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Washington's Life

Picture of Washington's family on the porch of the Mount Vernon mansion Picture of George and Martha Washington Picture of George and Martha Washington with their grandchildren

George Washington lived on the Mount Vernon plantation with his eldest brother, Lawrence after his father died. After Lawrence died of tuberculosis in 1752, George continued to live at Mount Vernon and eventually became the owner of the plantation.

On January 6, 1759, George Washington married Martha Curtis. Martha was a widow who had two children, John and Martha Curtis who were better known as Jack and Patsy. The new family moved into their Mount Vernon home and George raised Martha’s children, but the couple never had children together. Martha’s first husband had been wealthy and his death had left Martha with quite a bit of money. When George married Martha, he took ownership of all she had which increased his property holdings and his social status. Sadly, Patsy died at the age of seventeen, in 1773.

George Washington worked hard during his life at many different jobs. He became a surveyor at the age of sixteen. When his brother died, he became a farmer and spent much of his life working on improving his beloved home and plantation, Mount Vernon. Throughout his life, Washington favored working as a farmer over his other jobs and considered farming as one of the most honorable professions. However, he would be kept away from his farm for most of his life with the various ways he served his country. After the French united with the Indians to fight for land holdings in the New Land, George joined the army, served bravely, and rose through the ranks. When war with England became inevitable, George Washington was chosen as the commander of the Continental Army.

At the end of the War for Independence, Martha’s son Jack died of camp fever at Yorktown. Jack left behind a young wife and four children. When he died, the two youngest children were sent to live with their grandparents, George and Martha Washington who would raise the children. At the time, Eleanor Parke Curtis, or Nelly, was two years old and George Washington Parke Curtis was only six months old. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 and Washington resigned from the Army and returned to Mount Vernon. Washington wanted to live the rest of his life at home, working as a farmer. However, he was elected as president and moved to the capital with Martha to serve his country once again.

Retirement and Death

Picture of Washington on his death bed

George Washington died at Mount Vernon surrounded by his family and friends.

After two terms as president, Washington was finally able to return home in the spring of 1797. He would live there for the next three years, spending his time managing and tending the plantation. Since the farm had not been profitable during his long absences, he attempted to improve the farm and make it profitable. He also spent much time entertaining the thousands of guests that came to visit.

On December 12, 1799, George went riding on the plantation in foul weather. When he returned home, he had caught a cold. For two days, he suffered with a fever and a sore throat. The doctors did no know how to treat the throat infection, so they bled him four times during those two days. Washington could tell their treatment was not working and told the doctors that he could feel himself going. He thanked the doctors fro trying to help but asked them to stop treating him. George Washington, a surveyor, farmer, soldier, public servant, general, commander in chief, and president, succumbed to his sickness on December 14, 1799. His newly founded country mourned their loss. Throughout the country, towns and cities held memorial services or mock funerals for their hero. George Washington was buried in a tomb on the Mount Vernon Plantation. Martha Washington was buried beside him when she died about a year later. For six months, the American army wore black bands on their arms as a sign of grief. But his passing was also mourned by his former allies and enemies. In France, Napoleon declared ten days of mourning throughout the country. Even England honored Washington when the British Royal Navy lowered their flag to half-mast. Hundreds of eulogies were written to honor George Washington. Henry Lee, one of Washington’s generals, wrote an eulogy which included a line that said Washington was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."