Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

The day a small town played a big role

Knights of Columbus recognize Brookeville’s place in history

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Photo courtesy of Knights of Columbus
This marker in Brookeville commemorates the day the town took on its brief role as capital of the United States.
Aug. 26 is a date that usually comes and goes with little fanfare, but the Knights of Columbus of The Sullivan Brothers Assembly this year wanted to commemorate a historic event of both local and national significance.

On that date in 1814, the town of Brookeville served as the capital of the United States for a day when President James Madison sought refuge in the home of Caleb Bentley, the first postmaster of Brookeville, following the burning of the White House and the United States Capitol by the British Army.

‘‘The Knights of Columbus sponsors a lot of patriotic events throughout the county and the United States, and we felt this was an opportunity to show our commitment to patriotism and allow others to show theirs,” said Joe Feakes, Faithful Navigator of the organization.

The Knights contacted Brookeville’s town commissioners, but because of scheduling issues, the elected officials were unable to participate in an official capacity.

‘‘Because of the timing, and the fact that we did not have people available to help, we were not available to participate this year,” Commission President Michael Acierno said. ‘‘The plan is to work with them as we prepare to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Brookeville’s incorporation next year.”

Eight members of the Knights of Columbus Sullivan Brothers Assembly Color Corps appeared in full regalia for the brief ceremony that began at 11 a.m. Sunday — the anniversary — on the grounds of the Brookeville Academy.

After the presentation of colors, those gathered recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang The National Anthem. A short presentation on the history of the anthem followed, and then Feakes delivered a proclamation to the residents of Brookeville for opening their doors to Madison and the government as they fled from advancing British troops and the burning of the capital.

‘‘The brave citizens of this town must not be forgotten, for their actions placed them in jeopardy of their lives at the hands of a foreign invader,” Feakes read. ‘‘We salute them and their courage and thank them for their efforts in maintaining the continuity of government of the United States of America and ensuring that our nation’s principles remained intact for the future generations of Americans.”

He added that he Knights of Columbus ‘‘express our gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices of the citizens of Brookeville, and all those Americans, military and civilian, who have supported, even at the cost of their lives, our nation’s ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

‘‘We rededicate ourselves to the defense of freedom of this country,” he added.

The ceremony closed with a single verse of ‘‘God Bless America.”

Feakes was pleased by the enthusiastic and appreciative crowd that included several long-time Brookeville residents, Town Commissioner Katherine Farquhar and Town Clerk Paul Geib.

‘‘The ceremony was really touching,” Farquhar said. ‘‘They recounted the history of the flag and its importance, and also talked about the courage of the people of Brookeville. We just think about the fact that James Madison slept here, but the residents back then really didn’t know if the whole British Army would follow him.

‘‘I’m delighted that the Knights of Columbus stepped forward to do this for the community,” she added.

Acierno said that he also was pleased that the organization chose to commemorate the history of Brookeville.

‘‘We look forward to working with them as we plan events for next year,” he said.