will be a ceremony later in the afternoon at the Paul Revere capture site on Route 2A east of Hanscom Drive. 

The Minuteman leaders are also looking ahead two years from this weekend when Bedford’s pole-capping will be the first event of a two-year national celebration: the 250th anniversary of the Revolution. They said they hope more residents get involved to bolster the Minuteman membership, which exceeded 50 during the American Revolution Bicentennial in 1975.

Secor said he can get emotional “walking at the places where all this actually happened.”  Ringwood said even after experiencing about 25 pole-cappings, “it still has an effect – that’s the whole purpose.”

Ringwood wasn’t there, but his father-in-law, John Ahearn, presided at the first Bedford pole-capping in 1965, after he led the campaign to reconstitute the Minuteman company.

“If you have an old town from colonial times filled with colonial names, it’s nice to learn more about them,” Ringwood remarked.

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