On September 6, 1774, 4,622 militiamen from throughout Worcester County, Massachusetts, marched into the town and closed the Royal Courts, forcing officials to defy Parliament by verifying the provincial charter and citizen rights. With this dramatic act of submission, British authority was banished from Worcester County, never to return.
The consequences of this event were enormous. The following spring, when General Gage decided to mount an offensive on a province he had already lost, his spies warned him not to attack Worcester, where patriots were too strong, but to go after Concord instead. The war started there, but the revolution, the actual transfer of political and military authority, occurred in Worcester first, nine months earlier.
In 2014, the American Antiquarian Society joined a coalition of individuals and historical and cultural organizations from throughout Worcester County to commemorate this important but largely unremembered event. Their goals were to raise awareness of the important role Worcester County played in starting the American Revolution, engaging the community in public discussions about non-violent demonstration and mediation of issues, raising important questions about political, gender, and racial equality, exploring how modes of communication and community action lead to civic engagement and change, and creating region-wide events that bring people into Worcester and Central New England.
The Worcester Revolution of 1774 project created public programming throughout the region involving all of the thirty-seven communities that originally participated in this event. Lectures, exhibits, special programs, workshops on historical research, a website, reenactments, and an original play brought the Worcester story to a wide audience. These events culminated in a daylong free festival that included children’s activities, historic presentations, period music, and performances of The Chains of Liberty. The festival concluded with a reenactment of the closing of the courts that involved members of each town’s historical society, elected officials, and the general public.
This project made a significant contribution towards changing the way residents of Central Massachusetts understood the essential role the region played in starting the American Revolution. Worcester Revolution of 1774 truly made history come alive by inspiring widespread community participation and learning.