You’ve heard the stories and seen the signs: “George Washington Slept Here.” Did Washington sleep here?
An account by W. W. Barnwell in his Historical Highlights of Waynesboro and Vicinity, states that: “It has also come down from some obscure source that George Washington stopped at the tavern for dinner, overnight and breakfast. Washington’s journal is said to have noted, ‘Stopped with Major Tees at Teesville. The food was the sorriest I have ever encountered although the bed was good.'” Charles Tees (Teas is an alternate spelling) was an aide-de-camp for Washington.
Teesville was the name of the area we now call Waynesboro. Joseph Tees, an original landowner in this area died and left property to his sons Charles and William. William and his wife Mary built a cabin near South River. When William died in 1777, Mary, his widow, in order to support herself and their daughter, Jane, took travelers into their home. She obtained a license to run “an Ordinary” in 1780.
In 1782, Marquis de Chastellux, a French Major-General and friend of George Washington, along with three of his fellow officers left Monticello, passed through Rockfish Gap and arrived at South River in the early evening of April 17. As no bridge existed at the time, they would have followed the path to the ford, a shallow part, to cross the river to the tavern. Mrs. Tees’ establishment was several hundred yards from the river and this ford is where the present day Main Street Bridge was built.
Thomas Jefferson, who obviously had never stayed at Widow Tees Tavern, recommended the accommodations. All was not pleasant for the Marquis and the officers, for he stated: “It was one of the worst in all America. Mrs. Tees, a widow, appears also to be in fact a widow of furniture. A solitary tin vessel was the only bowl for the family, the servants and ourselves. I dare not say for what other use it was proposed to us on our going to bed. As we were four masters… the hostess and the family were obliged to resign to us their beds. We replaced the bed sheets with others we had brought. It may be imagined that we were not tempted to breakfast in this house.”
Widow Tees continued to operate her inn until 1790 when she sold her home and property to her daughter and son-in-law, Jane and Samuel Estill. They sectioned off part of the property into 83 lots, with streets and alleys, and named the town after their hero, General Anthony Wayne.
Did George Washington sleep in Waynesboro? Maybe.
Courtesy of the Waynesboro Historic Commission and the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation