Travel wasn’t fast or fancy in the 1830’s. A superb horseman and military man, Andrew Jackson made his way from Washington, D.C. to his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. It was July 1832 and Jackson was in his fourth year of his first term as President. The election for 1832 was in full swing. During that era, presidential candidates did not campaign; it was left to the party leaders to promote the candidate.
We don’t know if Jackson was traveling alone that July as presidents did not require security around them. But what was known was that as a Democrat, Jackson did not have many fans in Staunton. Although Staunton was the more convenient route from D.C. to TN and probably had better accommodations, Jackson preferred Waynesboro and went out of his way to bypass Staunton. His Republican opponent Henry Clay on the other hand was “lionized” by the people in Staunton.
On Friday, July 27, 1832, President Jackson stayed at Major Wilson’s Inn. It was on the north side of Main Street and east corner of Bruce Alley. The alley is now the passage to and the pedestrian mall. The inn may have opened in 1781 and was the only creditable place for Jackson to stay at the time. Other dignitaries reported to have been guests at Wilson’s at various times from the opening until the sale of the property in 1846 were: the Comte de Rochambeau, who led French forces against the British during the American Revolution; John Sevier, one of the founders and first governor of Tennessee; Sam Houston, president of the Republic of Texas before statehood and a senator after; Betsy Patterson Bonaparte, sister-in-law of the Emperor Napoleon and Claudius Crozet, chief engineer of the Blue Ridge tunnels. Most guests claimed it was a first rate hotel.