President George Washington’s visit to Ipswich is portrayed in the Ipswich Riverwalk Mural created by Alan Pearsall for EBSCO in 2006. 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 Governor John Hancock 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.
On October 30, 1789, 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 and reviewed the Essex Regiment.
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. Cabots, 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.”
While in Ipswich, the President purchased some black silk pillow lace for his wife, Martha, before continuing on his way to Newburyport. On the 31st he crossed the Merrimack River on his way to New Hampshire.
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 during the Revolutionary War, 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”
Thomas Franklin 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.”
- George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress
- Diary of George Washington
- Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by Thomas Franklin Waters