Friday, October 30, 2009

George Washington Really Did Sleep Here, Day 10

George Washington awoke on October 30, 1789, in the bustling port city of Salem, and he was on the road by 8 a.m. to continue his month-long tour of New England. Washington headed north, escorted by the red-uniformed corps of Andover's Captain Peter Osgood, who had joined the presidential party the previous day in Lynn.

The president crossed the bridge from Salem to Beverly and was quite taken by the span's appearance--and price. He wrote in his diary that the bridge had a "handsome appearance" and noted that it "was built for about 4500 (pounds) lawful money--a price inconceivably low in my estimation, as there is 18 feet water in the deepest parts of the River over which it is erected."

Washington had breakfast in Beverly at the mansion of Mr. George Cabot. The house of George Cabot no longer stands, but his brother John's brick house, located diagonally across the street, still stands at 117 Cabot Street and is the headquarters of the Beverly Historical Society & Museum, which has some rich historical collections. Following breakfast, Washington took a tour of Cabot's cotton mill in north Beverly. Washington had quite a bit to say about the cotton factory in his diary before summing it up: "In short the whole seemed perfect, and the Cotton stuffs wch. they turn out excellent of their kind." You can find a stone marker at 2 Dodge Street, beside the North Beverly fire station that commemorates the site of the cotton mill and Washington's visit 220 years ago.

George Washington's next stop on the North Shore was Ipswich, 10 miles north. He was met at the entrance to town by selectmen and a militia regiment. Washington partook of a cold collation at the Swasey Tavern at 2 Poplar Street, which still stands but has been renovated since colonial times, before continuing on to Newburyport. (The Ipswich Historical Society and Museums has in its possession a scrap of the bed drapes from the bed he slept in at Newburyport along with a photo of a reenactment of the president's visit dating from the 1930s.) Washington also gave Ipswich's lace industry a much-publicized boost by purchasing some black silk lace for Martha, and it was used to trim a cape, which is still in the possession of Mount Vernon, but too delicate to display.

The president arrived in Newburyport around 3:30 p.m to much pomp and circumstance. According to accounts, Washington again quit his carriage and rode on horseback into town, accompanied by a number of horse troops. A parade of citizens followed, and Newburyport resident John Quincy Adams (son of the Vice President and future president himself) read a letter of welcome he had penned on behalf of the town. According to this article in the Newburyport Daily News, a group of young men sang this ode to the president: 'He comes! He comes! The Hero Comes! Sound, sound your Trumpets. Beat, beat your drums. From Port to Port, let Cannons Roar. He's welcome to New England's Shore.'"

The president was the guest of honor at a reception at Jonathan Jackson's High Street residence, and the skies of the autumn night above Newburyport were lit up with celebratory fireworks. Washington turned in for the night at the brick Tracy mansion on State Street, which now houses the Newburyport Public Library. The house at 94 State Street was built by Patrick Tracy in 1771 for his son Nathaniel, who equipped and sent out the first privateer which sailed from the colonies against England. Among the furnishings and decor that surrounded Washington at the house would have been some loot seized from British ships by Tracy's privateers.

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