Growing up in the lovely Pennsylvania countryside, spring was always my favorite season and I recall very fondly the wonderful memories of the first days of spring. Spring remains my favorite season, but since joining Lexington Historical Society in March 2015 my mind has now begun to associate spring with different, somewhat unique rituals.
When I think of spring, my mind instantly brings to the forefront the smell of gunpowder on an early (and I mean early) April morning instead of the smell of blooming wildflowers. The banter of schoolchildren as they discuss what the Clarke family might have been having for dinner in 1775 as they participate in our “What Did Rev. Clarke Eat?” school program now greets my ears in place of the cries of newborn calves and sheep. The creaking floorboards in Buckman Tavern as our first visitors of the day begin to explore the rich history of Lexington have replaced the crack of bats during Little League games. Instead of welcoming the final weeks of the school year, spring now welcomes Buckman Tavern, Hancock-Clarke House and Munroe Tavern back to life after a sleepy and quiet winter. All three properties will be open in April (Buckman already is!) and can be visited during these hours.
However, my new favorite ritual of spring has become the Children’s Reenactment of the Battle of Lexington. Through a wonderful partnership with the Lexington Minute Men, Her Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot, the Lexington Visitor Center, and Lexington Historical Society, children are given the opportunity to not only learn about this important battle, but to also actively participate in a re-creation of the battle. Participants are sorted into camps (Militia or British Regular) and are drilled in 18th century military tactics by our wonderful volunteer reenactors. After sufficient drilling, it is time for the reenactment to start. With the joy, theatrics, and enthusiasm only children can bring to events, the Battle of Lexington unfolds before your eyes! Not only is it great to see children enjoying history so much, but occasionally you’ll get acting gems such as Thaddeus Bowman, a militia scout who informed Captain Parker the British had entered town, come running to the door of Buckman Tavern shouting “Captain Parker, Captain Parker!! I forgot my lines!” After the battle concludes, participants and parents are encouraged to converse with the reenactors and to view a collection of artifacts from Lexington Historical Society’s collection on display at the Lexington Visitor Center.
This year’s reenactment will be held on Wednesday April 18th and will feature a morning session as well as an afternoon session. Spots still remain open for both sessions and more information on the event can be found on the Children’s Battle Reenactment page.
-Chris Kauffman, Education and Interpretation Manager
“And so you, too, have ‘signed up’, and Dad is today putting out a service flag, with two stars, infront [sic] of the house. Am I sorry? You are both sound and healthy, readily passing the examinations. Am I proud of you? Would I have you do differently? Does it pull hard? You know all the answers but you have acted on your own initiative. It is not amiss to say that moral strength comes to him who stands up to his duty – men are made that way.”
It is with these words that Clara Laycock Hill began a letter to her son, Stanley Hill, on October 31, 1917, less than six months after he joined the American Field Service and just one month after he enlisted in the American Ambulance Field Service as a driver. The Hill family lived in Lexington, where Stanley and his older brother, Converse, both graduated from high school. Stanley went on to attend Dartmouth College as part of the Class of 1918, where he was known for his positive outlook on life and infectiously cheerful nature.
As recognition for his service during World War I, Stanley received the French Croix de Guerre with palm, which is an honor awarded to those who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with enemy forces. He was also awarded the Medaille Militaire, an award of the French Republic given for meritorious service and acts of bravery in action against an enemy force. His military records cite him as being “a driver of remarkable bravery who always greatly distinguished himself at the most exposed first-aid stations. Although seriously wounded while crossing a heavily bombarded village he had the courage to place his ambulance and its occupants under shelter, not leaving them until the arrival of assistance.”
The serious injury cited in this report refers to Stanley being wounded in the forehead by a shell while driving his ambulance in the second battle of the Marne. It was thought that he would make a full recovery, and his brother wrote a letter home stating so. Unfortunately, Stanley contracted meningitis and died on August 14, 1918 at La Veuve Hospital in France. He was the first of eight war casualties from Lexington and was buried at the military cemetery in La Veuve, Marne, France.
In the fall of 2017, Stanley’s niece (Converse Hill’s daughter), Shirley Stolz, made a very generous and precious contribution to the Collections and Archives at the Historical Society: a small collection of photographs and personal papers related to Stanley, as well as his military medals. The Society also retains records related to the Stanley Hill Post, an American Legion Post active between 1934 and 1986. Please click here to visit our online collections and see the Stanley Hill items donated by Shirley Stolz.
On November 11, 2018, Lexington Historical Society will join with other organizations in Lexington to remember the 100th anniversary of World War I and to honor those young men and women from Lexington who fought and died in the Great War. Stanley Hill will be the face of these activities. Please keep an eye out to learn more about the programming and events surrounding this commemoration.
-Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.