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George Washington in NH

George COmes to Seacoast New Hampshire 1789


His visit lasted five days, a lengthy stay in his whistlestop tour of the new nation. George Washington left a few hundreds words in his diary about the trip that historians have been analyzing ever since. Now you can read his complete journal entries.




What Did Washington Really Think
About Portsmouth & Exeter, NH?

SEE: Our Tobias Lear Section

There are many accounts of what Washington did while in Portsmouth. He reportedly attended an engagement party for his secretary Tobias Lear, kissed the daughters of merchants Stephen Chase, stopped off in Kittery and visited the widow of former British royal governor Benning Wentworth. None of those events appear, however, in Washington’s diaries. In the essay linked above, we tracked the legends and details of Washington’s only visit to town, but for the record, this is Washington’s own version. It was not intended as a literary work. Washington was a methodical and scientific man, more accountant than author much of the time. But these are his words from his arrival on New Hampshire soil to his departure in November 1789. -- JDR

ALSO READ: Washington' Tours the Seacoast

OCTOBER 31, 1789

Saturday 31st. Left Newbury-port a little after 8 Oclock (first breakfasting with Mr. Dalton) and to avoid a wider ferry -- more inconvenient boats -- and a piece of heavy Sand, we crossed the River at Salisbury two Miles above; and near that further about -- and in three Miles came to the Line wch. divides the State of Massachusetts from that of New Hampshire. Here I took leave of Mr. Dalton and many other private Gentlemen who accompanied me -- also of Genl. Titcomb who had met me on the line between Middlesex & Essex Counties -- Corps of light Horse and Many officers of Militia -- And was recd. by the President of the State of New Hampshire -- the Vice-President; some of the Council -- Messrs. Langdon & Wingate of the Senate -- Colo. Parker Marshall of the State, & many other respectable characters; besides several Troops of well cloathed Horse in handsome Uniforms, and many Officers of the Militia also in handsome (white & red) uniforms of the Manufacture of the State. With this Cavalcade we proceeded and arrived before 3 Oclock at Portsmouth, where we were received with every token of respect and appearance of Cordiallity under a discharge of Artillery. The Streets -- doors and windows were Crouded here, as at all the other Places -- and, alighting at the Town House, odes were Sung & played in honor of the President. The same happened yesterday at my entrance into New-buryport -- Being stopped at my entrance to hear it. From the Town House I went to Colonel Brewsters Ta[ver]n the place provided for my residence and asked the President, Vice-President, the two Senators, the Marshall and Majr. Gilman to dine with me, which they did -- after which I drank Tea at Mr. Langdons.

The Washington Papers at the Library of Congress






November 1st. Attended by the President of the State (Genl. Sullivan) Mr. Langdon, & the Marshall; I went in the fore Noon to the Episcopal Church under the incumbency of a Mr. Ogden and in the Afternoon to one of the Presbeterian or Congregational Churches in which a Mr. Buckminster Preached.1 Dined at home with the Marshall and spent the afternoon in my own room writing letters.


Monday 2d. Having made previous preparations for it -- About 8 Oclock attended by the President, Mr. Langden & some other Gentlemen, I went in a boat to view the harbour of Portsmouth; which is well secured against all Winds; and from its narrow entrance from the Sea, and passage up to the Town, may be perfectly guarded against any approach by water. The anchorage is also good & the Shipping may lay close to the Docks &ca. when at the Town. In my way to the Mouth of the Harbour, I stopped at a place called Kittery in the Provence of Main, the River Piscataqua being the boundary between New Hampshire and it. From hence I went by the Old Fort (formerly built while under the English government) on an Island which is at the Entrance of the Harbour and where the Light House stands. As we passed this Fort we were saluted by 13 Guns. Having Lines we proceeded to the Fishing banks a little with out the Harbour and fished for Cod -- but it not being a proper time of tide we only caught two -- with wch. about 1 Oclock we returned to Town. Dined at Col. Langdons, and drank Tea there with a large Circle of Ladies and retired a little after Seven O'clock. Before dinner I recd. an address from the Town -- presented by the Vice-President and returned an answer in the Evening to one I had recd. from Marblehead and an other from the Presbiterian Clergy of the State of Massachusetts & New Hampshire delivered at Newbury Port; both of which I had been unable to answer before.





Tuesday 3d. Sat two hours in the forenoon for a Mr. [ ] Painter of Boston, at the Request of Mr. Brick of that place; who wrote Majr. Jackson that it was an earnest desire of many of the Inhabitants of that Town that he might be endulged. After this setting I called upon President Sullivan, and the Mother of Mr. Lear and having walked through most parts of the Town, returned by 12 Oclock when I was visited by a Clergyman of the name of Haven, who presented me with an Ear, and part of the stalk of the dying Corn, and several small pieces of Cloth which had been died with it, equal to any colours I had ever seen & of various colours. This Corn was blood red & the rind of the stalk deeply tinged of the same colour. About 2 Oclock I recd. an Address from the Executive of the State of New Hampshire; and in half an hour after dined with them and a large Company at their Assembly room which is one of the best I have seen any where in the United States. At half after Seven I went to the Assembly where there were about 75 well dressed, and many of them very handsome Ladies -- among whom (as was also the case at the Salem & Boston Assemblies) were a greater proportion with much blacker hair than are usually seen in the Southern States. About 9 I returned to my Quarters. Portsmouth it is said contains abt. 5000 Inhabitants. There are some good houses (among wch. Colo. Langdons may be esteemed the first) but in general they are indifferent; and almost entirely of wood. On wondering at this, as the Country is full of Stone and good Clay for Bricks I was told that on acct. of the fogs and damps they deemed them wholesomer and for that reason prefered wood buildings. Lumber -- Fish and Pot ash with some Provisions compose the principal Articles of Export. Ship building here & at Newbury Port has been carried on to a considerable extent. During & for sometime after the War there was an entire stagnation to it; but it is beginning now to revive again. The number of Ships belonging to the Port are estimated at [ ].





Wednesday 4th. About half after seven I left Portsmouth, quietly & without any attendance, having earnestly entreated that all parade & ceremony might be avoided on my return. Before ten I reached Exeter 14 Miles distance. This is considered as the 2d. Town in New-Hampshire and stands at the head of the tide water of Piscataqua River but Ships of 3 or 400 Tonns are built at it. Above (but in the Town) are considerable Falls which supply several Grist Mills -- 2 Oyl Mills A Slitting Mill and Snuff Mill. It is a place of some consequence but does not contain more than 1000 Inhabitants. A jealousy subsists between this Town (where the Legislature alternately sits) and Portsmouth, which, had I known it in time, would have made it necessary to have accepted an Invitation to a Public dinner, but my arrangements having been otherwise made I could not. From hence passing through Kingstown (6 Miles from Exeter) I arrived at Haverhill about half past two & stayed all Night. Walked through the Town which stands at the head of the Tide of Merrimack River and in a beautiful part of the Country. The Lands over which I travelled to day are pretty much mixed in places with Stone And the growth with Pines -- till I came near to Haverhill where they disappeared, & the land had a more fertile appearance. The whole were pretty well cultivated but used (principally) for Grass and Indian Corn. In Haverhill is a Duck Manufactury upon a small but ingenious scale under the conduct of Colo.[ ]. At this Manufactury one small person turns a Wheel which employs 8 Spinners, each acting independently of each other so as to occasion no interruption to the rest if any one of them is stopped -- Whereas at the Boston Manufactury of this Article, each Spinner has a small girl to turn the Wheel. The Looms are also somewhat differently constructed from those of the common kind, and upon an improved plan. The Inhabitts. of this small Village were well disposed to welcome me to it by every demonstration which could evince their joy.

Read notes to these diary selections
by Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig


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