Lafayette's visit to Ipswich

Meeting House Green plaque commemorates Lafayette’s visit to Ipswich

Featured image: The recently-installed plaque on N. Main St. commemorates the visit by the Marquis de Lafayette to Ipswich in 1824 through the Lafayette Trail organization and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.

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.”

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

Lafayette’s tour

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 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”.

On Aug. 10, 1778, French Admiral d’Estaing’s men were with the American forces which had gathered in Newport to confront British forces under Maj. Gen. Pigot, but surprisingly, he reembarked his men aboard ship to confront Admiral Howe’s fleet, which had been sighted off the coast. On August 11, the American troops under the leadership of Gen. Sullivan, Lafayette, Col. Wade, and Col. Joseph Hodgkins of Ipswich were caught in a terrible storm in which all of their tents were blown down, and a couple of ships were lost. When d’Estaing’s fleet limped back into the harbor, he announced that he was retiring his fleet to Boston for repairs, and even Lafayette was unable to persuade him otherwise.

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 defense 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.”

We did a “re-enactment” of when Gen. Michael Farley’s wig fell off as he removed his hat to greet Gen. Lafayette. The entire welcoming party then threw off their wigs so that Mr. Farley wouldn’t be embarrassed. When Gen. Lafayette returned to Ipswich many years later, he commented on the unusual way people are greeted in this town!

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 I 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.”

In Lafayette’s address he alluded to the most unusual form of courtesy displayed by the late General Farley on his previous visit. 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. A reporter for the short-lived Newburyport Union recorded the following exchange between the two old soldiers during dinner at Treadwell’s Inn:

“The General was near the head of the table. When in the act of taking his second glass of wine, Col. Wade was introduced to him by one of the Haverhill committee. The cordial embrace of these two veteran companions in arms was affecting beyond description. The occasion was patriotic and triumphant; the recollections of youthful and heroic achievements in which they had both been engaged, were vivid and animating; their meeting was but momentary, their parting was soon to be eternal. Under the circumstances so proud, so tender, with bosoms swelling with patriotic exultation and now melting into the most affectionate expressions of kindness, these Revolutionary chiefs held the following dialogue, during which their hands were never separated:

O my dear Colonel!” exclaimed the Marquis; “you remember Rhode Island, and the night of August 12, 1778, when you and I lamented the misunderstanding of d’Estaing and General Sullivan?” “Indeed I do,” Wade returned, “and never can forget it. It was a dreadful storm, and the soldiers had no shelter; my duty required me to be out to watch the enemy, and you insisted on walking the rounds with me all night, although I urged you to go to your tent.” Lafayette replied, “I was too anxious to sleep and I thought it my duty to conciliate the American officers, as the French admiral seemed to insist too much upon punctilio to the injury of our common operations. We did not mind the rain, although we were drenched through and through.” “No indeed,” returned Wade. “Had d’Estaing assisted us, I always thought we should have compelled Gen. Pigot to surrender; we missed a fine opportunity. But, my dear General, do you remember West Point?

“Gen. LaFayette: O my dear friend, I do! and when Gen. Washington first heard of the defection of Arnold, he asked, ‘Who has the immediate command?’ On being told that it was you, he said: Col. Wade is a true man, I am satisfied!Gen. Green and myself immediately repaired to the garrison. Do you not recollect seeing me riding rapidly in from the north-east corner when we took the Division up to King’s Ferry? “Here the feelings of the two Heroes became too strong for utterance; they hung upon each other.”1

Following the banquet, Col. Wade, Col. Hodgkins, and other members of the committee escorted Gen. Lafayette to Newburyport, which he reached a little past ten o’clock, only to be roused at sunrise with a reveille by an over-zealous drummer.

When he passed through Ipswich in1824, General Lafayette was treated to dinner at Treadwell’s Inn at 26 North Main Street (on the far right in this early photo).
Treadwell’s after the hip roof was replaced with a Mansard roof. Behind the building were stables for horses arriving on the Bay Road. The stables burned in a massive fire
Treadwell's Inn on North Main Street was modernized as the Agawam House in the late 19th Century, but today is unrecognizable.
This photo was taken after Treadwells was remodeled in the late 19th Century and was renamed the Agawam House. The building still stands today but is almost unrecognizable.
This recently-installed plaque commemorating Lafayette’s visit was generousl contributed to the town by the non-profit Lafayette Trail Inc., with funding from the William C. Pomeroy Foundation, which is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history. The former Treadwell’s Hotel is the building on the left (no longer recognizable.)
Newspaper account of Lafayette’s visit to Ipswich and Newburyport


The Lafayette Trail, Inc. is incorporated in the U.S. state of Maryland as a nonprofit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code with the mission to document, map, and mark General Lafayette’s footsteps during his Farewell Tour of the United States in 1824 and 1825. It aims to educate the public about the national significance of Lafayette’s Tour and to promote a broader understanding of Lafayette’s numerous contributions to American independence and national coherence in preparation for the 2024-2025 tour bicentennial celebrations.

The William G. Pomeroy Foundation began in 2005 when Founder and Trustee Bill Pomeroy was fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia and his survival was in doubt. Fortunately, he was matched with a donor and received a lifesaving stem cell transplant. Bill felt that, should he survive, he would help others in a similar situation. The idea became the genesis for the Foundation’s first initiative: to diversify the bone marrow donor registry so that anyone, from any ethnic background, can find a matched donor. We have many incredible partners who are involved in advancing this lifesaving work. Our other initiative is helping people to celebrate their community’s history. We meet this by providing grants to obtain signage in the form of roadside markers and plaques. Since 2006, we have funded over 1,500 signs across the United States, all the way to Alaska. We have grown to offer six signature marker grant programs in addition to marker programs funded through partnerships with non-profit, municipal and academic organizations.

Related posts:

Ipswich in the Revolutionary War - On June 10th, 1776, the men of Ipswich, in Town-meeting assembled, instructed their Representatives, that if the Continental Congress should for the safety of the said Colonies Declare them Independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain, they will solemnly engage with their lives and Fortunes to support them in the Measure.… Continue reading Ipswich in the Revolutionary War

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