One of the most exciting and important discoveries archaeologists have made at Ferry Farm is a pewter teaspoon baring the initials B.W. It belonged to Betty Washington. This spoon was part of a set that trained her to oversee the extremely important tea ceremony.
Serving tea in the 18th century was more than an act of providing a mid-afternoon refreshment or a small meal to family and guests. Tea time, with its prescribed social behaviors and ritualistic customs of service, symbolized gentility and civility, and was an expression of social class. As an imported good, tea was initially an expensive commodity used only by the upper and middle classes of society. In addition to the tea, a proper hostess also had to purchase the accouterments of the tea ceremony, such as teapots, cups and saucers, slop and sugar bowls, milk jugs, silverware, and a suitable tea table for presentation. The cost of these accessories, as well as the time and decorous social habits needed to prepare, serve, and entertain family and guests, meant that the tea ceremony was more a custom of the elite leisure classes, who had the time and money to do such things.
As a restricted custom, the tea ceremony transformed into an indicator of class and gentility, and consequently, its “social and cultural significance increased enormously.” Rules governing the behavior of the participants, including the host, family and guests, were understood by all and represented learned standards of civility. Politeness and courtesy were important, and deference was made to the hostess in terms of the pace and content of conversation. Even the act of serving tea was ceremonial in nature. Seated at her tea table, the hostess made, poured, and distributed an individualized cup of tea for each guest, who received it in a gracious manner. It was a “small personal ceremony” that “epitomized the giving that was at the heart of hospitality.”
The tea ceremony was a gendered activity almost exclusively performed by and associated with the women of the household, who selected the teaware that they used in the ceremony A household’s leading female figure, often the wife or oldest daughter, predominantly oversaw the service of tea to family members and guests, emphasizing her position of authority within the household and the gathered social circle. As such, women used the opportunity to express their gentility and respectability.
Teatime also supplied a moment to maintain and cultivate important social ties within the community. Neighbors, business and political associates, and potential suitors met over a convivial small meal and discussed important matters.
Teatime was also an opportunity to teach the younger generation, especially girls, how to act and behave during this social encounter. As a future wife in charge of her household, it was essential for women, such as Mary Washington’s daughter Betty, to know how to successfully conduct this unique social custom and be able to demonstrate her inclusion and influence in the community elite. Betty was trained in the art of tea making, as is evidenced by the archaeological presence of a pewter teaspoon bearing her initials at Ferry Farm. Monogrammed just for Betty, the teaspoon was part of a beginners tea set used by a young lady to train for many future tea times to come.
Betty’s uncle Joseph Ball also sent her a silver tea set when she was a teenage girl, further enforcing her future role. The importance of properly entertaining guests with such tea equipage cannot be overstated, but in addition to this, Betty’s learning how to elegantly serve tea was a must for her prospects as the future wife of a well-off gentleman. One can imagine a teenage Betty serving tea gracefully to her future husband, Fielding Lewis, having practiced diligently with her pewter and silver tea sets.
Mara Kaktins, Archaeologist Ceramics & Glass Specialist
 Woodruff Smith, Consumption and the Making of Respectability, 1600-1800 (New York: Routledge, 2002), 173; Amanda Vickery, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 275.
 Annie Gray, “‘The Proud Air of an Unwilling Slave’: Tea, Women and Domesticity, c.1700-1900,” in Historical and Archaeological Perspectives on Gender Transformations: From Private to Public, ed. Suzanne M. Spencer-Wood, 23-43 (New York: Springer, 2013), 28; Smith, 174.
On walls of the Historic Kenmore’s drawing room hang two large portraits of a man and a woman. The man is an older gentleman in a serene outdoor setting, looking quite dignified and sober in a brownish knee-length jacket, knee breeches and long waistcoat. His eyes rest on the portrait viewer, one hand on moss-covered rocks, the other on his hip, and his head turned slightly to his left. Across the room, the woman sits at a slight profile with her head turned to her left to face the portrait viewer. She wears a billowing blue and white dress and holds two pink roses in her right hand while her left arm casually sits on a marble top table. She is indoors with what appear to be some drapes billowing behind her. The man and woman are Fielding Lewis and Betty Washington Lewis, the owners of Kenmore.
Fielding and Betty’s portraits were commissioned by the couple and painted by prolific colonial artist John Wollaston in the 1750s. On the surface, these paintings are just two genial portraits that provide us with visual records of the heads of the family. Through the subtle symbolism, however, they also tell a larger story of how Fielding and Betty wished to be portrayed publically to their contemporaries as well as to posterity.
Portraits first became a popular mode of expression for the aristocracy and the wealthy during the Renaissance. These paintings were usually large scale affairs meant to be displayed and seen by the public. The paintings depicted people with expensive goods, fine cloth, rare flowers, and exotic pets. Whether the portraits’ subjects actually owned these items was less important than the suggestion including the items made. In fact, these paintings were filled with symbolism–images, objects, or colors representing ideas and that allow the artist to go beyond the obvious to create links between otherwise different concepts. A color can depict character, a flower personality and a fabric economic status.
Through symbolism, portraits were used to reflect social status, wealth, success, power and cultural refinement. A portrait’s details were integral to the story of the painting and many factors had to be taken into account. Aspects such as artist, style, background, color, fabric, and accessories all needed to be discussed to create the portrayal desired by the patron.
Centuries after the Renaissance, the importance of portraiture as a record of status and position in society had not changed and the custom had become more popular outside of the aristocracy as well as outside of Europe. Even in faraway British North America, the wealth of the gentry, or upper class, desired portraits to show their status and position. Fielding Lewis and Betty Washington Lewis, members of the gentry with a wealthy business in Atlantic World trade, were no exception. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis wanted to portray themselves as socially refined not only to cement their place in the community but to allow for a continued rise in their status. Accordingly, they sat for portraits by John Wollaston.
The most noticeable thing about Fielding’s portrait is the muted colors used in the background and in his clothing. One of the most visually striking symbols in portraits was the colors used to represent the subject. While color may not have inherent meaning, it can be made meaningful through context. The colors in the background, clothing, and accessories all relate to the overall message or story being told by the artist. The browns, greens, and beiges in Fielding’s portrait create a natural and relaxed atmosphere. The nature background is a stylized classical bucolic setting that helps strike a balance between Fielding’s muted clothing palette and the landscape setting. The woodland glen signifies a natural sincerity that, when mixed with the brown and beige of his ensemble, creates the feeling of calmness, reliability, dependability and an earthy richness. All of these traits are important for a successful merchant. Fielding was telling visitors to his house that he was a person they could do business with and trust.
Betty’s portrait uses color, context, fabric and an accessory to illustrate her own geniality and her family’s affluence, for not only as a Lewis but as a Washington as well. The background around Betty, who is at the center of the portrait, offers hints of this grandeur with brown walls and a heavy brown billowing curtain creating a frame of luxurious richness. To add to the opulence, Betty is poised with her arm resting on an ornate Rococo-style marble top table with heavily carved gold legs. The portrait conveys that she can afford such ornamental comforts. Next to the table, Betty in her flowy blue and white satin dress with a pair of roses resting on her right knee is the focus. Blue was a popular color for ladies and was common in many portraits painted by Wollaston. The color gives the sitter not only an air of peace and calmness but also of restraint and intelligence. The satin denotes a luxury and fashion available to only those with means. Meanwhile, the pink rose tells of Betty’s grace, beauty and gentility. Overall, the portrait depicts a sophisticated and refined 18th century woman, a wife and mother who adds balance and depth to her husband’s trustworthiness and professionalism.
Fielding and Betty did not stop with portraits of themselves. About twenty years after sitting for John Wollaston, they commissioned famed painter Charles Willson Peale to produce several portraits of their offspring. There are two in Kenmore’s collection.
One of these Peale portraits depicts John Lewis, the eldest son of Fielding and his first wife, Catharine who sits with one hand on his hip and one hand on a book. The posture gives John a sense of self-assurance and capability. Unlike his father’s subdued color palette, John’s jacket and waistcoat are an amazing red with gold detailing. The red paired with the gold creates warmth but also projects a sense of power, strength and confidence. The book in his the left hand gives an air of knowledge and awareness.
The second Peale portrait in the collection depcits Fielding Lewis Jr., the eldest son of Fielding and Betty, striking a very traditional pose with a hand tucked in his jacket and a slight tilt of the head. The pose is welcoming, kind and is the embodiment of a thoughtful young gentleman. Much like his father he chose a subdued color palette with an earthy reddish-brown jacket and goldish yellow waistcoat, which convey a sense of reliability, stability and affability. The brown background adds a natural simplicity with soothing warmth. Additionally, like his brother, there is a well-read book by his side indicating a sense of learning and mindfulness. This portrait’s symbolism reflects the more aspirational messages in these paintings as Fielding, Jr. struggled with money problems for most of his life and even ended up in debtors’ prison.
Later portraits in Kenmore’s collection contain other fascinating symbolism that tells the stories of the paintings’ subjects. These portraits visually record family history or emphasize familial connections.
This 19th century portrait of Eleanor Rosalie Tucker, the great granddaughter of Fielding and Betty, is painted in characteristic neoclassical style with direct lighting, soft features, rosy cheeks and a roundness of the face. The white muslin gown gives the young girl a purity and serenity beyond her years. The halo surrounding the sitter represents her delicacy and gives her an otherworldliness. This is appropriate as, sadly, she was painted for this portrait on her deathbed in 1818.
Finally, this portrait of the Wallace family painted in the mid-Victorian period is quite a unique painting in our collection with a fascinating twist to its symbolism. The portrait has a traditional composition but at the center is a large leashed bird in mid-flight. This bird is a rebus, a puzzle device used to visually depict words and/or phrases. They are used extensively in heraldry to hint at the name of the bearer. This painting’s bird rebus is attached to a young girl named Mary Byrd Wallace, the great, great granddaughter of Fielding and Betty Lewis.
Portraits are sometimes the only visual representation we may have of a historic figure. These portraits do more than capture a person’s appearance, however. The wealthy and socially important also used portraits and their symbolism to emphasize their wealth and high status. Portraits also visually recorded family history or emphasized familial connections. For the Lewis family, like everything in their house and like their house itself, their portraits revealed how they saw themselves and, perhaps more importantly, how they wanted others to see them whether in the 18th or the 21st centuries.
Heather Baldus Collections Manager
 “Faces of a New Nation: American Portraits of the 18th and early 19th centuries”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Summer 2003: 11
 Crown, Carol. The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Vol. 23, University of North Carolina Press, 2013: 150-151.
George Washington was the oldest of Augustine and Mary Washington’s five children. The next oldest was daughter Betty, who was born 14 months after George and was his only sister.
George and Betty are immensely important to us at George Washington’s Ferry Farm & Historic Kenmore. They spent their formative years at Ferry Farm and Betty called Kenmore home for two decades. As main characters in our historic sites’ stories, we often ponder what their relationship as siblings was like.
The only way to gauge George and Betty’s relationship is through two dozen letters they wrote to each other between 1779 and 1796. As we saw in our first post about the two letters Betty wrote to George during the Revolutionary War, theirs was a complex relationship of sibling love and camaraderie strained by intermittent conflict. The wartime letters revealed a sadness over extended absences and stress from the tensions and difficulties of George’s wartime position as the new nation’s leader.
This second post in our multi-part examination of George and Betty’s sibling relationship deals with their roles as leaders of the Washington and Lewis families. They were the eldest of the Washington siblings and, after 1781, Betty was the widowed matriarch of the Lewises. In these roles, Betty and George both cared for and guided a brood of children, grandchildren, step-children, nieces, and nephews. In fact, of their twenty-four surviving letters, thirteen of them deal substantially with the life of some younger member of the extended Washington-Lewis families. Most of these 13 letters focused on niece Harriot Washington, whose saga we’ve previously written about here and here. The others dealt with Robert and Howell Lewis, both sons of Betty and nephews of George, who each became his secretaries for a time.
Robert Lewis was 20-years-old when Uncle Washington was inaugurated president on April 30, 1789. Robert saw opportunity in George’s position and apparently requested, through Betty, that he might work for the new president. Uncle Washington replied to Betty with an offer for Robert to be one of his secretaries, writing “I have thought it probable that I may have occasion for a young person in my family of a good disposition, who writes a good hand, and who can confine himself a certain reasonable number of hours in the 24 to the recording of letters in books.” George warned that Robert’s pay “cannot be great as there are hundreds [of others] who would be glad to come in)” but, if he was okay with a relatively small salary, George would “be very glad to give him the preference.” In fact, Robert was paid $300 per year, the smallest amount among Washington’s secretaries. Since Robert was family, however, he could reside with the Washingtons in New York “at no expence (except in the article of clothing) as he will be one of the family and live as we do.” George desired to know immediately if Robert would accept the offer and, if so, would his nephew accompany Martha “(and at her expence, as she will want somebody to accompany her) when I send my horses back [to Virginia] after I am fixed in New York.” Robert himself enthusiastically replied to this offer, writing “I shall ever consider myself under a thousand obligations for the proffered post, and think the confinement you speak off rather a pleasure, and hope from my assiduous attention to merit that station.” Robert Lewis worked as secretary for George until early 1791, when he returned home to get married.
Roughly a year and a half later Robert’s younger brother Howell Lewis, who was at that time also age 20, was offered a secretarial position by President Washington. George wrote to Betty on April 8, 1792, proposing…
If your Son Howell is living with you, and not usefully employed in your own Affairs; and should incline to spend a few months with me, as a writer in my Office (if he is fit for it) I will allow him at the rate of Three hundred dollars a year, provided he is diligent in discharging the duties of it from breakfast until dinner—Sundays excepted.
This sum will be punctually paid him and I am particular in declaring beforehand what I require, and what he may expect, that there may be no disappointment, or false expectations on either side. He will live in the family in the same manner his brother Robert did. If the offer is acceptable he must hold himself in readiness to come on immediately upon my giving him notice.
I take it for granted that he writes a fair & legible hand, otherwise he would not answer my purpose; as it is for recording letters, and other papers I want him. That I may be enabled to judge of his fitness let him acknowledge the receipt of this letter with his own hand, and say whether he will accept the offer here made him, or not. If he does, & I find him qualified from the specimen he gives in his letter I will immediately desire him to come on which he must do without a moments delay, or I shall be obliged to provide another instead of him.
Betty replied to George, reporting that Howell was away at the time but that she had dispatched George’s offer to him and expected an answer in two weeks’ time. She worried that Howell’s “very Slender Education” and “his Fathers Death at so Early a Period has been a great disadvantage to him” for he was “left without any Person of Age and Judgement” to guide him. Howell, Betty said, had to rely on only himself to improve his lot in life and was “not very well informd.” She closed by praising her son’s “exceeding Good disposition,” felt that “the employment you have design’d for him not difficult,” and he could serve George satisfactorily.
Howell accepted the position, writing to his Uncle Washington that “I consider myself extremely favour’d by your proposal of a birth in your family & shall chearfully accept it provided my probation is deemed satisfactory—I lament that I have not been more attentive to the improvement of my writing tho hope that I shall soon be qualified to do the business for which you mean to enploy me.”
Howell soon set out to join the President in Philadelphia, the national capital since late 1790, carrying another letter from Betty for George with him. She wrote…
You will receive this by Howell, who seems Very happy In the thought of becoming One of your family,1 I sincerely wish he may be Equal to the task you desire for him, he has Promis’d me to Indeaver to Please, and by Close application to improve him self, it is with Infinite Pleasure to my self that he has a Prospect of geting in a Place where he may receive so much advantage to him self, his Fortune being very small there is little Prospect of happiness in this world without thay Can get into Busness of some sort.
In a letter to Charles Carter of Ludlow, Washington revealed that, in actuality, he had “no real want . . . of Howell Lewis” but had offered him the work because “he was spending his time rather idly” and was very slenderly provided for by his father.” George thought that “by taking him under my care, I might impress him with ideas, and give him a turn to some pursuit or other that might be serviceable to him hereafter.” Howell worked as secretary until July 1793, when his uncle tapped him to be manager at Mount Vernon.
So, as might be expected between the eldest siblings of a family, much of the correspondence and relationship between Betty and George Washington focused on their respective and extended families’ offspring. George and Betty were the family leaders and propriety dictated that they work together when necessary to provide for and guide these children, grandchildren, stepchildren, nieces, and nephews to success in life. As we have seen, earlier with Harriot, and now with Robert and Howell, nearly half of Betty and George’s surviving letters and thus their relationship dealt in some fashion with matters concerning the Washington and Lewis families’ younger generations.
You might remember the discovery of Richard III’s grave under a Leicester parking lot back in 2012 and how shocking it was that a former King of England’s gravesite had been lost. For archaeologists, missing gravesites aren’t that uncommon.
When put into perspective, it’s not surprising that we can’t locate the graves of many famous Virginians, including some members of the Washington and Lewis families. In Fredericksburg fires, flooding, war, and neglect have all contributed to the loss of historic graves and other important sites during our nearly 300 year history.
Professional and amateur researchers alike have dedicated years of their lives to gathering the lost history of Fredericksburg, including lost graves of famous Virginians. Thanks to this dedication, we have saved possible sites for the future. This includes George Washington’s Ferry Farm itself. Can you believe there was almost a Walmart built directly on top of the Washington house cellar before it was discovered?!
In the Washington edition of “Where Are the Human Remains?” we talked about Mildred Washington, George’s youngest sister who died before the age of 2. She is the only known family member to be buried somewhere at Ferry Farm. In this edition, we will discuss the remains and burial locations of Fielding and Betty Lewis.
The approximate location of Betty Lewis’s grave is actually known. She struggled financially after Fielding’s death in late 1781 and, following the Revolutionary War, it was especially difficult for Betty to keep Kenmore afloat. Eventually, she went to live on small farm outside Fredericksburg called Millbrook where she spent the rest of her life. Betty passed away, however, while visiting her daughter, Betty Carter in 1797. She was buried at her daughter’s home, Western View Plantation in Culpeper County, Virginia. The gravestone in the photograph was added later, so the exact location of the Betty’s burial site isn’t known for sure, but it is somewhere on the property.
So, what about Fielding Lewis? The short answer, again, is that we aren’t sure. We have an idea but it may not be what you think or may have heard! Local lore mentions St. Georges Church as the location of Fielding’s grave, as he was a vestryman there. However, he is most likely NOT buried in this location.
St. Georges Episcopal Church in downtown Fredericksburg is a local icon, seen in several paintings as one of the tallest buildings in our town’s skyline. The church’s first structure was built in 1730, and the Lewis family would attend services in this wooden structure. Then, with the major fire in Fredericksburg in 1807, the replacement of the original church building with a more substantial brick building in 1815, and further alterations to the layout of the church over the years, it’s understandable that burial sites and other features around the church were lost.
Furthermore, if you have taken any local ghost tours of Fredericksburg, you may have heard the story of Fielding and three of his grandchildren being buried “under the church steps”. This particular tale came from a book called The Ghosts of Fredericksburg… and nearby environs by L. B. Taylor, Jr. Over 30 years ago, this book was used to create the script for Fredericksburg’s annual Ghostwalk sponsored by the University of Mary Washington Historic Preservation Club. While it’s clear that the author spent a great deal of time collecting stories about ghostly Virginia locations, it should be noted that there aren’t any sources or citations listed in the book. Taylor was a storyteller, and his main focus was ghostly tales, not historical facts. As a result, we now have this chilling, but likely untrue information, intertwined with the Lewis family history.
In reality, like wife Betty, Fielding died far away from Fredericksburg on a property he owned located in what is Frederick County around Winchester, Virginia today. In a letter written by one of his children, Robert, to his sister Betty Carter, Robert tried to convince his sister to move to the area, stating; “You would be in the neighborhood where the venerated remains of our dear decd. Father lie.” While this indicates Fielding’s burial is in Fredrick County, the exact location was never recorded.
Elyse Adams, Archaeologist Co-Field Director / Archaeology Lab Technician
 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 26 May 2020), memorial page for Elizabeth “Betty” Washington Lewis (20 Jun 1733–31 Mar 1797), Find a Grave Memorial no. 22154, citing Western View Plantation, Culpeper, Culpeper County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave.
 Letter from Robert Lewis to Betty Lewis Carter, 1826 quoted in Paula Felder, Fielding Lewis and the Washington Family: A Chronicle of 18th Century Fredericksburg, American History Company, 1999: 300n10
Fielding and Betty Washington Lewis were married on this date in 1750 and would have celebrated their 270th wedding anniversary this year. In honor of their anniversary, we’ve taken some creative liberty and have created a fictional newspaper announcement of their nuptials.
At the time of their wedding, Betty Washington was sixteen years old, almost seventeen, and Fielding was twenty four, a widow and father. Save for the date on which it occurred — May 7, 1750 — we have no other historical details about the ceremony nor who actually attended. Still, it’s an auspicious date we like to remember in some fashion each year.
In the 18th century, more women began to publish cookbooks. Previously, writing or compiling such books was the domain professional cooks or chefs, who were men. Two of these women and their books, Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy and Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife, or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion, ended up in Betty Washington Lewis’s personal library. She no doubt referenced these two useful books as much as I have referenced them in my blog posts about cooking here, here, and here. Both Glasse and Smith were part of an innovative movement to create guide books on cooking for common people in a common language without pretense.
The “Compleat House Wife” and “Glasses Cookery” listed on the probate inventory made following Fielding Lewis’s death in 1782.
Hannah Glasse was born in London in 1708 and had her first book Compleat Confectioner published in 1742. Her second book The Art of Cookery was published in 1747. This book on cookery was so popular that it went through ten editions before her death in 1770. It was reissued another sixteen times after 1770, including two American editions in 1805 and 1812. The book’s commercial success did not translate to personal success for Glasse, however. Unfortunate business decisions eventually led to her declaring bankruptcy, selling the copyright to The Art of Cookery, and being sent to debtor’s jail.
The frontispiece of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. Credit: Wikipedia
Eliza Smith and her life are shrouded in mystery and, unfortunately, not much is known about her. She wrote only one book, The Compleat Housewife, or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion, which went through eighteen editions and became the first cook book published in Colonial America in 1742. According to her own account, what she presented in the book was from her own experience. Her recipes and tips came from a “space of thirty years and upwards during which time I have been constantly employed in fashionable and noble families.”
Frontispiece of Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife: or Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion. Credit: Wikipedia
When these two ladies were writing in the mid-18th century, more people were residing in urban areas as part of the emerging middle and gentry classes. These new relatively or very affluent groups were desperate to keep up with fashions, manners, and lifestyle of the aristocracy.
New writers like Glasse and Smith became popular because they offered practical advice, common sense recipes, and organization. They wrote their books to help average middle and gentry class homes with small staffs, basic cooking equipment, and a limited budget. As Glasse stated, she wrote her book “in so full and plain a manner, that most ignorant Person, who can read, will know how to do Cookery well” She only hoped her book would “answer the ends I intend it for; which is to improve the servants, and save the ladies a great deal of trouble.” Eliza Smith had a similar goal, writing that her book would be a guide for the housewife where “the receipts [recipes] are all suitable to English constitutions…wholesome, toothsome, all practicable and easy to be performed; here are those proper for a frugal, and also for a sumptuous table.”
Indeed, both women’s recipes had simple instructions, accessible ingredients, easy and practical help with weights, measurements, and cooking times. Recipes had no French vocabulary, no complicated patisserie, and no confusing directions. They were just simple, delicious dishes any housewife could make or have servants make without formal culinary training. Eliza Smith offered over a dozen different types of stew with everything from beef to eel and her pancake and apple fritter recipes sound delicious! Hannah Glasse included over 20 different types of pies, an easy and lovely syllabub, and even the first recorded recipe for curry.
Recipe for curry from Glasse’s “The Art of Cookery”. Credit: Wikipedia
The 18th century middle or gentry class housewife and her staff, e.g. Betty and enslaved cook Rachel, could use these books to create meals that no longer consisted of just boiled meat and a vegetable. Now, they could create a range of dishes that would not be out of place on the table of a Lord or Lady. Betty could have dinners prepared for the week, plan special dishes for a party, or undertake extravagant desserts for her Christmastime table. All would delight guests who were using the same books.
The Art of Cookery and The Compleat Housewife democratized cooking, which is something Betty Washington Lewis, sister of the first American president, would have appreciated.
 Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, T. Maiden for A. Lemoine & J. Roe, 1802: pg 3
 Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, J. Rivington and Sons [and 25 others], 1788: pg 4
 Eliza Smith, The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion, J. and J. Pemberton, 1739: Preface
On Tuesday, May 1, 2018, Dr. Kelly Brennan Arehart, Manager of Interpretation & Visitor Services at The George Washington Foundation, presented a lecture titled “Betty Washington Lewis and Women’s Health.” Betty Washington Lewis gave birth to 11 children; a feat almost unheard of today. Kelly explored Betty’s journey from childhood to womanhood, from maiden to mother, and medical challenges that 18th century women faced. A cradle to grave examination of women’s heath tells us of the strength and resilience of Betty Washington Lewis and other women who endured at time without anesthetics or knowledge of germs.
Join us at the library on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 for “Coinage and Credit: The Economy of Colonial Virginia,” a lecture about the business and trade of Fredericksburg merchant Fielding Lewis presented by David Arehart, a site supervisor at Colonial Williamsburg. Talk begins at 7:00 p.m. The lecture is FREE and hosted at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library at 1201 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, Virginia. To learn more, visit http://www.kenmore.org or livesandlegaciesblog.org.
As George Washington’s Ferry Farm prepares to celebrate the reconstruction of the Washington house, we traveled around George’s hometown – Fredericksburg, Virginia – to visit a few places important in the transformation of George from boy to man.
Fredericksburg remained important to George Washington throughout his life. It was the home of Mary Ball Washington, his mother, until her death on August 26, 1789 at the age of 80 from breast cancer. It remained the home of Betty Washington Lewis, his sister, until 1795 when she was forced by financial circumstances to leave the grand house she and husband Fielding Lewis, a wealthy merchant, had built to live at Mill Brook, a farm in Spotsylvania County. Washington visited his mother as well as his sister and brother-in-law regularly but, as the years passed, these visits became more and more infrequent as the Revolution and Presidency required all his time and attention. George Washington visited Betty and Fielding at Kenmore once in 1784.
Join us at the Washington House Celebration on Saturday, October 7, 2017 from 12:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. to celebrate the construction of the Washington house! A special ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. featuring notable speakers. After the ceremony, guests will be invited to view the reconstructed Washington house!
Ferry Farm opens to visitors at noon on Saturday, October 7.
The reconstructed Washington house at Ferry Farm.
PLEASE NOTE: PARKING for the event is off site at the VRE Fredericksburg Park and Ride Lot G at the corner of Prince Edward Street and Frederick Street. Buses will transport guests to and from Ferry Farm—traveling from the VRE lot to Ferry Farm on a regular schedule from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Bus transportation will pause during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The last bus will depart Ferry Farm at 5:15 p.m. Limited handicap parking is available at Ferry Farm.
When you enter a museum you’re surrounded by cool stuff. Be it paintings, fossils, or ancient artifacts, they’re all special items that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere. But what if I told you that the cool objects you see on display in a museum are a mere fraction of what most museums actually have in their collections? There is just never enough room, even for the biggest museums, to display everything. Additionally, some items are just too delicate to make available to the public. This is one of the reasons I love my job. My fellow archaeologists and I get a daily backstage pass to all the incredibly cool things excavated at George Washington’s Ferry Farm. Here’s our list of “Ten Cool But Rarely-Exhibited Artifacts Found at Ferry Farm.” Be sure to click on any of the photos for more detailed views of the artifacts.
Wine Bottle Seal Starting in the 17th century if you were a wealthy gentleman or tavern owner chances are you ordered at least a few custom wine bottles complete with your personal seal. The seals were stamped in various ways, such as with names, initials, symbols, crests, and dates. Archaeologists love them because they’re ‘talky,’ meaning the artifact yields lots of information. A fragmentary bottle seal was found here in 2004 and bears the incomplete name of its owner. The letters visible are either a capital “I” or “J” (the English used the letter I for J), and below that are the letters “-bin”. These few letters might refer to someone in the Corbin family, an extensive Virginia family with local ties. With a little investigation, perhaps we can flush out who was the mystery guest that brought his own bottle of wine for a visit to Ferry Farm!
Lead Whistle Instruments and toys tend to grab our imagination because they make us think about who used them and how the object got lost to time and archaeology. In our collection we have a simple lead whistle, measuring 1 7/8” long and 3/8” in diameter, with “U.S.A.” stamped on the side. It’s cheaply made out of lead, which was a very inexpensive material that has, for obvious reasons, been phased out of the toy industry. In the “Good Ol’ Days”, no one thought twice about making an instrument you put in your mouth out of lead. Maybe it’s a good thing that the person who owned the whistle lost it.
Chunkey Stone Fun to say. Fun to play. Basically a prehistoric rock doughnut, this hand-ground stone was used in a Mississippian Indian game called “Chunkey.” Warriors rolled disc-shaped stones across the ground and threw spears as close to the stone as possible. Similar to the Italian game of bocce, but unlike the Italians who threw wooden balls, Chunkey players threw spears, which is pretty awesome. It’s a bit of a mystery as to how it got to Ferry Farm because there is no evidence that Chunkey was played in eastern Virginia, however some of these gaming stones have been excavated in Maryland and Northern Virginia. It is also possible that one of Ferry Farm’s colonial inhabitants collected this exotic looking artifact for their cabinet of curiosities.
“Joseph” bottle fragment Normally broken bottle glass would have trouble finding its way onto any top ten list, but this fragment is one of a kind. Its owner inscribed his name “Joseph” and the date “174?” into the body of the bottle. That’s not an easy or common thing to do. The inscription is carved in an elegant and beautiful form indicating a gentry status for its owner. While no occupant of Ferry Farm was named Joseph, Mary Ball Washington’s older brother bore that name.
Joseph Ball, though living in England, was heavily involved with Ferry Farm. He absentee owned and operated a neighboring plantation. Joseph was lavish in both his gifts and advice to the Washingtons. He gave Betty, George’s sister, a beautiful silver tea set just before she married. He offered Mary advice on how to keep George out of the Royal Navy when a plan was hatched to put the then 13-year-old onboard a ship. And maybe, just maybe, he sent over a special bottle of wine with his name engraved on it for the Washington family.
Lead Toy Hatchet More lead toys? Yep. This little beauty has special significance to Ferry Farm because of the cherry tree myth. The 3-inch lead hatchet appears to be a souvenir made during the 20th century, possibly dropped during 1932’s anniversary celebration of George Washington’s birth. Keepsakes associated with George and the cherry tree abound in Fredericksburg. Previous private owners of Ferry Farm were known to capitalize on the history of the property, often selling fragments of the ‘original cherry tree’ and cherry seeds to visitors. This hatchet is an obvious symbol recalling the cherry tree story that is so closely associated with Washington’s childhood.
Milk Glass Darning Egg Recovered completely intact from an old burrow belonging to a groundhog, this artifact had multiple uses on a 19th and 20th century homestead. The glass egg was a darning aid used to fill out a sock while it was repaired or could be placed in a henhouse to encourage the ladies to lay eggs in a particular spot. There is also a persistent myth that these eggs were used to kill snakes. The snake would eat the glass egg, it was believed, which would then shatter inside them. This line of reasoning ignores the fact that snakes hunt by detecting chemical signatures of their prey and that snakes can’t really see the egg-like shape of our artifact because of their poor vision. But it’s a story that highlights the mythology that surrounds some objects once they fade into obscurity.
Tambour Hook The tambour hook falls into the category of artifacts that are a little too fragile to display. Made of carved bone and metal, this exceptional object was used by a gentlewoman, probably George’s sister Betty, to adorn fabric with elaborate embroidery. Recovered from the bottom-most soil level of the Washingtons’ root cellar where it was deposited sometime between 1741 and 1760, the carved designs that cover the bone handle feature a parrot, leaves, flowing vines, and numerous flowers and represent some of the most popular embroidery themes of the time. This hook helps demonstrates the fashionability of the Washington women, which contradicts the portrait painted by many modern biographers.
Pewter Teaspoon with Betty Washington’s Initials Betty had some of the coolest artifacts and this one literally has her name on it. It was customary for tea to be dispensed by the wife or by the oldest daughter in the house and Betty, as the only daughter, was clearly groomed in this ceremony as is evidenced by her own teaspoons. Pewter, an alloy containing a number of different metals including lead (yes, more lead), wasn’t as fancy as silver but the fact that it’s customized makes it special. This tea set appears to be part of a “practice” set that Betty used before her uncle gave her a silver tea set around her 16th birthday.
Bartmann or Bellarmine Jug/Bottle Who doesn’t want to drink out of a jug exhibiting the large face of a crazy bearded man? I do, and if you were a colonist in the 1700s and early 1800s, you did as well. Originating in Germany, these face jugs depicted a ‘wild man’ of the woods character popular in Eastern European folklore. By the time these vessels made it to the English market that aspect seems to have been forgotten. Subsequently, the English created their own story behind the bearded man revolving around their dislike for a similarly-bearded and unpopular anti-protestant cardinal by the name of Robert Bellarmine. For more about this artifact, read this blog post.
Repaired Creamware Cherry and Flower Punchbowl This artifact is cool for so many reasons. A beautiful bowl adorned with graceful hand painted flowers and cherries (remember, we love those here), it also exhibits a complicated and tortured use-life while highlighting the importance of punch drinking in the eighteenth century. Written about here, this bowl was owned by Mary Washington, George’s mother. Punch bowls vary in size and this one would have been called a ‘sneaker’, which denotes a bowl small enough for guests to take turns sipping out of it before passing it to the next person. Mary clearly loved the bowl so much that, when it broke sometime between 1765 and 1772, she had it repaired with glue. Although the hide or cheese-based glue used would not have resulted in a vessel capable of holding punch again, she could display it on her mantle or in her china cabinet…Oh, and the glaze? It has lead in it.
Laura Galke, Site Director/Small Finds Analyst
Judy Jobrack, Assistant Lab Supervisor
Mara Kaktins, Ceramics & Glass Specialist
Melanie Marquis, Lab Supervisor
Dave Muraca, Director of Archaeology
The Mary Washington Monument on Washington Avenue in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Today, August 25th, marks the 227th anniversary of the death of George Washington’s mother, Mary. Mary lived to be 82 years old, and suffered from breast cancer during her final years.
Few biographers have been neutral in their treatment of Mother Washington, a woman of great significance in George’s life. Some writers have offered overly sentimental descriptions of this matron, whereas others have been critical, and even harsh in their evaluation of her role as George’s mother.
Mary Ball married Augustine Washington on March 6, 1731. Their marriage produced six children: George, Betty, Samuel, John Augustine, Charles, and Mildred. When Augustine died twelve years later, a significant portion of the family’s property went to Augustine’s two oldest sons from his first marriage. Mary raised their five surviving children at their Ferry Farm home, keeping the family together. In 1772, at the insistence of her children, an aging Mary Washington moved into the town of Fredericksburg where she could be closer to her daughter, Betty.
In the summer of 1789, Mother Washington’s health was rapidly deteriorating. Betty wrote to her older brother George,
These symptoms that Mary experienced in her final days, such as loss of speech and prolonged unconsciousness, seem consistent with hemlock poisoning, which attacks the nervous system and can cause comas. Side effects include loss of speech (Steger 1972:71; http://www.webmd.com/).
After his mother’s death, himself recovering from surgery to his left thigh (Abbot et al. 1992b, pp. 75-77), George consoled his grieving sister Betty Washington Lewis in a letter dated September 13, 1789:
On August 28th, Betty Lewis and her children buried Mary Washington near a rock outcropping known today as “meditation rock” (Hetzel 1903:5). The letter conveying the news of her death had still not reached her son George (Hetzel 1903:1), preventing him from attending the ceremony (cf. Rejai and Phillips 2000:15). The burial site was part of the Lewis family’s Fredericksburg plantation. This was a favorite spot of Mary’s, to sit, read the Bible, and spend time with her grandchildren.
For some time, Mary’s grave had no permanent marker. An attempt to move her remains to Mount Vernon stirred concerned local residents into action (NRHP 2002 Section 8, p. 21) and an effort was begun to place a marker on Mary’s final resting place in 1826. While a cornerstone for a marker was laid in 1833, construction failed to materialize a suitable memorial before 1893 when the Mary Washington Memorial Association brought this effort to fruition (NRHP 2002 Section 7 p. 16, Section 8, pp. 22, 27). In 1894 President Grover Cleveland, as well as his Vice President, the Governor of Virginia, the Mayor of Fredericksburg, a senator from Virginia, and thousands of citizens attended the dedication of the completed memorial (NRHP 2002 Section 8, p. 28).
This Saturday, August 27th, you can commemorate Mary Washington’s death with the Washington Heritage Museums at the grave of Mary Washington. A reception (cost $10) at the Mary Washington House on Charles Street follows. For event details, visit washingtonheritagemuseums.org.
Laura Galke, Archaeologist
Site Director/Small Finds Analyst
Abbot, W. W., Dorothy Twohig, Philander D. Chase, Beverly H. Runge, Beverly S. Kirsch, and Debra B. Kessler
1992 The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series Volume 1. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.
Hetzel, Susan Riviere
1903 The Building of a Monument Press of Wickersham Company, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.