Monday, November 5, 2012

5 November 1789, George Washington Dined Here!

The Munroe Tavern, Lexington, Massachusetts

President George Washington decided to visit every state in the union in 1789.  He started his tour in New England, and one of his stops was in Lexington to see where the first shots of the American Revolution flew on the town green.   During his visit in Lexington he stopped for dinner at the Munroe Tavern.  My Munroe ancestor, Major Andrew Munroe (1764 - 1836) served in the Revolution, but was too young to have participated in the Lexington battle.   His second cousin, William Munroe (1742 – 1827), lived at the tavern, and was the sergeant of the Lexington militia.  As sergeant, he was assigned to guard John Hancock and Sam Adams before the battle, and stood next to Captain Parker on the Green when the British arrived.

                When George Washington arrived in town, William Munroe and his daughters entertained him in an upstairs room of the tavern.  When I was a little girl, we would visit the tavern and see all the relics displayed from that visit.  The table was set with the china used that day, and Washington’s cup was under glass.  Even the petticoats the daughters had worn that afternoon were displayed with tender care.  Some of the details told at the museum in those days may be fiction based on a letter written in 1879 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the event.  It doesn’t matter now, because the Munroe Tavern has been “re-branded” to become a museum telling the story of the British Regulars during the battle, and the Munroe family history has been put into permanent storage.

According to the letter, the children of the family were climbing trees to peek at the President dining upstairs.  One of the younger children had to be rescued from a tree by President Washington’s black servant.  Later evidence showed that these stories were probably true, but others were false, such as who dropped by during dinner, and names of townspeople he greeted on the Green.  George Washington may not have “slept here”, but he did leave a bunch of great stories behind in the Munroe family.

                The grandson of William Munroe, James Phinney  Munroe, was a recent MIT graduate in 1889 when he made up the fictional letter since he couldn’t find any actual family letters describing Washington’s visit to the Munroe Tavern.  He later sent many corrections to the Boston newspapers that published his fictional letters, but the myth lived on.  He later wrote a Munroe genealogy, and included his corrections to the story in his book A Sketch of the Munro Clan: Also of William Munro Who Deported from Scotland, Settled in Lexington, Massachusetts and some of his Posterity, 1900.  I married an MIT grad, and was surprised to see that J. P. Munroe also wrote the well known history of the Institute, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1902.

                The details of what happened during Washington’s dinner at the Munroe tavern may be lost to time,  It is still fun to know that on 5 November 1789, two hundred twenty three years ago today, the President of the United States was in my distant cousin’s house, and the children of the family were sneaking peeks at what was going on.  Since my Munroe ancestors still lived in town, near the tavern, maybe even one of my ancestors was doing a little peeking, too!
An article by the Lexington Historical Society about Washington’s visit to Lexington:

The Munroe Tavern website

William Munroe at Wikipedia

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. What an exciting and fascinating piece of your family's history!

  2. This is my family too... our line with the name ends with Lucy Munro marrying Joseph Waterman (Their daughter Ruth married into the Mayflower Bartlett line)