Wednesday, November 4, 2009

George Washington Really Did Sleep Here, Day 15

George Washington hit the road again on November 4, 1789, to continue his presidential tour of New England. According to some accounts, Washington intended to proceed from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Vermont only to be dissuaded by reports of poor weather (gee, in November?) So instead, Washington headed to Exeter, New Hampshire, before starting his southern journey back to the capital city of New York. Whatever the reason for Washington's change of plans, it was a blessing to the citizens of Haverhill, Massachusetts, who would end up having the president of the United State spending a night in their town.

Washington left Portsmouth at 7:30 a.m., and it was a much different scene from his grand entrance into town. The president wrote in his diary that he left "quietly & without any attendance, having earnestly entreated that all parade & ceremony might be avoided on my return."

At 10 a.m., George Washington entered the town of Exeter. The president noted in his diary that "a jealousy subsists between this Town (where the Legislature alternately sits) and Portsmouth, which, had I known it in time, would have made it necessary to have accepted an Invitation to a Public dinner, but my arrangements having been otherwise made I could not." Washington stopped at the Folsom Tavern in Exeter, which was built around 1775 by Colonel Samuel Folsom. When Washington visited it, the tavern stood on the corner of what is now Front and Water streets. The tavern building has actually moved around a few times over the centuries and today stands on Water Street, where it is open to the public as part of the American Independence Museum. (On November 7, Washington will return to the tavern, and you can have breakfast with him. Not sure if morning lager will be on the menu as in George's days.)

Following Exeter, Washington passed through Kingston and arrived in Haverhill by 2:30. With much of the afternoon ahead of him, the president took a stroll through the streets of Haverhill before turning in at Harrod's Tavern. A Pentucket Bank now stands on the site of the tavern, and there is a sign at the bank describing its historical connection. The Buttonwoods Museum, run by the Haverhill Historical Society, has a mirror in its front parlor that Washington supposedly used to adjust his wig and petticoat. Check out this web site for details on Washington's stay in Haverhill.

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