The Lafayette Society was founded by Ms. Martha Duell (1924-2015) in 1981 with the goal of raising funds for a statue of Fayetteville’s namesake to be erected in Cross Creek Park. The statue was dedicated in 1983 as part of Fayetteville’s bicentennial celebration. The society has continued to be a positive force in the community, The group has funded scholarships for high school and college students, supported establishment of the Lafayette Room in the Methodist University library, sponsored lectures by Lafayette scholars, commissioned bronze and granite historic markers for the Lafayette Trail, and otherwise honored the memory of General Lafayette by promoting awareness of his significant contributions to mankind and freedom by conducting similar events, programs, and educational activities.
Campbelton + Cross Creek + patriotism = Fayetteville
In 1783, the State Assembly merged the towns of Campbelton and Cross Creek and named the combined area “Fayetteville” – the very first United States city or town to be named in honor of Lafayette (who was only 26 years old at the time!). Local leaders, prominent businessmen, and state-level office holders were vying with Raleigh for Fayetteville to become the state capital, and they felt that naming their enlarged community after the French hero of the American Revolution would help their chances. Ultimately their bid failed, but the name lives on. Of the many cities and counties in the United States named for Lafayette, our Fayetteville is the only name-sake city that he personally visited.
St. Avold – Fayetteville’s Sister City
St. Avold, founded in the 6th century, is located in the northeast corner of France in the Lorraine Region, only 27 kilometers from Saarbrucken, Germany. It covers an area of 13.7 square miles and is surrounded by lush, dense forests. Like Rome, there are seven hills in St. Avold. Elevation ranges from 215 meters (705 ft.) to 385 meters (1257 ft. ). St. Avold has a population of only 18,000, but her energetic and community-minded citizens and their frequent celebrations and cultural events make it feel like a much larger city. The Lorraine National Cemetery, located just north of town, is the final resting place of 10,489 American servicemen who died during WWII, making it the largest American military cemetery in Europe.
The Lafayette Society established a sister city relationship with St. Avold in 1993 and this relationship was officially recognized by the Fayetteville city government that same year. The origin of this “jumelage” – meaning “twinning” in French, their term for the sister-city relationship – is two-fold. The Lafayette Society’s founder, Martha Duell, hailed from Bruebach, France, near St. Avold. Also, Harry Shaw, an original member of the Board of Directors, had a brother buried in the American military cemetery there. Numerous visits back and forth by each city’s delegation have taken place over the years and many enduring friendships have grew out of this relationship.
In order to expand the possibilities of this relationship, in 2021 the sister city program became its own organization – the Fayetteville-Saint Avold Friendship Alliance. Want to know more? This March 2022 article from Up & Coming Weekly provides a complete history of the sister city relationship. You can contact the Alliance or find out more about them on their Facebook page.
The American Friends of Lafayette
Many members of the Lafayette Society are also members of The American Friends of Lafayette, “an historical and patriotic society dedicated to the memory of Major General Gilbert Motier, Marquis de Lafayette and to the study of his life and times in America and France.” The organization was founded at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, in 1932. The library at Lafayette College curates a collection of over 2,000 items related to Lafayette.
Every year the AFL hosts a membership meeting in a city with significance to the life of Lafayette. The group also coordinates annual activities for Yorktown Day (October 19) and observances at Picpus, Lafayette’s final resting place in Paris (July 4).