George Washington at the Dawn of His Revolutionary Career, Receives Cash from the Estate of John Parke Custis, His Wife Martha’s First Husband

An unpublished document, and a very uncommon link between the two husbands of Martha Custis Washington

It is also one of only a handful to have survived from the period of his early Revolutionary meetings, prior to attending the First Continental Congress

At the time of the death of her first husband, John Parke Custis, Martha Washington was only twenty-six years old, yet owned nearly 300 slaves, had...

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George Washington at the Dawn of His Revolutionary Career, Receives Cash from the Estate of John Parke Custis, His Wife Martha’s First Husband

An unpublished document, and a very uncommon link between the two husbands of Martha Custis Washington

It is also one of only a handful to have survived from the period of his early Revolutionary meetings, prior to attending the First Continental Congress

At the time of the death of her first husband, John Parke Custis, Martha Washington was only twenty-six years old, yet owned nearly 300 slaves, had more than 17,500 acres of land, and was worth more than £40,000. Because her husband had died without a will, she was the executor of his estate. The estate passed first to their child, Martha Parke Custis, but she died young in 1773. At that point, Martha and her husband, George Washington, took ownership.

As steward of the Custis estate from 1772 to 1778, James Hill of King William County, Va., managed John Parke Custis’s plantations and those which GW held in King William and York Counties. Much of the land production consisted of tobacco.

On May 27, 1774, a group of 89 burgesses, Washington among them, gathered at the Raleigh Tavern to form a “non-importation association,” and the following day the Committee of Correspondence proposed a Continental Congress. Twenty-five burgesses met at Peyton Randolph’s house on May 30 and scheduled a state convention to be held on August 1 to consider a proposal from Boston for a ban on exports to England. On July 18, Washington chaired the Alexandria meeting that adopted George Mason’s “Fairfax Resolves”, which rejected the British Parliament’s claim of supreme authority over the American colonies.

Autograph document signed, “Williamsburg, June 16, 1774. Then received from Mr. James Hill the sum of Thirty Eight pounds to be allowed at next settlement in his account. G. Washington.”

This is dated just a month before Washington chaired the Alexandria meeting and not long before the First Continental Congress. Only a handful of Washington pieces from this momentous time in Williamsburg are known to have survived. This piece has been professionally restored.

Decades later, after Martha’s death, matters and documents relating to the Custis estate generally passed to Mary Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee. As the Civil War got underway and she received warning that the Union Army was planning to seize Arlington—the 1,100-acre estate built by her father, where she had grown up, married, raised her seven children, and buried her parents—she prepared to leave her beloved home. Packing the family silver, George Washington and G.W.P. Custis’s papers, and General Lee’s files, she left in May of 1861, never to return again.

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