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Visit to Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania (1819)
In the summer of 1819, a number of newspapers on the east coast of the United States reported that Thomas Jefferson was staying in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, for about two months. These newspapers include:
July 28, 1819: The New-York Columbian (New York, N.Y.)
July 29, 1819: Baltimore Patriot (Baltimore, Md.)
July 30, 1819: The Alexandria Herald (Alexandria, Virginia) and the National Messenger (Georgetown, District of Columbia)
August 3, 1819: Boston Patriot & Daily Mercantile Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts) and the Salem Gazette (Salem, Mass.)
August 4, 1819: American Watchman (Wilmington, Del.)
August 5, 1819: American Beacon and Norfolk & Norfolk Daily Advertiser (Norfolk, Va.)
August 7, 1819: City Gazette and Daily Advertiser (Charleston, S.C.)
August 10, 1819: The Juniata Gazette (Lewistown, Penn.), The Genius of Liberty (Leesburg, Va.), and The Eastern Argus (Portland, Me.)
Most of these articles tended to use similar wording and many were copied directly from each other. The following is a typical example:
The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, is now at Bedford (Pa.) Springs, where we understand he intends to remain two months.
These reports were false. Thomas Jefferson did not travel to Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania in 1819. He was actually visiting Poplar Forest during the time period he was reported to be at Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania. It is not clear where the false report originated; however, he did write to friends that he would be staying at Poplar Forest (located in Bedford County, Virginia) for two months, so it is possible that there was a misunderstanding that was conveyed to local newspapers. A retraction of these reports was later printed by the Carlisle Republican in Carlisle, Pennsylvania:
The report now going the rounds of the public prints, of THOMAS JEFFERSON, being at the Bedford Springs is incorrect, as we have good authority for saying that he has not been there this season, nor does he intend it.
- Anna Berkes, March 2008; revised and updated February 2, 2012