Today in class we found an excerpt from the book called The Biography of a Town by one of our town’s historians, Robert Hayden Alcorn. This book gives us a history of Suffield, Connecticut from 1670-1970. Towards the beginning of the book on page 80 there is a page that mentions George Washington’s two visits. He came to Suffield in 1775 and 1789. On both occasions, he traveled up from Windsor and continued on to Springfield, MA. In 1775, we learned that he addressed Suffield’s residents across from the Austin tavern and under the town’s two sentinel elms. In this image of an excerpt from Alcorn’s history,
we also found another letter (primary source) regarding Mary Austin (Seth Austin’s wife) who wrote to Washington in 1789 about the Austin Tavern receiving counterfeit money from a man named Jonas Mace, who apparently made a very good career by counterfeiting money. She wrote to Washington asking for help to see if he could save them. She writes: “Necessity is my only apology for addressing a Gentleman of your dignified Merit—Having no alternative; you will excuse me…” In this letter she said her household and tavern had about twenty people living there, and they were very low on money and in much distress. I believe that these twenty people must have included the five slaves that my classmate discovered on the 1790s census. This fact rings true with how we learned that ministers and tavern owners owned slaves throughout the Connecticut River Valley.
The webpage Founder Online, published by the National Archives, supports our claim that George Washington had lunch at the Austin Tavern in 1775 when he was passing through on his way to take control of the Continental Army in Cambridge. This letter that Mary writes was written after the war.