Above photo: General Lafayette with General George Washington; source: Library
Our town's founder, Joel Perkins, named our town after his hometown, Lafayette, Indiana. His Indiana town was named after the Revolutionary War hero, General Lafayette, one year after he made a famous tour across the United States.
According to Joel's genealogical records at the Yamhill County Historical Society, Joel's own grandfather had also served under General Lafayette, who was one of the most honored heroes of the Revolutionary War. So it is not surprising that he would proudly bring this beloved name with him to Oregon and assign it to his new town.
1. Marquis de Lafayette was a wealthy young man from a noble family in France when he voluntarily risked it all to fight with Americans in the Revolutionary War at age 19. Upon his arrival to America, he was given the commission of Major General, making him the youngest General of the Continental Army.
2. Lafayette and George Washington became close friends during the war and their father/son friendship lasted the rest of their lives. When Lafayette was shot in battle, Washington told his personal physician to care for Lafayette and treat him as his "son".
3. Lafayette was respected by his American soldiers and fellow officers from early on. He was loved by Native Americans as well, with one chief adopting Lafayette into their tribe and naming him Kayewla, after one of their greatest warriors.
4. General Lafayette spent over $200,000 of his own personal money to provide supplies to the struggling American Army during the war.
5. Lafayette was able to out-smart and corner some of the most powerful British Generals of that time, including Cornwallis who had declared he would bring Lafayette home to England in "chains" before Lafayette ended up cornering and defeating him in Yorktown.
6. Washington and Ben Franklin both gave Lafayette credit for convincing the French to help the Americans. Historians agree that without his efforts, Washington would not have won this war.
7. Lafayette was a fierce advocate against slavery and also fought against religious persecution wherever he went.
8. When Lafayette came back to America in 1824 for a U.S. tour after being invited as a "guest", he was treated as a superstar. In Philadelphia alone, over 40,000 people came out to see him. He was welcomed in each state with parades and large celebrations.
9. Lafayette ranks with Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson, in the number of places named after him in the United States. Our town is, of course, one of those places.
10. Lafayette was made an honorary American citizen by U.S. Congress in 2002. Only six other people have ever been given this honor.
Sources: www.friendsoflafayette.org: an organization started in 1932, dedicated to preserving the memory of Lafayette; Lafayette and the American Revolution, by Russell Freedman, 2010.