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Gather 'round, kids, and let me tell you the story of the liberty pole

Illustration for article titled Gather round, kids, and let me tell you the story of the liberty pole
Photo: Todd DeBeikes

Now, I should start by saying this story is mostly apocryphal, and no evidence has arisen to either prove or disprove it. Despite this it’s appeared in publications as far back as the 1850s and is largely accepted to be true to the point where the local schools put it on as a play.

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The story revolves around what was either the town’s liberty pole, or the town flagpole, depending on the source. A british ship that’d been damaged in battle had limped into port to take on supplies and make repairs. The commanding officer announced at an evening town meeting that he’d be taking their pole to replace a broken foremast. After much debate the town council capitulated, fearful of retribution from royal authorities if they refused. The commander then retired to his ship for the night with the repair work slated for the next day.

Three local girls (they were either teens or young adults) decided this would not stand. They stole black powder and tools from their fathers and snuck down to the pole in the dead of night. One of the girls bored a hole in the pole and then the other two filled it with powder. Fuse lit, they ran. A loud CRACK resounded through the town. When the townsfolk came out to investigate they found the pole splintered and ruined.

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The British commander was furious, of course, but the culprits could not be found and none of the locals were willing to weed them out. As there was no other suitable lumber in town the commander was forced to leave and find another port to undertake repairs.

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