Musket given to Leominster may be revolutionary

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LEOMINSTER (AP) >> Does a claim made in 1901 result in a historical fact 100 years later?

That's the question local historian and City Councilor Mark Bodanza is attempting to answer.

For the last month and a half his attention has been focused on a musket with supposed ties to one of the most important moments of the American Revolution.

When soldiers under the command of Ethan Allen captured Fort Ticonderoga in May of 1775, they were able to raid the fort of its supplies, including the cannons that were transported to Boston and used to force the British to abandon the city.

However, cannons weren't the only things taken from the fort. Muskets, possibly ones much like the one currently at the Leominster Historical Society, were also spirited away.

"If this 'Brown Bess' was, in fact, taken from Ticonderoga during Ethan Allen's raid, it's a pretty substantial artifact," said Bodanza. "(the raid) became one of the most significant moments in the entire Revolution."

The musket was donated to the Leominster Public Library's museum in 1901 by a resident, Alice Thompson. When she donated the musket, Thompson claimed that it had belonged to her great-great grandfather, Josiah Hayward, and that it had come from Fort Ticonderoga, located by Lake Champlain in New York's Adirondacks.

Whether or not the musket actually originated from the historic raid is what Bodanza is trying to determine.

"We know that it was donated by Josiah Hayward's great-great granddaughter.

We know that this musket is a Revolutionary War musket. We also know that Josiah had military service during the Revolutionary War and that he obviously would have carried a musket," said Bodanza.

The bigger leap, he explained, is proving where the musket came from before it was Josiah Hayward's.

The trail used by the soldiers who brought the cannons from Ticonderoga to Boston is well documented. There are over 50 monuments that have been erected along this trail, one of which is in Sudbury.

Based on the research of Bodanza and other members of the Historical Society, they know that Hayward would have been living in Acton, very close to Sudbury, when the soldiers came through.

"Did they stop in Sudbury? Could Hayward have met someone on that wagon train when they came through?" Bodanza now wonders. "He was there, he was living close by, so is it conceivable someone on that wagon train gave him this musket?"

Unfortunately, the musket itself has provided few clues to its origins. As far as Historical Society members can tell, it has no distinguishable markers that might suggest ownership or origin.

Bodanza said the society is in the process of contacting Revolutionary War-era musket experts, who he hope would be able to determine the year the musket had been made, where it was manufactured, and if it is the kind of musket that had been kept at the fort.

Bodanza and the Historical Society have already reached out to the PBS show "History Detectives," a program that investigates the validity of historical claims, to help trace the origins of the musket. They have also begun producing a series of segments through Leominster Access Television, documenting the investigation.

Information from: Sentinel & Enterprise (Fitchburg), http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com


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