George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 18 April 1791]

Monday 18th. Set out by Six oclock—dined at a small house kept by one Slaughter 22 Miles from Hallifax and lodged at Tarborough 14 Miles further.

This place is less than Hallifax, but more lively and thriving; it is situated on Tar River which goes into Pamplico Sound and is crossed at the Town by means of a bridge a great height from the Water and notwithstanding the freshes rise sometimes nearly to the arch. Corn, Porke and some Tar are the exports from it. We were recd. at this place by as good a salute as could be given with one piece of artillery.

Slaughter’s tavern was probably operated by James Slaughter (died c.1799) of Halifax County, who was listed in the 1790 census as head of a household of 12 whites and 20 slaves (HEADS OF FAMILIES, N.C. description begins Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: North Carolina. 1908. Reprint. Baltimore, 1966. description ends , 64).

Tarboro, N.C., seat of Edgecombe County, was settled in 1732 and officially established in 1760. The town gave GW a somewhat feeble welcome, undoubtedly because the citizens learned only at eight o’clock the previous evening that GW might pass through Tarboro, and even then it was not clear when he would arrive, if at all (Thomas Blount to Samuel Simpson, 17 April 1791, BLOUNT description begins Alice Barnwell Keith et al., eds. The John Gray Blount Papers. 4 vols. Raleigh, N.C., 1952–82. description ends , 2:168–69).

The Tar River becomes the Pamlico River lower down and flows into Pamlico Sound. Floods on the river had previously carried away several wooden bridges at Tarboro, despite their considerable height and width for the times (SMYTH description begins J. F. D. Smyth. A Tour in the United States of America: containing An Account of the Present Situation of that Country; The Population, Agriculture, Commerce, Customs, and Manners of the Inhabitants; Anecdotes of several Members of the Congress, and General Officers in the American Army; and Many other very singular and interesting Occurrences . . .. 2 vols. London, 1784. description ends , 1:101).

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