George Washington Visits Salem - 1791

Salem Tavern, 1784
Courtesy of City-County Planning Board of Winston Salem, NC

...One important event in the history of Salem was the visit of President George Washington, May 31st, 1791 and during the commencement exercises of Salem Academy this week (1891) the centennial of the event is receiving due recognition. A few week since the Raleigh Christian Advocate published President Washington's Diary of his tour through North Carolina, and from it we make the following extract of the President's estimate of what was then a village, in every particular.

"Salem is a small but neat village, and like all the rest of the Moravian settlements, is governed by an excellent police, having within itself all kind of artisans. The number of souls does not exceed 200. Wednesday, June 1st, having received information that Gov Martin was on his way to meet me, and would be at Salem this evening, I resolved to await his arrival at this place, instead of halting a day at Guilford as I had intended. Spent the foeehoen (afternoon?) in visiting the shops of the different tradesmen; the houses of acommedation for the single men and sisters of the fraternity, and their place of worship. Invited six of their principal men to dine with me, and in the evening went to hear them sing, and perform on a variety of instruments, church music."

Letters of welcome and response were exchanged which have been repeatedly published in these columns until our readers are more or less familiar with them. From the Memorabilia and family records President Clewell has had compiled for use of press representatives and visitors, we make the following extracts, with which we have been familiar with.

...was visited by the first President of the United States, George Washington, then on a visit to Alexander Martin, Governor of North Carolina. General Washington spent a day among the Moravians, visiting the homes of the single brethren and single sisters, and in the evening attending service in the church. The President seemed to take an aspecial interest in the water works by which the town was supplied with water. In the Reich homestead, now occupied by Mr. Augustus Reich, a descendant of the family who occupied it in 1791, is the room where the meeting took place between Washington and the town authorities. The conversation was carried on in the French language. The room is much the same as in the olden times. In an adjoining room a young girl, (afterwards the late Mrs. Isaac Boner) played on a spinet, the piano of those days. Washington heard the music and entered, listened to her and highly commended her work. The lodging room of the President in the old hotel is shown in good state of preservation, and in appearance is the same as when occupied by him. The building is of brick and in the old German style of architecture. It stands among the few "Washington headquarters" in the South, and should be preserved as such.

On June 1st, 1791 a large number of people came to the tavern to see and greet President Washington, who came out and mingled with them, saying in response to their hearty cheers: "after all, good people, I am but a citizen of our free country, like you all. I thank you for the honor shown me." Turning around be saw a group of boys, and laying his hands on each of their heads as he passed along, he gave them a few encouraging words. Next day, June 2, in company with Governor Martin, the President went to the Governor's home in Rockingham county, a few miles above Leaksville."

The Papers of George Washington


Extracted from June 4, 1891 People's Press Newspaper Article

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