On Friday August 19th, the latest Lafayette Trail marker was unveiled in Reading. This one is just steps outside the Latham Law Offices on Main Street in the garden area. Lafayette Trail, Inc documents, maps, and mark General Marquis de Lafayette’s footsteps during his Farewell Tour of the United States in 1824 and 1825. It aims to educate the public about the national significance of Lafayette’s Tour and to promote a broader understanding of Lafayette’s numerous contributions to American independence and national coherence in preparation for the 2024-2025 tour bicentennial celebrations.
Town Manager, Fidel Maltez, kicked off the ceremony by mentioning that he had close ties to Lafayette as he attended Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. Mr. Maltez continued that as a Manager of Public Works in Chelsea, he also had participated in a Lafayette Trail marker ceremony back in 2020.
Sofia Latham spoke next and mentioned how proud she was of her family being stewards of the property for the last 50 years as the new marker stands tall outside of the Latham Law Offices. She concluded with “Today’s dedication would not be possible but for the insight, hard work and dedication of one man, Peter McGuire, who has been the torchbearer of this project in Reading.”
It was then Peter McGuire’s turn, who started off by joking that he was a newbie in town and had only been here since 1978. Mr. McGuire went on to say that it was a double celebration for Reading as Governor John Brooks, a close friend of Lafayette’s of over 50 years and also Reading’s first doctor had ties here. Governor Brooks “took a room” at the John Damon House, over on John Street while he was a Captain of the Reading Minute Men. Mr. McGuire continued by mentioning for the installation of a plaque to commemorate a visit by Lafayette it must be verified he spent time wherever the marker will be placed. Over a year ago, a small group of Reading citizens formed to do just that. There were no records in Reading that Lafayette spent any time at Skinner’s Hotel (the site of the Latham Law Offices today), so Mr. McGuire had to outsource his work. He then found an article in the Concord Gazette, from the New Hampshire Historical Society, mentioning Lafayette’s trip to Reading and saluting the crowd outside Skinner’s Hotel on June 21, 1825.
State Representatives Brad Jones and Rich Haggerty went on to thank everyone for being involved and remembering and honoring our great history. Karen Gately Herrick, Vice Chair of the Select Board, additionally thanked the Town Manager’s office as well as the Latham Family. She then introduced her daughter, Madeline Herrick, who has been studying abroad in Europe this Summer. Ms. Herrick stayed in a small city in France called Metz. It was there where Lafayette first decided to join the movement for American Independence. Sharlene Reynolds Santo, member of the Historical Commission, mentioned how proud the commission was to be included in the process for adding the new Lafayette marker and thanked fellow commission member, Virginia Adams, for her research.
Dorothea Jensen, Director of the Lafayette Trails Inc, 25 years ago learned about the Lafayette Farewell Tour and that Lafayette came to her town in New Hampshire and even drove past her house. Ms. Jensen then went on to read a letter from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, the organization that pays for the manufacture of the markers, congratulating the town on their new marker. Ms. Jensen concluded with that even though the Pomeroy Foundation pays for the markers themselves, it doesn’t cover all the researching time and costs associated. If you would like to learn more about Lafayette or to donate to the Lafayette Trail, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, please visit: https://www.thelafayettetrail.org/
Alan Hoffman, President of the American Friends of Lafayette Society, told a story about the carriages that preceded Lafayette to Reading on June 21, 1825. The carriages made numerous stops along the route including Malden, Andover, Methuen and of course, Reading. Mr. Hoffman concluded with hoping to see everyone on June 21, 2025, when the American Friends of Lafayette are planning a bicentennial celebration in Reading as well as most other stops throughout Lafayette’s 13 month trip across the Eastern United States.
Anouk Dumas, Vice Consul from the French Consulate in Boston, provided closing remarks and spoke about the time Lafayette was invited by President James Monroe to visit the 24 State Union which became his 1824-1825 farewell tour. Ms. Dumas commented how it was very important to keep alive the memory of great men and women through initiatives like the Lafayette Trail.
Before the unveiling, Peter McGuire wanted to thank everyone who made this day possible. All of the guests that presented. The Latham Family; Brad, Chris, Joshua, Sophia. The Reading Historical Commission. Lafayette Trails Inc. The Reading Celebration Trust. The town of Reading, especially Julie Mercier, who walked Mr. McGuire throughout the permitting process. The Reading Police Department. Brendan Manning, member of the RMHS marching band, who played a fife at the start of the event. The Pothier Family for proving sound assistance. Lastly, Virginia and Everett Blodgett, members of the Reading Lafayette Marker Committee.
Peter McGuire, with the assistance of Sofia Latham and Anouk Dumas, cut loose the straps holding the black fabric over the marker and revealed the 65th stop on Lafayette’s Tour.
Welcome back to Reading, General Marquis de Lafayette!