The True George Washington: Family Relations: Sister and Nephews

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

Sister and Nephews

Only Elizabeth?or "Betty"?of Washington's sisters grew to womanhood, and it is said that she was so strikingly like her brother that, disguised with a long cloak and a military hat, the difference between them was scarcely detectable. She married Fielding Lewis, and lived at "Kenmore House" on the Rappahannock, where Washington spent many a night, as did the Lewises at Mount Vernon. During the Revolution, while visiting there, she wrote her brother, "Oh, when will that day arrive when we shall meet again. Trust in the lord it will be soon,?till when, you have the prayers and kind wishes for your health and happiness of your loving and sincerely affectionate sister." Her husband died "much indebted," and from that time her brother gave her occasional sums of money, and helped her in other ways.

Her eldest son followed in his father's footsteps, and displeased Washington with requests for loans. He angered him still more by conduct concerning which Washington wrote to him as follows:

"Sir, Your letter of the 11th of Octor. never came to my hands 'till yesterday. Altho' your disrespectful conduct towards me, in coming into this country and spending weeks therein without ever coming near me, entitled you to very little notice or favor from me; yet I consent that you may get timber from off my Land in Fauquier County to build a house on your Lott in Rectertown. Having granted this, now let me ask you what your views were in purchasing a Lott in a place which, I presume, originated with and will end in two or three Gin shops, which probably will exist no longer than they serve to ruin the proprietors, and those who make the most frequent applications to them. I am, &c."

Other of the Lewis boys pleased him better, and he appointed one an officer in his own "Life Guard." Of another he wrote, when President, to his sister, "If your son Howell is living with you, and not usefully employed in your own affairs, and should incline to spend a few months with me, as a writer in my office (if he is fit for it) I will allow him at the rate of three hundred dollars a year, provided he is diligent in discharging the duties of it from breakfast until dinner?Sundays excepted. This sum will be punctually paid him, and I am particular in declaring beforehand what I require, and what he may expect, that there may be no disappointment, or false expectations on either side. He will live in the family in the same manner his brother Robert did." This Robert had been for some time one of his secretaries, and at another time was employed as a rent-collector.

Still another son, Lawrence, also served him in these dual capacities, and Washington, on his retirement from the Presidency, offered him a home at Mount Vernon. This led to a marriage with Mrs. Washington's grandchild, Eleanor Custis, a match which so pleased Washington that he made arrangements for Lawrence to build on the Mount Vernon estate, in his will named him an executor, and left the couple a part of this property, as well as a portion of the residuary estate.

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