Dozens of guests gathered on the front lawn of the historic Nathanael Greene Homestead on Taft Street Wednesday afternoon to observe "Liberty Tree Day" while members of the Western RI Civic Historical Society (WRICHS) presented the Nathanael Greene Homestead Association with a hybrid American Liberty Elm tree that was recently planted on the property.
The Western RI Civic Historical Society (WRICHS) hosted the event that included historical presentations, reenactors in period dress, musical accompaniment and a reading of Thomas Paine's poem, Liberty Tree, by Shamrock 4-H member Liam Cannon.
Guests of all ages were treated to a history lesson about the controversial Stamp Act from Norm Desmarais of the 2nd RI Regiment. General Greene himself spoke of the Liberty Tree's history and performed a solemn libation ceremony to honor those who died fighting for their freedom.
According to the WRICHS, the American Liberty Elm was named the “The Liberty Tree: Our Country’s First Symbol of Freedom”. On the morning of Aug. 14, 1765, Boston awakened to discover two effigies suspended from an elm tree in protest of the hated Stamp Act. From that day forward, it became known as “The Liberty Tree.” It stood in silent witness to countless meetings and celebrations, and became the rallying place for the Sons of Liberty. In August of 1775, as a last act of violence prior to their evacuation of Boston, British soldiers cut it down because it bore the name Liberty.
During the ceremony, Representative Michael Chippendale, in place of Senator Nick Kettle who was ill, presented the Historical Society with a Senate citation and proclamation naming Aug. 14, 2013, "Liberty Tree Day" in Rhode Island. This is the second year that the Senate has recognized the day - with 2012 being the first.
"I would just like to thank everyone at the historical society for everything they do," said Rep. Chippendale. "Without them, the youngsters in this crowd, and those of us who are still young at heart and love history, would not be able to look back into the window of our past which hopefully will guide us to a brighter future."
WRIHS Vice President, Norma Smith explained that the Historical Society is currently researching grant opportunities to fund the purchase of more American Elm trees to be planted at each of Coventry's public schools.
"One of the reasons we'd like to plant the Elm trees at our schools is to provide a chance for the kids to learn the history of it," she said.
Coventry's first Liberty Tree was planted on June 20, 2009 by Troop 39 Summit, and stands accompanied by a bronze memorial marker in front of Town Hall. It was celebrated last August during a similar ceremony.
For those interested in supporting Coventry's Liberty Tree Memorial Project, 3- and 6-foot ready-to-plant American Liberty Elm trees, personalized memorial plaques and Liberty Tree Society memberships are available for purchase on the Society's website, www.libertytreesociety.org/Coventry.html.