“Right across my left shoulder, back here, is the original site of the Westminster Courthouse,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “This is a central piece of the foundation of our state — first the (Vermont) Republic and then the state — so many stories associated with it. We’re going to go visit the Westminster Historical Society Museum and meet with Jessie Haas, who’s the president of the society, to get some insight into some of these stories.”
“By 1775, this was part of Cumberland County, New York,” Haas said. “As a further extension of the struggle that was going on between the colonies and Great Britain, the Continental Congress says we’re going to have (a trade) embargo. All the colonies voted in the Congress to do this, but they have to go back and ratify it. New York didn’t. This county did, and they’re like, ‘now what? We say this by closing the court; the court is New York government here’.
“The court was to open on Tuesday. On Monday afternoon (March 13, 1775), they gathered at Azariah Wright’s farmhouse down on the flat below Courthouse Hill, about a hundred people altogether. They were not armed. So they came to the courthouse, and literally half an hour later, the posse arrives from Brattleboro with guns. The sheriff had come up the hill with his posse, really liquored up, and they charged the doors — and that’s when William French was killed. Many of the people who were in the courthouse had burst out the side doors, right straight through the sheriff’s posse, and run to spread the word. And we have to remember — this was about a month before Lexington and Concord. It was the big news for about a month, and then there was bigger news.”
“Vermont’s own independence was then reflected here in Westminster two years later,” Perkins noted.
“And actually, it wasn’t Vermont at the time; it was New Connecticut,” Haas said. “They later crossed that out and said ‘Vermont’, but New Connecticut declared its independence here (on January 15, 1777). So, a very historic courthouse — which unfortunately, then they took apart (in 1806) and recycled!”
Mike Hoey asked, “For the benefit of anybody that might want to know more — beyond what they’ve heard and seen here — about these two seminal events surrounding the Westminster Courthouse, what sorts of resources can you point people to?”
“We have a website,” Haas answered. “We have a Facebook page; we have this museum (inside the town hall), which we will be opening — let’s see — July 4 weekend. It’s going to be open, we hope, Saturdays through the summer and then by appointment at times.”