Most local Fairfax County residents know of Washington’s step-granddaughter, Nelly Parke Custis Lewis, because of Woodlawn Plantation, her residence. Located near Mt. Vernon, it became her home after she married Washington’s nephew, Lawrence Lewis.
The library at Mt. Vernon has a collection of 270 of her letters. In the correspondence, she writes about social life, female education, and the health and well-being of her children. She expresses opinions on political figures and myths about George Washington. Before she married, she often acted as a hostess for Washington while he was president in Philadelphia and at Mt. Vernon. In one letter, she describes her adoptive grandfather. “He was a silent, thoughtful man. He spoke little generally; never of himself,” she wrote in 1833. I never heard him relate a single act of his life during the war. I have often seen him perfectly abstracted, his lips moving, but no sound was perceptible. I have sometimes made him laugh most heartily from sympathy with my joyous and extravagant spirits.”
For more on this presidential hostess, see Eleanor Parke Custis: An Inventory of Her Papers on the Mt. Vernon Web site.
If you are curious about Nelly Custis, as well as George Washington’s family life, the library’s Virginia Room, located on the third floor of the Fairfax City Regional Library, offers access to some rare books on the family:
Family Life of George Washington by Charles Moore (1926)
Mount Vernon: Its Children, Its Romances, Its Allied Families and Mansionsby Minnie Lowther (1930)
Save This Date:
September 27 at 7:30 p.m. Center for the Arts -- Fairfax campus of George Mason University. Joseph J. Ellis, author of the 2007 All Fairfax Reads selection, His Excellency: George Washington discusses his biography. Books will be available for sale and signing courtesy of Barnes & Noble - GMU. Free; first come first served; no registration required.
Other All Fairfax Reads Events:
September 10 at 7:30 p.m., Sherwood Regional Library. James Rees, executive director of Mount Vernon: George Washington’s Estate & Gardens, discusses his book, George Washington’s Leadership Lessons: What the Father of Our Country Can Teach Us About Effective Leadership and Character.
September 18 at 7 p.m., Kings Park Library. Patricia Brady discusses her book, Martha Washington: An American Life. Books for sale and signing,
courtesy of Borders-Tysons Corner.
September 20 at 7:30 p.m. Reston Regional Library. Actor Brian Hilton portrays George Washington and describes his life from 1732-1760.