John Washington
Member of the House of Burgesses representing Westmoreland County
In office
Preceded byGerard Fowke
Succeeded byWilliam Pierce
Personal details
Tring, Hertfordshire, England
Died1677 (aged 44)
Westmoreland County, Colony of Virginia
Spouse(s)Anne Pope
Anne, widow of Henry Brett
Frances Gerard, widow of John Appleton
RelationsPaternal great-grandfather of George Washington
ChildrenLawrence Washington
John Washington Jr.
Anne Washington
Parent(s)Lawrence Washington
Amphillis Twigden
Occupationmerchant, planter, soldier, politician
Known forFounder of Washington family of Virginia
Pedigree and arms of Washington

John Washington (1633 – 1677) was an English-born merchant, planter, politician and military officer. Born in Tring, Hertfordshire, he subsequently emigrated to the English colony of Virginia and became a member of the planter class. In addition to serving in the Virginia militia and owning several slave plantations, Washington also served for many years in the House of Burgesses, representing Westmoreland County. He was the first member of the Washington family to live in North America and was the paternal great-grandfather of George Washington, the first president of the United States.[2][a]

Early life and family

John Washington was born to rector Lawrence Washington and the former Amphillis Twigden, about 1633 (when his father resigned his fellowship at Oxford that required him to remain unmarried), likely at his maternal grandparents' home in Tring, Hertfordshire.[1][3][4] However, as an adult, John Washington gave his age in a Virginia deposition as 45, which would put his birth two years earlier.[5][6] Before his marriage Lawrence had been a don at the University of Oxford.[7] He had been born at Sulgrave Manor near Banbury in Oxfordshire.[8]

When John was eight, his father enrolled him in Charterhouse School in London to begin preparing for an academic career, but the boy never attended the school. In 1633 the senior Washington had left Oxford to become the rector of All Saints Parish in Purleigh, Essex. During the English Civil War, in 1643 Parliamentary Puritans stripped the royalist Rev. Washington of that clerical position, alleging misconduct that was disputed. Rev. Lawrence Washington then became vicar of an impoverished parish in Little Braxted, Essex, where he died in January 1652. His widow returned to her parents' family home in Tring, Hertfordshire, and in 1655 John became administrator of his widowed mother's estate.[9]

John Washington was apprenticed with a London merchant through the help of his Sandys relatives.[citation needed] He gained a valuable education in colonial trade, as England had colonies in the Caribbean and North America. He served as Master's Mate on board a tobacco ship when he first came to Virginia.[10]

In 1656 John Washington invested with Edward Prescott in a merchant ship which transported tobacco from North America to European markets. He secured tobacco contracts in Europe, joined Prescott's ship (the Sea Horse of London) in Denmark, and sailed as second mate for the Colony of Virginia.[11][12][13] A storm on February 28, 1657, caused the ship (fully laden with tobacco for the return journey) to run aground in the Potomac River at a shoal near its confluence with Mattox Creek. Although the vessel was repaired, Washington elected to remain in the colony. However, when he asked for his wages, Prescott said he owed him money instead, so Colonel Nathaniel Pope (his future father-in-law discussed below) gave Prescott beaver skins to settle the alleged debt.[14][15][16] However, his cousin, James Washington, the son of Robert Washington (1616 - 1674), who worked in the London-Rotterdam trade of the Merchant Adventurers, who had also sailed on that voyage, returned on Prescott's ship.[17][18]

Complicating matters, this John Washington also had a younger brother, Lawrence Washington, who became a merchant, married Mary Jones of Luton in Bedfordshire in England, then also emigrated from England to the Virginia Colony, where he died.[19] That Lawrence also had a son named John Washington (usually distinguished as "of Chotank", the name of his plantation in King George County, Virginia). That John Washington raised the children of his cousin Lawrence Washington (1659-1698) (this man's firstborn son): John Washington (1692-1746) and Augustine Washington (1693-1743) when they returned from England.[20]

Survey of 1674, certified by Thomas Lee, for 5,000-acre land grant

Colony of Virginia

Washington initially lived at the home of Col. Nathaniel Pope, who had emigrated from England to Maryland about twenty years earlier, then moved across the Potomac River to Virginia where he became a planter on the Northern Neck and a justice of the peace for what was then Northumberland County in 1651 and four years later Lt.Col. of the local militia.[21] During his stay, Washington fell in love with his host's daughter Anne, whom he married late in 1658 or early in 1659. She gave birth to their first son, Laurence in October 1659. Around that time, Washington learned that his nemesis Capt. Prescott had hanged a woman as a witch, and brought murder charges against him in the Maryland General Court; however, the trial conflicted with Laurence's baptism, so Prescott went free for lack of evidence.[22]

Col. Pope gave the couple a wedding gift of 700 acres (2.8 km2) on Mattox Creek, as well as a loan of 80 pounds for startup expenses, which he forgave in his will, which was filed in April 1660.[23][16] In 1664, Washington bought 100 acres on Bridges Creek near the confluence with the Potomac River, and settled there, in what is now part of George Washington Birthplace National Monument.[24][25] Washington became a successful planter, depending on the labour of Black slaves and white indentured servants to cultivate tobacco as a commodity crop as well as kitchen crops needed to support his household and workers. By 1668 he was growing tobacco, with holdings of 5,000 acres (20 km2).[26] His will disposed of more than 8,500 acres (34 km2) of land.[27]

Washington's first public office was vestryman of the local Appomattox Parish church in 1661 (although the parish would cease to exist four years later after a reorganization).[28] Washington also served as trustee of Westmoreland County estates and guardian of children.[29] In 1661, Washington also became the county coroner and in 1662 became one of the judges of the county court (with administrative as well as judicial responsibilities) and Major of the militia -- both signifying his acceptance into the gentry.[30][31]

Westmoreland County voters first elected Washington as one of their representatives in the House of Burgesses in 1665, and he continually won re-election until his death more than a decade later. He served alongside planters Isaac Allerton, Gerrard Fowke and his cousin Nicholas Spencer.[32]

In 1672, Washington received promotion to lieutenant colonel in the local militia, as relations with Native Americans again became troubled.[33] (Settlers in the Northern Neck area had been massacred in 1622 and 1644)[34] In 1675 (by which time Washington's rank had increased to colonel), he and fellow Virginia planter and militia officer Isaac Allerton and Maryland Major Trueman led retaliation against Maryland natives who had killed three Virginia colonists after a trade dispute. During a planned parley with the disgruntled opposition and their allied American Indian leaders, Maryland militia killed at least five surrendered or parleying Doeg and Susquehannock warriors.[35][36][37] For his efforts suppressing Native Americans, the Susquehannock gave John the nickname of "Town Destroyer".[38] Some eight decades later, during the French-Indian War, the Seneca would bestow the same title upon Washington's great-grandson, George, for both his own prowess in warfare against the tribes, and in remembrance of the destruction incurred by his ancestor.[39]

The incident and resultant raids later contributed to Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, during which Col. Washington supported Governor William Berkeley.[40] During the rebellion, Bacon's forces plundered Washington's estate, among others.[41] Following Bacon's death and the suppression of Bacon's Rebellion, an investigating commission criticized Governor William Berkeley, who returned to England, so John's cousin Nicholas Spencer who had traveled with Berkeley to Virginia, became Virginia's acting governor. However, Washington died within months, as discussed below.

Marriage and family

John Washington married three times. He married Anne Pope in late 1658.[7] They had the following children[42] together:

After Anne Pope's death, Washington married a widow named Anne, who had survived husbands Walter Brodhurst and Henry Brett, but did not have children with Washington. Her maiden name is unknown.[48][6]

After his second wife's death, John Washington married Frances Gerard (a daughter of Thomas Gerard, and widow of Thomas Speke, Valentine Peyton, and John Appleton). This third marriage occurred about 10 May 1676[49] when a "joynture" was recorded between Mrs. Frances Appleton and John Washington in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

Death and legacy

Although the exact date has not been recorded, it occurred after Washington attended a meeting concerning taxes and the suppressed rebellion on August 14, 1677. Washington's will was admitted to probate on September 26, 1677.[50][51] His estate consisted of more than 8,500 acres.[52] John and his first wife Anne Pope are buried near present-day Colonial Beach, Virginia, at what is now called the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. His vault is the largest in the small family burial plot.

During John’s lifetime, the name of the local parish of the Anglican Church (the established church in colonial Virginia, and thereby also a tax district of the county) was changed to Washington in his honor.[16]

See also



  1. ^ This particular John Washington is often called "the immigrant John Washington" by various historians and authors, see Glenn Introduction for an example - "This is the vast family originated by the immigrant John Washington".


  1. ^ a b Glenn, Justin (2014). The Washingtons. Volume 1: Seven Generations of the Presidential Branch. Savas Publishing. p. 34. ISBN 9781940669267. Although estimates of his birth date by modern researchers range from 1631 to 1634, Peter Walne has convincingly argued that John's parents were not married until November 30, 1633 or very soon thereafter. As Walne points out this was the date John's father Lawrence formally resigned his fellowship at Oxford and he had formerly taken an oath to remain unmarried as long as he held the fellowship.
  2. ^ Justin Glenn, The Washingtons: a family history (El Dorado Hills, California: Savas Beatie LLC 2014) vol. 1, pp.1-3
  3. ^ Glenn p. 1
  4. ^ "Tring Local History Museum". 28 October 2017. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  5. ^ Westmoreland Co, VA Deeds, Patents & Wills, 1665–1677, p. 247a, 5 January 1675:6, deposition of Col. John Washington, age 45.
  6. ^ a b William and Mary College (31 October 1896). "William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, Washington & His Neighbors". William and Mary College. – via Google Books.
  7. ^ a b c "John Washington and His Descendants". Archived from the original on 12 November 2018. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  8. ^ Glenn p. 1
  9. ^ Glenn p. 1
  10. ^ Harrison, Francis Burton. “Footnotes on Some XVII Century Virginians.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 51, no. 2, 1943, p. 161. JSTOR website . Retrieved 4 Oct. 2023.
  11. ^ Glenn p. 1
  12. ^ Walter Biscoe Norris Jr., Westmoreland County Virginia: 1653-1983 (Montross: Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors 1983) pp. 149
  13. ^ Murray Neil. "The Washingtons of Tring". Hertfordshire Genealogy. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  14. ^ Glenn p. 1
  15. ^ Norris p. 149
  16. ^ a b c Haas, Irvin (1992). Historic Homes of the American Presidents. Courier Dover Publications. p. 7. ISBN 0-486-26751-2.
  17. ^ Clay, J. W. (1899). Dugdale's Visitation of Yorkshire, With Additions, Vol. I. William Pollard and Co., Exeter. pp. 234–235.
  18. ^ a veteran diplomat (3 September 1916). "Baron George Washington Fighting for Austria; Collateral Descendant of the First President of U.S., an Officer of the Austrian Lancers, May Make New Yorker His Heir". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  19. ^ Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, Vol.1 p. 353
  20. ^ Glenn p. 8
  21. ^ Glenn p. 1
  22. ^ Glenn p. 2
  23. ^ Glenn p. 2
  24. ^ Norris p. 150
  25. ^ Marquis, A.N. Company. Who's Who in America, vol. 1: Historical Volume (1607–1896), revised ed., Marquis, A.N. Company., 1967.
  26. ^ Glenn p. 2
  27. ^ Glenn p. 3
  28. ^ John Gardiner Tyler, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company 1915), Vol. 1 pp. 353
  29. ^ Glenn p. 2
  30. ^ Glenn p. 2
  31. ^ Norris p. 150
  32. ^ Cynthia Miller Leonard, The Virginia General Assembly 1619-1978 (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1978) pp. 40, 41, 41
  33. ^ Lodge, Henry Cabot (1917). George Washington. Houghton Mifflin. p. 36.
  34. ^ Norris p. 150
  35. ^ Richardson, Abby Sage (1875). The History of Our Country: From Its Discovery by Columbus to the Celebration of the Centennial Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. H. O. Houghton and Company. p. 135.
  36. ^ Walter Biscoe Norris Jr., Westmoreland County Virginia: 1653-1983 (Montross: Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors 1983) pp. 49-50
  37. ^ some of the underlying documents, first published by Lyon Gardiner Tyler in 1895 in 4 William & Mary Hist. Quarterly vol.4, No. 2 area available at
  38. ^ "Conotocarious." George Washington's Mount Vernon website, 2018.
  39. ^ Grizzard, Frank E. Jr. George Washington: A Biographical Companion, 2002. p. 53.
  40. ^ Tyler p. 353
  41. ^ Glenn p. 2
  42. ^ Westmoreland Co, VA Deeds, Patents & Wills, 1665–1677, pp. 365a–367, will of John Washington.
  43. ^ Ford, Worthington Chauncey (1891). "The Will of John Washington, Great-Grandfather of George Washington.". Wills of George Washington and His Immediate Ancestors. Historical Printing Club. pp. 11, 12. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  44. ^ Ford, Worthington Chauncey (1891). "The Will of John Washington, Great-Grandfather of George Washington.". Wills of George Washington and His Immediate Ancestors. Historical Printing Club. pp. 13, 14. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  45. ^ Ford, Worthington Chauncey (1891). "The Will of John Washington, Great-Grandfather of George Washington.". Wills of George Washington and His Immediate Ancestors. Historical Printing Club. pp. 14, 15. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  46. ^ Glenn p. 5
  47. ^ Ford, Worthington Chauncey (1891). "The Will of John Washington, Great-Grandfather of George Washington.". Wills of George Washington and His Immediate Ancestors. Historical Printing Club. p. 11. Retrieved 4 July 2022. by the side of my already buried & two Children of mine
  48. ^ Glenn p. 2
  49. ^ Westmoreland Co, VA Deeds, Patents & Wills, 1665–1677, pp. 274a–275a, 10 May 1676, Jno Washington joynture with Fra Appleton.
  50. ^ Glenn p. 3
  51. ^ when the Westmoreland County, Virginia Order Books record the following: "ye sherrife is confirme ye extr or admstr of ye sd Coll Washington to prove ye debt". Westmoreland Co, VA Order Book, 1675–1689, p. 88, 26 September 1677, executor of Col. Washington.
  52. ^ "John Washington, Burgess from Westmoreland County".