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JSH: The ‘Fayette Factor” and a weird mojo that makes any Lafayette connection special

By Jeffrey Scott Holland


The Marquis de Lafayette (full name Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, but usually known as simply “Lafayette”) was a fascinating historical character. He was a French aristocrat, high-level Freemason, and military officer from Auvergne, France, who ultimately joined forces with George Washington and fought in the Revolutionary War to help forge our nation. He fought in the Battle of Rhode Island, went head to head with Cornwallis in the Battle of Yorktown, and was wounded in the Battle of Brandywine.


In 1824, after having offered (but declined) dictatorship of France, having prepared the original French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and having been sprung from jail by Napoleon Bonaparte, Lafayette made a trip to the United States to look upon the upstart new nation he had helped build. Throughout late 1824 and early 1825, he took an extensive tour of every part of the country (which consisted of only twenty-four states at that point).

What, you may ask, does this have to with Kentucky?


First, let’s cut to the late 1970s. As the advent of home computerization started researchers of Fortean (unexplained, anomalous) phenomena on the road to properly collating and sharing their own case files, a glaring coincidence became apparent to author William Grimstad. It seemed that an uncanny number of the incidents involved the word/name Fayette, Lafayette, or variations thereof. He, and others, came to call this recurring coincidence “The Fayette Factor.”


In the Spring 1978 issue of Fortean Times magazine, Grimstad wrote an essay on his findings, entitled “Fateful Fayette”. Since then, the subject has been expanded upon and expounded upon by many other researchers, most notably by author Loren Coleman. Coleman suggested that Lafayette visited certain places in America for symbolic and spooky reasons


“The cities, towns, and counties across the United States, which are the Fortean hotspots linked to the Fayette Factor, are tied to the renamed Masonic lodges and affiliated sites that the Marquis de Lafayette visited on his grand tour of the country in 1824-1825. His visits were highly ritualized happenings, in which he is involved with laying many cornerstones. The locations where he is taken to visit are a virtual roadmap of the “special places” in this land.”


All of this speculation has led many – at least among those who believe such things possible – that there is some sort of lucky mojo around the name Lafayette and its abbreviated version, Fayette. Something that works with the woof and warp of spacetime to make interesting things happen wherever there’s a Lafayette connected. Kook-talk or not, even the Lexington Herald-Leader gave a nod to the theory in its March 14, 2004 issue, noting that odd news events of the previous day, March 13, were each connected in some way to the names Lafayette and Fayette.


On the other hand, what these compulsive dot-connecting paranormal theorists likely didn’t take into account is just how extensively General Lafayette traveled the nation, and just how beloved a figure he was as he made his journey. Though his name is all but forgotten in America today except to a handful of Revolutionary War enthusiasts and Francophiles, it was a very big deal in 1825 when George Washington’s closest friend and ally came back to tour the colonies. Cities, towns, schools, even children were named after him as the wave of Lafayette-hysteria swept the states like the Beatles.


Our own Fayette County is named for the man, as is Lafayette High School and their athletics teams “The Generals”. There’s also a Lafayette, KY in Christian County, adjacent to Fort Campbell. Even Kentucky’s city of La Grange is named for Chateau de LaGrange, which was the Marquis de Lafayette’s home in France.


So if it seems to the supernatural folklorists that Lafayette uncannily pops up often, that’s because he really is everywhere. No cosmic conspiracy theory needed.


Having said that, though: if we accept Coleman’s idea that every place associated with Lafayette must necessarily be a special place in the big scheme of things, I like that it means Fayette County has to be a very special place indeed. Which it is!


Jeffrey Scott Holland is a native Kentuckian, painter, writer, actor, musician, paralegal – and interested in all things. He joins a growing stable of talented, interesting regular columnists for KyForward.com, bringing his gift of a well-turned phrase, quirkiness and humor to entertain and enlighten — and sometimes provoke — our readers. He can always be reached at any time, by anyone on the planet, at jshpaint@gmail.com.

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