Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas


December 10, 2012

Presidential history lesson

What would you say is the oldest presidential residence still in existence? If you said it was the Deshler-Morris House in Germantown, Pa., you would have been 100 percent correct. But I’ll bet you didn’t. I know I didn’t. I learned if from reading the DAR Magazine American Spirit back in 2002. George Washington resided there in 1793 and 1794. It was first occupied by its builder David Deshler and later by Gen. Howe after the battle of Germantown. The house did not become the temporary residence of Washington until a yellow fever epidemic hit Philadelphia in 1793. The second owner, Col. Isaac Franks charged $131.56 for Washington’s stay.

The residence is called “The Germantown White House” because the President conducted national business there and actually took his family there in 1794. While there, Washington posed for the artist Gilbert Stuart.

The house is kept in excellent repair. Samuel B. Morris purchased it in 1834, and his descendants cared for it “until 1948 when it was donated to the National Park Service and became a remote site of Independence National Historical Park.”

Because of its historical significance, the house was restored to the appearance it had when Washington resided there. The house retains its “original pale gray stucco” which gives it a European flair. Also “authentic” are its “yellow-beige shutters.” A tour through the interior of the house reveals original fireplaces and many period furnishings, including a “red camelback couch” said to have belonged to the Washington family. Of course, there are many original portraits and window treatments popular in that day, including venetian blinds. Can you believe it?

A person can almost imagine Washington working at his desk in his office on the second floor and hearing hoof beats of a horse and rider approaching. Maybe the President would glance up and see through the window close by, the blinds being open to let in the light, that a messenger had arrived.

The messenger would dismount, tie the horse to the rail, grasp his letter pouch and stride up the steps to the front door of the stucco villa which gave the appearance of being constructed of granite blocks.

Some of the 19th century special features of the home are an outhouse in the backyard. This accommodation was referred to as a “necessary” or “privy.” It contains “four separate rooms” and provides 10 seats. This should give “history enthusiasts” something to talk about for a while.

Personally, I am more interested in the “beautifully landscaped garden,” also located in the backyard of the house. The focal point of the garden for many visitors to this historical home is a holly tree planted in 1999 by a local DAR chapter to commemorate the bicentennial of George Washington’s death. The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution always includes the date of his death on the DAR Calendar each year. This is another traditional way to show respect for a founding father of our country.

And don’t forget that Corsicana is a George Washington Bicentennial City. We had our commemoration in 1999 also with a special ceremony and music by the Collins Middle School Band, directed by Mr. Dick Felts. The City of Corsicana was presented a flag which had flown over the capitol, and the colors were posted by the AFJROTC Color Guards, directed by retired Lt. Col. Bobby J. Payne, USAF, instructor.

The ceremony was sponsored James Blair Chapter, Daughters of the American  Revolution. Mayor Wilson Griffin made the proclamation of Corsicana as a George Washington Bicentennial Community, and District Judge John Jackson gave the tribute to George Washington.

The Elizabeth L. Gillispie Genealogy Room at Corsicana Public Library contains early scrapbooks and genealogical research as well as many reference books and other historical items donated by members of James Blair Chapter, DAR.


Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email:

Text Only
  • Belcher, Bob.jpg Salute to 'Mr. Derrick Days'

    I can’t help but think back to the “near-death experience” that Derrick Days had 14 years ago, and how one man’s determination brought it back.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Tinsley Resurrection

    I was 29-years-old when my father died of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow.  He was 53 years of age. Only hours before his death, I spoke with him. Our eyes met during that final visit, the same eye contact we had shared from my birth.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dr Don Newbury 2014.jpg It’s about time

    Some aspect of time steals quietly into our psyche in all conscious moments, and our use or abuse of it is central to much poetry, lyrics, scripts, conversations — you name it.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dick Platt 2014.jpg The Wonderlic Test

    Did you hear the one about Texas A&M’s “Johnny Football” Manziel testing better than all the other quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Scouting Combine? No, this is not the start of an Aggie joke.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • deannakirk.jpg Work Out? Bite your tongue!

    I've shared this before, but it bears repeating. I'm a lot like my late, dear Daddy … whose idea of “working out” was a good, brisk sit.
    Amen, Daddy. Me too.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Letters to the Editor for Saturday, April 12, 2014

    Thanks for service
    To the Editor: The Blooming Grove Elementary School would like to express appreciation to several individuals and businesses that for three years have provided a “free” vision exam and eyeglasses for many of our students.

    April 11, 2014

  • Dr Don Newbury 2014.jpg Uncle Mort: For the Birds

    Personal experiences racked up across three-quarters of a century — including yips and yaps at lecterns spanning five decades — offer positive proof that many times, utter silence is preferable to spoken words.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dick Platt 2014.jpg One-liners

    For many years, in a previous life, I had somewhat of a reputation as a master-of-ceremonies and I stayed relatively busy at that avocation. I never met a microphone I didn’t like

    April 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Deanna Kirk mug Gotta love a small town

    There's so many things to love about living in a small town. Why just last week I got to hang out with my ex-husband, his folks, his wife and baby at the Youth Expo. Then just a day later, I got to see my other ex-husband and his wife at the hospital, when one of our daughters got sick and landed there.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jacobs, Janet.jpg Weird foods on our shelves

    The Atlantic magazine reported recently that sales of frozen pre-packaged dinners are falling and Nestle is considering selling off its Lean Cuisine food line.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo