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Elswyth Thane Beebe Collection of Washington Family Papers

 Collection — Shelf: G:6
Identifier: RM-710

Content Description

This collection includes correspondence between John Augustine Washington III and his mother and wife, as well as other family members, mostly dealing with family matters and running Mount Vernon.


  • 1818-1861
  • Majority of material found in 1840-1850

Biographical / Historical

Elswyth Thane Beebe (May 16, 1900 – July 31, 1984; nee Helen Ricker) was an American romance novelist, historian, and freelance, screen, and newspaper writer. She was born in Burlington, Iowa, but move to New York in the 1920s. Her first novel, Riders of the Wind, was published in 1926. And, although many of her works were quite popular, she became most well-known for her historical fiction, including works about George and Martha Washington, Mount Vernon, and the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. During her research for these books, she amassed this collection of Washington family documents.

John Augustine Washington III was the great-grand nephew of George Washington and the last private owner of Mount Vernon. He was born on May 3, 1821 to John Augustine Washington II and Jane Charlotte Blackburn Washington. His young childhood was spent at Blakeley Plantation near Charles Town, WV. After the death of Bushrod Washington and his wife, the family moved to Mount Vernon. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1840 and returned to Mount Vernon to manage it for his mother, eventually inheriting it. However, he had to start encouraging tourism to make money. He tried to sell to the federal or state governments but finally sold Mount Vernon to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in 1858 for $200,000. The family moved to Waveland plantation. Shortly after, he enlisted in the Confederate Army and served as an aid-de-camp to General Lee and was killed on September 13, 1861.

Jane Charlotte Blackburn Washington was the mother of John Augustine Washington III. When she died in 1855, she left Mount Vernon to her son.

Eleanor Love Selden Washington was the wife of John Augustine Washington III.

Louisa Washington was the daughter of John Augustine Washington III and Eleanor Washington.


.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The collection is organized in date order with undated letters at the end.

Related Materials

Related materials can be found in the John Augustine Washington III Family Papers and the Historic Manuscripts Collection.

Elswyth Thane Beebe Collection of Washington Family Papers
Michele Lee, Special Collections Librarian; Candace G. Cowan, Special Collections Volunteer
September 2015
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington Repository

PO Box 3600
Mount Vernon VA 22121