George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Betty Washington Lewis, 18 May 1790

From Betty Washington Lewis

May the 18th 1790

My Dear Brother

my being absent from Home for Six weeks is the reason of my not writing to you sooner, I was on a Visit to my Son Lawrence In Essex at the time I Expect’d his wife to lyin, Pore thing it Prove’d fatal to her, she was takein with Fits and died in twelve Ours without being Deliver’d, he lost a very good wife and with her all the Fortune as she was not of age to make a Right to any Part.1

We have not yet settled the accompts of my Mothers Estate Some not Prov’d, and One Hogshead of Tobacco belonging to the Estate not Sold as the Price is very low2 I thaught it better to wait as there was a Prospect of its riseing, the last Letter I Receiv’d from Robert mentions his accompany’g Mr Lear to New Hampshire I hope it was not without your approbation, I have Inclos’d a letter to him, as I Expect he is returned by this.3 my sincar Love and Best wishes attend you and my Sister Washington and Children. I am Dear Brother your affectionate Sister

Betty Lewis

N.B. when the accpts is made out and settled I shall have them sent you.

ALS, ViMtvL.

1Lawrence Lewis (1767–1839) was the third surviving son of Fielding and Betty Lewis. He was educated at an academy in Fredericksburg and by private tutors at Kenmore. About 1789 he married Susannah Edmundson and established himself on a plantation in Essex County. In 1799 Lawrence married Nelly Custis, Martha Washington’s granddaughter.

2Mary Ball Washington died 25 Aug. 1789 (see Burgess Ball to GW, 25 Aug. 1789), making GW executor of her will. GW left responsibility for settling their mother’s estate to his sister Betty (see GW to Betty Washington Lewis, 13 Sept. 1789).

3Tobias Lear and Robert Lewis evidently left New York on 12 April aboard the sloop Rambler, bound for Providence. From Providence they probably traveled through Boston en route to Portsmouth, N.H., where they arrived on 17 April (New-York Daily Gazette, 12 April, Providence Gazette and Country Journal, 17 April; Osborne’s New-Hampshire Spy [Portsmouth], 21 April. At Portsmouth, Lear married Mary (Polly) Long on 22 April (New Hampshire Gazette [Portsmouth], 28 April 1790). Lear arrived back in New York with his bride about 21 or 22 May; he may have cut his trip short after learning of GW’s illness, which was reported in the Boston Gazette on 18 May. Lewis’s movements after the arrival at Portsmouth are uncertain, but he did visit Boston in May (Massachusetts Centinel [Boston], 8 May).

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