© 2011 Brett H Runion. All rights reserved.

George Washington’s Children

Most people don’t know Martha Washington (1731-1802) never bore children to her second husband George. Yet Martha had several children to her previous husband, Colonel Daniel Parke Custis. Two of four children died young. Martha’s son John Parke Custis married Eleanor Calvert. John and Eleanor had five children before his death from “camp fever” (probably typhoid fever) November 5, 1781. When Martha’s son’s widow Eleanor remarried Dr. David Stuart in 1783, she and her two eldest daughters lived at the Stuart home in Abingdon, while the two youngest children continued to live at Mount Vernon. Martha and George Washington adopted two of Martha’s son John Parke Custis’ children, Eleanor Parke Custis (Nelly) and George Washington Parke Custis (called “Wash” or “Tub”) at Mount Vernon. Below are the two family portraits:

The George Washington Family

1789 Edward Savage (1761-1817). The George Washington Family, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Washinton's Family Portrait Mezzotint

Portrait of the Washington Family by William Sartain Mezzotint, 1864 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Nelly Parke Custis (1779-1852) – There are very few portraits of Nelly that I know of, one when she was about eleven than the other when she was about sixteen as seen in the family portraits above.

Young Nelly Parke Custis

Oil on Mahogany John Trumbull Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1792 Gift of Mr. Edward G. Butler

The last painting I was able to find is a beautiful portrait again supposedly painted by Gilbert Steward.

Adult Nelly Parke Custis

1805 Eleanor "Nelly" Parke Custis by Gilbert Stuart

Nelly’s dress in the painting is a best guess from the portrait and what I have found in my research. There are lots of paintings of rich well dressed ladies of the day, but very little of the everyday clothing that Nelly might have worn around Mount Vernon or in New York which was their home during most of George Washington’s presidency.

George Washington Parke Curtis (1781-1857) – Besides the family portraits there appears to be very few paintings of “Wash”. However “Wash” lived long enough to have his photo taken late in life.

Young George Washington Parke Custis

George Washington Parke Custis by Robert Field, miniature watercolor on ivory, 1804 Virginia Historical Society

George Washington Parke Custis, Library of Congress Photo

Read more about the work of Providence in George Washington’s life (select the next post below):

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