A hidden secret in Worcester’s history revealed
By Jacleen Charbonneau
30 January 2014, 5:00 am
Worcester is known for its undeniable sense of community, but with the addition of its consortium, Worcester Revolution of 1774, Inc., community has been taken to a whole new level. Made up of a multitude of historical, cultural and civic organizations – the American Antiquarian Society, Assumption College, Congress of American Revolution Round Table, Daughters of the American Revolution Massachusetts Society, Old Sturbridge Village, Preservation Worcester, Sons of the American Revolution Massachusetts Society, Tenth Regiment of Foot, Worcester Historical Museum, and Worcester Public Schools – this group aims to preserve and teach Worcester’s early history to the general public, each in it’s own way.
“The historical museums are very interested in promoting the history, the art museums are interested in promoting the artwork, and the historical societies are interested in developing their organizations in their own towns,” explains Michael Fishbein, the committee chairperson of the Worcester consortium.
Forming roughly 18 months ago, the Worcester consortium gathered together multiple times to create a proposal, which was approved by the city of Worcester last summer. This proposal included a multitude of city events, which will come to fruition this year, involving a heavy focus on a piece of history that is silenced in history books: the Worcester Revolution of 1774.
Many have not heard of this revolution, but this underexposed piece of history is something that the consortium believes Worcester should be proud of. When the British government began declaring laws in the early 1700s, New England towns could no longer live harmoniously. But circumstances suddenly became worse after the French and Indian Wars. The British government became bombarded with debt (also from the Boston Tea Party expenses), so it started to crack down on Massachusetts, forcing community members to pay higher taxes – an example including the Stamp Act.
“Eventually, [British authority] came to pull the Massachusetts Charter, which was the governing documents that had been established in 1591 to govern Massachusetts … which is very much like pulling away the Constitution of the United States and instituting Marshal Law … which is essentially what they did,” explains Fishbein. “This resulted in a series of events that spread from Western Massachusetts … and into Worcester finally, which was not a town event, but a county-wide event.”
Many know that The Battle of Lexington and Concord later followed, but the piece of history missing in between was when Worcester and its 37 surrounding communities shined. In the late summer of 1774, about eight months prior to the famous Lexington and Concord battle, nearly 5,000 men invaded Main Street in Worcester and made their voices heard again. An important stop was at the Crown courthouse, which had successfully been closed down. However, the group’s biggest victory was on September 6, 1774 when it finally overthrew British authority without the involvement of violence. “This is the event where they took 24 court officials and publicly forced them to denounce their allegiance to the crown and [also] the illegal laws that the British put in. They really threw the British out of Massachusetts,” says Fishbein.
Ultimately, Massachusetts has been free of British authority since 1774. To raise awareness and celebrate this victory, the Worcester consortium has planned a year’s worth of events. Its most anticipated event is set to take place September 7 that will include a full day packed with activities. Accomplished professionals, such as local writers, thespians, militiamen, and historians, will perform in a community-focused theatrical work that will illustrate the events leading up to Worcester’s victory. Attendees can also enjoy an authentic 18th-century environment, where those in period-appropriate dress will demonstrate colonial living.
Prior to September 7, exciting events will be taking place to make 18th-century living a reality for community members. Students in public schools will become aware of Worcester’s incredible history through rich lessons (given to teachers at local history-focused seminars), along with classroom visits of authentically-dressed actors. For the general public, the consortium has a variety of events up its sleeve. “We are working with the Mass Library Association and the Worcester Public Library to have a county-wide read of Ray Raphael’s book [“First American Revolution”],” says Fishbein. This reading is set to take place March 10 at the Worcester Historical Museum. In addition, local newspapers will be publishing material that mimics stories of such a time period in Worcester. There will also be presentations and tours of relevant artifacts. “One of the most important things is involving the 37 communities in these activities,” mentions Fishbein, “because we all did this and we all have something to celebrate.”
So get ready to take a trip into history. Whether attending one event or all, keep an eye out for dates and locations on the consortium’s website (dedicated to the Worcester Revolution of 1774) at . What one will learn about his or her community could be limitless!