Hoag Library’s latest find: letter from George Washington

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 April 2019 at 8:13 am

Hoag Library posted this copy of the letter written in May 1784 from George Washington to Jacob Morris, who delivered a package for the general to Marquis de Lafayette, a French military officer who fought with Washington in the American Revolutionary War.

ALBION – Hoag Library continues to sift through historical files, finding treasures. On Tuesday, local history librarian Dee Robinson found a letter from George Washington.

It was written in May 1784, about five years before he started serving as the first president of the United States. The letter from Washington was written to Jacob Morris, thanking him for taking care of a gift package sent to Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War. He led American troops in several battles, including Yorktown.

The letter acknowledges correspondence from Morris in regard to the package of Lafayette, and Washington offers to pay the cost of the delivery, and also extends his compliments to Mrs. Morris. Jacob Morris was the son of Lewis Morris, who signed the Declaration of Independence.

The Journal-Register in Medina on April 19, 1967 wrote about the letter from Washington, which was being put on display briefly at Swan Library. The Journal-Register reported then that a family in Westchester County owned the letter for about 90 years. Thomas Bell then owned it and presented it to Noah Davis, a justice for the State Supreme Court who was from Albion. (Davis was the judge in the trial that brought down New York City Tammany Hall ringmaster William M. “Boss” Tweed. Judge Davis presided over Tweed’s trials on charges of conspiracy, perjury and larceny.)

After his death, Davis’s wife sent the letter to Emma Swan, the founder of the library with her husband William. Mrs. Swan gave the letter to the library. According the JR article, the letter’s authenticity was established by the Historical Society of New York City and by the Astor Library.

The article from 1967 reports the Washington letter is ordinarily kept in bank vault and only seen by a few people.

Robinson last month was searching through library files and found a 1903 letter from Susan B. Anthony, written to the then Swan Library. (The new Hoag Library opened in July 2012.) Anthony, the women’s rights activist, was a pivotal leader for women’s suffrage. She wrote to the library to encourage Swan to buy four volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage and also two volumes about the Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony.

The library has been in the news recently for a public discussion about what to do with a Civil War flag for a Colored Troops regiment. That flag had largely been kept out of public view for a century. The flag is deteriorating. The library’s board voted on March 13 to have the flag sold through an auctioneer in Dallas, Texas. The flag hasn’t been sent away yet and will stay with the library through at least April. It has been brought out for Civil War programs this month.

Public domain: This painting from 1906 by John Ward Dunmore shows George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette during winter at Valley Forge.

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