George Washington was the first president of the newly freed 13 colonies of United States. Washington’s life is filled with legendary and epic accomplishments. He was known for his prestige mannerisms and politic genius. Born on February 22, 1732, in Wakefield County (a colony in Virginia) to Augustine and Mary Bell Washington. Today we will honor our First President’s birthday by discussing his grandiose Southern Tour and his famous stop at the Gause family home in Ocean Isle Beach.
From the very beginning, Washington was never a man to stand still at any moment of his life. The East Coast is littered with historical markers due to his vast traveling. Even Brunswick County had a small encounter with Washington during his Southern Tour of 1791. But who or what brought him to a small coastal town on the border of North and South Carolina?
George was known as “the man of the people”, and loved to make public appearances. Washington wished to express his gratitude for the support he had received from the colonies during the Revolution War and his unanimous win to be the First President of the United States. He is the only President to win the election unanimously twice! Plus he wanted to build the new nation’s strength in unity, and build confidence with the people of the newly founded government. So he decided it was best for him to travel to all 13 colonies.
First, he would visit New England and the middle states from October 15th to November 13, 1789. After a small winter break at the short-lived capital Philadelphia, he then started his Southern tour in March of 1791. This tour was partly delayed due to NC had not yet ratified the US Constitution. North Carolina became part of the United States, on November 13, 1790.
Washington was very intrigued to visit North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. He had never visited these three states before. Along the way he visited many established cities; Mt. Veron VA, Fredericksburg VA, Richmond VA, Petersburg VA, Charlotte NC, Halifax NC, Greenville NC, New Bern NC, Salisbury NC, Salem NC, Wilmington NC, Camden SC, Charleston SC, Columbia SC, Georgetown SC, Augusta GA, Savannah GA. This was over a 1200 mile round trip.
Washington reached Wilmington NC on April 23, 1791. The first president was greeted by a parade of decorated ships, and finely dressed southern belles that filled the balconies of Front St. While he was staying in Wilmington there were many speeches and ceremonies held in his honor. He left on April 26th and began his journey to Charleston SC. Along the way, on April 27 he made a small pit stop to the William Gause Jr plantation.
William Gause Jr had met Washington during the Revolutionary War. They were very good acquaintances, and often exchanged letters. William was a Revolutionary war hero himself and unfortunately lost his leg for the cause. Washington traveled 14 miles out his way to visit his friend.
The Gause family were known for their rice plantations by using the Bald Cypress swamps that surrounded their manor. The family also played a huge part in the turpentine industry. Turpentine, tar, and pitch were key to shipbuilding in the 18th century. Our little Brunswick County was the shipbuilding mecca for the 13 colonies and exported their turpentine surplus to around the world. They had bled pine tree forests dry to produce tar, pitch, and turpentine. The turpentine industry was so large in the 1700s that it almost cause the extinction of Longleaf Pine trees in NC.
If you ever take our Swamp Eco Boat tour we do discuss the Gause’s family history, Washington’s visit, and impact to the surrounding area. Unfortunately, the family has no living relatives, and the manor no longer exist. There is a popular belief that the manor had burned down, but no one is exactly sure as to what happened to the home. However, there is a small tomb for John Julius Gause Jr. (the nephew of William Gause Jr.) located off NC 179. The family’s tomb had suffered many years of abuse by vandals and has been recently restored in 2015. Washington’s small visit helped put the spotlight on Ocean Isle for a brief moment in history.
Please check out our sources below for further information from the experts. If you have comments, questions or concerns then leave them on our Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, or TripAdvisor pages, and we’ll answer! Come back in March as we discuss who will be returning to the swamp this spring.
(n.d.). Retrieved from http://markers.ncdcr.gov/markers.aspx?markerId=D-70
Bingham, W. L. (2016). George Washingtons 1791 Southern Tour.
George Washington’s 1791 Southern Tour. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/the-first-president/george-washingtons-1791-southern-tour/
Image 1 of George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence: George Washington, March 10, 1791, Itinerary for Tour of Southern States. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw4.100_0421_0422/?sp=1
Leonard, T., & Leonard, T. (2014, June 19). NC provided turpentine to the world. Retrieved from https://www.newsobserver.com/living/liv-columns-blogs/past-times/article10335020.html
Naval Stores. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncpedia.org/naval-stores
Our History. (2017, June 28). Retrieved from https://bricklandingcc.com/our-history/
Rsf. (1970, January 01). Caswell County Historical Association. Retrieved from http://ncccha.blogspot.com/2007/03/dudley-gatewood-house.html
StarNews, D. B., & Correspondent, D. B. (2016, October 19). Search is on for Brunswick grave of Revolutionary War vet. Retrieved from https://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20161023/search-is-on-for-brunswick-grave-of-revolutionary-war-vet
Website design and web development by Mango Web Design http://mangowebdesign.com. (n.d.). Naval Stores. Retrieved from https://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/naval-stores/