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A short story by Etta Belle Walker

Rising Sun Tavern

Title:     Rising Sun Tavern
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

Was built about 1760 by Charles Washington, a brother of George Washington. It was first known as the Washington Tavern and later as the Eagle Tavern. The following advertisement appeared in the Virginia Gazette, published in Williamsburg in 1776:

"FALMOUTH, March 25, 2022.

"William Smith takes this method to acquaint his friends, and the publick in general, that he intends to open tavern, on Monday the 22nd day of April next, in the house lately occupied by Colonel George Weedon, in the town of Fredericksburg. He has laid in a good stock of liquors, and will use his utmost endeavors to give general satisfaction. N.B. 'A good cook wench wanted, on hire'."

It was the favorite meeting place of such patriots as Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Monroe, George Washington, General Hugh Mercer, George Mason, John Marshall, the Lees, and other noted men, who gathered here to protest against unjust treatment by the mother country and to discuss the proper steps to rid the country of tyranny. It was said to be a hot-bed of sedition and that here much of the head work of the Revolution was done.

When the news came to Fredericksburg that the governor, Lord Dunmore, had secretly removed twenty barrels of gunpowder from the public magazine in Williamsburg, also the news of the battle of Lexington, there was great excitement and indignation. Immediately six hundred armed men from the town and surrounding country, at the call of Patrick Henry, assembled in Fredericksburg and offered their services to defend their country. More than one hundred men were dispatched to Richmond and Williamsburg to ascertain the condition of affairs. They were advised there by Washington, Peyton Randolph, Edmund Pendleton and other leaders to disband and delay action at least for a while or until general plans of resistance could be decided upon. Returning to Fredericksburg they called a meeting and reluctantly agreed to disperse, but before doing so adopted resolutions bitterly denouncing Dunmore's action, and without fear or evasion declared that the troops would preserve their liberty at the hazard of their lives and fortune. They pledged themselves to re-assemble at a moment's warning and by force of arms defend the laws and rights of this or any other sister colony from unjust invasion, and concluded with the significant words, "God save the liberties of America."

This was on April 29, 1775, twenty-one days prior to the celebrated Mecklenburg declaration and more than one year before the great Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776.

It has always been said that this meeting was held at the Rising Sun Tavern. (Reference: Quinn's History of Fredericksburg, Howison's History of Virginia, Forces' Archives, quoted in William and Mary Quarterly in October, 1909.)

But in addition to giving their attention to the serious questions of the day, could we but raise the curtain of Time we no doubt would witness a gay scene typical of colonial days with courtly gentlemen in powdered wigs, knee breeches, ruffled blouses, and silver-buckled slippers, or perhaps in the rougher garb of the pioneer traveler playing cards and partaking of the various drinks served by a venerable old slave and his young negro assistants. It is recorded that George Washington played cards here and "lost as usual," and that he was afraid those Fredericksburg fellows were "too smart for him."

Here General Weedon kept the post office. This was a distributing point for mails coming in from the far north and south on horse-back or stage-coach. Picture the eager crowd awaiting the arrival of the slow courier.

LaFayette and his staff of French and American officers visited the Rising Sun Tavern Nov. 11, 1781, en route from Yorktown to Philadelphia. In December, 1824, LaFayette again visited Fredericksburg, and was given a ball at the Rising Sun Tavern.

In 1907 the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities bought the property from Judge A. W. Wallace, whose family had owned it since 1792. It was in a very bad state of dilapidation, and only the loving interest and hard work of a few patriotic ladies made possible the necessary repairs and saved to posterity this historic old building with its wealth of associations with the people and events which shaped our nation.

The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities has recently completed extensive repairs and the visitor will find it one of the most interesting places in the city to visit. It is attractively furnished with antique pieces of the Colonial period, many having great historic value.

One may see a desk owned and used by Thomas Jefferson, a chair which belonged to James Monroe, a rare copy of an autographed letter from Mary Washington to her son George Washington, brass andirons, pewter-hooded candles, Betty lamp, immense iron key for a wine cellar, brass candle-sticks, iron candle snuffers, pewter ink-well, antique piano, high boy, needle-point sampler worked by a nine-year-old child, spinning wheel and reel, stage coach sign dated 1775, large early American desk, old iron cooking utensils used by slaves cooking by an open fireplace, and many other interesting things.

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Etta Belle Walker's short story: Rising Sun Tavern