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Peter family papers

Identifier: RM-1186

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of papers collected by various members of the Peter families. It includes letters from George Washington, letters of condolence to Martha Washington after George Washington’s death, estate documents, Major George Peter’s military papers, land plats and surveys, photo albums, letterbooks, and notebooks that tell of the life of this prominent family in Virginia and the City of Washington.


  • Creation: 1772-1932


Biographical / Historical

The Peters were a prominent family in Washington, D.C. during the eighteenth and nineteen centuries. Martha Parke Custis, Martha Washington’s granddaughter, married into the Peter family in 1795.

George Washington (1732-1799): George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 at a modest farm in Westmoreland County, Virginia to parents Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. In 1749, George Washington was appointed surveyor for Culpepper County. In 1752, he started his military career in the Virginia militia. During the Revolutionary War he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and later was elected as the first President of the United States of America. He lived with his wife, Martha Washington, at Mount Vernon, where he passed away December 14, 1799.

Martha Washington (1731-1802): Martha Dandridge Custis Washington was born on June 2, 1731 to parents John and Frances Jones Dandridge. She married her first husband, Daniel Parke Custis, on May 15, 1750. Together they had four children, two of whom died in childhood. On July 8, 1757, her husband unexpectedly died, leaving her a widow with their two remaining children, John Parke Custis and Martha Parke Custis. On January 6, 1759, Martha Dandridge Custis married George Washington. Martha Parke Custis or Patsy, died at the age of 17. On February 3, 1774, John Parke Custis married Eleanor Calvert, and together they had four children who survived to adulthood. However, on November 5, 1781, John Parke Custis passed away, and the younger two of his children went to live at Mount Vernon with their grandmother. Martha Dandridge Custis Washington died on May 22, 1802.

Tobias Lear (1762-1816): Tobias Lear was born in 1762. He was employed by George Washington in 1786 to manage expense reports to Congress and also as the personal tutor to Martha Washington’s grandchildren. In 1790 Tobias Lear married Mary “Polly” Long; however she died in 1793. Lear then married Martha Washington’s niece, Frances Bassett Washington, but she died shortly they were married. Lear married for a third time to Frances Dandridge Henley, another niece of Martha Washington. He died in 1816.

Elizabeth (Betsy, Beth, Eliza) Parke Custis Law (1776-1831): Wife to Thomas Law, Eliza Parke Custis Law was born on August 21, 1776. She was the daughter of John (Jacky) Parke Custis and Eleanor (Nelly) Calvert. Upon the death of her father in 1781, Eliza’s two younger siblings, George Washington (Washy) Parke Custis and Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis went to live with their grandmother, Martha Washington, and her second husband, George Washington. Eliza and her other sister Martha stayed at home with their mother. Shortly after, their mother remarried Dr. David Stuart and had thirteen more children. On March 21, 1796, Eliza Parke Custis Law married Thomas Law and together they had one child, Eliza Law. In 1804, the couple separated and their daughter went to live with her father. They officially divorced in 1811. Eliza Parke Custis Law lived with one of her uncles for a time after the separation, and soon purchased a house in Alexandria called “Mount Washington.” Eliza Law Rogers died in 1822, leaving behind a husband (Lloyd Nicholas Rogers) and two children. Eliza Parke Custis Law died on December 31, 1831.

Thomas Law (1756-1834): Thomas Law was born on October 23, 1756 in Cambridge, England. He started his career working for the East India Trading Company and began building his reputation, as well as his income. In 1794, he left England to start a new life in America where he began to invest in lands, particularly in the nation’s capital. Over time, Law became extremely passionate about the arts, particularly poetry, which he wrote and published. He even founded the first dance society, theater, and the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences. Thomas Law married Eliza Parke Custis on March 21, 1796. Together they had one child, Eliza Law, who married Lloyd Nicholls Rogers in 1817. Thomas Law died in 1834.

William Costin (1780-1842): William Costin was a prominent free black man in early 19th-century Washington DC. He was a messenger for the Bank of Washington and ran a hack business in the city. In 1800, he married his cousin Philadelphia (“Delphy”), a dower slave of Martha Washington. Upon Martha Washington’s death in 1802, Delphy became the property of Eliza Parke Custis Law, wife to Thomas Law. Delphy and their children were granted freedom shortly after, and the couple decided to stay in Washington, D.C. Together the Costins had seven children. He died in 1842.

John Law (1784-1822): John Law was born in India about 1784 to Thomas Law and an unidentified Indian woman. In 1794 Thomas Law came to America after living about two decades in India; presumably John and his brothers came with him. Thomas Law married Eliza Parke Custis in 1796 and raised the boys until their separation around 1804. John Law graduated from Harvard University in 1804; he was a member of the Columbian Dragoons in 1811; and was the commissioner to adjust the Yazoo claims in 1814. He died on October 4, 1822.

Lloyd Nicholas Rogers (1787 or 1788-1860): Lloyd Nicholas Rogers was born on September 20, 1788 to parents Nicholas and Eleanor Buchanan Rogers. Lloyd Nicholas Rogers married Eliza Law Rogers in 1817. Together they had two children, Edmund Law Rogers and Eleanor Agnes Rogers. They lived on Druid Hill which had been passed down by Lloyd’s Scottish father. Very shortly after the death of Lloyd’s father in 1822, Eliza also died. In 1829, Rogers was married to Hortensia Monroe Hay who was the granddaughter of James Monroe. Together, they had an additional three daughters, Harriet, Hortensia, and Mary Custis. Lloyd was a proprietor of his estate and practiced law out of his home on Druid Hill. Hortensia died in the 1850s, leaving Lloyd all alone. All of his children except for Eleanor had already married and moved out. Eleanor would not marry until 1862, following her father’s death. Lloyd Nicholas Rogers died on November 12, 1860.

Edmund Law Rogers (1818-1896): Edmund Law Rogers was born in 1818 to Lloyd Nicholas Rogers and Eliza Law Rogers. He grew up and lived in Baltimore all of his life, and was a founding member of the Maryland and Harvard Club, as well as a member of various other organizations, such as, the Sons of the Revolution and the Baltimore Historical Society. He spoke several different languages and was a lover of the arts. He married Charlotte Matilda Plater and together they had two children, Edmund Law Rogers, Jr., and Charlotte Plater Rogers. He died of paralysis on January 24, 1896.

Robert Peter (1726-1806): Robert Peter was born in 1726 in Scotland to Thomas Peter and Jean Dunlop, who were prosperous merchants. He immigrated to the United States around 1745, but there is no definite reason why he chose to leave. He first settled in the town, Bladensburg, along the Anacostia River. In 1751, Georgetown was established, and Robert purchased a lot in the town the following year, and slowly began to build up his land holdings. His land holdings grew to be quite extensive, including owning the entire square from M, K, and 31st Streets, and Wisconsin Ave. From 1789 to 1798, Robert Peter was the first mayor of Georgetown. On December 27, 1767, he married Elizabeth Scott, and together they had 10 children, one of whom died as an infant. Their names were: Thomas, Alexander, Elizabeth, Walter, Robert, Jean, Margaret, David, George, and James. He died in 1806.

Thomas Peter (1769-1834): Thomas Peter was born January 4, 1769 to Robert and Elizabeth Scott Peter. Thomas Peter married Martha Parke Custis, granddaughter to Martha Washington, in 1795. Together, they had eight children. Martha Eliza Eleanor, Columbia Washington, John Parke Custis, Robert Thomas, George Washington, America Pinckney, Martha Custis Castania (who died young), and Britannia Wellington. In 1805, Thomas and Martha purchased eight-and-a-half acres in “Georgetown Heights.” [For more information on Tudor Place, see Tudor Place: Historic House and Gardens.] They later hired architect Dr. William Thornton to design and build Tudor Place located in Georgetown. It was completed in 1816 and still stands today. Thomas Peter was a prominent lawyer of the time and was one of the executors of Martha Washington’s will. He died April 16, 1834.

Martha (Patty) Parke Custis Peter (1777-1854): was born to John Parke Custis and Eleanor (Nelly) Calvert Custis on December 31, 1777. She was one of four children in their family to survive to adulthood: Eliza Parke, Martha Parke, Eleanor Parke (Nelly), and George Washington (Washy) Parke. Following the death of their father in 1781, Patty and her older sister, Eliza, lived with their mother and stepfather, Dr. David Stuart, and their large family, while their younger siblings, Nelly and Washy, lived with their grandparents at Mount Vernon. There were frequent visits to Mount Vernon in both childhood and following her marriage to Thomas Peter in 1795. She died July 13 or 15, 1854.

Britannia Wellington Peter Kennon (1815-1911): Britannia Wellington Peter was born January 28, 1815, as the youngest child of Martha Parke (Patty) Custis Peter and Thomas Peter. In 1842, she married Commodore Beverley Kennon, and together they had one child, Martha Custis Kennon, on October 18, 1843. Commodore Kennon died from a gun explosion on the frigate Princeton on February 28, 1844. Martha Custis Kennon married Dr. Armistead Peter in 1867. When Britannia Wellington Peter Kennon’s mother passed in 1854, she inherited Tudor Place, where she lived until her death in 1911.

Major George Peter (1779-1861): Major George W. Peter was born on September 28, 1779 to Robert and Elizabeth Scott Peter. He was married three times during his life. First, to Ann Plater in 1809. Together they had two children, George and Thomas. His wife and two children all died in 1814. Secondly, in 1815 he married Agnes Buchanon Freeland. They had five children, Robert, Ann, James, Agnes, and David. Agnes, his wife, died in 1825. Only a month later, he again married, this time to Sarah Norfleet Freeland, the sister of his second wife. Together, they had nine children: Sarah Agnes, George, Alexander Scott, Margaret Dick, Elizabeth, Armistead, Walter Gibson, William, and Katherine Norfleet. Major George Peter was an officer in the army, a representative in Congress, and a farmer. During his career in the army, he was first appointed first lieutenant 2nd, Artillery and Engineers on February 16, 1801. He was promoted to Captain on November 3, 1807, and finally was transferred to the Light Artillery in May of 1808. He resigned in June 11, 1809. In 1815, he was elected to Congress to cover the sixth district in Maryland. He would continue this appointment until after 1828. He died June 22, 1861.

Dr. Armistead Peter (1840-1902): Dr. Armistead Peter was one of George Peter’s sons from his third marriage to Sarah Norfleet Freeland Peter. He was born on February 23, 1840. Dr. Armistead Peter was a cousin to his wife Martha Custis Kennon Peter, whom he married in 1867. Together, Martha and Armistead had five children: Walter Gibson, Armistead, Beverley Kennon, George Freeland, and Agnes. He and Martha Custis Kennon Peter both moved into Tudor Place and Dr. Armistead Peter converted a portion of the house for his medical practice. He created a very successful business as one of the best doctors in the city of Washington. During the Civil War he was employed by the U.S. Army as ward surgeon, as well as serving in a smallpox hospital. Martha Custis Kennon Peter died suddenly in 1886. Armistead died in 1902, his mother-in-law, Britannia W. Peter Kennon outliving both of them. The land in Bethesda was divided between their four children. After Britannia W. Peter Kennon died, the house was left to her grandson, Armistead Peter II. Dr. Armistead Peter died on January 28, 1902.

Agnes Peter (1880-1957): Agnes Peter, born on February 3, 1880, was the daughter of Dr. Armistead Peter and Martha Custis Kennon Peter. She lived in France for a period of time during WWI conducting work for the YMCA. Agnes Peter was the director of a Foyer du Soldat and helped to receive soldiers and refugees. She was also in charge of the Graves Registration Section in Rheims. She was the first woman in France to be awarded the silver Medal of Honor for her distinguished services to the country during the war. In 1946, when she was 73, she married Nobel Prize winner, Dr. John R. Mott, who is most acclaimed for his work creating international Christian programs with a goal to establish peace. She died in 1957.


12 Linear Feet (46 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged in the following series and subseries. Within each series, materials are generally separated by format and listed chronologically, with undated materials listed last.

Series 1. Papers of George Washington
Series 2. Papers of Tobias Lear
Series 3. Miscellaneous
Series 4. Papers of Martha Washington
Series 5. Papers of Eliza Parke Custis Law
Series 6. Papers of Thomas Law: Subseries 6.1. Legal Documents, Subseries 6.2. Correspondence
Series 7. Papers of William Costin
Series 8. Papers of John Law
Series 9. Papers of Lloyd Nicholas Rogers
Series 10. Papers of Edmund Law Rogers
Series 11. Papers of Robert Peter: Subseries 11.1. Accounts, Subseries 11.2. Financial Documents, Subseries 11.3. Legal Documents, Subseries 11.4. Land Documents, Subseries 11.5. Estate Documents
Series 12. Papers of Thomas Peter: Subseries 12.1. Financial Documents, Subseries 12.2. Land Documents, Subseries 12.3. Estate Documents, Subseries 12.4. Correspondence
Series 13. Papers of Britannia W. Peter Kennon, 1824-1909: Subseries 13.1. Financial Documents, Subseries 13.2. Legal Documents, Subseries 13.3. Correspondence

Related Materials

Peter family owned books are cataloged in the Library Catalog. The 23 titles (36 volumes) are searchable in the the Catalog's Peter Family Collection.

Peter family papers
In Progress
August 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections at The George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon Repository

PO Box 3600
Mount Vernon VA 22121