NEWBURYPORT - It's been the sad fate of city residents in past presidential election cycles to sit on their hands while the most compelling of political contests play out in the early primary states like neighboring New Hampshire.
This year all that changes, since Massachusetts moved its primary up from March 2 to Feb. 5 - Super Tuesday - and Newburyport City Clerk Richard Jones confirms a renewed interest among local voters, with a flurry of registrations in recent weeks.
But while local voters may be set to play a bigger role this year, in the past the city has had brushes with presidential history. In fact, among historical accounts of the city, which can boast "George Washington slept here," there are some surprising places where Newburyport and presidents crossed paths.
George Washington slept here
Many familiar with local history know that George Washington once spent the night at the Tracy Mansion on State Street, in the building that is now the Newburyport Public Library.
According to excerpts from the book, "A History of Newbury" by Joshua Coffin, Washington arrived on Oct. 30, 1789, on horseback by way of Newbury, escorted by two companies of cavalry and greeted by the Port citizenry arranged in order of their rank and stature in the community. Coffin extracted the following account from the Essex Journal and New Hampshire Packet.
"On his drawing near he was saluted with 13 discharges from the artillery, after which a number of young gentlemen placed themselves before him, and sang as follows:
The group greeting him sang,
'He comes! He comes! The Hero Comes! Sound, sound your Trumpets. Beat, beat your drums. From Port to Port, let Cannons Roar. He's welcome to New England's Shore.'"
And indeed the drums rolled and cannons boomed, and according to spectators present there, Washington was moved to tears.
Everybody in town arrived to hail the chief. John Quincy Adams, who lived in Newburyport at the time, wrote and read a letter of welcome on behalf of the town.