George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 28 May 1791]

Saturday 28th. Sett off from Crawfords by 4 Oclock and breakfasting at one Harrisons 18 Miles from it & got into Charlotte, 13 miles further, before 3 oclock. Dined with Genl. Polk and a small party invited by him, at a Table prepared for the purpose.

It was not, until I had got near Barrs that I had quit the Piney & Sandy lands—nor until I had got to Crawfords before the Lands took quite a different complexion. Here they began to assume a very rich look.

Charlotte is a very trifling place, though the Court of Mecklenburg is held in it. There is a School (called a College) in it at which, at times there has been 50 or 60 boys.

GW apparently breakfasted with Isaiah Harrison of Mecklenburg County, N.C., who lived between McAlpine and Sixmile creeks a short distance southeast of present-day Pineville, N.C. In 1790 he was head of a household of seven whites and two slaves (RAY description begins Worth S. Ray. The Mecklenburg Signers and Their Neighbors. Austin, Tex., 1946. description ends , 365, 367, 369, 380–81; HENDERSON description begins Archibald Henderson. Washington’s Southern Tour, 1791. Boston and New York, 1923. description ends , 287, n.2).

Thomas Polk (c.1732–1794) of Mecklenburg County became a justice of the county when it was formed in 1762 and a commissioner and treasurer of Charlotte when it was established six years later. A colonel in the North Carolina line during the War of Independence, he was at Brandywine and Valley Forge but resigned in June 1778 after failing to obtain a desired promotion (Polk to GW, 26 June 1778, DNA: RG 93, Ms. File No. 14498). He was appointed Continental commissary of purchases for the southern army in 1780, and in Feb. 1781 Nathanael Greene designated him brigadier general of militia for the Salisbury, N.C., district. The General Assembly, however, consented to give him only the title of colonel commandant of the district, an action that prompted him to resign in May. Polk lived on a plantation on Sugar Creek near present-day Pineville and in 1790 owned 47 slaves (RAY description begins Worth S. Ray. The Mecklenburg Signers and Their Neighbors. Austin, Tex., 1946. description ends , 358, 369, 380–81, 414).

Charlotte, reported William Loughton Smith who visited there three weeks before GW did, “does not deserve the name of a town, it consists only of a wretched Court House, and a few dwellings falling to decay. There is a good tavern kept by Mason, where, however, I paid the dearest bill on the road” (SMITH [6] description begins Albert Matthews, ed. Journal of William Loughton Smith, 1790–1791. Cambridge, Mass., 1917. Reprint from Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 51 (1917-18):20-88. description ends , 74). There was a school at Charlotte chartered as Queen’s College by the colonial assembly in 1771, and although the charter was subsequently disallowed by the crown, it remained open and was chartered by the state assembly in 1777 as Liberty Hall Academy. By 1780, however, this academy was in “an entire state of decay,” and four years later it was moved to Salisbury, N.C. (LEFLER AND NEWSOME description begins Hugh Talmage Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome. North Carolina: The History of a Southern State. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1954. description ends , 135).

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