It was the late 80’s and I found myself accepting a job with a start up company in New Hampshire. It was a second childhood as sorts because I decided to lease a 2-seat sports car in Illinois before starting the new job. My wife and I decided it would be fun to drive the new car to the East Coast ourselves, taking a road trip through Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and then into New Hampshire. The drive was fun and we wound our way through the hills and mountains. The weather was perfect and one evening, we found ourselves in Bennington Vermont.
Bennington was a primary gateway to Vermont for those entering from the west. It is the third largest community in the State. Nestled between two beautiful mountain ranges, the Taconics on the west and the Green Mountains on the east, the beautiful Walloomsac River flows through the community. The Town is strategically located in the southwestern portion of Bennington County, directly adjacent to New York State and only 14 miles away from Massachusetts.
Ready for a stop, we found a unique Inn located on the main highway into town. There we came upon the Walloomsac Inn. Built in 1764 the Walloomsac is the oldest Inn in the state of Vermont. The Walloomsac was originally owned and operated by five different families. The Deweys, Albros, Hicks, Robinsons, and the Sanford’s owned the Inn until 1891 when Walter Berry bought it and added the large side wing along the road. The separate rear section housed the help and the laundry. There are also barns in the rear for livestock and horses. Many famous people have stayed in the Walloomsac throughout the years including President Rutherford B. Hayes and President Benjamin Harrison. It was an easy decision to stay the night in Bennington.
After dinner, we walked through the town and eventually found ourselves back at the Inn. Across the street was the First Congregational Church of Bennington. The church was designed by Lavius Fillmore and built in 1805. This church is the second meetinghouse of Vermont’s oldest Protestant religious organization that started in 1762. In 1937 the Old First Church was remodeled to include a new altar and the removal of a mysterious side door that was located on the right side of the church and had no apparent use. In 1937 the church was renamed as Vermont’s Colonial Shrine. What we found of most interest, however, was the cemetery adjacent to the church. The cemetery contained the graves of so many of the citizens who contributed to so much to the founding of Bennington and Vermont. It also contains the graves of Robert Frost and approximately 75 revolutionary war patriots as well as British and Hessian Soldiers killed in the Battle of Bennington. The site of Ethan Allen’s home is on the border of the cemetery.
It was a pleasant evening and we took our time to walk through the cemetery. At first, I must admit that its age and significance did not register with me. Here I was walking among the final resting places of those who not only envisioned America but also fought and died to bring that vision to reality. It was not long before I began to read the epitaphs of those people. The city had honored those who participated in those early battles by attaching a small brass plaque to each stone marker. Quickly, I began to grasp the humility and unselfishness of those people. The concept of sacrifice for freedom was threaded throughout the cemetery.
That night we returned to the Inn and as the evening ended, had time to reflect on all of what we found that day. It was clear to me that almost to a person, the people who founded American intended God to be a critical part of everyone’s life. Missing from their final words were the denominational messages of divisiveness. Imbedded in stone for all of history to reflect upon was the great sacrifice each gave so that God would be “in” America. The next time you see someone attempt to be politically correct by stripping God from our country, remember the little town of Bennington. No one could walk through the cemetery at the Old First Church and not be drawn to understand that God was and must remain the cornerstone of our country.