George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 30 April 1791]

Saturday 30th. Crossed the Waggamaw to George town by descending the River three miles. At this place we were recd. under a Salute of Cannon, & by a Company of Infantry handsomely uniformed. I dined with the Citizens in public; and in the afternoon, was introduced to upwards of 50 ladies who had assembled (at a Tea party) on the occasion.

George Town seems to be in the shade of Charleston. It suffered during the war by the British, havg. had many of its Houses burnt. It is situated on a pininsula betwn. the River Waccamaw & Sampton Creek about 15 Miles from the Sea. A bar is to be passed, over which not more than 12 feet water can be brot. except at spring tides; which (tho’ the Inhabitants are willing to entertain different ideas) must ever be a considerable let to its importance; especially if the cut between the Santee & Cowper Rivers should ever be accomplished.

The Inhabitants of this place (either unwilling or unable) could give no account of the number of Souls in it, but I should not compute them at more than 5 or 600—Its chief export Rice.

GW was rowed to Georgetown “by seven captains of vessels, dressed in round hats trimmed with gold lace, blue coats, white jackets, &c. in an elegant painted boat. On his arriving opposite the market he was saluted by the artillery, with fifteen guns, from the foot of Broad-street; and on his landing he was received by the light-infantry company with presented arms, who immediately after he passed, fired thirteen rounds” (Md. Journal [Baltimore], 17 May 1791). A committee of seven gentlemen escorted GW to his lodgings, said to be Benjamin Allston’s house on Front Street, and at 2:00 P.M. they presented GW with an address from the inhabitants of Georgetown and its vicinity. Immediately afterwards he received another address from the Masonic brethren of Prince George’s Lodge No. 16. Both addresses and copies of GW’s replies are in DLC:GW.

At the public dinner, which began at 4:00 P.M., GW sat in a chair that “was beautifully ornamented with an arch composed of laurel in full bloom.” A similarly decorated chair awaited him in the festooned assembly room where the tea party was held following the dinner, but GW “declined the formality of being placed in a manner unsocial.” Instead of sitting in the chair after being introduced to the ladies, he “seated and entertained several of them” there “in succession.” The dress of the ladies on this occasion was conspicuously patriotic. “There appeared,” said a newspaper account, “sashes highly beautified with the arms of the United States, and many of the ladies wore head-dresses ornamented with bandeaus, upon which were written, in letters of gold, either ‘Long life to the President,’ or ‘Welcome to the hero’” (Md. Journal [Baltimore], 31 May 1791). A ball apparently followed the tea party.

Georgetown, established 1735, lies at the head of Winyah Bay where the Waccamaw, Pee Dee, and Sampit rivers converge. A detachment of British soldiers occupied the town from July 1780 to May 1781, but the burning resulted from internecine warfare between Patriot and Loyalist partisans after the British departure: on 25 July 1781 Thomas Sumter sent some of his South Carolina State Troops to plunder the property of Loyalists in the Georgetown area, and a few days later a Loyalist privateer retaliated by attacking and burning the town (BASS [2] description begins Robert D. Bass. Gamecock: The Life and Campaigns of General Thomas Sumter. New York, 1961. description ends , 202–3; Nathanael Greene to Continental Congress, 25 Aug. 1781, DNA:PCC, Item 155).

The Santee River, which enters the Atlantic a short distance south of Georgetown, is fed by several large branches extending far into the Carolina piedmont, but its usefulness as a trade route from that rapidly developing region was limited by lack of a good harbor at its mouth. As early as 1770 a proposal was made to build a canal linking the Santee, about 100 miles above its mouth, with the headwaters of the Cooper River, which flows into Charleston harbor, and in Mar. 1786 the South Carolina General Assembly chartered a company to build such a canal. Construction, however, did not begin until 1793, and work was not completed until 1800 (SAVAGE description begins Henry Savage, Jr. River of the Carolinas: The Santee. 1956. Reprint. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1968. description ends , 240–53; PORCHER description begins Frederick A. Porcher. The History of the Santee Canal. 1875. Reprint. Moncks Corner, S.C., 1950. description ends ).

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