Martin Van Buren

The prank of an irate Wayne County citizen forced a President of the United States to wade through a mud slog.

The first U.S. President to deliver an address in Richmond was Martin Van Buren, who visited the city June 9, 1842 after his first term was over.

As eighth president he had been lax about federal upkeep of the Old National Road, which had become “a dissipated sludge of tree roots and mud holes,” and many citizens were upset.

When Van Buren journeyed through Wayne County to promote a future presidential bid, he was met at the state line by over 200 locals and escorted to Sloan’s Brick Stage House [between 6th and 7 on Main’s north side].

According to the Richmond Palladium, “That night a mysterious chap partially sawed the underside of the doubletree crossbar of the stage that Van Buren and his party were to travel west in so that it would snap on the first hard pull… When Mr. Van Buren left on Friday morning for Indianapolis, before the stage had gone two miles it was swamped in a mud hole and he had to take it on foot.” Van Buren tumbled from the coach “in silk finery” and was drenched in muck, his coach unceremoniously entrenched on the west side of Richmond, the very road he had refused - through several presidential vetoes - any federal aid.

On June 9, 1842, Martin Ban Buren became the first president to give a speech in Richmond.

On June 10th, Richmond gained the dubious distinction of being the site where a President of the United States was given a practical lesson in the importance of good roads.



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June 19, 2012