The Will of George Washington
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1. Washington bought the lot in Alexandria and built the house on it before the Revolution. It was the only piece of property he left outright to his wife Martha. The Virginia Assembly in 1762 voted to extend the limits of the town of Alexandria, and on 9 May 1763 fifty-eight one-half-acre lots in the expanded town were offered for sale at public auction. Washington purchased two of the lots: in 1764 he paid John Alexander, Jr., £38 for lot no. 112, at Prince and Pitt streets, and £10.10 for lot no. 118, at Pitt and Cameron streets. In the spring of 1769 he engaged Richard Lake (Leak, Leake) and Edward Rigdon to build a house on the second of these lots. The first payment to men working on the house was made in June 1769 and the last in August 1771. Washington's accounts show that over the two years he paid £59.16.1-1/2 to Lake, £30.19.2 to the joiner Rigdon, £5.10 to cabinet-maker James Connell, £16.11.8 to plasterer Matthew Lawson, and £9.15.4 to housepainter William Bushby, which would indicate that he was out of pocket only £131.7.7-1/2 for house and lot. A quarter of a century later he wrote Lear that he had been told his property at the corner of Pitt and Cameron streets would bring as much as £2,000 if offered for sale.
Washington's first tenant in Alexandria, Dr. William Brown, came to Virginia from the University of Edinburgh in 1770 and lived and practiced medicine in the house for a decade or so. When Brown moved at the end of 1785 or early 1786 to another house in town, he was paying an annual rent of £60, the same amount paid by his successor, William Halley, who rented the house in 1786. In November 1788, upon learning that Bushrod Washington wished to move to Alexandria and practice law there, Washington offered the house to his nephew "Rent free till you can find a more convenient one." Shortly thereafter Washington left for New York to assume the presidency, and for a time he lost sight of what was being done about the house. In December 1792 he instructed his farm manager, Anthony Whitting, to find out whether it was occupied and, if not, to secure a renter. Six months later Washington confessed to a man named Cleon Moore that he knew nothing of the status of his property and asked his friend John Fitzgerald of Alexandria to arrange for its rental to Moore. Upon investigation, Fitzgerald found living in the house a woman with young children, whose husband was away on a trip to Boston. It turned out that the family, "orderly though poor," had rented the house from Washington's farm manager before his death in June 1793. In October 1793 Washington talked with the young man and agreed to allow him to remain in the house with his family in return for keeping it in good repair.
Washington decided in the fall of 1793 to fix up his Alexandria house for Frances Bassett (Fanny) Washington and her three little children. Fanny Washington, Martha Washington's niece, and her husband, Washington's beloved nephew George Augustine Washington, had lived at Mount Vernon since shortly before their marriage in 1785. After George Augustine's death in January 1793, Fanny declined the pressing invitation of the Washingtons that she make Mount Vernon her permanent home with her children, declaring that she would follow the advice given by her husband before his death that she find a house in Alexandria so as to provide for the education of her children, Anna Maria and the two little boys. After receiving and accepting Washington's offer of the Alexandria house, in November 1793 Fanny Washington asked that a story be added to it, which was not done, but Washington did agree to pave the cellar of the house and to have "one end of the stable laid with plank . . . to accomodate the servants" whom she "was obliged to carry" with her. Washington also took it upon himself to acquire wallpaper in Philadelphia for the house, while Martha Washington arranged to have furniture made in Philadelphia and shipped to Alexandria for her niece. At the end of the summer of 1794 the young widow finally moved into the sand-colored house with its red roof at the corner of Pitt and Cameron streets, but she lived in it for only a little over a year. Twelve months later she married Tobias Lear, Washington's former and future secretary, and in the fall of 1795 she moved with her children across the river to Georgetown where her new husband was then in business. In December 1795 Lear reported to Washington that he had succeeded in renting the house in Alexandria "for Sixty Pounds Curr. Per Annum to Nath[anie]l Washington who will go into it immediately." The new tenant kept the house for no more than a year; at the end of 1797 Washington rented it at the same rate to his former commission agent, Philip Marsteller, a merchant in the town. The first item in Martha Washington's will reads: "I give and devise to my Nephew Bartholomew Dandridge and his Heirs, my lot in the town of Alexandria situate on Pitt and Cameron Streets devised to me by my late Husband George Washington deceased" (Fields, Papers of Martha Washington, 406).
See GW to Carlyle & Adams, 15 Feb. 1767, n.8, Cash Accounts, January 1770, n.6, April 1770, n.7, August 1770, n.11, January 1771, n.2, August 1771, nn.6 and 7 (Papers, Colonial Series, 8:290-91, 322-23, 362-64, 424-25, 511-12), Ledger A, 278, 321, 323, Agreement with William Halley, 20 Feb. 1786, and note (Papers, Confederation Series, 3:562-63), Ledger B, 119, 185, Diaries, 2:182-83, Bushrod Washington to GW, 20 Nov. 1788, John Fitzgerald to GW, 11 Oct. 1793, GW to Bushrod Washington, 25 Nov. 1788 (Papers, Presidential Series, 1:119-20, 126-27), GW to Anthony Whitting, 16 Dec. 1792, GW to Cleon Moore, 19 July 1793, GW to John Fitzgerald, 11 Aug. 1793, Frances Bassett Washington to Martha Washington, June 1794, and Martha Washington to Frances Bassett Washington, 2 June 1793, 10 Feb., 2 Mar., 13 Apr., 25 May, 30 June 1794 (Fields, Papers of Martha Washington, 249-50, 256-57, 259-60, 264-65, 265-66, 268, 270), Frances Bassett Washington to GW, 5, 28 Mar., 22 Nov. 1793, 17 Sept. 1794, GW to Frances Bassett Washington, 10 June, 18 Aug. 1793, and GW to William Pearce, 22 Dec. 1793, 12 Jan., 9, 16 Feb., 27 April, 4, 11, 18, 25 May, 8 June, 13 July, 3 Aug., 1794, Tobias Lear to GW, 17 Nov., 14 Dec. 1795, GW to Lear 2, 30 Nov. 1795, and GW to John Fitzgerald, William Herbert, and George Gilpin, 22 Nov. 1797, n.2 (Papers, Retirement Series, 1:481).
The second lot that GW bought in Alexandria in 1763, the one on the corner of Prince and Pitt streets, remained unimproved until shortly before his death. See the references to it in Schedule of Property, printed immediately below, and in note 19 of that document. [back]
2. At about the same time that he was drawing up his will, Washington made a list of the adult and child slaves on each of the Mount Vernon farms, usually giving ages, occupations, and other pertinent information. His list of 317 slaves, includes the names of 124 who belonged to him outright and were to be freed when Martha Washington died, 153 who were Martha Washington's dower slaves and at her death would go to the Custis heir-at-law, her grandson George Washington Parke Custis, and forty others leased by GW from his neighbor Penelope Manley French. Of the 277 slaves belonging to Washington in his own right or by marriage, 179 were 12 years old or older, eighteen of whom were "Passed labor." The remaining ninety-eight were children under the age of 12. Of those twelve years old and over, ninety-five were females and eighty-four were males. Shortly after Washington's death, Bushrod Washington recommended to Martha Washington that she get "clear of her negroes" at Mount Vernon. According to Eugene Prussing, she "was made unhappy by the talk in the [slave] quarters of the good time coming to the ones to be freed as soon as she died." He reported that "many did not wait for the event" but took off at once. In any case, all the slaves that Washington owned outright were freed after Martha's death, and the accounts of the executors of Washington's will show an expenditure by 1833 of more than $10,000 to the pensioned former slaves who remained at Mount Vernon or lived nearby (Bushrod Washington to Martha Washington, 27 Dec. 1799, in Fields, Papers of Martha Washington, 328-31; Prussing, Estate of George Washington, 158-60). [back]
3. At a sale in October 1767 Washington bought "Mulatto Will" for £61.15 from Mary Smith Ball Lee, widow of John Lee of Westmoreland County, who had recently died. The young man called himself William Lee; Washington at first called him Billy, but after the Revolution he consistently referred to him in his papers as Will or William. As early as May 1770 Will Lee began going to Williamsburg as Washington's body-servant to Williamsburg for the meeting of the Virginia House of Burgesses. For the next two decades Will was in constant attendance upon Washington as his personal servant, acting by turns as valet, waiter, butler, or huntsman. He accompanied Washington to the meeting of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774, remained by his side "through the War" and returned with him to Mount Vernon at the end of 1783, went back with him to Philadelphia in 1787 at the calling of the Constitutional Convention, and, even though by then badly crippled, travelled to New York when Washington became president in 1789.
During the war Will Lee took as his wife "one of his own colour a free woman" from Philadelphia, named Margaret Thomas, who was, Washington wrote Clement Biddle, "also of my family." Washington's efforts after the war to bring Will Lee's wife to Mount Vernon apparently failed. According to George Washington Parke Custis, Will was "a stout active man, and a famous horseman," until two accidents in the late 1780s deprived him of the use of his legs. While acting as a chain carrier when Washington surveyed his Four Mile Run tract near Alexandria in April 1785, Will fell and "broke the pan of his knee"; three years later, in March 1788, he fell at the post office in Alexandria and "broke the Pan of his other Knee" (Diaries, 4:125, 5:281). In June 1788 he was still "unable to walk" (ibid., 5:349), but when Washington left Mount Vernon for New York on 16 April 1789 to assume the presidency, Will followed him. The old servant got as far as Philadelphia before problems with his knees forced him to remain there to seek treatment from doctors. On 3 May Tobias Lear, writing from New York, asked Clement Biddle in Philadelphia to persuade Will Lee to return to Mount Vernon, "for he cannot possibly be of any service here." Will was not to be persuaded: on 22 June Lear wrote Biddle that "Billy arrived here safe & well." What services if any Washington's faithful servant was able to perform in New York is unclear, but Washington informed his secretary Tobias Lear in November 1793 that Lee's replacement was "too little acquainted with the arrangement of a Table, & too stupid for a Butler." Back at Mount Vernon, Will Lee took up residence in his house near the mansion and acted as a cobbler, becoming, according to later testimony of one of Bushrod Washington's Mount Vernon slaves, a troublesome old man before his death, probably about 1810. See Cash Accounts, May 1768, n.2 (Papers, Colonial Series, 8:82-83), GW to Clement Biddle, 28 July 1784 (Papers, Confederation Series, 2:14), Custis, Recollections of Washington, 157, Tobias Lear to Clement Biddle, 3 May, 22 June 1789 (ViMtV), Biddle to GW, 27 April 1789, n.1 (Papers, Presidential Series, 2:133-34), Diaries, 2:238, 278, 286-88, 3:276, 5:73, GW to Lear, 8 Nov. 1793, and Prussing, Estate of George Washington, 27, 159. [back]
4. When an association was formed in Alexandria in 1785 to establish an academy in the town, Washington agreed to become one of its managers, or sponsors. At the end of that year he informed the academy's trustees that he had long intended to set aside at his death £1,000, the interest of which was to be used for establishing "a school in the Town of Alexandria for the purpose of educating orphan children" and the children of "indigent parents." He explained that he could not afford to give the £1,000 immediately; instead, he would undertake to pay the trustees each year the interest on that amount and would vest the £1,000 in them, if they could assure him that the academy would provide "that kind of education which would be most extensively useful to people of the lower class of citizens, viz.--reading, writing & arithmetic, so as to fit them for the mechanical purposes." The trustees promptly promised to do "every thing in their power to comply fully" with Washington's "benevolent intentions." In January of every year thereafter Washington made the payments of £50, the last on 6 Jan. 1798. He also agreed, in June 1786, that the money he was contributing to the academy could be used for the support of girls as well as of boys, "in a ratio not to exceed one girl for four boys." In November 1785 Washington placed his nephews George Steptoe Washington and Lawrence Augustine Washington in Alexandria Academy, where they remained until after Washington became president. See GW to Trustees of the Washington Academy, 17 Dec. 1785, and note 1 of that document (Papers, Confederation Series, 3:463-64), Ledger C, 42, GW to William Brown, 30 June 1786 (Papers, Confederation Series, 4:135), and Diaries, 4:241. [back]
5. Gov. Benjamin Harrison wrote Washington from Richmond on 6 Jan. 1785 to inform him that "the assembly yesterday without a discenting voice complimented you with fifty shares in the potowmack company and one hundred in the James River company." Washington agonized long and hard about whether he should accept the shares lest this be taken as pay for his public service, which he had committed himself to forego. In the end, he induced the legislature to provide that the future profit from stock should go not to him personally but instead "stand appropriated to such objects of a public nature, in such manner, and under such distributions, as the said George Washington, esq. by deed during his life, or by his last will and testament, shall direct and appoint" (12 Hening 42-44). For GW's acceptance of the stock, see the references in Benjamin Harrison to GW, 6 Jan. 1785, n.1 (Papers, Confederation Series, 2:257); for his bequest of the fifty shares in the Potomac River Company to "a UNIVERSITY to be established within the limits of the District of Columbia," see the two ensuing paragraphs of the will and note 6; for his gift in 1797 of the one hundred shares of stock in the James River Company to Liberty Hall Academy, see note 7 below. [back]
6. Four years before he wrote this will, in a letter to the District of Columbia commissioners dated 28 Jan. 1795, Washington presented in very much the same terms as he does here the argument for establishing a national university in the new Federal City on the Potomac. He told the commissioners that he was prepared to "grant, in perpetuity, fifty shares in the navigation of Potomac river towards the endowment" of such a university. In 1796 he wrote the commissioners three more times about this, and in his final address to Congress on 7 Dec. 1796, he stated that he had "heretofore proposed to the consideration of Congress, the expediency of establishing a National University; and also a Military Academy. The desirableness of both these Institutions, has so constantly increased with every new view I have taken of the subject, that I cannot omit the opportunity of once for all, recalling your attention to them" (DNA:46, Fourth Congress, 1795-97, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President's Messages). For other references by GW to the creation of a national university, see GW to Thomas Jefferson, 15 Nov. 1794, 15 Mar. 1795, to Alexander Hamilton, 1 Sept. 1796, and to St. George Tucker, 30 May 1797 (Papers, Retirement Series, 1:163); for GW's holdings in the Potomac River Company, see his notation to the entry regarding the Potomac River Company in the Schedule of Property attached to the will, printed below, and also note 23 to that document. [back]
7. Washington informed Gov. Robert Brooke of Virginia in September 1796 that he wished to give to Liberty Hall Academy in Rockbridge County the one hundred shares in the James River Company bestowed upon him in 1785 by the Virginia legislature. Liberty Hall Academy, founded by the Rev. William Graham and incorporated in 1782, had been renamed Washington Academy. It was soon to become Washington College, and still later Washington and Lee University. It was not until April 1798 that the trustees of the institution acknowledged that they had received in September 1797 official notice of his gift and expressed their appreciation for it. See GW to Robert Brooke, 15 Sept. 1796, Edward Graham to GW, 9 Mar. 1798, Washington Academy Trustees to GW, 12 April 1798, and notes 1 and 2 to that document (Papers, Retirement Series, 2:131-32, 236-37). For GW's acquisition of the James River Company stock, see Benjamin Harrison to GW, 6 Jan. 1785, n.1 (Papers, Confederation Series, 2:257). [back]
8. In 1771 Washington sold a tract of 180 acres in Frederick County to Philip Pendleton (1752-1802) for £400. The next year Washington's friend Edmund Pendleton indicated that he would pay Washington the £400 on behalf of his nephew. Before any payment was made, however, Philip Pendleton, early in 1773, transferred the land, and the debt, to Washington's brother Samuel. Washington wrote his brother from New York in 1776 that he would arrange to have the title to the land transferred to him, but he failed to do so. Before his death in 1781, Samuel Washington gave the land to his son Thornton. When Washington in 1784, shortly after his return to Mount Vernon, reminded the executors of his brother's estate that he had not received a penny for the 400 acres and still retained the deed to the tract, his nephew Thornton Washington wrote him that he had been living on the land for some time and had made many improvements. He asked his uncle for assurance that he would not be evicted. Thornton Washington was allowed to remain on the land. Two years later he wrote Washington that the Hite family were preparing to challenge Washington's title to it. His fears proved groundless. No payments on the land were made either before or after Thornton's death in 1787; five per cent annual rent for twenty-nine years would have raised the amount of the debt by 1799 to more than £900. See Bond to Philip Pendleton, 7 Dec. 1771 (Papers, Colonial Series, 8:573), Ledger B, 22, 36, Edmund Pendleton to GW, 19 Dec. 1772, GW to Samuel Washington, 4 Feb. 1773, 5 Oct. 1776, Diaries, 3:37, 74, GW to James Nourse, 22 Jan. 1784, and, particularly, note 3 of that document, and Thornton Washington to GW, 1 Aug. 1784, 6 June 1786 (Papers, Confederation Series, 1:69-70, 2:20-21, and 4:100-2). [back]
9. When Washington returned to Mount Vernon at the end of the war, eleven-year-old George Steptoe Washington and eight-year-old Lawrence Augustine Washington, sons of Washington's dead brother Samuel and his fourth wife, Anne Steptoe Washington, were living in Alexandria under the care of David Griffith, the minister at Christ Church. Washington immediately notified his nephews' guardian, James Nourse, of his willingness to keep an eye on them, and it was at Washington's suggestion that later in the year Nourse sent the boys across the river to Georgetown to attend the school of the Rev. Stephen Bloomer Balch. Upon Nourse's death in October 1784, Washington assumed responsibility for supervising the education of his two nephews and for the next eight years provided most of the funds for their support. In November 1785 he moved them back to Alexandria and put them under the tutelage of William McWhir at the new Alexandria Academy. In January 1787 the two boys were moved into the house of Samuel Hanson, where their behavior brought complaints from Hanson, requiring GW's intervention on a number of occasions. When Washington went to New York in the spring of 1789, his friend Dr. James Craik took the boys into his house. At the end of the year, with Washington's approval, Craik removed them from the Academy and placed them in the school of Gilbert Harrow in Alexandria in order to have them concentrate on the study of mathematics. On Tobias Lear's advice, Washington in the fall of 1790 had his nephews brought to Philadelphia and enrolled in the college there, where they remained until their graduation in 1792. In addition to GW's correspondence from 1787 to 1790 with Samuel Hanson and George Steptoe Washington, for GW's patronage of these two nephews see his letters to James Nourse, 22 Jan. 1784, to David Griffith, 29 Aug. 1784, to Stephen Bloomer Balch, 30 Oct. 1784, 26 June, 22 Nov. 1785, to Charles Washington, 12 April 1785, to Bushrod Washington, 17 Nov. 1788, to James Craik, 8 Sept. 1789, and to Tobias Lear 10 Oct. 1790 (Papers, Confederation Series, 1:69-70; 2:61-2, 113, 494-95; 3:84, 378; Papers, Presidential Series, 1:116-17; 4:1-3; 6:547-49). See also the letters to GW from Charles Washington, 16 Nov. 1784, 19 Feb., 23 Nov., 30 Dec. 1785, from Benjamin Stoddert, 21 June 1785, from William McWhir, 8 Mar. 1788, from James Craik, 24 Aug. 1789, 3 Feb. 1790, and from Tobias Lear, 10, 28 Oct. 1790 (Papers, Confederation Series, 2:137-39, 370-71; 3:68, 382, 483-84; 6:148; Papers, Presidential Series, 3:529-31; 5:95-98; 6:549-52, 593-95). For GW's account with George Steptoe and Lawrence Augustine Washington, see Ledger B, 206, 229, 250, 301, 328. The itemized account from 1784 to 1791 shows a running total of £406.7.6 spent by Washington for the two nephews. [back]
10. As Daniel Parke Custis's widow, and before she married George Washington in 1759, Martha Washington lent her brother Bartholomew Dandridge £600 sterling. At the settlement of Daniel Parke Custis's estate in 1759-1761, Dandridge's bond for this debt was assigned to Martha Washington's daughter, Martha Parke (Patsy) Custis. After Patsy's death in 1773 the bond passed to Washington as Martha's husband; with unpaid interest the debt at that time came to £1,219.9.4 (Guardian Accounts, 3 Nov. 1773, printed in Papers, Colonial Series, 9:366-74). Bartholomew Dandridge died in 1785, and three years later his son John Dandridge as executor of his father's will persuaded Washington to seek title to the Dandridge slaves in payment of the Dandridge estate's debt to him. In this way he hoped to prevent other creditors from forcing their sale. Washington agreed to seek a judgment against the estate, and he succeeded in securing title to the slaves. But he arranged for the slaves to remain in the actual possession of Bartholomew Dandridge's widow, Mary Burbidge Dandridge, in New Kent County. Washington's account with the estate of Bartholomew Dandridge has not been found, but it would appear that the value placed upon the slaves was not sufficient to settle Washington's debt, leaving, by 1795 almost £425 owed (Ledger C, 9). See particularly GW to Burwell Bassett, Jr., 3 Feb. 1788, and the note to that document in which the documents referred to here are cited. [back]
11. Washington, as he reported to Gov. Benjamin Harrison in 1781, purchased in May 1771, at his mother's request and at his own expense, "a commodious house, garden, and [two] Lotts (of her own choosing) in Fredericksburg, that she might be near my Sister [Betty] Lewis, her only daughter" (GW to Benjamin Harrison, 21 Mar. 1781). Mary Ball Washington moved from Ferry Farm across the Rappahannock into Fredericksburg in late 1771 and lived in the house that her son had bought for her until her death in August 1789. After her death, Washington had three local men examine the house and lot and recommend what price and terms should be set for their sale. Their suggested price of £450 payable in two years found no takers, and in March 1790 Washington agreed to sell the property for £350 payable in three years, to Charles Carter, Jr., who probably was already living in the house with his wife Betty Lewis, Mary Washington's granddaughter. In the spring of 1794 Carter made his first payment to Washington, an order for £200 on a merchant in Alexandria. Upon the receipt of the payment, Washington wrote Carter: "The remainder of the money due me for the purchase of the lots (amounting to abo<ve> two hundred pounds more) I give . . . to my niece Mrs Carter" (GW to Carter, 29 May 1794; see also Carter to GW, 14 May 1794). Washington probably included this provision in his will simply to confirm his gift to the Carters of the unpaid balance due on the purchase, but he also may have had in mind the question raised about the title to the property arising from the fact that Carter and Washington had proceeded under the false illusion that Washington had bought the house and lot from Washington's brother-in-law and Carter's father-in-law, Fielding Lewis. The fact was that Washington had bought them both from Michael Robinson, who had bought the lots from Lewis (ten years earlier) in 1761. For the source of this confusion, see Carter to GW, 14 May 1794. For GW's purchase of the house and lots in 1771 and 1772 and his sale of them in 1790, see GW to Harrison, 21 Mar. 1781, Ledger A, 536, Cash Accounts, 1761, n.69 (Papers, Colonial Series, 7:1-10), Diaries, 3:52, 69, GW to Betty Washington Lewis, 13 Sept. 1789, Burgess Ball and Charles Carter, Jr., to GW, 8 Oct. 1789, Burgess Ball to GW, 26 Dec. 1789, Charles Carter, Jr., to GW, 6 Feb. 1790, 14 May 1794, and GW to Charles Carter, Jr., 8 Mar. 1790, 29 May 1794 (Papers, Presidential Series, 4:32-36, 146-47; 5:102-3). [back]
12. As early as July 1767 the managers of a lottery to dispose of William Byrd III's holdings at the falls of the James River advertised for sale 10,000 tickets at £5 a piece. Washington had already bought twenty of the tickets, and he later entered an agreement with nine other men, Peyton Randolph, John Wayles, George Wythe, Richard Randolph, Lewis Burwell, William Fitzhugh of Chatham, Thomson Mason, Nathaniel Harrison, Jr., and Richard Kidder Meade, to purchase jointly another one hundred tickets. When the lottery was held in Williamsburg on 2 Nov. 1768, Washington won on his own one one-half-acre lot south of the James River in what was to be laid out in 1769 as the town of Manchester. He also was entitled to one-tenth share in those prizes drawn by his partners; these included four two-acre lots in Manchester-to-be and two one-hundred-acre lots in Henrico County north of the James. Back at Mount Vernon after the Revolution, Washington wrote his lawyer Edmund Randolph in July 1784 and asked that Randolph let him "know (if you can) what is become of this property; & of what value it is--especially the Lott No. 265 which I hold in my own right--for I faintly recollect to have heard the joint stock was disposed of to no great advantage for the company--for me, I am sure it was not, as I have never received an iota on account of these prizes." Randolph replied that the value of Washington's own lot in Manchester was unknown. He also reported that as far as he could determine Richard Randolph had sold "the most valuable" of the four lots in Manchester and that Thomson Mason had sold the two larger tracts in Henrico County north of the James. Apparently both Edmund Randolph and Washington forgot about this exchange: about five years later, in August 1789, Randolph asked Washington whether he had any information regarding the Byrd lottery prizes that Washington and his uncle Peyton Randolph had shared with others. Washington gave this answer: "The list of associates who purchased 100 Tickets in the lottery of the deceased Colo. Byrd is all the memorandom I have of that transaction. To the best of my recollection Mr Thomson Mason (deceased) was one of the associates and was either authorised, or assumed (I do not know which) the management of the business--He did it so effectually it seems as to monopolize the whole interest." When Washington made this bequest in his will in the summer of 1799 to his nephew William Augustine Washington, it may have slipped his mind that three years before, in June 1796, he had written another of his nephews, Bushrod Washington, about the prizes to which he was entitled from the Byrd lottery and also about the "lot in some Town [Edinburgh] that was established on James River (below Richmd) by a certain John Wood [Hood]." He then told Bushrod that if "upon enquiry" he thought any returns could be got from any of this, "I give you all the Interest I have therein & you may act accordingly." Washington had bought the lot in the town of Edinburgh, which never came into existence, in October 1760. See GW to Edmund Randolph, 10 July 1784, 8 Sept. 1789, Edmund Randolph to GW, 20 July 1784, 2 Aug. 1789 (Papers, Confederation Series, 1:494-96; 2:4-5; Papers, Presidential Series, 3:371-73; 4:5-6), and GW to Bushrod Washington, 29 June 1796. For an account of the Byrd auction, see Cash Accounts, May 1769, n.10 (Papers, Colonial Series, 8:191-94); for the purchase of the lot from John Hood, see Cash Accounts, October 1760, ibid., 6:465-66. [back]
13. Washington prized his papers highly and long before drafting his will had come to look upon the great mass of documents that he held at Mount Vernon as part of his legacy to the new nation. Most of the letters and other papers from the pre-Revolutionary years preserved by him have to do with his career as colonel of the Virginia Regiment in the 1750s, or they relate to his agricultural and business affairs. During the Revolution, recognizing the particular importance of the papers of the leader of the army fighting for American independence, viewing them "as a species of Public property, sacred in my hands," Washington in 1781 gained the approval of Congress to have his correspondence, orders, and instructions properly arranged and copied into bound volumes. This was accomplished in two years by a team of clerks working at Poughkeepsie, N.Y., under the direction of Richard Varick. In the summer of 1783 Varick delivered twenty-eight fat volumes of recopied documents. At the end of the year Washington had these volumes, as well as the originals of his "public and other Papers," sent overland to Mount Vernon. These Revolutionary War documents represented the larger part of the collection of papers at Mount Vernon that Washington left to his nephew Bushrod Washington; but with his heightened sense of the significance of his role in the founding of the American Republic, Washington after the Revolution was at greater pains both to retain copies of the hundreds and hundreds of letters that he wrote and to preserve the even larger number of letters that he received. He also at some point in the 1780s put a series of clerks to work copying his letter books from the French and Indian War, but only after he himself had gone through them, correcting the mistakes in spelling and grammar of the young Washington and rewording infelicitous or unclear passages of his. At the end of his presidency in 1797, Washington had his presidential secretaries, Tobias Lear and Bartholomew Dandridge, take from his files the papers that should go to his successor, John Adams, and send the rest down to him at Mount Vernon. He also had his letter-press contraption sent to Mount Vernon and in his final two years used it to make copies of most of the letters that he himself wrote. Lear reported that Washington, after saying, six hours before his death, "I find I am going, my breath cannot continue long," gave instructions to Lear to "arrange & record all my late Military letters & papers . . . and let Mr Rawlins finish recording my other letters, which he has begun." The "Military letters and papers" were those relating to his role as commander in chief of the army in 1798 and 1799; "Mr Rawlins" was his clerk, Albin Rawlins.
Washington's dream of erecting a separate building for his papers at Mount Vernon never materialized, and Martha Washington, it is supposed, destroyed the letters between herself and her husband before Bushrod Washington took possession of the papers, probably after Martha's death in 1802. Judge Washington soon sent most of his uncle's papers at Mount Vernon to Richmond, beginning in 1803, for Chief Justice John Marshall to use in preparing his five-volume biography of the great man, which Marshall published between 1804 and 1807. Bushrod, through the years, also gave away some of Washington's letters and returned others to the senders. In 1815 William B. Sprague, a young tutor at Lawrence Lewis's home Woodlawn, obtained Bushrod's permission to take any letters he wanted provided he left copies in their place. Sprague took full advantage of the offer to the extent of about 1500 letters. In 1827 Bushrod gave Jared Sparks access to the papers and subsequently allowed him to take many of them to Boston where Sparks put together and published his twelve-volume edition of The Writings of George Washington (Boston, 1834-37). Before Sparks had barely begun his work, Bushrod Washington died, in 1829, and left the papers to his nephew George Corbin Washington. George Corbin Washington sold George Washington's public papers to the United States government in 1834 for $25,000 and his private papers in 1849 for $20,000. The papers taken from Mount Vernon were deposited in the Department of State until 1904, at which time they were transferred to the Library of Congress. For the quotations, see GW to William Gordon, 23 Oct. 1782, to Richard Varick, 1 Jan. 1784, and Tobias Lear's Narrative Accounts of the Death of George Washington, printed immediately below. For the history of the disposition of GW's papers, see the Introduction to the Library of Congress's Index to the George Washington Papers; for a brief description of the papers, see W.W. Abbot, "An Uncommon Awareness of Self: The Papers of George Washington" (Prologue, Quarterly of the National Archives, vol. 21, no. 1, [Spring 1989] 7-19). [back]
14. The books at Mount Vernon are listed in the inventory made when Washington's estate was appraised after his death. The executors of Washington's will returned the inventory and appraisal of the estate to the Fairfax County court, which ordered it to be recorded on 20 Aug. 1810. The inventory was among those papers that disappeared from the courthouse in the nineteenth century. Early in the twentieth century William K. Bixby presented the original inventory to Mount Vernon, where it remains. It was first printed in 1927 by Eugene E. Prussing as appendix II, in his Estate of George Washington, 401-408. The seventeen-page list of books and maps in the inventory of nearly one thousand items includes multi-volume sets of books and pamphlets bound together in single volumes, valued altogether at $1,698. The books were in Washington's library at Mount Vernon, in three book cases and "on the Table." Years later Edward Everett procured in 1860 from John A. Washington a copy made of the original inventory and printed it in his Life of Washington. In 1897 Appleton P.C. Griffin included in his Boston Athenæum Washington Collection an appendix listing the books in the inventory as printed in Everett's biography. Although the Boston Athenæum listing, arranged by categories, is based on Everett's imperfect copy of the inventory, it is very useful because William C. Lane, the librarian of the Athenæum, provides the full and correct names and the authors and titles of most of the works listed in it and, when possible, notes how and at what time each came into Washington's possession as well as its disposition after his death. See also Carroll and Meacham, The Library at Mount Vernon. [back]
15. In the schedule of property which Washington prepared and attached to his will, he listed all of his landholdings, including the tracts referred to here which he had already sold but had not received full payment for, and he appended an explanatory note to each. This Schedule of Property with Washington's explanatory notes is printed immediately below. [back]
16. In June 1791 David Steuart Erskine, eleventh earl of Buchan, sent by the Scottish painter Archibald Robertson the 2"x3"x4" hinged snuffbox, "made of the Oak that sheltered our Great Sir William Wallace after the Battle of Falkirk." Buchan wrote Washington that since he felt his "own unworthiness to receive this magnificently significant present," he had secured permission of the donors, the Company of Goldsmiths, "to make it over to the Man in the World to whom I thought it was most justly due" (Buchan to GW, 28 June 1791). Beginning in 1790 and until 1798, Buchan, as president of the Agriculture Society in London, was a frequent correspondent of Washington's. After the executors of Washington's will returned the box to Buchan with a copy of the will, Buchan decreed that the box be set aside "for the University of Washington with a Golden Pen to which there may be annually offered medals by the States to the honour of such young Citizens Students therein as shall be found in comparative trial to have made not only the greatest progress in useful knowledge during the whole of their course of Education but shall at the same time have been found to be most exemplary in their conduct & most preeminently posessed of the Principles & knowledge 'most friendly to Republican Government & to the true & genuine liberties of Mankind' to use the words of the great Founder himself" (see Buchan's "Observations respecting the Will of General Washington," Papers of the Earl of Buchan, William Salt Library, Stafford, United Kingdom). [back]
17. Charles Washington, six years younger than George Washington and his last surviving brother, lived at his house Happy Retreat near present-day Charles Town, West Virginia. He died there in September 1799, less than three months before Washington died at Mount Vernon. The cane came into the possession of the United States government in 1845 and is deposited in the Smithsonian Institution. In 1789 Benjamin Franklin included this provision in a codicil to his will: "My fine crab-tree walking-stick, with a gold head curiously wrought in the form of the cap of liberty, I give to my friend, and the friend of mankind, General Washington. If it were a Sceptre, he has merited it, and would become it. It was a present to me from that excellent woman, Madame de Forbach, the dowager Duchess of Deux-Ponts, connected with some verses which should go with it" (Albert H. Smyth, Writings of Franklin, 10:501-10). [back]
18. Lawrence Washington (1728-c.1813) of Chotank had spent several nights at Mount Vernon as recently as March 1798. He was the son of John and Mary Massey Washington and lived on the Potomac River downstream from Mount Vernon near Chotank Creek. His first cousin Robert Washington, born in 1730, was the son of Townshend Washington of Chotank and the eldest brother of GW's long-time estate manager at Mount Vernon, Lund Washington. Robert Washington of Chotank has been tentatively identified as the "Robin" to whom GW wrote the letter that he copied in his notebook as an adolescent in the 1740s. The appraisers of the estate found "In the Study" at Mount Vernon "11 Spye Glasses," which they valued at $110, and "4 Canes," valued at $40 (Prussing, Estate of George Washington, 416). See Diaries, 6:287, and Papers: Colonial Series, 1:40-41. [back]
19. In 1796 Washington had the Philadelphia cabinetmaker John Aiken make the tambour secretary for his study at Mount Vernon. Thomas Burling of New York made the revolving chair to be used with the secretary. The appraisers in 1800 valued the "Tambour Secretary" at $80 and the "Circular Chair" at $20. Both pieces were returned to Mount Vernon in the twentieth century. James Craik had been Washington's physician and close friend since accompanying him as surgeon on the expedition to the Ohio in 1754. See Christine Meadows, "A Very Handsome Study," Mount Vernon Annual Report (1980), 32-41, and Prussing, Estate of George Washington , 416, 418. [back]
20. The dressing table that Washington bequeathed to his friend Dr. David Stuart was a French piece which Washington acquired from the French Minister to the United States, Eléanor-François-Elie, comte de Moustier, upon the minister's departure from New York in October 1789.
In his Recollections of Washington, George Washington Parke Custis reported that during the Revolutionary War Washington's body-servant Will Lee always carried the large telescope "in a leathern case." The inventory of the contents of Mount Vernon lists, "In the Passage," a "Spye Glass" which the appraisers valued at $5. The editor of Custis's Recollections noted in 1859 that the telescope had "always been a conspicuous object upon the wall of the great passage at Mount Vernon." It may well be that Stuart, who was married to Eleanor Calvert Custis Stuart, the widow of Martha Washington's son, John Parke Custis, never removed the telescope from Mount Vernon; the dressing table was brought back to Mount Vernon in 1905. See Custis, Recollections of Washington, 224, Prussing, George Washington's Estate, 412-13, and Mount Vernon Annual Report (1981, 16-19). [back]
21. On 1 May 1794 the Rev. Clement Cruttwell (1743-1808) sent to Washington from Wokingham, Berkshire, in England, The Holy Bible. . . with Notes, by Thomas Wilson, Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man, and Various Renderings Collected from the Other Translations by the Rev. Clement Cruttwell, the Editor, published in three volumes in 1785 in Bath. According to Cruttwell, Thomas Wilson (1703-1784), son of the noted Bishop of Sodor and Man, Thomas Wilson (1663-1755), had directed in his will that this work by his father be sent to Washington. The Wilson work is listed in the inventory taken of Washington's library after his death, and the three volumes are now in the Library of Congress (Griffin, Boston Athenæum Washington Collection, 498). [back]
22. Four pairs of pistols were found "in the Study" at Mount Vernon when the inventory of its contents was taken in 1800. The appraisers set a value of $50 on three of the pairs, and $50 on the fourth. The pair of pistols given to Lafayette was exhibited at the Chicago Exhibition in 1893 as one of the "Souvenirs Franco-Américain de La Guerre de Independance." They had been on permanent display in Lafayette's chateau de La Grange. It is possible that these were the pistols that were sent from Philadelphia to General Washington at West Point on 22 Sept. 1779, with these words: "General Washington: accepting of these Pistols will very much oblige Sir Your most obedient very humble Sevt George Geddes." On 30 Sept., in accepting the gift, Washington called them "a pair of very elegant Pistols." By leaving this or another of his pair of pistols to Lafayette, Washington may have been returning the compliment. In 1824 Congressman Charles Fenton Mercer presented Gen. Andrew Jackson with a pair of pistols which, he said, Washington wore during the Revolution and were the gift of Lafayette. Mercer had got the pistols from William Robinson, the son-in-law of Washington's nephew William Augustine Washington. See Prussing, Estate of George Washington, 417-18, Richard and Carol Simpson, "Andrew Jackson's Pistols," (The Gun Report, January 1985), and Andrew Jackson to Edward George Washington Butler, 20 Jan. 1824, in Sam B. Smith, Harriet Chappell, Owsley, et al., eds., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, 5:341-42. [back]
23. Hannah Bushrod Washington was the widow of Washington's brother John Augustine Washington, who died in January 1787. Mildred Thornton Washington was the widow of Washington's brother Charles Washington, who died in September 1799. Eleanor Calvert Custis Stuart, the wife of Dr. David Stuart, was, in consequence of her earlier marriage in February 1774 to Martha Washington's son, John Parke Custis (d.1781), the mother of Martha's four grandchildren. Hannah Fairfax Washington, wife of Washington's cousin and friend Warner Washington of Fairfield in Frederick County, was the daughter of Washington's mentor, William Fairfax of Belvoir. Elizabeth Foote Washington of Hayfield in Fairfax County was the widow of Lund Washington, the manager of the Mount Vernon estate for more than a decade before, during, and after the Revolution. [back]
24. See note 30 below. [back]
25. Sally Ball Haynie was a child 11 or 12 years old in October 1790 when her mother, Elizabeth Haynie, wrote to Washington about their desitute condition. Mrs. Haynie was probably the daughter of Washington's mother's half sister Elizabeth Johnson. To afford his impoverished relatives some relief, Washington instructed his rental agent Battaile Muse to find a vacant tenement for them on his land in Berkeley, Frederick, Fauquier, or Loudoun county and fix up a house where they might live rent free for as long as they chose. Mrs. Haynie seems not to have taken up Washington's offer but did accept occasional gifts of money from him. She and her daughter chose to live with and work for Betty Calmes, the widow of Marquis Calmes who owned land on the Shenandoah River in Frederick County. Mrs. Haynie's health failed, and in 1794, Washington's nephew Robert Lewis, who had taken over from Muse in late 1791 the oversight of Washington's tenant farms in Virginia, settled her and young Sally in a small house near his own residence in Fauquier County. When Mrs. Haynie died in April 1796, Lewis and his wife took Sally, a "beautiful young girl" of "great conomy and industry," into their house, with the understanding that she would go to Mount Vernon and help Mrs. Washington with the housekeeping upon the Washingtons' return home from Philadelphia in 1797. The adolescent Sally had been a member of the Lewis household for only a very short time when Robert Lewis concluded that she was "giddy" and "extremely deficient in household Economy." He was quick to inform Washington of this and to encourage Sally to accept the invitation of the widowed Mrs. Calmes to return and live with her. In January 1798 Sally herself wrote to Washington from Mrs. Calmes's, where she had been since the summer of 1796, and Washington instructed Robert Lewis to provide her with money to buy "necessaries." At the end of the year Sally wrote again saying that "nothing givs me gratter pleasure then to wright and reseve a letter from Soo grate a friend as you have bin to me." She informed Washington that she was living in the house of Capt. George Eskridge in Frederick County. See GW to Elizabeth Haynie, 27 Dec. 1790, to Battaile Muse, 27 Dec. 1790, to Robert Lewis, 26 June 1796, to Sally Ball Haynie, 11 Feb. 1798, Robert Lewis to GW, 17 Jan. 1795, 5 May, 26 June, 27 July 1796, and Sally Ball Haynie to GW, 28 Jan., 8 Sept., 7 Dec. 1798 (Papers, Presidential Series, 7:119-21; Papers, Retirement Series, 2:83-84); and see especially the notes to the letters from GW to Elizabeth Haynie, 27 Dec. 1790, and to Sally Ball Haynie, 11 Feb. 1798. [back]
26. Sarah Green was the daughter of Thomas Bishop, Washington's old military servant, and of Susanna Bishop, who from 1766 until her death in December 1785 delivered most of the babies born to slave mothers at Mount Vernon. An only child, Sarah Bishop was married, probably by 1787, to Thomas Green, the overseer of Washington's slave carpenters. Thomas Bishop was already nearly fifty years old in 1755 when he landed in Virginia with General Edward Braddock's forces. Three months after Braddock's defeat in July 1755, Washington as colonel of the new Virginia Regiment, hired Bishop as his personal military servant. Bishop remained with the young colonel until Washington left the Virginia Regiment at the end of 1758. Bishop then returned to the British army at Philadelphia. In the spring of 1760 Washington decided that he wished to have Bishop with him at Mount Vernon and paid £10 to secure his release from the British service. The old soldier lived at Mount Vernon for the next thirty-four years, until his death in 1795. For a time, in the late 1760s, Bishop acted as overseer of Muddy Hole farm at Mount Vernon, but even before Washington left for war in 1775, Bishop seems to have been relegated to performing occasional tasks for the estate manager, Lund Washington, who complained to Washington in December 1775 that "every thing Bishop does is wrong." Despite this, Washington never wavered in his commitment to provide his old servant with the necessities of life. Bishop's house was on the river near the mansion house at Mount Vernon. George Washington Parke Custis later recalled that the old man in good weather would go outside his house, station himself at a spot where Washington would likely pass on his daily ride about the plantation, so as to greet and be greeted by the general. Upon learning of the death of his old servant in January 1795, Washington wrote from Philadelphia to his farm manager, William Pearce: "Altho' Bishop should never have wanted victuals or cloaths whilst he lived, yet his death cannot be cause of regret, even to his daughter; to whom, from the imbecility of age, if not when he died, he soon must have become very troublesome to her, and a burthen to all around him."
Three or four months before Bishop's death in 1795, his son-in-law, Thomas Green, went off, leaving his wife Sarah and her young children behind. Washington had come to consider Green, who had been employed at Mount Vernon since 1783, a hopelessly incompetent drunkard. He viewed Green's leaving on "his own accord" as a "lucky circumstance," even though he pitied "his helpless family." In a letter that has not been found, Sarah Green wrote Washington about her distressed circumstances and told him of her intention to move into Alexandria in order to support her children and herself by taking in washing and sewing, or perhaps she would set up a shop. Washington expressed to his farm manager William Pearce his willingness to aid her, if she should move into town, "to the amount of twenty pounds in the purchase of things or on credit but not by an advance in money." He also instructed Pearce to "give her a boat load of Wood--a little flour--and some meat at killing time." Mrs. Green seems to have decided to try to open a shop in Alexandria: in March 1796 she wrote from Alexandria to ask Washington for his help. Washington sent her, "as charity," $8 in April 1795 and $10 in July 1796 (Ledger C, 22, 25). For GW's early dealings with Thomas Bishop, see particularly Diaries, 1:229, 259, George Mercer to GW, 17 Feb. 1760, Robert Stewart to GW, 14 April 1760, and John Mercer to GW, 16 June 1760 (Papers, Colonial Series, 6:387-89, 412-14, 436-37). For other references to GW's concern for Bishop's welfare, see Lund Washington to GW, 3, 10 Dec. 1775 (Papers, Revolutionary War Series, 2:477-82, 526-28), and GW to Bishop, 10 April 1779. For references to Bishop's house and to his duties, see GW to Anthony Whitting, 14 Oct. 1792, Custis, Recollections of Washington, 376, Lund Washington's Account Book, 31, 60, 71, and Cash Accounts printed in Papers, Colonial Series, vols. 7 and 8. For Custis's anecdote about Bishop, see his Recollections, 376-81. For GW's opinion of Thomas Green, see particularly his letters to Green of 23 Dec. 1793 and to William Pearce of 21 Sept. 1794. For GW's dealings with Sarah Green, see GW to William Pearce, 21 Sept., 16, 30 Nov. 1794, and Sarah Green to GW, 21 Mar. 1795. [back]
27. John Alton accompanied Washington as his body-servant when the young man left Mount Vernon in April 1755 to join General Braddock. Alton remained with Washington throughout the disastrous campaign, falling ill at "abt the same time" that Washington did, "with near the same disorder." He did not return with Washington to the frontier in September 1755 when Washington was made colonel of the Virginia Regiment but remained at Mount Vernon instead. It was to Alton that Washington wrote in April 1759 shortly before bringing his bride to Mount Vernon, with instructions to have the "House very well cleand," to have "two of the best Bedsteads put up," and to see to it that the chairs and tables were "very well rubd and Cleand." In 1762 Alton was made overseer first of Dogue Run farm and then of Muddy Hole farm. In 1765 he was moved to Mill farm and in 1770 back to Muddy Hole. At the time of his death in 1785 he was overseer of River farm, having served without interruption, it appears, as an overseer at Mount Vernon for twenty-three years. In November 1786 Washington informed Alton's widow Elizabeth that she could "have the House used for a School by my Mill if the School should be discontinued" (Diaries, 5:66). Although there is some uncertainty about the marriage of the Alton's daughter, Ann, it seems clear that in 1785 she married the housekeeper, or butler, at Mount Vernon named Richard Burnet, who had been hired by Martha Washington in May 1783. Burnet left the Washingtons' employ in September 1785 upon his marriage, but in May 1786 he returned to take up his old position, this time under the name of Richard Burnet Walker. He continued as butler at Mount Vernon until 1789. For John Alton's role as Washington's body servant during Braddock's campaign, see GW to John Augustine Washington, 28 June-2 July 1755, and to William Fairfax, 23 April 1755, n.3, in Papers, Colonial Series, 1:259, 319-28. For his employment as overseer at Mount Vernon, see GW to Alton, 5 April 1759 (ibid., 6:200), and Washington's Cash Accounts and his list of tithables in Papers, Colonial Series, vols. 7 through 10, and Lund Washington's Account Book, 34, 80, 160 (ViMtV). For the reference to Elizabeth Alton, see Diaries, 5:66. For the marriage of Ann Alton and the Mount Vernon career of Richard Burnet Walker, see GW to Clement Biddle, 17 Aug. 1785, n.4 (Papers, Confederation Series, 3:186). [back]
28. William Augustine Washington was the son of George Washington's half-brother Augustine; George Steptoe Washington was the son of his brother Samuel; George Lewis was the son of his sister Betty Washington Lewis; Bushrod was the son of his brother John Augustine Washington; and Samuel was the son of his brother Charles Washington. In the inventory of the contents of the house at Mount Vernon in 1800, the appraisers listed "7 Swords & 1 blade," which they valued as a whole at $120. The sword chosen by Samuel Washington was presented in 1843 to the United States Congress by his son Samuel T. Washington. At the time of the presentation the sword was described as "a plain couteau, or hangar, with a green hilt and silver guard. On the upper ward of the scabbard is engraven 'J. Bailey, Fish Kill.' It is accompanied by a buckskin belt, which is secured by a silver buckle and clasp, whereon are engraved the letters 'G.W.' and the figures '1757.' These are all of the plainest workmanship, but substantial . . ." (Prussing, George Washington's Estate, 416, 481). [back]
29. Washington left to his nephew Bushrod Washington the core of the great plantation that he had created upon the Potomac. It was that part of it lying between Little Hunting and Dogue creeks which included the original 2,126-acre Mount Vernon tract on Little Hunting Creek and a number of smaller tracts between it and Dogue Run below the Alexandria road, which he had gradually added to his holdings. Three of the five farms that Washington maintained at Mount Vernon lay between the two creeks and were referred to as Muddy Hole farm, Union (Ferry and French) farm, and Mansion House farm with its gardens and buildings, including the great house itself. Bushrod's father, John Augustine Washington, the brother closest to Washington's heart, "the intimate companion of my youth and the most affectionate friend of my ripened age," spent much of his time taking care of George Washington's affairs in the late 1750s when his brother was away commanding the Virginia Regiment on the frontier. Washington took a particular interest in the education and legal education of Bushrod, his brother's eldest son, and he frequently conferred with the young lawyer about legal matters in the 1790s before Bushrod accepted appointment to the United States Supreme Court in 1798. Washington left to Bushrod not only the mansion house and three farms but also all of his books and his papers (see notes 13 and 14). For Washington's sentiments regarding John Augustine, see GW to Henry Knox, 27 April 1787 (Papers, Confederation Series, 6:157-59). [back]
30. Almost to the day in 1786 that he completed piecing together the plantation of more than 7,000 acres at Mount Vernon, the work of more than thirty years, Washington began arranging for its future breakup. In October of that year his nephew Maj. George Augustine Washington, who was acting as Washington's estate manager and living at Mount Vernon, married Martha Washington's niece Frances Bassett of Eltham, who also was living at Mount Vernon. In October 1786 Washington wrote his nephew that he intended "to give you at my death, my landed property in the neck, containing by estimation between two & three thousand acres." The tract on Clifton's Neck was that portion of the Mount Vernon plantation that lay to the east of Little Hunting Creek on the Potomac River, 1,806 acres of which he had bought from William Clifton in 1760 and 238 acres from George Brent in the same year. Washington developed on this property what he called River Farm, one of the five farms that he organized and operated at Mount Vernon. At Washington's urging George Augustine Washington took over a 360-acre section of this land on Clifton's Neck at the north east corner of River farm and established a farm there with the slaves given to him by his father-in-law, Burwell Bassett. When George Augustine died in 1793, his widow retained control of the farm, called Walnut Tree Farm, and at Fanny Washington's marriage to Tobias Lear in 1795 control of the farm passed to Lear, where it remained after Fanny's death in March 1796. Lear moved to Walnut Tree Farm with his own young son and with the children of George Augustine and Fanny Washington, Anna Maria and the two heirs of Clifton's Neck, George Fayette and Charles Augustine Washington. In 1797 Washington expressed a willingness to lease the whole of River Farm to Lear in 1798, but this was not done, possibly because Lear became occupied with the duties of military secretary for Washington. See Washington to George Augustine Washington, 25 Oct. 1786 (Papers, Confederation Series, 4:307-10), Diaries, 1:240, Tobias Lear to GW, 8, GW to Lear (second letter), 11 Sept. 1797 (Papers, Retirement Series, 1:339-41, 345-47); see also note 1 above. [back]
31. Martha Washington's granddaughter Eleanor Parke Custis, who had come to live at Mount Vernon as an infant, was married in the house on Washington's birthday in 1799 to Washington's nephew Lawrence Lewis. Lewis had in August 1797 at Washington's urging come to live at Mount Vernon so as to relieve his uncle of some of the burdens of entertaining the steady stream of visitors. In September 1799, at a time when Washington was seeking ways to reduce the scope of his farm operations at Mount Vernon so that he could assume direct control of them himself, he wrote to Lawrence Lewis about the provisions he had recently made in his will for him and his wife Nelly. The portion of the Mount Vernon holdings that he indicated was to go to the newly married couple was all that lying to the north and west of the road to Alexandria. This included Dogue Run farm, the mill tract, and a wooded tract of about four hundred acres which Washington had got from Charles West in 1772. He urged Lewis to build soon a house on the Charles West tract for himself and Nelly and to go ahead and rent at once the farm, grist mill, and distillery, all of which he could manage until they came to them at his death. Lewis did begin renting, and the couple later built their house, Woodlawn, beyond the mill. For Lawrence Lewis's invitation to Mount Vernon, see Diaries, 6:255. For the bequest to Lewis and his wife see ibid., 1:241, and GW to Lewis, 20 Sept. 1799. [back]
32. Washington undoubtedly would have left a great deal more land to Martha Washington's only grandson and his own ward, George Washington Parke Custis, had he not already been well provided for. Eighteen-year-old Custis, who like his sister Nelly Lewis had lived at Mount Vernon since his infancy and was still living there in 1799, was the heir-at-law of his father John Parke Custis from whom he had inherited extensive holdings in New Kent, York, and Northampton counties and elsewhere. He also would at Martha Washington's death take possession of his grandmother's dower lands and slaves. The tract of land on Four Mile Run of about 1,200 acres which Washington left him was about four miles north of Alexandria on the road to Leesburg. Washington had agreed in 1774 to pay £450 for the land to each of the brothers George and James Mercer, who had been given joint ownership by their father, John Mercer. When some question later arose about Washington's title to the land, James Mercer in 1787 confirmed Washington's ownership and agreed to credit him with the payment of £450 to George Mercer's estate in return for Washington's crediting that amount toward the payment of their father's long-standing debt to the Custis estate. For many years Washington had been bothered by timber-stealing poachers on this land, which he had left undeveloped. As recently as April 1799, he had resurveyed the tract himself and taken steps to put an end to the depredations. See GW to James Mercer, 12 Dec. 1774, and note 3 of that document, 19 Nov. 1786, n.1 (Papers, Colonial Series, 10:201-5; Papers, Confederation Series, 4:386), and GW to Ludwell Lee, 26 April 1799. [back]
33. Washington's Schedule of Property, in which he lists and describes the residue of his property, with instructions that it should be sold, is printed immediately below. What Washington is saying here is that the proceeds from the sale of the property should be apportioned among the children of his three brothers, his one sister, one half-brother, and Martha Washington's grandchildren. One share of the proceeds was to go to each of his eleven nephews and eight nieces, or to their heirs, and one share to each of Martha's three granddaughters. In addition one share was to be divided between his nephews Bushrod Washington and Lawrence Lewis and Martha's grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, all three of whom were otherwise major beneficiaries under the terms of the will. [back]
34. After his return from the presidency in 1797, Washington had regular business dealings with William Augustine Washington of Haywood, Westmoreland County, the son of his half-brother Augustine Washington who died in 1762. Augustine Washington's daughter Elizabeth was married to Washington's friend Alexander Spotswood of New Post, Spotsylvania County. Another daughter, Jane, was the wife of Col. John Thornton, son of Col. Francis Thornton (d.1784) of Society Hill, King George County. His third daughter, Ann Washington Ashton, was at the time of her death in 1777 the wife of her cousin Burdett Ashton of Northumberland County. She had four surviving children, Charles, Burdett, Ann, and Sarah. Her daughter Sarah Ashton married in 1788 Nicholas Fitzhugh of Ravensworth, Fairfax County. [back]
35. Washington and his brother-in-law, Fielding Lewis of Kenmore in Fredericksburg, were frequent business associates before Lewis's death near the end of the Revolution. Lewis left his widow, Washington's sister Betty, in somewhat reduced circumstances. When Washington became president in 1789, he took steps to give the two younger Lewis boys, Robert and Howell, a start in life. He made them clerks in his presidential household, Robert in 1789 and Howell in 1792. Upon Robert Lewis's return to Virginia in 1791, he became Washington's rental agent. In 1799 Robert Lewis was living with his wife in Fauquier County. Howell Lewis returned to Virginia in 1793 to act for a short time as Washington's agent at Mount Vernon before settling in Culpeper County. He visited Washington with his wife within a week of his uncle's death. Fielding Lewis, Jr., married very young before the Revolution and suffered many years of dire poverty with his wife and children. He seems by 1799, however, to have improved his condition and was living in Fairfax County. The second son, George, served with distinction as a cavalry officer in the Revolution. In 1799 George Lewis was living with his wife at Marmion, King George County. At the time of Washington's death Lawrence Lewis was living at Mount Vernon with his wife Nelly Custis. Betty Lewis Carter, the only daughter of Fielding and Betty Lewis, was the wife of Charles Carter, the son of Edward Carter of Blenheim. She lived at this time in Culpeper County with her husband and children. [back]
36. George Steptoe Washington and Lawrence Augustine Washington, sons of Washington's brother Samuel and his fourth wife, Anne Steptoe Washington, were little boys when their father died in 1781. After his return to Mount Vernon at the end of the Revolution, Washington assumed responsibility for their schooling in Georgetown and Alexandria and, later, their attendance at college in Philadelphia (see note 9). In 1799 George Steptoe Washington was living at Harewood, his father's place in Berkeley County. His brother Lawrence Augustine was living at Federal Hill, later called Hawthorn, at Winchester on a part of the estate of his wife's family, the Woods. Their younger sister, Harriet (Harriot), was married to Andrew Parks of Baltimore. Thornton Washington, whose mother was Samuel's second wife, Mildred Thornton Washington, was living at the time of his death in 1787 at Cedar Lawn on land that he had acquired from his uncle George Washington through his father (see note 8). Thornton Washington's heirs included his son, Samuel, born in 1786, the child of his second wife, Frances Townshend Washington, and sons John Thornton Augustine (b.1783) and Thomas A. (b.1780), both born to his first wife, Mildred Berry Washington. [back]
37. Corbin Washington had recently moved from his farm on the family place in Westmoreland County. He was living at Selby, Fairfax County, where Washington visited him in November 1799 (Diaries, 6:374). Jane (Jenny) Washington was married to William Augustine Washington, the son of her father's half brother Augustine Washington. She was living with him at Haywood in Westmoreland County in 1791 when she died. Her surviving children in 1799 were George Corbin Washington, Ann Aylett Washington, and Bushrod Washington, Jr. As the major beneficiary of Washington's will, Bushrod, John Augustine Washington's oldest son, received only one third of a share (see note 33). [back]
38. For some time before the death of Charles Washington, his son Samuel had been struggling to rescue his father's property which was heavily burdened with debt. He was recently married and had built a house in Berkeley County. His sister Mildred was married to Thomas Hammond and also lived in Berkeley County. Charles Washington's other daughter, Frances, was married to Washington's friend Col. Burgess Ball, and they lived in Loudoun County. The orphaned children of Charles Washington's oldest son, George Augustine Washington, and of Martha Washington's niece Frances Bassett Washington Lear, were named George Fayette, Charles Augustine, and Anna Maria. The children lived with their stepfather at Walnut Tree Farm, a part of the Mount Vernon Clifton's Neck land which Washington left to the two little boys (see note 30). [back]
39. Elizabeth Parke Custis (Eliza) Law, the eldest daughter of Martha Washington's son John Parke (Jacky) Custis and his wife Eleanor Calvert Custis (now Stuart), was married to the English entrepreneur Thomas Law. The Laws lived near the capitol in the Federal City. Her sister Martha Parke Custis (Patsy) Peter was the wife of Thomas Peter, a businessman in Georgetown. The third sister Eleanor Parke Custis (Nelly) Lewis was at Mount Vernon with her husband, the heir to a major part of the Mount Vernon plantation (see note 31). [back]
40. After he inherited Mount Vernon, Washington had the old tomb built according to the instructions laid down in his half-brother Lawrence's will. The tomb was built on the side of a steep hill about two hundred yards south of the mansion house. It was a plain, bricked up excavation in the hillside. Whenever the tomb was opened for a new occupant, the bricks had to be removed and replaced again after the burial. Mrs. Washington instructed that a door be made for the vault after her husband's burial, observing "that it will soon be necessary to open it again." By 1799 the tomb was in a ruinous condition from tree roots and moisture.
After Washington's death John Adams requested and received permission from Mrs. Washington to remove Washington's body for reburial in a crypt to be built under the dome of the United States Capitol. This was never done, however. In 1831, after an attempt was made by vandals to steal Washington's body from the decaying tomb, Lawrence Lewis and George Washington Parke Custis built a new brick tomb west of the mansion, in the "Vinyard Inclosure" mentioned in Washington's will. The bodies of George and Martha Washington and other family members buried in the old tomb were reinterred in the new vault. For more on GW's tomb, see Paul Wilstach, Mount Vernon, Washington's Home and the Nation's Shrine, (New York, 1916): 223-24, 247-50, and Prussing, Estate of George Washington, 239-42. [back]
41. The executors agreed among themselves that the business of the settlement of the estate should be left largely to Bushrod Washington and Lawrence Lewis. Nearly half a century after Washington's death, with all of the executors but George Washington Parke Custis dead, no final settlement of the estate had been reached. See Custis to Lorenzo Lewis, 20 June 1846 (Mount Vernon Annual Report, 1952, 52). [back]
ADS, ViFaCt; copy, Fairfax County Will Book H-1, 1-23, ViFaCt. W.W. Abbot, ed., The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series, vol. 4, April - December 1799. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999), 477-492. Several pages of Washington's original will in the Fairfax County Courthouse have been damaged; our reading of mutilated words has been taken from The Will of General George Washington: To Which Is Annexed, A Schedule of His Property, Directed to Be Sold (Alexandria, Va., 1800).«back | home