On the 25th of October, 2014, the Col. William Henshaw Chapter of the Massachusetts Society Sons of the American Revolution (MASSAR) hosted a ceremony at Rawson Brook Burial Ground to honor the life of its namesake and one of Leicester, Massachusetts best known Patriots – Colonel William Henshaw.
The memorial, led by chapter President Wesley H. Wratchford, featured several Guardsmen from MASSAR’s Colonel Henry Knox Continental Artillery Regiment and members of American Legion Cherry Valley Post 443. They marched into the cemetery, flags blowing in the wind, and presented an impressive musket volley. Father Peter Preble, the chapter’s Chaplain, delivered the invocation. Local residents also attended to pay tribute to Col. Henshaw.
Honored guests included Chairman of the Leicester Board of Selectmen, Mr. Thomas Buckley, Chairman of the Leicester Historical Commission, Mr. Don Lennerton, and President of the Leicester Historical Society, Ms. Diane Calvano.
Our special guest was MASSAR Compatriot and WWII veteran Kenneth Starbard, who is a 3rd Great Grandson of William Henshaw.
Who was Colonel Henshaw, you may ask? William Henshaw (1736-1820) was a family man, Leicester resident and a vigorous participant in the political and military activities leading up to the American Revolutionary War. His military career began in the local militia company in 1759 and lasted nearly 20 years. He was noted for helping plan the defense of Massachusetts against British forces by raising seven regiments from Worcester County, “ready to act at a minute’s warning”, and originating the concept of the “Minute Men”.
Henshaw’s surviving correspondence from before and during the Revolution provides many details about grievances and actions against British authorities. In an entry in October 1775, just six months after the events at Lexington and Concord, Henshaw wrote: “The times & the importance of the great cause we are engaged in allows no room for hesitation and delay. When Life, Liberty & Property are at stake, When our Country is in Danger of being a Melancholy scene of Bloodshed & desolation – When our Towns are laid in ashes and innocent Women & Children driven from their peaceful Habitations, it little becomes the Character of a Soldier to shrink from Danger.”
During the Revolution, Col. Henshaw saw action during engagements at Long Island, White Plains, Trenton, Princeton and Morristown, before retiring from service in February 1777. He later became active in local politics, serving as a justice of the peace in Leicester and as a Massachusetts State Representative. He died on February 21, 1820.
At the memorial, details of Henshaw’s service to his country were recounted by many of those in attendance. Compatriot Kenneth Starbard unveiled a family keepsake; a framed 1936 full-page Worcester Telegram newspaper article describing Henshaw’s life. As remembrances concluded, Father Preble offered the benediction and the Honor Guard fired another musket volley before retiring the colors – a fitting final salute to a local hero and American Patriot.