The Chronicle of Mountain Freehold, by Duchess Marieke
A long, long time ago,. a clever and talented Lady went to be educated at the University in far-off Ithaca, and there discovered the wondrous activities of the Society for Creative Anachronism. When her education was complete, in 1976, she returned to her home in Vermont, and thought it would be a Good Thing to start a chapter here. She decided that Mountain Freehold would be a good name to capture the independent spirit of the folk who dwell here, and that the “kelpie” (a sort of sea-monster sea-horse) would be a good creature to represent us, being somewhat similar to the beastie who allegedly inhabits Lake Champlain.
The very first members of Mountain Freehold were herself (Lady Mairi), her cousin Patrice (later, Viscountess Mistress Gwenlhain), her good friend Raesean, her parents, Lord Hugo the Knifemaker and Lady Mary, her brother Tearlach (later Master Tearlach), and several strapping young lads who chose names like Buliwulf, Wicliff, and Mulle. Mountain Freehold first came to the attention of the East Kingdom in Oct. 1976, and by 1977 we were the northernmost Shire in the East Kingdom. The first event held in Mountain Freehold was in Feb. 1979, and was called “The First Ice Tourney, Feast, and Snowball Fight.”
In Fall of 1979, Mairi started actively recruiting students on the UVM and Trinity College campuses, using quaintly worded, mysterious ads placed in the student newspaper to lure us in. The first crop of UVM & Trinity recruits included Marieke, Dafydd, Sean o Wode, Rudth of Ruthin, Cenwulf Godfyrt, Sincgiefu Waerfast, Randal of the Dark, Dragor the Gray, Ariel, Kevos & Caroline Spartalian, and Windstorm on a Farmer’s Mossy Field. Mairi taught us the dances and songs that she’d picked up in Ithaca, and the fighters taught themselves to wield sword and shield, with the help of occasional visitors from outland groups. We made good progress, and later that fall, we held a fighting demo at UVM Oktoberfest, a dancing demo at Trinity College, and two feasts, one at Trinity College, and one at Southwick Gym at UVM.
The group grew rapidly from there. We had a high presence on the UVM campus, giving us a constant stream of fresh new faces. Eventually, a Medieval Studies Suite was created at the UVM Living/Learning Center for SCA students at one point, the Suite housed about a dozen students.
Unfortunately, the Medieval Suite was discontinued after several years, due in part to the poor academic performance of its inhabitants!
The first of many Freehold events at Montgomery Manor, the “Harold Godwinson Memorial Tournament” was held in Sept. 1980. Master Ekkehardt and Mistress Anna now inhabit this scenic site, which was built originally as a replica medieval village by an eccentric gentleman who allowed us use of the property. At a Montgomery event in 1981, it was written into the chronicles, after a note that the event lost $50, “it is suggested that we not buy a keg of beer if so many people are brewing mead and wine.”
In September of 1981, our shire’s rapid growth was acknowledged by the Royalty, who elevated us to the status of Barony (a larger and more formal group than a shire) and created Lady Mairi our founding Baroness. Before long, active subgroups (called cantons) start to form; these are Goblintooth Gap (Middlebury area) , Narrenbeck (Burlington town area), and Cambria Keep (UVM).
Our new-found status as a Barony was not fated to last long. By spring of 1983, we entered our Time of Troubles, which ended with the resignation of Mairi as baroness, and her voluntary exile to the northeast corner of Vermont, where she founded a new shire called Smughandel Vei. Mountain Freehold, in a temporary state of upheaval as a baroness-less barony, chose Dafydd to serve as Baronial Vicar (confirmed by Royal Decree) until our status was clarified.
By spring of 1984, our Time of Troubles was coming to a close, and we gained permission to become the first “Province” in the East Kingdom. Provinces are pretty much the same as baronies except they have no ceremonial head. Our group continued to grow and thrive despite the political chaos. The Canton of Griffins Keep (in the Brattleboro area) was established in Fall of 1984, and the canton of Hazelden (Montpelier) was active starting in 1985. At this point, the Freehold is holding five events a year, and they are well-established and well-attended. In Spring of 1985, we took the bold step of hosting a Crown Tournament . We were all kind of hoping that Randal of the Dark would win, but he put off that feat until Fall of 1986, when he won the crown for his chosen consort, Marieke.
In Fall of 1990, Randal again won the crown, but this time it was for his wife, Katherine, and their first Coronation was hosted in Mountain Freehold. (They went on to reign two more times, but by then they had moved away from the Freehold). The Crown came again to a Freehold inhabitant when Duke Lucan fought and won for Marieke, in Spring of 1999, and their Coronation was held in Mountain Freehold in Fall of 1999.
Now during all this excitement of having Royalty from three different reigns under the Freehold banner, we continued our active schedule of events and activities. However, sometime around 1995, it struck some of us that we were putting a lot of effort into maintaining the rather elaborate bureaucratic structure required to maintain our lofty “provincial” status (reports and officers and a minimum number of paid members and suchlike), and it seemed like a good idea to simplify and streamline our group mechanics by stepping back down to a more humble “shire” type of group. This simplified things immensely, but from time to time there are rumblings of “gee wouldn’t it be fun to have a Baron or Baroness again,” and who knows what lies in our future!