Friday, October 23, 2009

George Washington Really Did Sleep Here, Day 3

Not long after waking up in Spencer on October 23, 1789, President George Washington was again on the road, pressing ahead to Boston on his month-long tour of New England. The ride from Spencer to Worcester was hardly a smooth one. The springs in Washington's dentures (not wooden by the way) probably got a teeth-chattering workout as the president's coach traveled up and down the Worcester hills along a stretch of the Post Road that he described in his diary as "very stoney."

After traveling through Leicester, Washington was greeted at the Worcester town line by an escort party of about 40 men on horseback. The party marched down Main Street into the village around 10 a.m. where the president was greeted by a 13-gun salute delivered by a uniformed militia artillery. Washington then had breakfast at the United States Arms, which was located near where the Crowne Plaza hotel stands today.

While in Worcester, Washington met with a committee from Boston that wanted to make arrangements and set the time for his parade into the town. Washington had tried to dissuade the town leaders from having any big to-do, but the power of persuasion was limited, even for the founder of the country. Washington wrote in his diary: "Finding this ceremony was not to be avoided though I had made every effort to do it, I named the hour of ten to pass the Militia of the above County at Cambridge and the hour of 12 for my entrance into Boston desiring Major Hall, however, to inform Genl. Brookes that as I conceived there was an impropriety in my reviewing the Militia, or seeing them perform Manoeuvres otherwise than as a private Man I could do no more than pass along the line; which, if he thought proper might be under arms to receive me at that time."

After breakfast, the party set off again over the north side of Lake Quinsigamond. Washington wrote that the road was "uneven but not bad." At the Middlesex county line, he was met by another escort party that took him on to Marlborough, where they dined at the tavern owned by Captain George Williams. Even in 1789, the tavern was quite historic. It dated back to 1662 and was burned in King Philip's War. Washington was familiar with the Williams Tavern, having visiting it on his 1775 trip to Boston.

The tavern remained in business, in one form or another, for centuries until it was torn down in 1947. The only dining going on at the site now is at a D'Angelo sub shop (a steak and cheese sub would probably have wrecked havoc with George Washington's dentures), but there is a marker on US 20 near Williams Street. The Marlborough Historical Society web site has more on the rich history of the Williams Tavern. The Marlborough Enterprise has some photos of the historical marker and the strip mall now occupying the site.

After dinner, the party hit the road again for its final 14 miles of the day. Washington was quite happy with the quality of this part of the Post Road, proclaiming it "leveller with more Sand." The president was also impressed with the quality of the land, writing in his diary: "The Country about Worcester, and onwards towards Boston is better improved & the lands of better quality than we travelled through yesterday. The Crops it is said have been good--Indian Corn, Rye Buck Wheat & grass--with Beef Cattle & Porke are the produce of their Farms."

Washington traveled through Sudbury and Wayland, and a marker near the Wayside Inn in Sudbury proclaims that both Washington and Lafayette had passed by that site when it was Howe's Tavern. After a 42-mile journey, the longest leg on Washington's New England swing, the presidential party finally arrived at John Flagg's Tavern in Weston, which no longer stands but was located near the intersection of today's Boston Post Road and Bypass Road.

Meanwhile, the back and forth communication between George Washington and John Hancock continued on October 23. Hancock wrote to Washington that "I had the honor to receive, at three o' clock, this morning" the president's declination of his invitation to stay at his estate while in Boston. One doubts, though, that Hancock was particularly enthused to be roused from sleep to be given that news. Governor Hancock sent another letter to Washington requesting his company for dinner the following night. Washington received that letter in Weston and sent back his reply, which could be found at this web site, accepting the dinner invitation and informing the governor of his plans for the following day.

TOMORROW: Washington's grand entry into Boston

No comments: