Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Pomp, Circumstance, Before Lunch In Geneva

Bookmark and Share

Previous: The Great Central Trail Becomes The State Road

Geneva a generation after Lafayette’s visit. Source: Barber, John W., and Howe, Henry, Historical collections of the state of New York, S. Tuttle, New York 1842, p. 52

General Lafayette rose the morning of Wednesday, June 8, 1825, shortly after sunrise. At 7 o’clock that morning, the French entourage bid John Greig adieu. They climbed aboard their waiting carriage and a military escort led them onto the old Genesee Road (and then the Seneca Turnpike). About ten miles down the road, at Ball’s tavern, they’d meet the committee from Geneva and transfer their precious cargo to them.1

For the good citizens of Geneva, the largest settlement in the Greater Western New York region, Lafayette was a long time coming. A couple of weeks before, the village appointed a committee of eleven upstanding men to invite the Nation’s Guest to visit their fair village. They drafted a letter dated May 28, 1825, for that purpose. Appealing to his sense of nostalgia for the Revolutionary War, they promised, “Our vicinity was the theatre of some very interesting operations, during the Revolutionary war, in which you acted so distinguished a part, with a generosity and disinterestedness which are without a parallel in the annals of the world.”2

They dispatched the letter immediately to Buffalo. Since they weren’t sure where the General was, and if the letter would find him, they sent two men with a second copy of the letter to Rochester. There, they would wait for him. Upon his arrival, they delivered the letter and repeated the citizens of Geneva were most desirous of his honoring them with a visit. Lafayette could not refuse, and word of his acceptance was sent by express to Geneva on June 7th that Lafayette’s party would arrive in Geneva the next day.3

That Lafayette would accept the invitation shouldn’t surprise you for two reasons. First, he rarely said no. Second, the two people sent from Geneva were friends of Lafayette. Major James Rees, a member of the committee, clerked for Robert Morris in Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War. While recovering from his injuries at Brandywine in Philadelphia, Lafayette became good friends with both Morris and Rees. Monsieur Camus accompanied Rees to Rochester. Camus had set up a French language school in Geneva in March of 1825. Among his credentials: a letter of recommendation from Lafayette.4

The Geneva Committee had little time to prepare. They immediately informed the neighboring towns. The Yates County Court, being in session, promptly adjourned. Everyone worked to make sure the General would have an unforgettable experience. Captain Sherman, of Yates County, assembled his company of cavalry. William S. De Zeng offered his barouche for the purpose of conveying the General and his companions. Joining De Zeng and Sherman’s company was a convoy of private citizens on horseback.5

Early on the morning of June 8th, the word came that Lafayette was ready to leave Canandaigua. The reception committee left for Ball’s tavern, seven or eight miles to the west of Geneva on the turnpike. There, from his Canandaigua escort, they received the General, along with his son, George Washington Lafayette, his secretary, André-Nicolas Levasseur, and his friends Monsieur Camus and a Mr. Sion.6

Meanwhile, just outside the village, several military companies stood at the ready. Captain Lemuel W. Ruggles and Captain Means each commanded a company of cavalry. They were joined by three companies of artillery, commanded by Captain Manning, Captain Bartle, and Lieutenant Lum (for Captain Bayly), two companies of riflemen, commanded by Captain Ottley and Captain Van Auken, and Ensign Brizse led a company of light infantry. With them stood officers of neighboring regiments in full uniform as well as a great many civilians.7

The General was spotted at about 10 o’clock.8 A shot rang out to announce his arrival. The waiting companies all fell into line. Led by Captain Richard M. Bayly, Marshal of the day, with assistance from Captain Dox, Lieutenant Stanley, and Mr. Butler, the long parade marched into the village between two lines of private citizens directing them to the Public Square.9

Upon entering the village, Lafayette was greeted “by music from the Banks, the joyous acclamations of the multitude, and the roar of ordnance.” The six elegantly adorned white horses leading his open carriage stopped at the Public Square. The General stepped down and, with his suite and the Geneva committee, walked across the square towards a “splendid arch.”10

Supported by two columns, the arch was “adorned with wreaths and flowers.” On one side it proclaimed, “Welcome Lafayette” and on the other side, “Washington and Lafayette.” The platform and stage were carpeted. The committee had arranged for a sofa to be placed on the stage for the committee and its guests. From the stage, they had a magnificent view of the lake.11

As Lafayette approached the stage, young ladies on either side gently tossed flowers in his direction. They did this while singing an ode composed by the 14-year-old daughter of Doctor Lummis.12 They sang:

“Welcome, Patriot, to the shore
Where none but Freemen tread!
Welcome to the Land once more
Where Freedom’s warriors bled;
Columbia’s sons shall ne’er forget
The brave, illustrious La Fayette!
When wrapt in war a terrific gloom,
Encompass’d round with foes,
You left your country and your home,
To bleed for foreign woes;
Columbia’s sons will ne’er forget
Their Benefactor, La Fayette!”13

All around, the people cheered. From the windows of the houses surrounding the square, women welcomed Lafayette by waiving their handkerchiefs. Closer, but behind the singing ladies, stood a large gathering of men and women, including several Revolutionary War veterans who wore badges to recognize them as such.14

After the General and his party were introduced by Major Rees, Colonel Whiting, formally greeting Lafayette to Geneva, gave the following keynote address:

“General La Fayette:

The Citizens of Geneva are sensible that to you, who have received the homage of a whole people, their tribute of welcome and congratulations can afford nothing of novelty or interest. We however partake, in common with all our countrymen, in the deep feelings of gratitude and love which your invaluable service in the great cause of American Freedom has inspired; and we were anxious to welcome you to this our free and happy country, to acknowledge that we enjoy this smiling land, with all its blessings of Religion and Laws, under Providence, from the wisdom and valor of our Fathers and their generous Allies; and that among those our benefactors to whom our hearts are drawn by the strongest emotions of gratitude, You, Sir, will ever hold a distinguished rank.

It is our happiness that we this morning are permitted to realize the truth of history, by having as our Guest, the man of the present age so justly celebrated for his devotedness to the promotion of the great cause of Civil Freedom in both Hemispheres, and for his sufferings under the proscription of Tyrants, the eternal enemies of Liberty.

We congratulate you that you have in your age witnessed so much of national happiness, resulting from the practical illustration of those liberal principles of government, for the maintenance of which your youthful and disinterested valor was exerted: And our earnest hope is, that your years may by extended until the great maxim of government that ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ are among the ‘unalienable rights’ of man, shall have been recognized and adopted by every civilized people on earth.

In the name of the Magistrates of this Village—in the name of all my Fellow Citizens—I bid you Welcome: And I do not mistake their feeling when I say, that there is not a heart in all this assemblage which does not pray that your latter days may be as happy as you early life has been honorable to yourself, and useful to our country.”

The General responded in kind after which he inspected two brass cannons, both captured during the Revolutionary War, including one from the Battle of Yorktown. After this, he was escorted to the Franklin House where he and 200 others had lunch prepared by Mr. Noyes.15

Before the food was served, Lafayette had an opportunity to meet with Revolutionary War veterans. Once again, as in his other visits, familiar stories were shared, he met with those who served under him, and still others who simply knew him. An eyewitness reported, “The age and venerable appearance of these old soldiers excited the most tender sympathies, and all who witnessed the interview were deeply affected by it.”16

Once he finished his lunch, Lafayette devoted time towards the men, women, and children who went out of their way to see him. Their faces beamed with delight, having had the honor to experience up close the venerable war hero.17

At one o’clock in the afternoon, after a non-stop three-hour tour of joyful Geneva, Lafayette and company boarded De Zeng’s spacious carriage and Captain Ruggles, with his troop of cavalry, several members of the committee, and many citizens on horseback and in carriages, escorted the Nation’s Guest to Waterloo.18

Unbeknownst to those smiling happy faces, a terrible tragedy had just occurred at their next destination.

Next Week: A Final Adieu Through Waterloo/Seneca Falls/East Cayuga/Auburn

1 “La Fayette,” Ontario Repository, Wednesday, June 15, 1825, p. 2
2 “General La Fayette,” Geneva Palladium, Wednesday, June 15, 1825, p. 2
3 Ibid.
4 Sutton, Ernest and Janet Sutton, “Lafayette Trivia: AFL Fall Gazette Geneva,” The Gazette of the American Friends of Lafayette, No. 87, October 2017, p. 74
5 Geneva Palladium, Wednesday, June 15, 1825, p. 2
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 “General La Fayette,” Geneva Palladium, Wednesday, June 8, 1825, p. 2
9 Geneva Palladium, Wednesday, June 15, 1825, p. 2
10 Geneva Palladium, Wednesday, June 8, 1825, p. 2
11 Geneva Palladium, Wednesday, June 15, 1825, p. 2
12 Ibid.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid.
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid.


  1. […] what happens when that deadline is shorter than you think? Read this week’s Carosa Commentary “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Pomp, Circumstance, Before Lunch In Geneva,” to see what the largest settlement at that time could muster with only 24 hours’ […]

Speak Your Mind


You cannot copy content of this page

Skip to content