WEST RUTLAND, Vt. — More than 220 years after the first ordained black minister in the U.S. became a pastor in a small, predominantly white community in Vermont and preached about brotherly love, freedom and unity, people there are honoring his life and work with an historic marker.

Lemuel Haynes ministered in the Parish of West Rutland for 30 years starting in 1787, drawing people from neighboring communities and hours away, with sermons that historians say at times touched on racial equality.

Local historians say now is an apt time to celebrate the popular preacher and author and inspire others with an historic marker near where the church once stood. The West Rutland Historical Society is holding a public dedication ceremony Saturday.

“I think it is so timely in the fact that we have this African American person that was here so many years ago speaking out for interracial peace and acceptance. … And that’s what this whole nation is crying out for now,” said Michelle Jagodzinski, treasurer of the West Rutland Historical Society.

Haynes was born to a white mother and black father in West Hartford, Connecticut and indentured to a devout churchman at the age of 5 months.

He read everything he could and became well versed in the Bible, Jagodzinski said.

After leaving his adopted family at 21, Haynes joined the Revolutionary War.

Nine years later Haynes was ordained a minister and served in a church in Torrington, Connecticut for three years before being called to minister in Vermont where other Connecticut residents had moved.


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