Arrival of Georgetown’s first student in 1791 (William Gaston’s financial accounts, 1791-1792)

Handwritten financial accounts

While technically a delay to the beginning of instruction on campus, rather than an interruption to ongoing instruction, it is worth noting in the context of this exhibition that our first student, William “Billy” Gaston, arrived in 1791 to begin classes before any dorm or classroom space was ready for him. Billy traveled to Georgetown at the age of 13 from New Bern, North Carolina. His father, a doctor, was killed during the Revolution, so arrangements for his education fell to his mother. He first arrived in spring 1791. Georgetown was not yet open for students, so he went on to Philadelphia. When he returned in November, the only building on campus was still not ready for habitation and he moved into a nearby inn for almost two months. This is reflected in the opening entry of his accounts: November 10, 1791: To washing at tavern 2 [shillings]. Classes began on campus in January 1792.