The first President of the United States, George Washington, was born at Pope's Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia to Augustine and Mary Ball Washington on 11 February (Old Style) or 22 February (New Style) 1732 (see note below).
Both of George's parents had been born in Virginia. His father Augustine (1693-1743) was the son of Lawrence and Mildred Warner Washington. Augustine's first wife, Jane Butler, gave birth to three sons and a daughter, but only two, Lawrence and Augustine, survived. The elder Augustine then married Mary Ball, the daughter of Joseph and Mary Bennett Ball. Augustine and Mary had six children: George, Betty, Samuel, John Augustine, Charles, and Mildred, who died as an infant. Thus young George grew up surrounded by his siblings: two half- brothers, three brothers, and a sister.
The Washington and Ball families were both of English descent; they emigrated to Virginia in the 1600s and became planters. The Washingtons were from a land-owning family in England; a brother of George's great-grandfather John Washington married a half-sister of the Duke of Buckingham. Another ancestor had been Mayor of Northampton and owner of the manor of Sulgrave in Northamptonshire.
Young George entered the Virginia militia, serving as a major and then colonel during the French and Indian Wars. He was elected to the state House of Burgesses and later, during the Revolution, was sent to the Second Continental Congress representing his home state. He became Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, from which post he oversaw the eventual success of the Patriots' cause. After the war, he served with the Constitutional Convention in developing a government for the new country, and was then elected its first president in 1789.
During his first term Washington spent much time organizing and the executive branch of the government, developing operating procedures that the new country would rely on for generations. His second term was focused on foreign affairs, though many feel it was marred by increasing partisanship and unrest. Still, during this time the Indian wars were finally ended, and the interior of the continent was opened for Western settlement.
In Virginia, emigrants Augustine and Jane Butler Washington engaged in planting, prospering enough to send their two sons to school in England. Augustine accompanied the two boys to settle them in their school, but upon his return to Virginia, he learned that Jane had died. Later, when the young men returned to Virginia, they took up nearby estates and engaged in planting, Lawrence at Mount Vernon, and the younger Augustine at Wakefield.
The elder Augustine died when young George was 11, and he spent much of his early life at the homes of his brothers. George seems to have gotten along particularly well with Lawrence, who developed tuberculosis ("consumption") as a young man. George went with him first to Bath (now Berkeley Springs) in West Virginia, and then to Barbados, where it was hoped the warm springs or milder climate would cure Lawrence. Unfortunately, neither trip helped him, and when Lawrence died, he left his estate of Mount Vernon to George, who was to take possession after the death of Lawrence's widow.
George was the oldest of Mary Ball's children. His closest sibling in age, Samuel, was two years younger, but it does not appear that they were particularly close. Samuel's finances were unstable, and George often helped Samuel's family, including paying for the education of the children.
John Augustine, four years younger than George, was a particular favorite. George described him in a letter as "the intimate companion of my youth and the friend of my ripened age." John often handled George's business affairs when he was away serving in the military.
George's only sister, Betty, married Fielding Lewis; the families visited each other often and corresponded when apart. Lewis also had monetary problems, and once again, George helped them out financially.
George Washington's Marriage and Extended Family
George, at the age of 27, married Martha Dandridge Custis on 6 January 1759. A widow with two children, Martha had first been married to Colonel Daniel Parke Custis, another prosperous Virginia planter. Martha had four children by Custis, but only two, John Parke Custis (1754-1781) and Martha (called Patsy) (1765-1773), survived infancy. Col. Custis died in 1757; a year later Martha met George, and the following year they were married.
George and Martha had no children together, and there are no known direct descendants of George Washington. He was, however, a kindly father to his two step children, and when John died during the Revolutionary War, George and Martha informally adopted his two youngest children. John's widow, Eleanor Calvert Custis, later married a second time, to Dr. David Stuart of Alexandria, Virginia. The oldest Custis children remained with their mother, while she had seven more children with her second husband.
These two youngest children were Eleanor Parke Custis (1779-1852), called Nelly, and George Washington Parke Custis (1781-1857), known as Wash. Nelly married Lawrence Lewis, a nephew of George Washington and another Virginia planter. She was devoted to the Washingtons, and was instrumental in preserving the legacy and lore surrounding the first president of the United States. Nelly was buried at Mount Vernon near the tomb of George and Martha Washington.
Nelly's brother Wash inherited lands and property, and constructed the mansion of Arlington House, just across the Potomac River in Washington D.C., as a memorial to his grandfather. He was a writer and orator, and was known for promoting agricultural reforms. Wash married Mary Lee Fitzhugh in 1804. Their only surviving child, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, married her second cousin Robert E. Lee at Arlington House on June 30, 1831.
George and Martha Washington died within a few years of each other, not long after his second term in office ended. He succumbed of a throat infection (possibly epiglottitis) compounded by excessive bloodletting, on 14 Dec 1799 at Mt. Vernon, Fairfax, VA, Martha died, reportedly of a fever, shortly thereafter, on 22 May, 1802.- - - - - -
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