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Encounters 18, Retirement

March 11, 2017

“Gentlemen may cry ‘peace, peace’– but where is peace when one has a strong sense of duty, and many tasks left undone? George and Martha Washington returned to their home greatly worn by the cares of government and the stress of politics. Martha was doubly worn from the attacks on her “old man,” taking insults internally, doubling them, and not able to forget them. She felt helpless and hopeless. Home promised healing.

Mount Vernon had suffered in their absence. They found the property  “deranged and all the buildings in a decaying state,” wrote Martha. George oversaw construction and repair, planted gardens, and oversaw fields, sometimes complaining but enjoying the activity.

Martha reorganized the housekeeping, hiring an assistant to help. She appointed grand-daughter and adopted daughter Nelly, now 18, as housekeeper and hostess. Nelly enjoyed the work, but spent time with her sisters and friends, leaving the care of feeding and entertaining nieces and friends to Martha.

George subscribed to many newspapers, and his office on the third floor contained shelves of books, even light-hearted poetry and romance novels. Martha made good use of the collection, keeping informed of news and gossip. She read the Bible daily. Reading made her an interesting conversationalist. Her first hand experiences in government added a dimension to her repertoire. Visitors never ceased to comment favorably on her knowledge.

Relatives added zest to their lives. Although they each had large numbers of brothers and sisters, all had died before them, but some left children and grand-children in the family tree. George had been the first of his father’s second wife, Mary Ball Washington, who had given him five younger siblings. We had noticed his older brother Lawrence had died of consumption much earlier, but had been a positive influence on the young George. Martha was the oldest of eight children. In 1785 her remaining brother, Bartholomew, died. So it could not have been unexpected that someone  from her Dandridge line would marry into the Washington side of the union.

The wedding of Martha’s grand-daughter Nelly  Custis, who had been their adopted daughter, to Lawrence Lewis took place at Mount Vernon on Washington’s 67th birthday. Lawrence Lewis, a childless widower twelve years older than Nelly and the son of George’s sister Betty, had been invited to Mount Vernon to serve as deputy host. Love blossomed. In a candlelit ceremony, George gave away Nelly, dressed in his old Revolutionary War uniform. He gave the couple 2,000 acres of farmland nearby where they could construct a home. Perched on a hill, their home would view Mt. Vernon.

The couple did not want to leave Mount Vernon just then. Soon Nelly became pregnant, and she wanted to remain with Martha and George for the next event.            to be contd.

 

 

 

 

 

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