With Reenactment, Westminster Stakes Its Claim In Revolutionary War History

Sep 15, 2015

It may not be highlighted in the history books, but one Vermont town claims it was the site of the first casualties of the Revolutionary War.

Westminster made its case this past weekend with a reenactment of the events of March 13, 1775.

Most people think of the "shot heard round the world" as the start of the Revolutionary War, but Ruth Grandy, president of the Westminster Historical Society, says the seeds of revolution were planted one month earlier in Westminster.

"It was in fact much before the Battle of Concord and Lexington," Grandy says. "So we claim credit to the first casualty of the American Revolution."

Two people died on that March day in 1775 when sheriff's troops stormed the courthouse where Vermont farmers were holed up, disputing land payments they owed.

The reenactment was held this month after Grandy had a chance encounter with a member of the Royal American Reformers, a group from Connecticut.

Grandy took the actor she met on a tour of Westminster's historical sites, and shared the story of the massacre. An event was planned a few weeks later.

An enthusiastic crowd lined both sides of Route 5 in the center of town for the reenactment.

They booed when the British loyalists approached Westminster Town Hall, which was standing in for the court house, and then cheered when the Vermont farmers put up resistance.

Two people died when troops stormed the court house where Vermont farmers were holed up, disputing land payments they owed. An enthusiastic crowd booed when the British loyalists approached Westminster Town Hall, which was standing in for the court house, and then cheered when the Vermont farmers put up resistance.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

The farmers were put in prison the night of the massacre and then freed the following day when Ethan Allen's Green Mountain Boys arrived.

The loudest cheers of the day came as the Green Mountain Boys led the British loyalists away from the court house.

Grandy said she wanted to hold the reenactment to remind Westminster residents of the town's revolutionary heritage.

"It was the first shots of the American Revolution ... I'm quite essentially proud of the fact that if we had to have an American Revolution, we [Westminster] played a significant part in it." - Ruth Grandy, Westminster Historical Society president

"It was the first shots of the American Revolution," Grandy said. "So I'm quite essentially proud of the fact that if we had to have an American Revolution we played a significant part in it. So I'm quite proud of Westminster."

The town used to do a reenactment ever year, but the tradition was dropped when interest faded. Grandy said she hopes the town never forgets where the first blood of the American revolution was spilled.