This blog to increase awareness of Betty Washington Lewis was initiated with intentions to post on a regular basis. However, with visiting research institutions and gathering documents to unravel the lives of the Lewis and Washington family, the good intentions fell to the side.
Today, a family member posted a lovely account of how their family celebrated George Washington’s birthday (22 February 1732). The post provided motivation to embellish upon tributes honoring George Washington.
George Washington’s nephew, Lawrence Lewis (and a son of Betty), and his adopted daughter Eleanor Parke Custis requested permission to marry at Mount Vernon on 22 February 1799. The family could not anticipate the celebration would be Washington’s last, as Washington wrote of living into the year 1800. Washington fell eighteen days short of that goal.
The strong ties of the Washington family and the dedication of family members to the patriarch George Washington, resulted in family members honoring his memory with not only extended family but close friends. It was George Washington Parke Custis, adopted son of George Washington and father-in-law of Robert Edward Lee, who first recognized the significance and necessity for preserving the birthplace of George (and Betty Washington Lewis), and placed the first stone marker identifying the remnants of the foundation to the Washington home that burned in 1779. Today, the National Park Service maintains the Pope’s Creek birthplace located in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
Both George Washington Parke Custis and his sister Eleanor Parke Custis held such regard for their adopted parents that they were honored to distribute Washington relics to friends of George and Martha Washington. Their homes in their adulthood were shrines to their adopted parents. It was Eleanor Parke Custis who eventually sold many of the relics that now comprise the Washington collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
Lafayette was a close friend of the family who made tribute to Washington. Lafayette’s visit to the United States in 1824 included time spent in the homes of several Lewis and Washington family members including George Washington Parke Custis, Lawrence Lewis and his wife Eleanor Parke Custis, Robert Lewis (younger brother of Lawrence Lewis and Mayor of Fredericksburg, Virginia) and Bushrod Washington (the owner of Mount Vernon at the time of the 1824 visit). Several of the family members including Lawrence Lewis and George Washington Parke Custis travelled with Lafayette as he visited friends and participated in dedications and tributes at locations such as the birthplace of George Washington and the tomb at Mount Vernon.
George Washington as patriarch of his family provided support to extended family as well as friends and the impact is evident by the tributes from those dear to him.