Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis

Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis

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Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis (March 31, 1779 – July 15, 1852), known as Nelly, was the granddaughter of Martha Washington and the step-granddaughter of George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

.

Childhood


Nelly was the daughter of John Parke Custis
John Parke Custis
John Parke Custis was a Virginia planter, the son of Martha Washington and stepson of George Washington.-Childhood:...

 and Eleanor Calvert Custis
Eleanor Calvert
Eleanor Calvert Custis Stuart was a prominent member of the Calvert family of Maryland. Upon her marriage to John Parke Custis, she became the daughter-in-law of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington and the stepdaughter-in-law of George Washington...

. Her father was the only surviving child of Daniel Parke Custis
Daniel Parke Custis
Daniel Parke Custis was a wealthy Virginia planter whose widow, Martha, married George Washington.He was the son of John Custis , a powerful member of Virginia's Governor's Council, and Frances Parke Custis...

 and his widow, Martha Dandridge Custis, who married George Washington in 1759. She was also the granddaughter of Benedict Swingate Calvert, son of Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore
Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore
Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore, 3rd Proprietor and 17th Proprietary Governor of Maryland, FRS was a British nobleman and Proprietary Governor of the Province of Maryland...

. Nelly was most likely born at Mount Airy, her maternal grandfather's estate in Prince George's County, Maryland
Prince George's County, Maryland
Prince George's County is a county located in the U.S. state of Maryland, immediately north, east, and south of Washington, DC. As of 2010, it has a population of 863,420 and is the wealthiest African-American majority county in the nation....

, although local tradition holds that she was born at Abingdon
Abingdon (plantation)
Abingdon was an 18th- and 19th-century plantation that the prominent Alexander, Custis, Stuart, and Hunter families owned. The plantation's site is now located in Arlington County in the U.S...

, her father's estate in Arlington, Virginia (now the site of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is a public airport located south of downtown Washington, D.C., in Arlington County, Virginia. It is the commercial airport nearest to Washington, D.C. For many decades, it was called Washington National Airport, but this airport was renamed in 1998 to...

).

Following the premature death of John Parke Custis in 1781, Nelly and her brother, George Washington Parke Custis
George Washington Parke Custis
George Washington Parke Custis , the step-grandson of United States President George Washington, was a nineteenth-century American writer, orator, and agricultural reformer.-Family:...

, were informally adopted by the Washingtons, and grew up at Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon
The name Mount Vernon is a dedication to the English Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon. It was first applied to Mount Vernon, the Virginia estate of George Washington, the first President of the United States...

.

During George Washington's presidency, Nelly helped entertain guests at the first presidential mansion
Samuel Osgood House (New York City)
The Samuel Osgood House, also known as Walter Franklin House, was a house at 1 Cherry Street in Manhattan. It served as the first Presidential Mansion, housing George Washington, his family, and household staff, from April 23, 1789 until February 23, 1790, during the 21 months that New York City...

 on Cherry Street in New York City, the second presidential mansion
Alexander Macomb House (New York City)
The Alexander Macomb House at 39-41 Broadway in Manhattan served as the second presidential mansion. President George Washington occupied it from February 23 to August 31, 1790, during the two-year period when New York City was the national capital....

 on Broadway in New York City, and the third presidential mansion
President's House (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
The President's House in Philadelphia at 524-30 Market Street was the third Presidential mansion. It was occupied by President George Washington from November 1790 to March 1797 and President John Adams from March 1797 to May 1800....

 in Philadelphia. The talented and beautiful young woman often accompanied her grandparents to social events.

Marriage



On February 22, 1799, Nelly Custis married George Washington's nephew, the widower Lawrence Lewis
Lawrence Lewis (1767–1839)
Lawrence Lewis was a nephew of George Washington who married Nelly Custis, a granddaughter of Martha Washington....

, of Fredericksburg, Virginia
Fredericksburg, Virginia
Fredericksburg is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia located south of Washington, D.C., and north of Richmond. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 24,286...

. The Washingtons' wedding gift was 2000 acres (8.1 km²) adjacent to Mount Vernon, on which the Lewises built Woodlawn Plantation
Woodlawn Plantation
Woodlawn Plantation is a historic home located in Fairfax County, Virginia, and was originally a part of Mount Vernon, George Washington's historic plantation estate....

.

Upon her marriage, Nelly Lewis inherited about 80 slaves from her father's estate. Her grandfather, Daniel Parke Custis's estate was liquidated following Martha Washington's 1802 death, and Nelly Lewis inherited about 35 "dower" slaves from Mount Vernon. Following the death of her mother in 1811, the John Parke Custis estate was liquidated, and she inherited approximately 40 additional slaves.

About 1830 the Lewises moved to Audley plantation in Clarke County, Virginia
Clarke County, Virginia
Clarke County is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of 2010, the population was 14,034. Its county seat is Berryville.-History:Clarke County was established in 1836 by Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron who built a home, Greenway Court, on part of his 5 million acre property,...

. Beginning in the mid-1830s they began dividing their time between Virginia and their daughters' homes in Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

. Nelly Custis Lewis continued to live at Audley after her husband's death in 1839.

Throughout her life, she regarded herself as a preserver of George Washington's legacy. She shared memories and mementos, entertained and corresponded with those seeking information on the first president, and verified or debunked stories. She is buried at Mount Vernon in an enclosure adjacent to George and Martha Washington's tomb.

See also

  • Eleanor Calvert Custis Stuart
    Eleanor Calvert
    Eleanor Calvert Custis Stuart was a prominent member of the Calvert family of Maryland. Upon her marriage to John Parke Custis, she became the daughter-in-law of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington and the stepdaughter-in-law of George Washington...

     (mother)
  • John Parke Custis
    John Parke Custis
    John Parke Custis was a Virginia planter, the son of Martha Washington and stepson of George Washington.-Childhood:...

     (father)
  • Lawrence Lewis
    Lawrence Lewis (1767–1839)
    Lawrence Lewis was a nephew of George Washington who married Nelly Custis, a granddaughter of Martha Washington....

     (husband)
  • Elizabeth Parke Custis Law
    Elizabeth Parke Custis Law
    Elizabeth Parke Custis Law was a granddaughter of Martha Dandridge Washington and the step-granddaughter of George Washington. She was a social leader of the District of Columbia and a preserver of the Washington family heritage.-Early life:Elizabeth Parke Custis was born on 21 August 1776...

     (sister)
  • Martha Parke Custis Peter
    Martha Parke Custis Peter
    Martha Parke Custis Peter was a granddaughter of Martha Dandridge Washington and the step-granddaughter of George Washington.-Early life:Martha Parke Custis was born on 31 December 1777 in the Blue Room at Mount Vernon...

     (sister)
  • George Washington Parke Custis
    George Washington Parke Custis
    George Washington Parke Custis , the step-grandson of United States President George Washington, was a nineteenth-century American writer, orator, and agricultural reformer.-Family:...

     (brother)
  • Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis
    Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis
    Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis was an Episcopal lay leader in Alexandria County...

     (sister-in-law)
  • Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee
    Mary Anna Custis Lee
    Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee was the wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.-Biography:Mary Anna Custis Lee was the only surviving child of George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington's step-grandson and adopted son and founder of Arlington House, and Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis, daughter...

     (niece)
  • Robert E. Lee
    Robert E. Lee
    Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

     (nephew-in-law)
  • Oney Judge
    Oney Judge
    Oney "Ona" Judge, later Oney Judge Staines , was a slave at George Washington's plantation, Mount Vernon in Virginia. A servant in Washington's presidential households beginning in 1789, she escaped to freedom in 1796 and made her way to New Hampshire, where she lived the rest of her life...

     (slave)

Sources

  • Brady, Patricia. Martha Washington: An American Life. New York: Viking/Penguin Group, 2005. ISBN 0-670-03430-4.
  • Kneebone, John T., et al., eds. Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998-. Volume 3, pages 627-628. ISBN 0-88490-206-4.
  • Ribblett, David L. Nelly Custis: Child of Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon, Va., 1993.

External links