Westminster massacre

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The Westminster massacre (March 13, 1775) was the killing of two men by British colonial officials (a band of local men led by the local sheriff) in Westminster, Vermont, which was then part of the New Hampshire Grants, whose control was at the time disputed between its residents and the Province of New York.

The event happened 5 years after the Boston massacre.

OUR COUNTRY by Benson J. Lossing 1877

The precedence as to the time and place where blood was first shed in the Revolution is claimed for Westminster, Vermont, where, more than a month before the affair at Lexington, officers of the crown in endeavoring to subdue a mob, caused the death of one of the rioters. The event is recorded in an epitaph inscribed upon a slab of slate in the old burial-ground at Westminster, in the following words:

"In Memory of WILLIAM FRENCH, son to Mr. Nathaniel French, who was Shot at Westminister, March ye 13th, 1775, by the hands of Cruel Ministerial tools of George ye 3d, in the Court-house at a 11 O'clock at Night, in the 22nd year of his Age.

Here William French his Body lies, For Murder his Blood for Vengeance Cries. King George the third his Tory crew tha with a bawl his head Shot threw. For Liberty and his Country's Good he Lost his Life, his Dearest Blood."



The Westminster Massacre polarized Vermonters and helped to fill the ranks of the Green Mountain Boys for the defense of Vermont. Two months after the massacre, they would agree that the British posed a bigger threat and marched to Fort Ticonderoga for the defense of Boston.



On the northerly end of the lower street, on the brow of the terrace overlooking the upper street, occurred the first organized resistance to the oppression of King George's tyrannical courts, and here was shed the first blood of the Revolution, March 13, 1775. The story has often been told, how a few determined men met there and took possession of the courthouse to prevent the session of next day's court, and the officers of the court attacked them, and that one man was killed and another fatally injured. The attempt of the sturdy citizens was successful, for the session of court was not held, nor was it ever held again in this county under the rule of the king.



The Westminster Massacre of March 13, 1775 is viewed by some as the first battle of the American Revolution.



Here the old church still stands, built in 1770, which in its early days housed a generation of worshipers who bore a prominent part in the struggle of the State and Nation for independent. Near the northern end of the street lies the old burying-ground which entombs the bones of the fathers, and among them those of the young and ardent patriot, William French, to whom history accords a place as the first martyr of the Revolution. A few rods distant from the cemetery, almost at the brow of a gentle hill, is the site of the old court-house (see page 33) where French was shot, in 1775..


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Westminster. by Rev. F. J. Fairbanks
  • The New England Historical and Genealogical Register

External links[edit]