Billerica has been long known as the “Yankee Doodle Town,” a patriotic nickname whose roots date back to Revolutionary times.
Now, it’s official.
Governor Charlie Baker and town leaders were gathering Tuesday to celebrate the passage of a bill that designates Billerica the Yankee Doodle Town.
“We are honored to celebrate and recognize Billerica’s rich Revolutionary War history, including the town’s long-held and well-deserved nickname,” Baker said in a statement.
According to Town Manager John Curran, the “Yankee Doodle” song originated in 1775 when a Billerica man named Thomas Ditson went into Boston to buy a gun. But he was captured by the British, covered in tar and feathers, and paraded through town to the tune of the popular song.
Kathy Meagher, the local history librarian at the town library, said Ditson’s arrest was orchestrated by a British soldier, who had offered to sell him a musket.
“At the time feelings were becoming raw,” Meagher said. “Tensions were beginning to mount, and he wanted a musket for protection.”
Andrew Deslaurier, chairman of Billerica’s Board of Selectmen, said Ditson went on to fight in the Revolutionary War and become a major town figure. An elementary school bears his name.
“When people view history, they focus on these massive battles and these massive personalities, like Washington or Lincoln,” Deslaurier said. “They’re important, but a lot of American history has been accomplished by small acts of endurance.”
The town recently celebrated Yankee Doodle Weekend, a yearly event that features a parade, fireworks, and a fair.
Having the nickname made official is an exciting step, officials said.
“It’s a big day for the town, and there’s a lot of town spirit around here, so this will help facilitate that,” Curran said.
Meagher said the official designation adds to the town’s history.
“Even John Hancock and Sam Adams sought refuge here for a night when they heard the British were coming for them,” Meagher said. “Everyone gives Lexington and Concord recognition, which they deserve, but they were not the only two towns that fought in the Revolutionary War.”Olivia Quintana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @oliviasquintana.