George Washington Papers
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[Diary entry: 7 September 1785]

Wednesday 7th. Mercury at 67 in the Morning—68 at Noon and 70 at Night.

Clear day with the Wind fresh & Cool from the No[th]ward in the forenoon but still & warm in the Afternoon.

Fanny Bassett returned before Dinner, and Doctr. Craik came to it & went away afterwards to visit John Alton, and his Children at Mr. Chichesters from thence.

About Noon brought two Negro men from the River Plantation to assist in spading up the ground in front of the Court yard and Cornelius being Sick Tom Davis went to assist them.

Bought 28,430 good Cyprus Shingles.

At Night, a Man of the name of Purdie, came to offer himself to me as a Housekeeper, or Household Steward. He had some testimonials respecting his character—but being intoxicated, and in other respects appearing in an unfavorable light I informed him that he would not answer my purposes, but that he might stay all night.

Cornelius was undoubtedly the Irishman, Cornelius McDermott Roe, who signed an agreement with GW on 1 Aug. 1786 for one year as a “Stone Mason, Bricklayer, and (when not employed in either of these) in other jobs which he may be set about.” McDermott Roe was to receive £32 in addition to board, washing, and lodging “as he has been usually accustomed to in the family; and will give him the same allowance of spirits with which he has been served” (DLC:GW). This portion of the agreement indicates that McDermott Roe had already been employed at Mount Vernon under an earlier arrangement, and he appears several times in the diaries before the Aug. 1786 agreement. Tom Davis, a dower slave, worked primarily as a bricklayer and stonemason. He also occasionally did painting and carpentry.

GW had advertised for a “House-Keeper, or Household Steward, who is competent to the charge of a large family, and attending on a good deal of company” (Va. Journal, 18 Aug. 1785). Because of the increasing number of visitors at Mount Vernon since the Revolution, GW felt it necessary to hire someone to help run the household.

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