“IN THE NAME OF GOD Amen. I GEORGE WASHINGTON of MOUNT VERNON, a Citizen of the United States, and lately President of the same” .… This post includes only the family essentials of his will, plus his landholdings and investments, which other online sites don’t have. How rich was he?
You can get the will transcribed online, but it is badly done. By far the greatest transcribers of old handwritten Virginia documents are Ruth and Sam Sparacio. The post here depends on their excellent work.
Plus, the online sites don’t have a list of his property and wealth, which this post has.
President Washington’s preamble continues:
…. “do make ordain and declare this Instrument, which is written with my own hand, and every page thereof subscribed with my name, to be my last Will & Testament revoking all others.”
President Washington’s will has to qualify as the longest one in that century and in that state (at least from what my own research tells me). He died a fabulously wealthy man in landholdings and investments.
Here are some interesting features of the documents, below:
- He says that he wrote this Last Will and Testament with his own hand;
- His slaves were not to be released, though he earnestly desired to do so, because they have intermarried with his wife Martha’s slaves or the so-called “Dower Negroes,” whom he is not free to manumit;
- Upon the decease of his wife, all slaves are to go free;
- Certain slaves are to be taught to read and write;
- Slaves that are too infirm to work must be supported by his heirs;
- No slave shall be exported or sold outside the Commonwealth of Virginia;
- His mulatto man, named William Lee, was to receive immediate freedom for his service to the General and the accidents he had suffered during the War and for his faithful service to the President;
- The slaves of his sister-in-law, Mary Dandridge, were to go free after her decease;
- He called America a “growing Empire” without a negative connotation;
- He devised $4,000.00 to fund a Free School for orphans and poor children;
- He refused any monetary rewards from the government for serving his country;
- But what he does receive he wished to use to it found a university in the middle of his “country” or Virginia;
- Another university was to be built within the District of Columbia;
- He bequeathed his swords and “cutteaux” to his nephews, but ordered that they should use the weapons only for self-defense and defense of the country;
- The Earl of Buchan gave to President Washington the box made of oak in which Sir William Wallace hid in during the Battle of Falkirk; the Earl directed the President to bequeath it to anyone who was equally brave as Wallace, but the President gave it back to the Earl—a gift too valuable to hold within Washington’s family;
- He gave a Bible in three large folio volumes, with notes, to Bryan, now Lord Fairfax, which had been presented to him by the Right Reverend Thomas Wilson, Bishop of Sodor & Man;
- He gave to General de la Fayette “a pair of finely wrought steel pistols taken from the enemy in the Revolutionary War”;
- He called the war the Revolutionary War, not the War of Independence (at least in this Will);
- As to his burial, he ordered: “it is my express desire that my Corpse may be interred in a private manner without parade or funeral oration.”
- His brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces and ward are named.
- Deceased brother Samuel and his sons, Thornton Washington, George Steptoe Washington, and Laurence Augustine Washington;
- Bartholomew Dandridge, deceased, (my wife’s Brother) and his deceased son, John Dandridge, Mary widow of Bartholomew Dandridge;
- Charles Carter intermarried with my Niece Betty Lewis;
- My Nephew, William Augustine Washington
- My Nephew Bushrod Washington: “I give and bequeath all the papers in my possession which relate to my civil and military administration of the affairs of this Country. I leave to him also such of my private papers as are ‘Worth preserving; and at the decease of Wife, and before if she is not inclined to return them, I give and bequeath my Library of Books and Pamphlets of every kind”;
The mechanics and spelling have been modernized except in some places.
Here are the more personal sections.
To my Brother, CHARLES WASHINGTON, I give and bequeath the Gold headed Cane left me by DOCTOR FRANKLIN in his Will. I add nothing to it because of the ample provision I have made for his issue;
To the acquaintances and friends of my juvenile years, LAWRENCE WASHINGTON & ROBERT WASHINGTON of CHOTANCK, I give my other two gold headed Canes, having my arms engraved on them, and to each (as they will be useful where they live) I leave one of the Spy Glasses which constituted part of my equipage during the late War.
To my Compatriot in Arms and old & intimate friend, DOCTOR CRAIK, I give my Bureau (or as the Cabinet Makers call it, Tambour Secretary) and the circular chair, an appendage of my Study;
To DOCTOR DAVID STUART, I give my large shaving & dressing Table and my Telescope;
To the Reverend Now BRYAN, LORD FAIRFAX, I give a Bible in three large folio volumes with notes, presented to me by the Right Reverend THOMAS WILSON, Bishop of Sodor & Man;
To GENERAL de la FAYETTE, I give a pair of finely wrought steel Pistols taken from the enemy in the Revolutionary War.
To my Sisters-in-law, HANNAH WASHINGTON & MILDRED WASHINGTON; to my friends ELEANOR STUART, HANNAH WASHINGTON of FAIRFIELD and ELIZABETH WASHINGTON of HAYFIELD, I give each a mourning Ring of the value of one hundred dollars; These bequests are not made for the intrinsic value of them but as mementoes of my esteem & regard;
To TOBIAS LEAR, I give the use of the Farm which he now holds in virtue of a Lease from me to him and his deceased Wife (for and during their natural lives) free from Rent during his life; at the expiration of which it is to be disposed as is herein after directed;
To SALLY B. HAYNIE (a distant relation of mine) I give & bequeath three hundred dollars;
To SARAH GREEN, Daughter of the deceased THOMAS BISHOP & to ANN WALKER, Daughter of JNO ALTON, also deceased, I give each one hundred dollars in consideration of the attachment of their fathers to me, each of them having lived nearly forty years in my family.
To each of my Nephews, WILLIAM AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON, GEORGE LEWIS, GEORGE STEPTOE WASHINGTON, BUSHROD WASHINGTON, and SAMUEL WASHINGTON I give one of the Swords or Cutteaux of which I may die possessed; and they are to choose in the order they are named; These words are accompanied with an injunction not to unsheathe them for the purpose of shedding blood except it be for self defence or in defence of their Country and its rights; and in the latter case to keep them unsheathed and prefer falling with them in their hands to the relinquishment thereof;
And now having gone through these specific devises with explanation for the more correct understanding of the meaning and design of them, I proceed to the distribution of the more important parts of my Estate in manner following:
First, to my Nephew, BUSHROD WASHINGTON, and his heirs (partly in consideration of an intimation to his deceased father while we were Bachelors & he had kindly undertaken to superintend my Estate during my Military Services in the former War between Great Britain &. France, that if I should fall therein. MOUNT VERNON (then less extensive in domain than at present should become his property); ….
Second, in consideration of the consanguinity between them and my Wife, being as nearly related to her as to myself, as on account of the affection I had for and the obligation I was under to their Father when living, who from his youth, had attached himself to my person and following fortunes through the vicissitudes of the late Revolution; afterwards devoting his time to the superintendence of my private concerns for many years whilst my public employments rendered it impracticable for me to do it myself, thereby affording me essential services, and always performing them in a manner the most filial and respectful;
For these reasons I say I give and bequeath to GEORGE FAYETTE WASHINGTON and LAWRENCE AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON and their heirs my Estate East of LITTLE HUNTING CREEK lying on the RIVER POTOMAC, including the Farm of 360 acres leased to TOBIAS LEAR as noticed before; and containing in the whole by Deeds, two thousand and seventy seven acres, be it more or less, which said Estate it is my will & desire should be equitably &; advantageously divided between them according to quantity quality & other circumstances when the youngest shall have arrived at the age of twenty one years by the third by these two; In the meantime, if the termination of my Wife’s interest therein should have ceased, the profits arising there from are to be applied for their joint uses and benefit;
Third, and Whereas it has always been my intention since my expectation of having issue has ceased, to consider the Grandchildren of my Wife in the same light as I do my own relations; and to act a friendly part by them; more especially by the two whom we have reared from their earliest infancy, namely, ELEANOR PARKE CUSTIS & GEORGE WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS;
And whereas the former of these hath lately intermarried with LAWRENCE LEWIS, a Son of my deceased Sister, BETTY LEWIS, by which union the inducement to provide for them both has been increased,
Wherefore I give and bequeath to the said LAWRENCE LEWIS & ELEANOR PARKE LEWIS his Wife and their heirs the residue of my MOUNT VERNON Estate not already devised to my Nephew, BUSHROD WASHINGTON comprehended within the following description, viz.,
Fourth, actuated by the principle already mentioned, I give and bequeath to GEORGE
WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS, the Grandson of my Wife, and my Ward, and to his heirs, the tract I hold on FOUR MILE RUN in the vicinity of ALEXANDRIA, containing one thousand two hundred acres more or less & my entire square number twenty one in the CITY of WASHINGTON;
To WILLIAM AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON, ELIZABETHSPOTSWOOD, JANE THORNTON and the heirs of ANN ASHTON, Son and Daughters of my deceased Brother, AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON, I give and bequeath four parts, that is one part to each of them;
To FIELDING LEWIS, GEORGE LEWIS, ROBERT LEWIS, HOWELL LEWIS & BETTY CARTER, Sons & Daughters of my deceased Sister, BETTY LEWIS, I give & bequeath five other parts, one to each of them;
To GEORGE STEPTOE WASHINGTON, LAWRENCE AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON, HARRIOT PARKS and the heirs of THORNTON WASHINGTON, Sons and Daughter of my deceased Brother, SAMUELWASHINGTON, I give and bequeath other four parts, one part to each of them:
To CORBIN WASHINGTON and the heirs of JANE WASHINGTON, Son and Daughter of my deceased Brother, JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON, I give & bequeath two parts, one part to each of them;
To SAMUELWASHINGTON, FRANCES BALL & MILDRED HAMMOND, Son and Daughters of my Brother, CHARLES WASHINGTON, I give and bequeath three parts, one part to each of them;
And to GEORGE FAYETTE WASHINGTON, CHARLES AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON &
MARIA WASHINGTON Sons and Daughter of my deceased Nephew, GEO: AUGUSTINE
WASHINGTON I give one other part, that is, to each a third of that part;
To ELIZABETH PARKE LAW, MARTHA PARKE PETER and ELEANOR PARKE LEWIS, I give and bequeath three other parts, that is a part to each of them;
And to my Nephews, BUSHROD WASHINGTON & LAWRENCE LEWIS, and to my Ward, the Grandson of my Wife [GEORGE WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS], I give and bequeath one other part, that is, a third part of each of them; ….
The FAMILY VAULT at MOUNT VERNON requiring repairs and being improperly situated besides, I desire that a new one of Brick and upon a larger scale may be built at the foot of what is commonly called The Vineyard Enclosure, on the ground which is marked out, in which my remains with those of my deceased relatives (now in the Old Vault) and such others of my family as may choose to be entombed there may be deposited; And it is my express desire that my Corpse may be interred in a private manner without parade or funeral oration;
Lastly, I constitute and appoint my dearly beloved Wife, MARTHA WASHINGTON, my Nephews WILLIAM AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON, BUSHROD WASHINGTON, GEORGE STEPTOE WASHINGTON & SAMUELWASHINGTON & LAWRENCE LEWIS & my Ward GEORGE WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS (when he shall have arrived to the age of Twenty years) Executrix & Executors of this Will and Testament;
[The last Will and Testament] may, notwithstanding, appear crude and incorrect, But having endeavoured to be plain and explicitly in all the devises, even at the expense of prolixity, perhaps of tautology, I hope and trust that no disputes will arise concerning them, but if contrary to expectation the case should be otherwise from the want of legal expression or the usual technical terms, or because too much or too little has been said on any of the devises to be consonant with Law, my will and direction expressly is that all disputes (if unhappily any should arise) shall be decided by three impartial and intelligent men known for their probity & good understanding, two to be chosen by the disputants, each having the choice of one, and the third by those two; which three men thus chosen shall unfettered by Law or legal constructions declare their sense of the Testators intention, And such decision is to all intents and purposes to be as binding on the parties as if it had been given in the Supreme Court of the Unites States.
In Witness of all and each of the things herein contained, I have set my hand and seal this ninth day of July in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety [blank]* and of the Independence of the United States the Twenty fourth
[Signed] GO. WASHINGTON
*It appears the clerk omitted the word “nine.”
SCHEDULE of property comprehended in the foregoing Will which is directed to be sold and some of it conditionally is sold with descriptive and explanatory notes relative thereto.
|LOUDOUN & FAUQUIER|
|South Fork of Bullskin||1600|
|Head of Evan’s M||453|
|In Wormley’s line||183|
|Bought from Mercer||571||20.00||11,420.00||(d)|
|On Pot River||240||15.00||3,600.00||(e)|
|On North River||400 abt.||2954.00||(f)|
|Near Suffolk 1/3 of 1119 acres||373||8.00||2984.00||(g)|
|GREAT DISMAL SWAMP|
|My dividend thereof||Abt 20,000.00||(h)|
|16 miles Lower Down||2448|
|Opposite Big Bent||4395|
|Near the Mouth West||10,990|
|East side above||7276|
|Mouth of Cole Ridge||2000|
|Mohawk River||Abt. 1000||6.00||6000.00||(o)|
|NORTH WEST TERRITORY|
|On Little Miami||839|
|CITY OF WASHINGTON|
|Two near the Capital Square; 634 cost $963 with buildings||15,000.00||(r)|
|No. 5, 12, 13, 14 the last three water lots together 34,438 sq. feet @ 12 cts||4132.00||(s)|
|Corner of Pitt and Prince Streets half an acre laid out into buildings 3 or 4 of which are let on ground Rent at $3 per foot||4000.00||(t)|
|A lot in the Town of half an acre & another in the Commons of about 6 acres supposed||400.00||(u)|
|Bath & Warm Springs; Two well situated & had buildings to amount of £150.00||800.00||sic|
|United States 6 p. cts||3746|
|Ditto deferred 1873; 3 p. cts.||2500||6246.00||(x)|
|24 shares cost ea. £100 Sterling||20,666.00||(y)|
|JAMES RIVER COMPANY|
|5 shares each cost $100||500.00||(z)|
|BANK OF COLUMBIA|
|170 shares $40 each||6800.00 (&)|
|BANK OF ALEXANDRIA besides 20 to the Free School 5||1000.00|
Stock living, viz: 1 Covering Horse; 5 Co. Horses; 4 riding ditto; six brood mares; 20 working horses and mares; 2 covering jacks & three young ones; 10 she asses; 42 working mules; 15 younger ones; 329 of horned cattle; 640 head of sheep and a large stock of hogs, the precise number unknown;
My manager has estimated this livestock at £7000, but I shall set it down in order to make said sum at 15,653
Aggregate Amount: $530,000
Note: that total amount does not include his slaves. He apparently had 123 of them, and as a collection they would be worth around $50,000-100,000, based on my research into slavery in many places in my own family line.
(a) This tract for the size of it is valuable, more for its situation than the quality of its soil, though that is good for Farming. ‘With a considerable portion of ground that might very easily be improved into Meadow, It lies on the Great Road from the City of WASHINGTON, ALEXANDRIA and GEORGETOWN to LEESBURGH & WINCHESTER at DIFFICULT BRIDGE, (nineteen miles from ALEXANDRIA), less from the City & GEORGETOWN, and not more than three from MATILDAVILLE at the GREAT FALLS of POTOMAC. There is a valuable seat on the premises and the whole is conditionally sold for the sum annexed in the Schedule.
(b) What the selling prices of land in the vicinity of these two tracts are I know not, but compared with those above the Ridge, and others below them, the value annexed will appear moderate, a less one would not obtain them from me.
(e) The surrounding land not superior in soil situation or properties of any sort, sell currently at from twenty to thirty dollars an acre; the lowest price is affixed to these;
(d) The observations made in the last Note applies equally to this tract, tract being in the vicinity of them and of similar quality, altho’ it lies in another County;
(e) This tract though small is extremely valuable. It lies on POTOMAC RIVER about 12 miles above the Town of BATH (or WARMSPRINGS) and is in the shape of a Horse Shoe, the River running almost around it; Two hundred acres of it is rich low grounds, with a great abundance of the largest & finest Walnut trees; which, with the produce of the soil, might (by means of the improved Navigation of the POTOMAC) be brought to a Shipping Port with more ease and at a smaller expense than that which is transported 30 miles only by land.
(f) This Tract of second rate GLOUCESTER Low Grounds, It has no improvements thereon, but lies on navigable Water, abounding in Fish and Oysters, It was received in payment of a Debt (carrying Interest) and valued in the year 1789 by an impartial Gentleman to £800. N. B. it has lately been sold and there is due thereon a balance equal to what is annexed the Schedule;
(g) These 373 acres are the third part of undivided purchases made by the deceased FIELDING LEWIS, THOMAS WALKER and myself, in full conviction that they would become valuable. The land lies on the Road from SUFFOLK to NORFOLK, touches (if I am not mistaken) some part of the navigable water of NANSEMOND RIVER borders on and comprehends part of the Rich DISMAL SWAMP, is capable of great improvement, and from its situation must become extremely valuable.
(h) This is an undivided Interest which I held in the GREAT DISMAL SWAMP COMPANY, containing about 4000 acres, with my part of the Plantation & Stock thereon belonging to the Company in the said Swamp;
(i) The several tracts of land are of the first quality on the OHIO RIVER in the parts where they are situated, being almost if not all together River Bottoms; The smallest of these tracts is actually sold at Ten dollars an acre but the consideration therefor not received, the rest are equally valuable and will sell as high, especially that which lies just below the LITTLE KANHAWA and is opposite to a Thick Settlement on the West side the River; the four tracts have an aggregate breadth upon the River of Sixteen miles and is bounded thereby that distance;
(k) These tracts are situated on the GREAT KANHAWA RIVER and the first four are bounded thereby for more than forty miles. It is acknowledged by all who have seen them (and of the tract containing 10990acres which I have been on myself, I can assert), that there is no richer or more valuable land in all that Region, they are conditionally sold for the sum mentioned in the Schedule, that is $200.000, and if the terms of that sale are not complied with they will command considerably more, The tract of which the 125 acres is a moiety, was taken up by GENERAL ANDREW LEWIS and myself for and on account of a bituminous Spring which it contains so inflammable a nature as to burn as freely as Spirits and is as nearly difficult to extinguish;
(1) I am but little acquainted with this land, although I have once been on it. It was received (many years since) in discharge of a debt due to me from DANIEL JENIFER ADAMS at the value annexed thereto, and must be worth more. It is very level lies near the River POTOMAC;
(m) This tract lies about 30 miles above the CITY of WASHINGTON not far from KITTOCTAN. It is good farming land and by those who are well acquainted with it, I am informed that it would sell at twelve or $15 p acre;
(n) This land is valuable on account of its local situation and other properties. It affords an exceeding good stand on BRADDOCK’s ROAD from FORT CUMBERLAND to PITTSBURGH And besides fertile soil possesses a large quantity of natural meadow, fit for the Scythe, it is distinguished by the appellation of the GREAT MEADOWS where the first action with the French in the year 1754 was fought;
(o) This is the moiety of about 2000 acres which remains unsold of 6071 acres on the MOHAWK RIVER (MONTGOMERY County) in a Patent granted to DANIEL COXE, in the TOWNSHIP of COXEBOROUGH CAROLACA, as will appear by Deed from MARINUS WILLETT & Wife to GEORGE CLINTON (late Governor of NEW YORK), and myself, the latter sales have been at six dollars an acre and what remains unsold will fetch that or more;
(p) The quality of these lands & their situation may be known by the Surveyors Certificates which are filed along with the Patents; They lie in the vicinity of CINCINNATI, one tract near the mouth of the LITTLE MIAMI, another seven & the third ten miles up the same; I have been informed that they will readily command more than they are estimated at;
(q) For the description of these tracts in detail, see GENERAL SPOTSWOOD’s Letter filed with the other papers relating to them. Besides the general good quality of the land, there is a valuable Bank of Iron Ore thereon, which when the settlement becomes more populous (and Settlers are moving that way very fast) will be found very valuable, as the ROUGH CREEK, a Branch of GREEN RIVER, affords ample water for Furnaces & Forges
CITY of WASHINGTON: The two lots near the Capital in square 634, cost me 963$ only, but in this price I was favoured on condition that I should build two Brick Houses three story high each: without this reduction the selling prices of those lots would have cost me about $1350; These lots with the buildings thereon when completed will stand me in $15,000 at least: (s) Lots No.5, 12,13 & 14,on the Eastern Branch are advantageously situated on the water and although many lots much less convenient have sold a great deal higher, I will rate these at 12 cts. the square foot only;
ALEXANDRIA: (t) For this lot, though unimproved. I have refused $3500. It has since been laid off into proper sized lots for building on three or 4 of which are let on ground Rent forever; at three dollars a foot on the Street, and this price is asked for both fronts on PITT & PRINCES STREET.
WINCHESTER: (u) As neither the lot in the Town or Common has any improvements on them, it is not easy to fix a price but as both are well situated, it is presumed the price annexed to them in the Schedule is a reasonable value;
BATH: (v) The lots in BATH (two adjoining) cost me to the best of my recollection between fifty & sixty pounds 20 years ago, and the buildings thereon £150 or more; Whether property there has increased or decreased in its value, and in what condition the houses are, I am ignorant, but suppose they are not valued too high.
(x) These are the sums which are actually funded, and though no more in the aggregate that $7,566 stand me in at least ten thousand pounds Virginia money, being the amount of the bonded and other debts due me, & discharged during the War when money had depreciated in that rate and was so settled by public authority;
(y) The value annexed to these shares what they have actually cost me and is the price affixed by Law, And although the present selling price is under par, my advice to the Legatees (for whose benefit they are intended, especially those who can afford to lie out of the money), is that each should take & hold one; there being a moral certainty of a great and increasing profit arising from them in the course of a few years;
(z) It is supposed that the shares in the JAMES RIVER COMPANY must also be productive, but of this I can give no decided opinion for want of more accurate information.
(&) These are the nominal prices of the shares in the BANKs of ALEXANDRIA & COLUMBIA; the selling prices vary according to circumstances; But as the Stock usually divide from eight to ten per cent per annum, they must be worth the former at least, so long as the Banks are conceived to be secure, although circumstances may sometimes below it, The value of the live stock, depends more upon the quality than quantity of the different species of it, and this again upon the demand and judgment or fancy of purchasers.
MOUNT VERNON 9th July 1799
[signed] GO. WASHINGTON
At a Court held for the County of Fairfax 20 January 1800,
This Last Will and Testament of GEORGE WASHINGTON deceased, late President of the
United States of America, was presented in Court by GEORGE STEPTOE WASHINGTON,
SAMUEL WASHINGTON & LAWRENCE LEWIS, three of the Executors therein named who made oath thereto, and the same being proved by the oath of CHARLES LITTLE, CHARLES
SIMMS and LUDWELL LEE, to be in the true hand writing of the said Testator, as also the Schedule thereto annexed, and the said Will being sealed and signed by him, is on motion ordered to be Recorded; And the said Executors having given security and performed what the Law requires, a Certificate is granted them for obtaining a probate thereof in due form;
Examined by G. DENEAU Teste G. DENEAU Cl. Fx [Clerk Fairfax]
Fairfax County Will Book H, pp. 1-18
King John (George Washington descends from King John)
Ruth and Sam Sparacio, Virginia County Court Records: Will Abstracts of Fairfax County, Virginia, 1798-1801 (McLean: Antient P, 1992)