Lafayette's visit to IpswichPeople

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 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.”

Lafayette's tour of New England
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 :

Memoirs of Lafayette

” 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.”

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
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).
The Agawam Hotel, Ipswich MA
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.
Lafayette's tour of America visit to Ipswich
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.)
Lafayette's visit to Ipswich and Newburyport
Newspaper account of Lafayette’s visit to Ipswich and Newburyport

Sources

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.

Categories: People, Stories

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