General LafayettePeople

Lafayette returns to Ipswich

A young Lafayette, at the age he first came to Ipswich
A young Marquis de LaFayette at the age he first came to Ipswich

When the First Provincial Congress met in Salem Massachusetts on Friday October 7, 1774, Ipswich was represented by General Michael Farley. At 56 years of age, Farley was “too advanced in years to take the field” but rendered great services to the town and the new country throughout his life.

In 1777, nineteen year old Marquis de Lafayette left France and volunteered to serve in the Continental Army. When his company passed through Ipswich he was met by General Michael Farley who removed his hat to salute the noble Frenchman and in doing so accidentally removed his wig as well. Other members of the welcoming party quickly removed their wigs in respect to Mr. Farley. Writing home, Lafayette remarked that the people of Ipswich were so polite that they not only bowed with their hats off but “with their wigs off as well.”

Major General Michael Farley died June 20th, 1789 and is buried in the Old North Burying Ground on High Street. His tombstone reads, “With a mind open, honest and generous, With a heart alive to humanity and compassion, he served for many years, in various stations, private, public and honorable, his friends, his neighbors and his Country with such integrity, zeal and diligence, as merited an extensive approbation and rendered his death justly regretted.”

Hon. Major General Michael Farley's tombstone at the Old North Burying Ground
Michael Farley’s tombstone at the Old North Burying Ground

In 1824 citizens of Ipswich heard with “unfeigned pleasure” that General LaFayette, “the undeviating defender of rational freedom and the rights of man, the illustrious friend of America” would be passing through our area. The town issued a proclamation that read,“We view his exalted character with profound respect and are desirous of manifesting our heartfelt gratitude and attachment to him and ardently hope he will honor this town with his presence.”

Illustration by Alec Gillman in Sam Sherman’s book “Ipswich, Stories from the Rivers Mouth

On August 31, 1824, the town had prepared the most elaborate tribute the town had ever paid to a visitor. Veterans of the Revolution lined the streets, flags were posted along the roads and a decorative arch spanned the Choate Bridge. Musicians, guards, a horse troop and the Denison Light Infantry were assigned to escort Lafayette.

A driving rainstorm delaying the General until 7 pm. When finally his entourage reached the South Green, LaFayette immediately recognized General Nathaniel Wade in the soaked crowd and grasping his hand said, “My Dear Sir, I am rejoiced to see you. It is just such a stormy night as we had when I met you in Rhode Island”.

In Lafayette’s address to the assembled masses he alluded to the most unusual form of courtesy displayed by the late General Farley on his previous visit.

The inhabitants of the town assembled in the meeting house to receive him, and on his entrance, he was greeted with great exultation and joy. One of the committee addressed him as follows :

” General La Fayette, Accept from the people of Ipswich, their cordial congratulations on your arrival in their country and within their own borders. To this ancient town, sir, we bid you a joyful welcome.

“Having devoted to our beloved country, in her weak and critical situation, the vigor of your youth and the resources of a mind intent on the cause of freedom and humanity, and committed to a common lot with her, your own destinies, — that country can never forget the services you rendered, and the sacrifices you incurred, for her defence and protection, when assailed by overbearing power.

“We rejoice in having an opportunity of presenting ourselves in this house, consecrated to the worship of the God of our fathers, who has kindly raised up friends and patrons of the cause of our country and of liberty, to pay to you our grateful respect for your eminent labours.”Most of those who acted in, or witnessed the great scenes in which you bore so conspicuous a part, have now descended to the tombs of their fathers. The present generation can rehearse only what they have heard with their ears, and their fathers have told them.

“But the name of La Fayette is not confined to any generation; While the liberties of America shall endure, it will descend from father to son, associated with those of the immortal Washington, and other heroes and sages of our revolution, as the friend of our country, of liberty, and of man.

“Illustrious benefactor, may the blessing of Heaven ever attend you, and may your remaining days be as happy, as your past have been perilous, useful and honorable.”

To which the General made the following reply :

” Sir, The attentions paid me by my American friends I receive with inexpressible gratitude. I regret that so many of my friends here, should be exposed on my account to this storm. I have ever considered it my pride and my honor, that I embarked in the cause of Independence in this country ; and 1 rejoiced when I found myself again landed on the American shores. You, kind sir, the people of this town, and all who are assembled in this solemn place, will please to accept my thanks for this expression of your attachment, and receive my best wishes for your individual prosperity and happiness.”

General Lafayette was then escorted to Treadwell’s Inn on Town Hill where he was entertained, after which he continued on his journey to Newburyport. He reached Newburyport a little past ten o’clock, only to be roused at sunrise with a reveille by an over-zealous drummer.

N. Main St. in the mid-19th Century
An early photo of 22-26 North Main St. On the right is the second Treadwell’s Inn where General Lafayette dined during his visit to Ipswich in 1824. The hip roof had not yet been replaced with the Mansard roof.
The Agawam Hotel, Ipswich MA
Treadwell’s after the hip roof was replaced with a Mansard roof.
Treadwell's Inn on North Main Street was modernized as the Agawam House in the late 19th Century, but today is unrecognizable.
General Lafayette was treated to dinner at Treadwell’s Inn at 26 North Main Street. This photo was taken after it was Victorianized and renamed the Agawam House in the late 19th Century. The building still stands today but is almost unrecognizable.
The Agawam Hotel today
This is how the former grand hotel of Ipswich on N. Main St. looks today.

By Susan Howard Boice

Treadwell’s Tavern, known to many as the Agawam Hotel, was located on North Main Street and still stands, unrecognizable in its present sad state. In 1806 Nathaniel Treadwell bought land and a house, and started his tavern business. The tavern changed hands many times. Frederick Mitchell was one of the owners. who sold to Jeremiah Prescott and John Wiggins. At this particular time, many doctors and dentists had their professional offices there. Originally a hip roof Federal type structure, the 2nd Empire style Mansard roof was added in the late 1800’s.

Throughout the years, many a guest has passed through this old building. In August of 1824, General Lafayette stayed at the hotel for a night. Tradition has it that the famous Reverend George Whitefield preached to thousands, hushed to solemn stillness, and is perhaps the same evening that the same evangelist chased the devil off the steeple of the Old North Church. When Lafayette was welcomed the meeting house was filled with the throng of citizens who paid him honor.

At one time the Old Agawam was the only hotel in Ipswich. People who arrived on the train would have to walk through town and climb the hill for a night’s lodging. The stable, though not a part of the hotel, was a convenient place for horse travelers to put up their own animals for a night, or one could rent a team or horse for a day’s outing.

A most exciting sight was the dashing stages, drawn by four horses, which galloped through town on their trip from Boston to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, loaded with passengers and baggage. The coaches would halt at the Agawam to change horses and allow the passengers a meal, or an overnight stay. The driver, of course, would always be a hero to the admiring crowd. Distinguished travelers would now and then stop by for a taste of good cheer at the hotel.

In the 20th Century, Charles Lamson removed the piazzas on the front and added rooms, as shown in the picture of the Agawam House today. The Mansard roof can be seen above the front rooms.

Lafayette's visit to Ipswich and Newburyport
Newspaper account of Lafayette’s visit to Ipswich and Newburyport
Memoirs of Lafayette


Categories: People, Stories

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