Marie and the Chair
Written by: Don Whitney, PVFA Historian
The rugged carved chair use but the PVFA
President during meetings for many decades has an interesting history. Marie was
traveling in the United States in 1824. It was a visit where huge receptions
were held in each city and town on the journey.
The citizens of the United States were wild
about Marie, a citizen of Paris France. This love and admiration began long
before this visit though, because Marie had been to American previously.
In 1777, twenty-seven months after the start
of the Revolutionary War, Marie arrived in Philadelphia, and being of
Aristocratic blood, befriended George Washington. Soon, Marie was leading
American soldiers in defense of the their home land, a French patriot siding
with the American patriots against the British Troops.
Marie even persuaded the French King, Louis
XIV to send six thousand troops to America, which helped defeat the English.
Upon the return voyage to France, Marie was promoted to Brigadier General.
In 1824, Marie visited America welcomed by
throngs at each stop. Upon his stay in Portland, Maine, many favors were shown
for this VIP. On departure from the city, the coach carrying Marie stopped at
Thadeous Broad's Tavern near the present site of the airport. The citizens,
recognizing who was sipping grog with them, shouted for a speech and Marie
gladly complied, standing under a giant elm tree for shade.
Now this tree was so huge, that Broad has
steps leading up to its monstrous branches where patrons sat and tippled. The
tree gained notoriety for this speech and was even nicknamed for the speaker.
In 1882, a major storm hit Portland causing
extensive damage, including the uprooting of the old elm tree. The next day,
people were busy cutting the tree into firewood.
Retired Portland Fire Chief, Nahum
Littlefield, heard about the loss of the tree, but he had a better idea for the
wood. He and his assistant took the horse and wagon out to cut a slice for the
posterity. They took it to his shop on Federal Street where he set about carving
this chair in commemoration of Marie's visit.
Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du
Motier Marquis de Lafayette is the general who spoke under the elm tree. The
The back of the chair stands 62" high
and is topped with two finnials. Cannon balls and the dates, 1824 ans 1882 are
carved in the chair, as is a seat that resembles tufted and button leather. The
original bark remains on the back and sides.
The historic work of art is on display on
the second floor of the Portland Fire Museum.