Lafayette’s Visit: Eyewitness to History

September is the birthday month of the Marquis de Lafayette, the French hero of the American Revolution who in 1780 brought news to General Washington in Morristown that the French fleet was sailing to help the colonists.

Forty-five years later on Bastille Day, July 14, 1825, Lafayette returned to Morristown escorted by the Morris cavalry. His visit was part of a six thousand mile grand tour of all the twenty-four states by invitation of President Monroe.

Following a welcoming ceremony on Morristown’s Green, Lafayette visited the home of Charles Ogden across the way on the corner of Market Street. Later he attended a sumptuous “men only” banquet given to him in the upstairs room of the Sansay House on DeHart Street. Afterwards, back at the Ogden House, he was introduced to the ladies of Morristown. He spent the night at the home of James Woods on South Street leaving for Philadelphia the next day.

Family history suggests that Louisa Macculloch (1785-1863) and her daughter, Mary Louisa (1804-1888) were on the decorating committee for the reception. Years later, Mary’s son, Jack, wrote of this occasion, “A young lawyer named J.W. Miller pranced around outside as Quartermaster General of the militia while the girl [Mary Louisa] he was to marry laughed at his antics during the preparation of the supper for the distinguished guests at Sansay’s House…The house had been tastefully decorated by the beautiful Caroline Campfield, Mary McCulloch and others.”

The next day, Mary Louisa wrote to her brother, Francis, in Salem, N.J., describing the day’s events. Her letter is one of many hundreds of family letters in the archives of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum that provides an eyewitness account of this historic occasion, “I should have answered your letter several days ago had I not been occupied in making preparation for la Fayette’s visit to our humble village. He arrived last evening about six o’clock, alighted at Charles Ogden’s house, which we had decorated for his reception, was received on a platform…by the military and the community, and after remaining in the house for a few moments, came out and listened to a very long address from Dr. Condict, by which he returned a short answer, shook hands with the revolutionary heroes, and was saluted by all the troops. After these ceremonies were over, he walked to Sansay’s room where a very handsome supper was provided. The room was tastefully decorated with flowers and evergreens, and really did credit to our taste. After dinner, he returned again to Ogden’s where the ladies and a crowd of women went to shake a paw with him. He slept at James Woods, and left town early this morning on his way to Newark. Sally [Woods] I understand covered his bed with flowers and will, I suspect, take possession of his sheets for the remainder of her life.”