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Chapin collection of Washington & Custis family documents

 Collection — Shelf: G:5
Identifier: RM-1201-RM-1202

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of papers inherited and collected by Washington family descendants. Many were purchased in 1927 at auction to reunite Washington family correspondence. The collection includes correspondence, financial documents and legal documents that relate primarily to the Custis and Lewis families, but include other items related to Virginia history. Charles and Peter Chapin, the previous owners of this collection, descended from Eleanor Parke Custis and Lawrence Lewis through Esther Maria Lewis and Charles Chapin. This collection was originally assembled by Esther Maria Lewis Chapin who inherited some of the Washington/Custis papers, but was also an avid collector and brought back together family items that were being dispersed nationwide. This collection is an example of that effort; much of which was at auction in 1927 (Anderson Galleries, sale 2201, 28-29 November 1927).


  • 1758-1829


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research during scheduled appointments. Researchers must complete the Washington Library’s Special Collections and Archives Registration Form before access is provided. The library reserves the right to restrict access to certain items for preservation purposes.

Biographical / Historical

Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis (1779-1852): Eleanor was born on March 31, 1779. She was the youngest granddaughter of Martha Washington and the step-granddaughter of George Washington. After her father John Parke Custis’ death in 1781 and her mother, Eleanor Calvert Custis’ marriage to Dr. David Stuart, Eleanor and her brother George Washington Parke Custis began living with the Washingtons. In 1799, Eleanor married Washington’s nephew, Lawrence Lewis. Of their eight children, only one son and three daughters lived to maturity. Eleanor and Lawrence remained at Mount Vernon until Martha Washington’s death in 1802 and subsequently moved to Woodlawn Plantation upon its completion in 1805. Throughout her life, Nelly regarded herself as the preserver of George Washington’s legacy. She died at Audley Plantation on July 15, 1852 and is buried at Mount Vernon in the family tomb.

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.

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.


.5 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection is divided into two series: Legal and Financial, and Correspondence. The folders are arranged in chronological order within each series. The undated material is listed at the end of the series, in alphabetical order by folder title.

Related Materials

Esther Maria Lewis Chapin Collection of Washington Family Documents ; George Washington Collection ; Historic Manuscripts Collection ; Lawrence Lewis Papers ; Peter Family Papers

Separated Materials

One title, The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 1634. Transferred to Rare Books Collection.

Chapin Collection of Washington & Custis family documents
Michele Lee, Special Collections Librarian, 2015. Updated by Samantha Snyder, Reference Librarian, August 2020.
August 2020
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