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George Washington Slept Here, Too (Yes, really!)

September 26, 2014

As we explored in an earlier blog post, George Washington really got around.  1789 saw him on a good will tour of New England and, more specifically, the North of Boston region.  After making his way up through Salem, Lynn, and Beverly, Washington paused in Newburyport for a sleepover at the Tracy House (known today as “the Newburyport Public Library”).  So, what happened next?

From Newburyport, Washington trekked over the border into New Hampshire (ot to take advantage of some tax-free shopping, we assume).  After visits to Portsmouth and Exeter, the President made his way back to Massachusetts, pausing to wrtte “a jealousy subsists between this Town [Exeter] and Portsmouth” (luckily Washington didn’t bring up the Phillips vs. Phillips rivalry of Andover, MA and Exeter, NH!). 

Once over the boarder and in the Bay State, Washington also made his return to the North of Boston region.  Washington’s first stop was to be in Haverhill but rumor had it that the President would just skip over the Merrimack Valley cities on his way to Concord.  Haverhill residents were pleased to hear a popular townsman speeding through town on his horse yelling “Washington is coming, Washington is coming!”  Townspeople, thrilled that it wasn’t the British coming this time, flooded the streets, eager to welcome the visiting President.  George Washington finally arrived in Haverhill around 2:30pm (just in time for…well, we’re not sure. But all of our sources thought this fact imperative, so we’ll include it too). 

Upon his arrival, Washington took some time to explore Haverhill, remarking “Haverhill is the pleasantest village I have passed through.”  He spent the night at Harrods Tavern (now the site of the Pentucket Bank).  The next morning, Washington departed Haverhill and headed across the Merrimack River to Andover where he visited the home of Massaschusetts Senate President Samuel Phillips, father of Samuel Phillips Jr. who founded Phillips Andover Academy (we hope that Washington had the good taste not to mention his earlier visit to Exeter, where Phillips Sr.’s brother/family rival founded his own Phillips Academy).  

Andover marked the end of George Washington’s visit to the North of Boston region.  Of his visit to the Haverhill/Andover area, he wrote  “The Country from Haverhill to Andover is good, and well cultivated. In and about the latter (which stands high) it is beautiful. A Mile or two from it you descend into a pine level pretty Sandy, and mixed with Swamps…”

After leaving our region, George Washington then went on to Lexington, Billerica, Watertown, Needham, and other towns before ending his Massachusetts trek.  While he did have only good things to say about Newburyport, Haverhill, and Andover, his impression of the state was…well, less than enthusiastic.  “The Roads in every part of this State are amazingly crooked, to suit the convenience of every Mans fields; & the directions you receive from the People equally blind & ignorant.”  Well, at least we know Massachusetts roads aren’t a modern problem…


(A very special “thank you” to Hub Trotter for compilinh such a detailed and thorough account of Washington’s trip)

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