Welcome to The Depreciation Lands Museum

By Jonathan Klemens, FSA-Scot
Author and Historian

Marquis de Lafayette

Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, was born in 1757 into a wealthy land-owning family in Chavaniac, south-central France. He had no siblings. He once joked, “I was baptized like a Spaniard, with the name of every conceivable saint who might offer me more protection in battle.” At the age of twelve, his mother and grandfather died, leaving him a young, very wealthy orphan. He followed the family’s martial tradition and was commissioned an officer at age 13. When he was sixteen, Lafayette married Marie Adrienne Francoise de Noailles (age 14), allying with one of France’s wealthiest families. On June 13, 1777, the 19-year-old French aristocrat left his home against the King’s order. He sailed on the La Victoire and eluded two British ships sailing into Charlestown, SC. He intended to serve as General Washington’s second-in-command. He asked for two favors: to serve as a volunteer and at his own expense.
Marquis De Lafayette

Meeting George Washington

George Washington, at age 45 (26 years his senior), first met the 19-year-old Marquis de Lafayette at City Tavern in Philadelphia on July 31, 1777. They immediately became friends, but more like a father-son relationship. On August 5, 1777, the Continental Congress appointed Lafayette as a volunteer Major General, assigning the Marquis to serve on Washington’s staff as his aide-de-camp. The Marquis later named his only son George Washington Lafayette out of respect for Washington.
After recovering from a leg wound during the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777, Lafayette returned to aid the American war effort in Virginia, serving in the successful siege of Yorktown in 1781. After maneuvering more than a thousand miles, Lafayette cornered Cornwallis at Yorktown. On October 19, Cornwallis surrendered after nine days of intense artillery fire.

Visiting Pittsburgh

On Lafayette’s nostalgic return trip, he was greeted by massive crowds of citizens. From August 1824 to September 1825, Lafayette visited all 24 states of the Union, covering over 6,000 miles. He visited the tomb of his dear friend and comrade George Washington at Mount Vernon, a testament to their enduring friendship. In Massachusetts, he renewed his friendship with John Adams, and in Virginia, he spent a week visiting Thomas Jefferson. He traveled through Lawrenceville, the Allegheny Arsenal, into Pittsburgh. Lafayette passed through the future Shaler and Hampton townships via the “Pittsburgh-Butler Turnpike” section on Mt. Royal Blvd. He traveled in his coach up S. Pioneer Road, past what is now the Depreciation Lands Museum entrance.
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