If you live in Pawlet, no doubt by now you’ve heard of the proposal to erect a monument on the Town Green in commemoration of a pivotal Revolutionary War moment known as “The Pawlet Expedition.” This idea will be voted upon in the upcoming election on March 1 under the final article on the ballot, Article #32.
No doubt you, like I did, have questions. Here are a few answers:
How big is the proposed monument?
Including the pedestal, approximately seven and a half feet tall. A bit taller than a person.
Will it overwhelm the Town Green?
This is an important question because, as Town Greens go, ours is certainly on the small side. But to get a feel for what it might be like, check out this image of the proposed monument in place (below).
Does Pawlet already have a monument to the Pawlet Expedition?
Yes. There is a large rock with a plaque on it, which sits in front of the North Pawlet schoolhouse which houses collections of the Pawlet Historical Society.
So isn’t one monument enough?
Here’s the problem: who sees that monument, exactly? Have you ever stopped by to read it? I’ve lived in Pawlet for the last 25 years, including several years I was a member of the historical society board which met in that very schoolhouse. I’ve never read it. I’ve never seen anyone reading it.
Because the placement of this plaque is on fast-moving Route 30, with no place for visitors to park or any real reason to stop, this monument doesn’t really function the way a monument should: which is to draw our attention to a piece of history.
Is this history worth emphasizing?
This is the real question. And really, it’s a very subjective question, because whether or not one feels we should be highlighting this moment in history depends on a whole bunch of individual questions: how do we feel about war? How do we feel about this particular war? How much do we want to focus on Pawlet’s history as opposed to our present or future?
My personal feeling is this: history is important. Like, really, really important. And this particular moment is history is worth talking about, and worth sharing with visitors to our community. History is also complicated. What I like about the plan to build this monument is that it will encourage complicated conversations about our history that might not have happened otherwise.
Monuments can be very controversial things these days. But, I don’t believe we have to give up on them entirely, or silence the conversations they engender- quite the opposite. We should welcome the open discussion of history and all the fallible, complicated people in it.
What will it cost?
Probably a whole pile of money. BUT! due to fundraising and grant-writing efforts of volunteers, there will be no cost to town taxpayers.
I know this is important so let me say that again: there will be no cost to town taxpayers.
Sure, but what are the hidden costs?
Well, what have been the hidden costs of the rock with the plaque at the North Pawlet Schoolhouse? I’m guessing none. Maybe someone will have to spray it with a hose after mud season, but as I understand it, bronze is pretty durable.
Does the Pawlett Historical Society support this?
They do not officially support this proposal. But with all due respect, I can’t remember the last time they supported anything, can you?
Does the Pawlet Select Board support this?
The fact that it’s on the ballot should tell you one thing: that they want to know what the voters think before deciding.
So what’s the upshot?
During the course of my time in Pawlet, I’ve noticed that the town seems to go through these cycles regularly. We ask questions, raise ideas, and try to plan for our future. Questions like: do we want to invest in turning the three-room schoolhouse into the new public library? Do we want to support school choice for all who live here? Do we want to put the effort in to restore our historic Town Hall?
All three of these questions were, at one time, highly divisive and controversial in our community, but I’d argue that, once carried out, all of these investments in our town have made it a better, more engaging, equitable, and interesting place to live. And that’s my opinion about the proposed monument as well.
Want to know more?
Here’s the proposed plaque text, which is not finalized, but gives you a good idea of the history and its importance: