George Washington visit to Ipswich MA
This photo is from the reenactment of President George Washington’s visit to Ipswich during the Tercentenary Celebration of the town’s founding. In the background at the corner of County and Poplar Streets is the Swasey Tavern, where George Washington addressed the crowd and enjoyed a “cold collation.”

washington_sketchOn October 30, 1789, President George Washington passed through Ipswich on his ten-day tour of Massachusetts. Adoring crowds of grateful citizens greeted the President at Swasey’s Tavern (still standing at the corner of Popular and County Streets) where he stopped for food and drink. Washington had announced that during his presidency he would personally tour every state, and in the autumn of 1789 he spent four weeks traveling through New England.

Samuel Adams escorted Washington into Boston on the 24th, but he was slighted by Governor John Hancock, who refused to go out and meet the president, insisting that the president should come to him. The cheering crowds of Boston made up for Hancock’s absence. From there he continued north to Marblehead, Salem, and Beverly.

President Washington described the journey in The Diary of George Washington:

“Friday, 30th: A little after 8 o’clock I set out for Newburyport; and in less than 2 miles crossed the bridge between Salem and Beverly, which makes a handsome appearance… After passing Beverley, 2 miles, we come to the Cotton Manufactury, which seems to be carrying on with spirit by the Mr. Cabbots (principally)…..From this place, with escorts of Horse, I passed on to Ipswich, about 10 miles; at the entrance of which I was met and welcomed by the Select men, and received by a Regiment of Militia. At this place I was met by Mr. Dalton and some other Gentlemen from Newburyport ; partook of a cold collation, and proceeded on to the last mentioned place, where I was received with much respect and parade, about 4 o’clock. In the evening there were rockets and some other fireworks — and every other demonstration to welcome me to the Town.”

swasey_tavern
On October 30, 1789, President George Washington addressed the people of Ipswich assembled on the South Green to meet him, from the steps of the Swasey Tavern, still standing at the corner of Popular and County Streets. In this photo taken a century later, you can see the Cogswell School on Payne Street, and in the distance, the historic Lakeman and Hodgkins houses at the intersection with Turkey Shore Road.

After addressing the entire population of the town of Ipswich at the South Green, the President partook of a “cold collation” at Swasey’s Tavern before completing the day’s journey to Newburyport, where he was treated to a fireworks display. On the 31st he continued his tour, crossing the Merrimack River on his way to New Hampshire. While in Ipswich, he purchased some black silk pillow lace for his wife, Martha.

George Washington visits Ipswich
George Washington’s visit to Ipswich is portrayed in the Ipswich History Mural by Alan Pearsall for EBSCO, 2006.
The Nathaniel Wade house on County Road was built by his father Thomas Wade
Col. Nathaniel Wade’s house on County Road, built by his Thomas Wade. Their ancestor Jonathan Wade settled in Ipswich in 1635. 

Among the distinguished citizens of Ipswich waiting to meet the president at the South Green was Col. Nathaniel Wade. Wade was in the chain of command at West Point, and on September 25, 1780, he received an urgent correspondence from General George Washington instructing him to take command:

“Sir, General Arnold is gone to the enemy. I have just now received a line from him, enclosing one to Mrs. Arnold, dated on board the Vulture. From this circumstance and Colonel Lamb’s being detached on some business the command of the garrison for the present devolves on you. I request that you will be as vigilant as possible and as the enemy may have it in contemplation to attempt some enterprise even tonight against these posts. I wish you to make immediately after the receipt of this, the best disposition you can of your force so as to have a proportion of men in each work on the west side of the river. You will see me or hear from me further tomorrow. I am dear Sir, Your most obedient humble servant, G. Washington”

Waters, in the book Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote about the death of George Washington on December 14, 1799:

“The whole country was deeply grieved. Funeral solemnities were observed at Ipswich on January 7, 1800. The Salem Gazette of Jan. 21 described the service in the style which characterized the newspapers of the day. The Rev. Mr. Frisbie at the request of the inhabitants pronounced a very elegant and pathetic eulogy on the character and virtues of the beloved Patriot and Statesman: in which he very judiciously and feelingly led the audience to a pleasing remembrance of the glorious military achievements and political wisdom of the illustrious deceased.”

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