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State of New York State History

Lafayette in New York: The Third of Four Trips

Lafayette and Oneida at Valley Forge: Peter Agwrongdougwas, “Good Peter,” (1717–1793), Chief of the Oneida Indians by John Trumbull. (Yale University Art Gallery)

The third of Lafayette’s trips into New York differed from his first two trips. In those, New York City had served as his base: first along the Boston Post Road to New England and second up the Hudson River to Albany/Troy. The third occurred after he undertook a long junket across the United States. He headed south to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

From October 12, 1824, to February 22, 1825, Lafayette used the nation’s capital as his base. He interspersed his stay there with forays into Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Yes, he did visit the Yorktown Battlefield. From November 6 to 19, 1824, his stayed at Monticello and then Montpelier. He saw Thomas Jefferson approximately 20 months before he died and then stayed with James Monroe, the current President who had extended an invitation to visit the United States in the first place. He was an eyewitness to the tumultuous presidential election of 1824, another pending bicentennial which we might not only commemorate but relive in 2024-2025. Lafayette ended his capital visit with a ball on February 22, 1825, in honor of George Washington.

Next he took the grand tour or great circle route in the United States as it existed then. He traveled through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina (a lot of time in Charleston), Georgia (Savannah), Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, steamboat to Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky (multiple times), Tennessee, Ohio, West Virginia (still part of Virginia), and Pennsylvania. That brought him to the borders of New York. He then crossed the state to Massachusetts following the Erie Canal and Routes 5 and 20 (I guess).

This portion of his travels connected him with a great deal of history. He was in the area to be painted by the Hudson River School. He saw much of the nearly completed Erie Canal which would open November 4, 1825, with the Wedding of the Waters He reconnected with the Oneida who like France had been an ally of the United States in the American Revolution. He was traveling through what became the Burned-over District that was becoming the hotspot for social, cultural, and religious activities.

And he was like Johnny Appleseed. Instead of planting seeds he planted communities named after him and which continue to exist to this very day.

This leg of Lafayette’s journey intersects with a wide range of topics in New York State history. There is more to remembering his trip than simply placing a plaque. Consider some of the other anniversaries also occurring at this time:

2024 Centennial of the New York State Office of Parks and Historic Preservation
2024 Centennial of the Indian Citizenship Act
2025 Bicentennial of the Erie Canal with construction already underway
2026 Semiquincentennial of the American Revolution.

So the Lafayette Bicentennial to places like West Point and Oriskany will be prior to the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution events there. Devin Lander, the New York State historian has agreed that Lafayette-related events can be included the Semiquincentennial website hosted by the New York State Museum.

His trip also demonstrates the need for some coordination in the planning of events. We do not want history organizations tripping over themselves in trying to cope with commemorating all the events 100, 200, and 250 years ago. Circumstances are difficult now due to COVID. On the other hand we are all familiar with virtual conferences. Here is where New York State suffers from the absence of a state historical association that could take a leadership position in coordinating the state commemoration of these anniversaries.

PS From time to time I check on the status of the legislation authorizing the commission for the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution. The clock is ticking and the end of the year was fast approaching with still no signing. Then on December 26, 2021, I checked the State Senate website. Lo and behold! On December 22, 2021, Governor Hochul had signed into law “New York State 250th Commemoration act”. So at some point soon, one hopes the members of the Commission will be named and we can start advocating for funding for it.

1825    June 4  Portland          NY      No specific info
1825    June 4  Fredonia          NY      Abell’s Hotel
1825    June 4  Dunkirk           NY      Riverfront
1825    June 4  Buffalo           NY      Eagle Tavern
1825    June 5  Niagara Falls   NY      Goat Island
1825    June 6  Youngstown   NY      Old Fort Niagara
1825    June 6  Lockport         NY      Locks
1825    June 6  Albion             NY      Erie Canal
1825    June 7 Rochester       NY       Colonel Hoard’s & Christopher’s Mansion House
1825    June 7  Mendon           NY     The Hotel
1825    June 7-8                       NY      Canandaigua John Grieg’s Mansion
1825    June 8  Geneva            NY      Franklin Hotel
1825    June 8  Auburn            NY     Hudson’s Hotel / Brown’s Assemblyroom
1825    June 9  Skaneateles     NY     Hall’s Hotel
1825    June 9  Marcellus         NY
1825    June 9  Onondaga       NY      Onondaga Courthouse
1825    June 9  Syracuse          NY      Williston’s Mansion House
1825   June 9  Rome                NY      The Arsenal, Simonson’s House & Starr’s Hotel
1825    June 10 Oriskany        NY      Colonel Gerrit Lansing’s House & Judge Platt’s House
1825    June 10 Utica              NY      Shepard’s Hotel
1825    June 11 Little Falls      NY      By the Canal
1825    June 11 Schenectady  NY      Union Street landing / Givens’ Hotel
1825    June 12 Albany           NY      Cruttenden’s Hotel
1825    June 13 New Lebanon            NY      Kerr and Hull’s Columbia Hall

2 thoughts on “Lafayette in New York: The Third of Four Trips

  1. Hi Peter,

    Great read. thx. A couple of questions for you when you get the time:

    – what is meant by the term “Burned Over District”
    – what “Hudson River School” artists do you refer to? The only artist named in the story was Trumbull, and I believe he proceeded that era.
    – the painting of Good Peter is dated 1792, which coincides with Lafayette’s visit to Philadelphia, where the Chief :was an eloquent advocate for his people’s land rights.”
    ie: ” Oneida Chief Peter Agwrongdougwas, or “Good Peter,” whom John Trumbull described as a “Great Orator as well as warrior,” acted as one of the Six Nations spokesmen during their 1792 visit to Philadelphia, where he was an eloquent advocate for his people’s land rights.”

    I don’t know if he succeeded at all. Nothing much changed that I know of.

    Lastly, the itinerary of Lafayette’s NY visit is curious. I know his return to America included stops in Newburgh, Fishkill (where he spent 2 months recuperating from an illness he contracted on his way to Boston to sail home to visit his King back in France, almost dying there of it, and writing to a reply to an earlier letter he had received from Daniel Morgan, my rifleman hero, describing his being sick) and Poughkeepsie. There is no mention of any of those stops in this listing. Can you explain that ?

    (PS here: no new date for the Nimham statue dedication, but I was again told I would be notified. The Town of Fishkill did put my Nimham video talk on ther town website if you’re interested in viewing it; 45 minutes long).)

    Interesting side story here: On that tour of America, he also visited Mt Vernon, to pay a visit to his “adopted Father’s” gravesite. The coffin was still in the original modest family vault on the property behind the mansion. He berated Washington’s stepson at that time for never honoring his step father’s plans for a more substantial burial vault that he had envisioned and drawn plans for. The Marquis had been shown those plans by Washington himself during their times together in the War, so he asked the step son “why hasn’t it been built yet ?” That question was the reason it exists today ! The kid didn’t want to spend the $$$ I guess, and Lafayette may have been one of the only people who knew of the plans in the first place. As a result, the son did get it done, finally, as the present structure represents what had been envisioned by Washington over 25 years earlier. Look at the date it was constructed and it will be after the Lafayette Tour.

    Again: why no Poughkeepsie/Newburgh mention on that itinerary. There was only one tour route yes ?

    Best wishes for a Happy New Year……….

    Bob U.

    1. 1. The “burned over district” refers to the area around Rochester in the 1820s which was inflamed with social, cultural, and religious movements in what was the new frontier opened up by the Erie Canal.
      2. The Hudson River artist is Tom Cole who visited Fort Putnam and painted it the year after Lafayette visited in 1824 and the same year Lafayette visited West Point in 1825. I hadn’t realized the connection before but I think the painting should be interpreted in light of Lafayette’s visit.
      3. Newburgh was mentioned on his second trip. He stopped there after he was at West Point on September 15, 1824. Poughkeepsie is listed too.
      4. Is it possible you are confusing his return to France in the Revolution with his return in 1825?

      Happy New Year to you as well,

      Peter

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