The trail is named for Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motie, a French military advisor sent by the French crown, who became a hero of the American Revolution, then returned to his native land and became a hero of the French Revolution. Possibly because his name is a bit a mouthful, he is better known by his title, the Marquis de Lafayette.
Also, according to local legend, Lafayette named the location that would become Havre de Grace, having been inspired by his hometown at the mouth of the Seine River, Le Havre. At the north end of the city's business district stands a statue of the champion of two revolutions that were key in the transition of the western world from rule by hereditary monarch to the form of government known to history as liberal democracy.
So substantial was his effect during the American Revolution that more than 130 years after the American Revolution had ended, the American leadership of forces dispatched to fight in France against Germany in World War I made reference to returning a favor done by France in stating: "Lafayette, we are here."
In naming the trail for Lafayette, Havre de Grace has fittingly bestowed an honor on a figure in history whose oblique name belies an impressive effect on the modern world.
It's worth noting, though, that the Lafayette Trail itself doesn't actually make note of any sites related to its namesake. When Lafayette was in town, there wasn't so much a town at the mouth of the Susquehanna as there was a ferry landing and outbuildings for a river crossing.
There are, however, plenty of sites along the trail, denoted by a blue line painted along the sidewalk in town and new metal markers purchased thanks to the donation of a generous, but anonymous benefactor, that would be of interest to history buffs. Along the three-mile trail are 57 numbered markers with each marker corresponding to a numbered paragraph in a brochure available in town.
It's an expansion of a self-guided tour of historic sites in the city that was devised in 1988, expanded a decade later to 37 and expanded again more recently. Earlier versions of the trail-guided tour were rather makeshift, and not as nice as what's been put in place as of last week.
Record community columnist Ron Browning, a retired history teacher and member of the city's historic district commission, gave an interview on the trail in 2010 during which he said the idea was to include a range of historic sites from many eras in the city's 200-plus year history.
"We wanted to show some of the different types of architecture, and also some commercial and industrial buildings," Browning told The Record in 2010.
He also noted during that interview, while Lafayette wouldn't recognize any stops along his trail, his having visited the area prior to the establishment of Havre de Grace means he may have traveled the general area where the trail is, or as Browning put it in 2010: "He easily probably walked a good part of it," he said.