Mt. Vernon looks wonderfully tidy and well-preserved when you tour it today. But not too long after Martha Washington’s death, when Mt. Vernon had passed to the possession of a nephew, it fell into disrepair.
The story goes that a group of wealthy couples were on a boat going up the Potomac. But when they passed by Mt. Vernon especially the ladies were shocked that it was so run-down … especially noticeable was that the veranda looking out to the river was falling down and was partially held up by an old boat stood on end.
The result was that the women organized a group that purchased George Washington’s home, restored it, and to this day the society they began is still the owner and conservators of Mt. Vernon.
So today it is beautiful and well-maintained,
including the little brick building that is the tomb of George and Martha Washington.
There were alot of people trying to see into the tomb, so I only got a brief glimpse of inside.
I heard a story while I was there that I think is worth repeating:
During the Civil War, soldiers from both sides would come to Mt. Vernon to pay their respects to George Washington, sometimes at the same time. So the woman who was then the head of the society that owned Mt. Vernon, made a rule that any soldier coming onto the property must leave his gun at the gate. A perfect momentary solution that allowed all the soldiers from both sides to pay their respects to the Father of Our Country.
And early on, the soldiers started carving their names in the bricks of the tomb. Eventually, it wasn’t allowed any more,
but the name John Brown is carved in one of the bricks and the guide said there is reason to believe it is “the” John Brown. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia about him:
John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was an American revolutionary abolitionist, who in the 1850s advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to abolish slavery in the United States. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre, during which five men were killed, in 1856 in Bleeding Kansas, and made his name in the unsuccessful raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859. Later that year he was executed but his speeches at the trial captured national attention. Brown has been called “the most controversial of all 19th-century Americans”and “America’s first domestic terrorist.”
I find it fascinating to “walk through history” in places like Mt. Vernon, so I’ll have one or two more stories from there and then I’ll move on to our second day in DC. Just kidding … this was the second day.
Bored yet? I hope not.