Washington's Southern Tour (D-70) historical marker

Washington's Southern Tour (D-70)

President Washington, on April 27, 1791, was a guest at the home of William Gause, Jr., which stood four miles south.

Location: US 17 at SR 1184 (Ocean Isle Beach Road) southwest of Shallotte
County: Brunswick
Original Date Cast: 1965

George Washington, Revolutionary War hero elected as the first president of the United States in February 1789, is one of the most celebrated figures in American history. For more than two centuries, the story of his eventful life has been marked by both truth and legend. The concept of the presidency was new, and Washington was fully aware that his decisions would set precedents. He resolved to tour the United States to observe political climate and culture, to thank his supporters, and to instill a sense of unity in the new country. As such, his tour and stops along the way became important landmarks in the areas he touched. Washington’s stature in history is almost mythical, and has given rise to the popular claim—in well-known towns and obscure hamlets along the Eastern Seaboard—that “George Washington Slept Here.” The claims are not surprising, however, as Washington saw more of his country while in office than any other American president before the twentieth century. He also kept a detailed diary chronicling his travels.

While on tour, he sought differing viewpoints and wanted to see and be seen by as many people as possible. Soon after taking office, he planned and undertook a successful 28-day tour of New England.In early 1791, after establishing a site for the new “Federal District” along the Potomac River, Washington embarked on a tour of the Southern states—a product of his desire to visit every state during his term of office. Proceeding from Mount Vernon via Fredericksburg and Richmond (Virginia) into North Carolina, Washington crossed the Roanoke River into Halifax in mid-April 1791. From there, the President’s carriage tour took him through Tarboro, Greenville, New Bern, Trenton, and Wilmington before entering South Carolina. Washington re-entered North Carolina near Charlotte and traveled northward, visiting Salisbury, Salem, and Guilford Court House.

After spending two nights in Wilmington, Washington made his way toward the South Carolina line in Brunswick County. On April 27, he was a breakfast guest in the home of William Gause Jr., about ten miles from the state line. The Gause house was located near Gause’s Landing on the west and sound side of Shallotte Inlet. Gause was a war veteran, having lost a leg in the Revolution, and had served in the North Carolina House of Commons in 1778. By 1790, Gause’s father had a large family and 37 slaves.

Coming back up from Savannah, Georgia, through South Carolina, the second leg of Washington’s tour through North Carolina took him from Charlotte through Salisbury, Salem, and Guilford Courthouse—the latter being the site of the climactic Revolutionary War battle between the forces of Cornwallis and Greene, ten years earlier.

William G. Clotworthy, In the Footsteps of George Washington (2002)
Archibald Henderson, Washington’s Southern Tour, 1791 (1923)
Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds., The Diaries of George Washington

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