Pilgrimage to Rockingham Meeting House features Aunt Lydia

Lewis Addison "Aunt Lydia" Grant. Photo provided
Lewis Addison “Aunt Lydia” Grant. Photo provided

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – They called him Aunt Lydia, a Vermont Civil War hero, also known as “The other Grant,” and this General Grant lived in Bellows Falls.

After a year’s hiatus because of the Covid pandemic, the annual pilgrimage to the landmark Rockingham Meeting House will return Sunday, Aug. 1, at 1 p.m., with a presentation from Civil War historian Howard Coffin.

Lewis Addison Grant went to war from Rockingham and became the commander of the Union Army’s best brigade, the First Vermont Brigade. Though less well known than other major Vermont Civil War soldiers, it’s fair to call him this state’s most important soldier for the Union.

The talk will examine his life, including war record, post-war career, his words, and his unusual nickname, Aunt Lydia

A seventh-generation Vermonter, Coffin is the author of four books on the Civil War: “Something Abides: Discovering the Civil War in Today’s Vermont,” “Full Duty: Vermonters in the Civil War,” “Nine Months to Gettysburg,” “The Battered Stars,” and “Guns Over the Champlain Valley,” a book on military sites along the Champlain Corridor.

The Rockingham Meeting House. Photo provided
The Rockingham Meeting House. Photo provided

Refreshments will be served prior to the pilgrimage, so plan to come early, stroll through the cemetery, and sample some switchel and other treats. There is plenty of room in the building for social distancing, and masks are requested if you are not vaccinated.

Traditionally, the pilgrimage is the final event of Rockingham Old Home Days and is held in commemoration of the first pilgrimage to the building after it was restored in 1907.

Built in 1787, the building was used for both town and church events. The church services ceased in 1839; and by 1839 it was no longer used by the town for official gatherings.

The building was restored in 1906 and in currently going through another extensive renovation to repair the plaster. Designated a landmark in 2000, it is open all season for tours and for special events such as weddings and concerts.

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