President’s Message

Fellow Rotarians,

This week: Our meeting will be at the usual time but at the NECC Tech Center.

Speaker: Eric Lezniak of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats Baseball Team

It’s Presidents Day Weekend or what we used to celebrate as Washington’s Birthday. Did you know that George Washington once visited Haverhill?

Haverhill History Minute:

In October 1789 President George Washington left New York, which was then the nations capital, for a tour of the eastern states. He wanted a first hand look at the country’s growth, its agriculture, and most of all he wanted to meet its inhabitants to gauge their disposition toward the new government. When news of the tour spread the people of Haverhill were eager for the honor of a visit to their prosperous village of about 2,400. Hopes dimmed, however, when a rumor circulated that the President would go directly from Portsmouth to Concord, Mass. without passing through Haverhill.

On Wednesday November 4th townsman Timothy Osgood, riding at utmost speed erased any such disappointment by shouting the news: “Washington is coming, Washington is coming!” Osgood himself heard the President declare Haverhill as the next destination as he departed Exeter. Church bells abruptly broke out and townspeople gathered on the green to prepare for their distinguished visitor.

Harrod’s Tavern also known as the Freemason’s Arm was Haverhill’s foremost place of hospitality. Located on the present site of the PMA Building it was described as a two storied building, low posted and rambling with several small windows, a porch in front and an attached shed for horses and carriages.

It was 2:30 in the afternoon when the Presidential procession arrived at Harrod’s Tavern. A fire was lit in the fireplace and floors were swept while rooms were hastily readied for the President’s lodging. Washington had lunch with local dignitaries and turned down an invitation to stay at the home of Mr. John White, saying that he preferred the public house, expressing that he was “an old soldier, and used to hard fare, and a hard bed.” He rested for a short time before taking a tour of the town, stopping to talk with local merchants and shopkeepers on Merrimack Street before venturing as far up as today’s Washington Square. He is said to have remarked on the enterprise and thrift of the citizens of Haverhill and as he gazed upon the unobstructed view of the Merrimack River he said, “Beautiful, beautiful!” and added “Haverhill is the pleasantest village I have passed through.” Residents who remembered his visit described him as “very tall and straight and remarkably dignified in his looks and manners.”

As Washington was preparing to retire for the evening his hostess, realizing that the room had not been occupied for some time thought that it would be a good idea to have the bed warmed, as it was an unusually cold night. Her young daughter overhearing the suggestion hurried up the stairs and rushed in to the chamber with the warming pan. Upon entering she found herself face to face with the great man himself, relaxing in an easy chair. She was so startled that she barely warmed the bed then stumbled and fell as she was leaving the room. Washington reportedly rose from his chair assisted the girl to her feet and kissed her forehead. Years later as she recalled the episode she said: “I went below and told of it, and for years after, it was my boast and pride.”

As Washington prepared to leave town at sunrise the next morning crossing the river by the ferry at Kent Street, town dignitaries, and most of the nearby population, assembled to witness his departure. He stepped briefly on to the porch of Israel Bartlett as he waited for the ferry's arrival. Bartlett, seizing the moment, invited the President into his parlor. As he was about to accept the offer, General James Brickett, whose home was across Water Street and nearer to the departing ferry, called out to his former Commanding General to come to his home as it was much closer. Washington, immediately sensing the rivalry of the two men politely declined both offers. Bartlett never forgave Brickett.

Also gathered near the ferry-wharf that morning was Bart Pecker a Revolutionary War pensioner whose appetite for grog along with advancing years had caused him to become shabby and disreputable among his fellow townsmen. Pecker, however, had served in Washington’s distinguished Life Guards and now wanted a moment to reunite with his Commander. When he pushed his way through the crowd and loudly addressed the General, Washington turned in recognition, grasped his hand and said “Bart is this you?” He then pressed a gold coin into his palm before hurrying aboard the waiting ferry.

President Washington arrived in New York November 13 nearly one month from his date of departure. His visit to Haverhill preceded whistle stops from other Presidents including Ulysses S. Grant, James K. Polk, Benjamin Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Calvin Coolidge (while Governor) and Harry Truman. No such dates, however, captured the imagination and spirit of its citizens, as did November 4 - 5, 1789.

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Officers & Directors

• President Arthur Veasey

• President Elect Stacey Bruzzese

• Past President Michel van Ravestyn

• Treasurer Bill Kleuber

• Assistant Treasurer Greg DiBurro

• Secretary Dick Sundell

• Sargent At Arms Buddy Baker

• Assistant Sergeant at Arms Greg DiBurro

• Membership Chair Michel van Ravestyn

• Foundation Chair Harry Korslund

• Programs/Speaker Chair Stacey Bruzzese

• Greeter Greg DiBurro

• Assistant Greeter

• Director Melissa Cerasuolo

• Director at Large Greg DiBurro

• Director at Large Greg Stark

• Director at Large Jean Poth

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