Our History

About thirty years before the establishment of the Fairhaven Village Militia, an earlier group, the Fourth Old Dartmouth Militia had been started by Fairhaven Fire Chief and historian Donald R. Bernard. The group was organized in 1968 and incorporated in 1972. The Fourth Old Dartmouth Militia was active through the years of the U.S. Bicentennial in the mid-1970s. During that time Mr. Bernard staged some large scale reenactments of Nathaniel Pope's naval battle and the Raid of Bedford Harbor. Mr. Bernard also established a British reenacting group and a Civil War group. Following Mr. Bernard's death in 1993, historical activity at Fort Phoenix ceased for several years.

In the spring of 1999 the Fairhaven Office of Tourism organized a group of volunteers to serve as historical guides at Fort Phoenix. The original group consisted of Steve Bano, Charles Cromwell, Diane Duprey, Natalie Hemingway, Sandy Main, Christopher Richard and Lori Richard. Mr. Bano dressed in Civil War era clothing when at the fort. Ms. Duprey remained in modern dress. The rest outfitted themselves in colonial era costume. Very shortly afterward, Francis Mathieu joined the group of guides. Members of the group were stationed at Fort Phoenix at regularly scheduled times in June, July and August.

In August of 2000, Mr. Cromwell was granted permission by the Board of Selectmen to demonstrate firing his flintlock musket once per afternoon while on duty at Fort Phoenix. Frank Mathieu later received permission. Eventually musket firing was allowed whenever anyone was on duty at the fort without restriction. Musket firing demonstrations by Frank Mathieu were added to the Office of Tourism walking tours guided on Friday mornings by Chris Richard.

In 2003 Chuck Cromwell, Frank Mathieu, Chris Richard and Ellsworth Sylvaria were licensed by the Fire Marshall's Office of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for cannon and mortar firing. Wayne Oliveira had previously held a license and had, with Earl Faunce, supervised the firing of the fort's cannons on the Fourth of July in earlier years.

Also in 2003, the volunteer group organized as a independent organization, with the election of the original officers voted on March 28. The officers were Charles Cromwell, commander; Ellsworth Sylvaria Jr., treasurer; Christopher J. Richard, clerk; Francis Mathieu, Sergeant at Arms. Wayne Oliveira was appointed to oversee the firing of the fort's artillery. That September, at the suggestion of Ellie Sylvaria, the first overnight encampment was held at Fort Phoenix on September 6 and 7. On the Saturday evening, a "night firing" of the fort's cannons was demonstrated. This has been repeated each year since. In 2010 a spring encampment was added to the schedule.

In the fall of 2007, Ellsworth Sylvaria assumed command of the militia and Amy Sylvia became the treasurer. Chuck Cromwell was voted an honorary life member for his years of dedicated service and leadership.

Current officers are Ellsworth Sylvaria, commander; Michele Bissonnette, secretary; Lori Richard, treasurer. The group has a total of about 30 members of all ages.