north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     President George Washington visited North Carolina in 1791 as part of a larger tour of the southern United States to both observe the political climate and culture of the region but also to thank his supporters and instill a sense of unity in the new country. As such, his tour and stops along the way became important landmarks in the areas he touched. Proceeding from Mount Vernon via Fredericksburg and Richmond into North Carolina, Washington crossed the Roanoke River into Halifax in mid-April 1791. From there, the President’s carriage tour took him through Tarboro, Greenville, New Bern, Trenton, and Wilmington before entering South Carolina. Washington re-entered North Carolina near Charlotte and traveled northward, visiting Red Hill, Salisbury, Salem, and Guilford Court House.

     Red Hill was originally one of three plantations belonging to Martin Pheifer, Sr., a Swiss immigrant who lived in Pennsylvania briefly before settling in North Carolina before the Revolutionary War. Martin Pheifer became involved in politics and served in the colonial assembly under Governor William Tryon, who visited Pheifer’s home plantation, Cold Water, during 1768. In the period preceding the Revolution, Pheifer realized the need for independence and among the purported signers of the disputed Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. After the Revolution, Martin Pheifer remained a prominent citizen, serving in the House of Commons as well as a Mecklenburg County court justice. Father to three sons who were also influential men, Martin died in 1791.

     Two of Pheifer’s sons, John and Martin Jr., both lived at Red Hill at different points in their lives. Martin Pheifer, Jr. was a good friend of George Washington’s, having served as an officer in the North Carolina militia and with Washington at Valley Forge as part of a group of light cavalry from the state. For that reason, Washington was a private guest of Pheifer during his tour, dining and spending the night with the family on May 29th. Washington remarked in his journal of the trip that Pheifer was a good host and that he provided well for his guests.

     Recent research on the Pheifer family has led to confusion as to the homes in which Governor Tryon and President Washington were entertained. Red Hill was destroyed during the first half of the twentieth century but local historians state that the home featured a tavern and inn in addition to serving as the home to several Pheifers. The other Pheifer home, Cold Water, is thought by some to have been the home plantation for the family, thus being where Tryon and Washington were entertained. However, it is plausible that Red Hill was chosen to host prominent guests or at least their entourage since it was possibly larger and well equipped for such occasions.


References:
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 86-87—sketch by E. W. and Nancy Phifer
Archibald Henderson, Washington’s Southern Tour, 1791 (1923)
Adelaide and Eugenia Lore, Open the Gate and Roam Cabarrus With Us (1971)
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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