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George S. Billmeyer of York enters the 1867 Freshman Class at Princeton; another Capital of the United States

Chart of Congress in Session prior to 1800—at Cities Other Than Philadelphia or New York City (Page 63 of Barshingers in America, by S. H. Smith, 2001)
Chart of Congress in Session prior to 1800—at Cities Other Than Philadelphia or New York City (Page 63 of Barshingers in America, by S. H. Smith, 2001)

Chapter 11 of my historically accurate novel Railcar Gold starts tomorrow.  This chapter centers upon the time George S. Billmeyer attended College at Princeton, NJ.  George S. Billmeyer is the oldest son of Charles Billmeyer, a founder of the York railcar manufacturer Billmeyer & Small.  George Billmeyer eventually becomes President of this company.

Related posts include:

The chart showing Congress in Session prior to 1800, at cities other than Philadelphia or New York City, is from my family history book Barshingers in America.  I interspersed a lot of time-period local history to go along with the family history in the book:

Only a decade after Jacob Barshinger’s sons (definitely Andrew and most likely John) moved to York County, Pennsylvania; delegates of the Continental Congress hastily arrived in the county seat of York after fleeing Philadelphia ahead of advancing British troops.  Congress convened in the frontier village of York on 30 September 1777.  They adjourned 271 days later on 27 June 1778, when it was safe to return to Philadelphia—due to the withdrawal of the British, who feared a blockade by ships of our new ally France.  It is likely that Andrew Barshinger was still attending Christ Lutheran Church in York during this time period—so he could have attended church with the likes of Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, or John Hancock.

In the fall of 1777, the nation’s spirits were low, since the initial year of the war was not going good.  During the Congressional Session at York, encouraging results from the British surrender at Saratoga, the alliance with France, the organization of a Board of War through the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, and a refitted Army brightened the nation’s outlook.  Congress met in eight different places before it was permanently located in the newly created district of Washington D. C. during 1800.  It met for many years in either Philadelphia or New York City—the days spent in the six remaining places are shown in the above chart.

Continue reading for historical background of Princeton, where George S. Billmeyer entered the 1867 Freshman Class.  This post also includes the next time Congress left Philadelphia; at which time they met at Princeton, New Jersey.



After leaving York, PA, the Congress met for many years in Philadelphia until June of 1783.  The British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, on October 19, 1781, resulted in the ceasing of military activities.  However the British still did not completely recognize the independence of the United States.  It would take practically another two years to get the British to sign a treaty of peace that recognized an independent United States of America.

Fear was prevalent that renewed fighting with the British could resume at any time during 1782 and 1783.  The military was kept at the ready, however finances were in a sad state.  George Washington was able to personally squelch mutiny on several occasions.  Robert Fortenbaugh, in his 1948 book, The Nine Capitals of the United States, notes the opening incident that drove Congress out of Philadelphia in June of 1783:

In June, 1783 a number of raw recruits at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, grew unruly because their pay was overdue.  On the 19th, word went forward to the Congress in Philadelphia that eighty of these men had set out on a march to that city, determined to confront Congress and have a settlement of their accounts.  Late on the 20th the mutineers entered the city, and on the 21st, were joined by some veterans who were in the vicinity, drew up in line before the State-House where Congress was sitting.  McMaster describes the events which followed: “Good order was kept till the can had gone freely round, when a few windows were broken and a volley of taunts, jibes, and obscene jests poured forth.  Congress in alarm dispatched General St. Clair to expostulate, but with no effect.”

The Congress was not satisfied that threats of further disturbances were being addressed in Philadelphia, so they fled to New Jersey.  The Congress met in Princeton, New Jersey, from June 30, 1783, to November 4, 1783.

Congress met in Nassau Hall on the College campus in Princeton, thus making it the capitol of the United States for a short period of time.  On most occasions they met in the library located on the second floor at the front and center of Nassau Hall.  It was during this session at Princeton that Congress received notification that the peace treaty giving final recognition to the United States independence had been signed on September 3, 1783.

At the time Congress met there, the college was known as the College of New Jersey.  It was chartered in 1746 as British North America’s fourth college; behind Harvard, William and Mary, and Yale, in that order.  In 1896 expanded program offerings brought the College university status and the name was changed to Princeton University.

Part of 1895 Bird’s Eye View of Princeton by John Kyes & Charles Woodbury (Street Names and Arrow pointing to Nassau Hall by S. H. Smith, 2013)
Part of 1895 Bird’s Eye View of Princeton by John Kyes & Charles Woodbury (Street Names and Arrow pointing to Nassau Hall by S. H. Smith, 2013)

This 1895 Bird’s Eye View of Princeton is the Chapter 11 header for Railcar Gold.  John Kyes and Charles Woodbury are the artists of this view looking east.  Their work was published in Harper’s Weekly on January 26, 1895 and copies are readily available.  I purchased my copy on eBay.

I have pointed out Nassau Hall, the location where Congress was in session during 1783.  Even though it was one of the largest buildings in the Colonies, Nassau Hall is no longer the biggest building on the campus by end of the 19th Century.  Nassau Hall was named to honor King William III, Prince of Orange of the House of Nassau.

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