Saturday, November 8, 2014

Slavery and Mount Vernon

By the time of his death George Washington was one of the wealthiest men in the United States.  He could not have accomplished that without his slave population.  He had 4 out-laying farms, as well as a gristmill and distillery.  In the education center I learned that at the peak of all of his operations his slaves numbered 600.  They worked in the fields as well as the mansion, which had 30 fireplaces that needed chopped wood.   In the last posting I mentioned that he was constantly hosting many guests who stayed for extended periods of time.  That meant a lot of laundry to be done.  One interpretive marker noted that the laundry house was "hot, dangerous, and difficult".   Slaves carried 25-30 buckets of water a day for each load. Irons had to be heated in a fire, large wooden mangles were also used for pressing the laundry.  Record has it that Vina and Dolsey were two of the slave washerwomen who worked here six days a week.  A replica of the laundry house is pictured below.
Washington had bunkhouses built for his adult males and females using the same design and dimensions which were used by the Continental Army for their barracks.  Pictured below is a replica of his bunkhouse for the males.  His estate had 59 single men as well as married men whose jobs kept them apart from family six days out of a week.
George and Martha Washington are buried on their estate.  For some strange reason I was more interested in the slave graveyard.  Pictured below is memorial which the Mount Vernon Ladies Association dedicated in 1983, pictured below.  Beyond the memorial is the graveyard of many of the slaves.
I also found an older memorial with the date of 1929, which was dedicated to "the many faithful colored servants of the Washington family" who worked at Mount Vernon from 1760- 1860.  Washington inherited 10 slaves at the age of 11 when his father died.  Upon marriage to Martha Custis, he received "dower slaves" from her first husband's estate.  It is recorded that in 1799, the year of his death, his slaves numbered 316.  In his last will and testament he asked that his slaves receive their freedom, however he was able to only emancipate those who were his property outright- a little less than half of the Mount Vernon enslaved population.  One last picture here will be that of the kitchen inside the woman's bunkhouse.

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