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List of George Washington’s Slaves, 1786

This list was entered by Washington on Saturday, February 18, 1786. The entire entry for that day is included in the digital version followed by the list of slaves, separated by farm location. Total numbers are listed at the end of the “Muddy Hole” list.

To see detailed maps of the farms, please visit Farms & Their Contents, dated 1783.

List of George Washington’s Slaves, 1799

The list of Mount Vernon slaves which GW drew up, probably some time in June 1799, included those slaves owned by him outright, those who were controlled by him as part of Martha Washington’s dowry, and a number who were rented by him in 1786 by contract with Mrs. Penelope French at the time he acquired her life rights to land that she owned on Dogue Run.

The slaves Washington owned in his own right came from several sources. He was left eleven slaves by his father’s will; a portion of his half brother Lawrence Washington’s slaves, about a dozen in all, were willed to him after the death of Lawrence’s infant daughter and his widow; and Washington purchased from time to time slaves for himself, mostly before the Revolution.

Washington also hired for varying periods of time individual slaves, usually skilled artisans, from neighbors and acquaintances. These do not appear on this slave list.

Only one other complete roll of the slaves at Mount Vernon has been found. In February 1786 Washington recorded in his diary all the Mount Vernon slaves, dower and personal, the farms on which they lived, and their jobs. The total at that time came to 216; it did not include Mrs. French’s slaves, the use of whom Washington acquired later in the year.

There are also in the Washington Papers at the Library of Congress Washington’s lists of his tithables in Truro and Fairfax parishes (where Mount Vernon lies) for every year from 1760 through 1774. These have been printed in the Papers, Colonial Series. These lists name slaves living at Mount Vernon but do not include children under the age of sixteen and a few elderly slaves who were not tithed. The lists of tithables also include the names of indentured white servants and other whites living on the farms, including GW’s overseers and managers. For further information on GW’s slaves, see Charles Lee to GW, 13 Sept. 1786, and especially note 4 to that document, GW to William Triplett, 25 Sept. 1786, and notes 3 and 5 (Papers, Confederation Series, 4:247–49, 268–74), Memorandum: Division of Slaves [1762] and note to that document (Papers, Colonial Series, 7:172–74), Division of Slaves, 10 Dec. 1754 (ibid., 1:227–31), and Diaries, 4:277–83.

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Images of George Washington’s Slave List, June 1799
(courtesy of Mount Vernon). Click on images for larger view.

Appraisement of Slaves Sent to the Dismal Swamp, 1764

At its first meeting on 3 Nov. 1763, the Dismal Swamp Land Company agreed that each member should contribute five slaves by 1 July 1764 for “the work of draining Improving and Saving the Land” (Dismal Swamp Land Company: Minutes of Meeting, 3 Nov. 1763). In his accounts with the company GW entered in July 1764 a claim for £7.14.1 for “my Expences [going] to the Swamp in order to receive & set the People to work” (Ledger A, 194; account with “The Adventurers for draining the Dismal Swamp,” PPRF). GW’s cash accounts for June and July 1764 indicate that he was in Williamsburg as late as 25 June and back again as early as 9 July. It was probably at this time that he made the undated survey of land beginning at the Poquoson Swamp (DLC:GW).

George Washington to Anthony Whitting

One of the most interesting documents in volume 11 of the Presidential Series is “Washington’s Plan for a Barn,” which was enclosed in this 28 October 1792 letter to his farm manager Anthony Whitting. “I have resolved to build a Barn & treading floor at Dogue Run Plantation, & to do it as soon as other more pressing work will permit; at any rate for the Wheat of next harvest,” wrote Washington.

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Washington’s sixteen-sided barn (from Some Old Historic Landmarks of Virginia & Maryland by W. H. Snowden, 1901)

This was not to be just an ordinary barn but a sixteen-sided barn with an innovative treading floor on the second level. Washington carefully calculated the supplies required for the construction of the barn, including the 30,820 “hard and good” bricks that would be used in the building. He delineated the specific size and amount of lumber required: 88 fourteen-feet, 9×3-inch boards for the lower floor; 2,000 feet of 1-1/2-inch plank; 16 sills, 16 tops, and “Bars” for the windows; 420 pieces of white oak, in lengths varying from 12 to 20 feet long, for the treading floor; 86 rafters, twenty-feet long; and 7,000 three-feet shingles were among the items listed. Fifty-two feet in diameter, the barn took two years to complete and stood until the last quarter of the nineteenth century. A reconstructed replica of GW’s barn was completed on Mount Vernon’s grounds in September 1996.

Original manuscript images at the Library of Congress: Page 1 | Pages 2 & 3 | Pages 4 & 5 | Pages 6 & 7 | Page 8

Digital version of the enclosure and sketch: Washington’s Plan for a Barn, [28 October 1792] and sketch.

Advertisement for Runaway Slaves in the Maryland Gazette

An advertisement in the Maryland Gazette of Annapolis placed by George Washington in hopes of locating runaway slaves from his Dogue River Farm. Advertisement includes detailed descriptions and the names of some of his slaves.