To Elizabeth Willing Powel
Mount Vernon 26th Mar. 1797.
My dear Madam,
A Mail of last week brought me the honor of your favor, begun the 11th, and ended the 13th of this instant.
Had it not been for one circumstance, which by the bye is a pretty material one—viz.—that I had no love letters to lose—the introductory without the explanatory part of your letter, would have caused a serious alarm; and might have tried how far my nerves were able to sustain the shock of having betrayed the confidence of a lady. But although I had nothing to apprehend on that score, I am not less surprized at my having left those of Mrs Washington in my writing desk; when as I supposed I had emptied all the drawers; mistaken in this however, I have to thank you for the delicacy with which they have been treated. But admitting that they had fallen into more inquisitive hands, the corrispondence would, I am persuaded, have been found to be more fraught with expressions of friendship, than of enamoured love, and, consequently, if the ideas of the possessor of them, with respect to the latter passion, should have been of the Romantic order to have given them the warmth, which was not inherent, they might have been committed to the flames.
As we shall not relinquish the hope of seeing you in Virginia whenever it may suit your inclination & convenience, I am about to fulfil the promise I made, of giving you an Account of the Stages on the Road. To begin then.1
At Chester, Mr Anderson keeps such a house now, as Mr Withy did formerly; and that is encomium enough. At Wilmington, twelve miles further, Mr O Flin’s (sign of the Ship) is a quiet Inn, with good Beds, and a tolerable good Table. At Christiana bridge, ten miles further, the upper Tavern is decent, and would do to dine, lodge or breakfast at, according to circumstances. Next to this, at the distance of about nine miles, one Neilson (formerly Aikens’s) keeps an excellent house. At Elkton five miles futher, Hollingsworth’s is a quiet orderly Tavern, with good beds, and well in other respects. Between Elkton and the Ferry at Havre de Grace, a distance of seventeen miles of very bad road, there is no house in which decent lodgings could be had; but at Charlestown, rather more than halfway, a brick tavern could furnish breakfast & feed for horses; higher expectations would, probably, be disappointed. At the Ferry, on both sides, are good Taverns: Mrs Rogers’ on the East, & Mr Barney’s on the West. From thence to Hartford (commonly called Bush town) twelve miles from the ferry, a good house used to be kept—but as it was to be sold the Wednesday after we passed it, I can give no acct of the present occupant. Thirteen miles from thence a pretty good Inn is kept by one Webster. From that to Baltimore is 14 Miles, where Briden keeps the fountain Inn (formerly Grants)—a good, & dear house. From Baltimore to Elkridge landing, where the chances are equal whether you get something or nothing, is eight miles; & six more to Spurriors, a ho. much resorted, not because it is well kept but because there is no other; the lodging is bad—the eating tolerable. Vanhorn’s 14 Miles further is passable; better for lodging than eating. At Bladensburgh nine miles beyond a good house is kept by one Ross (sign of the Indian Queen). From hence to a Tavern in the Federal City (near the house designed for the President) is abt 7 miles; but it is not so well kept, I am informed, as the Union Tavern in George Town, about a mile further. From George Town to Alexandria is eight miles, & from thence to a place of rest, at Mount Vernon, nine more; making in all 170 Miles.
We found the Roads dry, & much better than was expected, having got home without accident; but the cold which Mrs Washington took before we left Philadelphia, hangs severely on her yet.2 We are like the beginnners of a new establishment; having every thing in a manner to do. Houses and every thing else to repair. Rooms to Paint—Paper—Whitewash &ca &ca—But although these things are troublesome, & disagreeable as they will involve us in a good deal of litter & dirt, yet they will serve to give exercise both to the mind & body. My Paper reminds me of the necessity of concluding, wch I shall do with the best wishes of Mrs W. & Miss Custis, added to my assurances of being dear Madm Yr Most Obedt & Affecte Servt
1. GW’s report to Mrs. Powel which follows is far fuller than the record he made of it for his diary (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:236–39). GW had stopped in earlier trips to and from Philadelphia at many of the inns and taverns that he mentions here. See the “Taverns” entry in the index of volume 6 of the Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends . On 18 Mar. Eleanor Parke Custis wrote from Mount Vernon to her friend Elizabeth Bordley: “We arrived here last Wednesday after a tedious & fatiguing journey of seven days. the roads from Philadelphia to the Head of Elk were very good, from thence to this place they are very bad, but as they have been much worse than they are at present, we were very well satisfied to make the best of them. We encountered no adventures of any kind, & saw nothing uncommon, except the light Horse of Delaware, & Maryland, who insisted upon attending us through their states, all the Inhabitants of Baltimore who came out to see & be seen, & to Welcome My Dear Grandpapa—some in carriages, some on Horseback, the others on foot. The Gentlemen of George Town also attended us to the River, & four of them rowed us over in a barge” (ViMtvL).
2. On 17 Mar., two days after arriving at Mount Vernon, GW wrote out this receipt for John Nuttel to sign: “Then received from George Washington the sum of thirty five dollars in full for wages from the 4th instant; for my passage in the stage to Philadelphia; for my expences on the Road from Alexandria to that place; and as an acknowledgment of his careful driving on the Road” (PWacD).