The Lafayette Society promotes awareness of the many contributions to America’s freedom by the Marquis de Lafayette, the French hero of the American Revolutionary War. We honor his exemplary leadership skills and his spirit of patriotism and generosity by encouraging these traits in the civic character of Fayetteville, North Carolina, the first city in the United States named for him.
The marquis de Lafayette was a French nobleman who, at the age of 19, defied his king by sailing to America in 1777 to fight in the Revolutionary War against England.
Scenes from the American Friends of Lafayette annual meeting
Lafayette Society members travel to Pennsylvania for some Lafayette History!
This year, five members of the Lafayette Society attended the annual meeting of the AFL, the American Friends of Lafayette, on June 8-11, held in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and nearby Easton, home to Lafayette College. As usual, the AFL meeting was a perfect blend of history touring combined with lectures by Lafayette historians and authors. There were about 80 attendees, most from the Northeast and the Maryland-Virginia area. Many had been in Fayetteville for the AFL’s annual meeting in 2014 and all of them spoke glowingly of that meeting and how much they appreciated our Southern hospitality!
At the opening reception on Thursday June 8, Paul Peuker, archivist for the Northern Province of the Moravian Church, gave us some background on the Moravian community of Bethlehem, founded in 1741. He described what the village may have looked like when Lafayette was brought there in 1777 after being shot in the leg at the Battle of Brandywine in the American Revolutionary War. We visited the Sun Inn, where he stayed initially before being transferred to a private home to recover.
Because of its proximity, we took a chartered bus to Philadelphia and visited several sites associated with Lafayette and his Grand Tour of 1824-25. These included the historic Fairmont Water Works, a marvel of engineering in its day and Eastern State Penitentiary, an attempt by the Quakers to reform criminals with more “humane” methods like solitary confinement in this “medieval fortress!”
We also spent most of one day at Lafayette College. He never visited there, but the trustees named it for him because of his innumerable contributions to our freedom, his ongoing friendship with America throughout the rest of his life, and because the college trustees hoped to instill his many admirable character traits in their students. Library archivist Diane Shaw displayed some of the items from their extensive Lafayette collection and we toured a gallery featuring many of the best-known Lafayette portraits. While at the college, we heard a presentation by one of the graduate students doing her doctoral dissertation on Lafayette and comradeship in the Continental Army.
The library also hosted the AFL’s annual business meeting, where the Lafayette Society sponsored a raffle for a Lafayette bust. The 12-inch resin bust was donated by Jimmy Keefe, owner of the Trophy House in Fayetteville. The raffle added some excitement to the proceedings and raised $295 for the AFL! In addition, the Lafayette Society’s “Rock Star Lafayette” tee shirts enjoyed brisk sales.
On Sunday, June 11, we were treated to a delicious brunch at the home of AFL members Barb and Phil Schroeder and a tour of the Pennsylvania Longrifle Museum on the adjoining property. The tour included the circa 1832 John Joseph Henry Home, where 5 generations of the Henry family of gun makers lived. We saw an astounding array of furnishings, paintings, and other artifacts original to that home, because the Henry wives never let their husbands throw anything away!
AFL meetings are a great way to learn history and meet like-minded people. The next annual meeting will be closer to Fayetteville – either Annapolis or Savannah. Google “American Friends of Lafayette” and learn more about the AFL!