George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 30 May 1791]

Monday 30th. At 4 Oclock I was out from Major Fifers; and in about 10 Miles at the line which divides. Mecklenburgh from Rowan Counties, I met a party of horse belonging to the latter, who came from Salisbury to escort me on. (It ought to have been mentioned also that upon my entering the State of No. Carolina, I was met by a Party of the Mecklenburgh horse—but these being Near their homes I dismissed them). I was also met 5 Miles from Salisbury by the Mayor of the Corporation, Judge McKoy, & many others; Mr. Steel, Representative for the district, was so polite as to come all the way to Charlotte to meet me. We arrived at Salisbury about 8 Oclock, to breakfast, 20 miles from Captn. Fifers. The lands between Charlotte & Salisbury are very fine, of a reddish cast and well timbered, with but very little under wood. Between these two places are the first meadows I have seen on the Road since I left Virga.; & here also, we appear to be getting into a Wheat Country.

This day I foundered another of my horses.

Dined at a public dinner givn. by the Citizens of Salisbury; & in the afternoon drank Tea at the same place with about 20 ladies, who had been assembled for the occasion.

Salisbury is but a small place altho’ it is the County town, and the district Court is held in it; nor does it appear to be much on the encrease. There is about three hundred Souls in it and tradesmen of different kinds.

The Rowan County Troop of Horse was commanded by Capt. Montfort Stokes (1762–1842), a revolutionary veteran who later became a United States senator and governor of North Carolina. The mayor of Salisbury, Spruce Macay (McCay, McCoy, McKay, McKoy), was appointed a judge for the frontier counties of Washington and Sullivan in 1782 and in Dec. 1790 became a judge of the state superior court, a position that he retained until his death in 1808 (N.C. STATE REC. description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends , 16:175, 21:854). John Steele (1764–1815) of Salisbury served in the United States Congress 1789–93 and was appointed comptroller of the United States Treasury by GW in 1796. All three men were prosperous planters and slaveholders. In 1790 Stokes had 15 slaves, Macay 19, and Steele 16 (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 , 176).

As GW entered Salisbury today, he “was saluted by about forty boys in uniform, who had chosen officers, and arranged themselves for that purpose,” and on arriving at his lodgings, he received a salute from the local artillery company. Breakfast is said to have been at Capt. Edward Yarborough’s tavern on Main Street, and the public dinner and the tea at Joseph Hughes’s Hotel (HENDERSON description begins Archibald Henderson. Washington’s Southern Tour, 1791. Boston and New York, 1923. description ends , 298–99, 302, 305–6; RUMPLE description begins Jethro Rumple. A History of Rowan County, North Carolina, Containing Sketches of Prominent Families and Distinguished Men, with an Appendix. 1881. Reprint. Salisbury, N.C., [1929]. description ends , 178–81). The dinner concluded with the customary patriotic toasts accompanied by the firing of cannon (State Gaz. of N.C. [Edenton], 10 June 1791; HENDERSON description begins Archibald Henderson. Washington’s Southern Tour, 1791. Boston and New York, 1923. description ends , 303–4). An address from the inhabitants of Salisbury was presented to GW apparently during the morning. It and a copy of GW’s reply are in DLC:GW.

GW’s impressions of Salisbury are confirmed by William Loughton Smith’s remarks about the town in his journal. Salisbury, observed Smith who stopped there 6 May 1791, “consists of about forty or fifty straggling houses in an open pretty plain; it looks like a poor place and has but little business. The Court House is not half finished: the town contains about 300 inhabitants among them a great number of children” (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).

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