August 16, 1999
Editor: Hans DePold, Bolton Town Historian
This newsletter is to provide a means for keeping historians, re-enactors, and other interested people aware of the activity to list the Revolutionary Road in the National Register of Historic Places. The Revolutionary Road was the choice of Rochambeau’s French army when they marched from Newport to Yorktown and back to Boston. The goal is also to encourage registration not only the Connecticut portion, but also the Revolutionary Road that passes through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
The state legislatures appropriations committee is one of the areas where people interested in preserving heritage can have an impact.
It is so easy for us to excuse ourselves from our responsibilities simply by defining ourselves in a tiny restricted box. How might we do that? One way is to say our group has a particular limited charter, or we are a restricted 501c corporation, or say advocating preservation of heritage is a political activity, or I’m a political appointment and I can’t take a position on legislation. We are restricted from acting only because we chose not to act and then rationalize.
We need to step outside the box if we truly want to preserve our heritage. We can take some pointers from environmental and watchdog groups that exercise a profound impact on state programs. Yet they are not considered political. These organizations speak up for the things they care about, and they also provide report cards that allow their members see who in the state is advocating or impeding the programs they support.
Earlier this year a group of Municipal historians, SAR and Souvenir Francais members, and several Dragoons went to the Appropriations committee hearing on the State Historical Commissions Budget to support SHPO and ask that the Rochambeau Route funding be passed. We were near the end of the line that formed before the meeting but the line got much longer. Only the line was getting longer from the front not the back. I went to the front to see what was happening. Up front they asked me what environment group I was supporting and when I said I was supporting an historical program they said all their places were reserved for environmental groups. So I went to the back of the line with the historical groups and we had to wait two hours to speak.
Now what the environmental groups were doing was probably not permitted, but it shows they are well organized. But it gave us an opportunity and we made the best of it.
We got to see the end of the public hearing and then had the chance to personally talk with Representatives Dyson and Crisco. That was more important than the hearing itself and we learned something. Representative Crisco was quite knowledgeable and he told us that the French support during the American Revolution was so appreciated that the Congress made the French the only foreign nationals that could hold American property. That special privilege went for more than one hundred years before it was extended to others.
If we can verify that privilege, that shows the special place and trust that extended to the French since the Revolutionary War. Facts like that, not opinion should be in the conclusion of the Rochambeau report. There have been differences of opinion since France helped us win our freedom, but the United States has never fought against France. Few of our friends today can say the same.
Working Smarter, Together
Each of our groups tends to think of their particular pet projects or a historic asset as though that was all there is. It is important to be focussed, but not to the point of being isolated. The support you have given the Rochambeau Trail shows what can be done when we work together. It is now even possible that we will be able to preserve the 5th Rochambeau encampment in Bolton this year. Bolton has now just spent $4000 for two new appraisals, and if negotiations are successful the open space grant may be filed in October.
It is difficult to persuade State Legislators to provide funding for pet projects, but when municipal historians, the SAR, the DAR, and others support it across the state it is not a pet project… it becomes a state project.
Brooklyn CT. Country Fair
We will have a Revolutionary Road display at Heritage Hall at the fair courtesy of the Association of Northeastern Connecticut Historical Societies. The fair begins at noon on Thursday August 26 and ends Sunday evening. The fair is located on Rt. 169 just south of Rt. 6. We will display information on the French and Continental armies, the 5th encampment and historic events at the site, and several displays of maps.
Phase 2 of Rochambeau’s Route
The Connecticut Historical Commission recently met and re-approved Mary Harper of PAST as the archaeologist for Phase 2. That seemed logical since they already had done half the work.
As for the historian, Dr. Robert Selig was singular in his application. That is to say, no one else applied this time. Therefore it is also logical that he will soon be re-approved even though he will work on Lauzun and other subjects this time.