George Washington was the U.S. first President, and his family played a significant role in setting up the first White House. Learn more about George Washington and his wife Martha, as well as their children Custis, John, Eleanor, and Betty. Get to know them more like the first family who has been an integral part of American history.
The U.S. first President was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was the first of six children born to his parents, Augustine and Mary Washington. Growing up, he learned the importance of hard work and responsibility from his father who was a successful planter. His mother instilled in him the value of prayer and inspired his lifelong interest in reading. George Washington was also tutored at home and later attended school in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
After the death of his father in 1743, Washington inherited Mount Vernon. At just 11 years old, he became responsible for the plantation and all its slaves. He learned firsthand the realities of slave life and the difficulties of managing a large estate. These experiences would shape his views on slavery and freedom.
In 1749, Washington traveled to Barbados with his half-brother Lawrence in hopes that the warm climate would improve Lawrence’s health. While there, Washington observed the British military first-hand and was commissioned as a major in the Virginia militia upon his return.
Washington first gained fame as a military leader during the French and Indian War. In 1754, he led a group of Virginia volunteers to Fort Duquesne (in present-day Pittsburgh) to confront the French. This action sparked the war, and Washington was quickly promoted to colonel and then commander-in-chief of the Virginia militia. He subsequently led his troops against the French and their Native American allies in a series of battles in the Ohio Valley.
Though Washington was not successful in defeating the French, he emerged from the war as a respected military leader. His reputation would grow even larger during the American Revolution.
George Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis on January 6, 1759. She was a young widow with two children from her first marriage, John Parke Custis and Martha Patsy Custis. The Washingtons had no children together, but they raised Martha’s children as their own. They also welcomed into their home George’s nephew, Bushrod Washington, and later adopted two of Martha’s grandchildren, Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis.
Eleanor Parke Custis
Eleanor Parke Custis was born on July 28, 1758, at Mount Airy plantation in Virginia. She was the first child of Martha Washington’s first marriage to Daniel Parke Custis. When Eleanor was six years old, her father died, and she inherited a large share of his estate. After her mother remarried George Washington, Eleanor became part of a very large and loving family. She had four stepbrothers and sisters, as well as two adopted brothers.
George Washington Parke Custis
George Washington Parke Custis was born on April 30, 1781, at Mount Vernon plantation in Virginia. He was the first child of Martha Washington’s second marriage to George Washington. Custis spent much of his childhood with his grandparents at Mount Vernon. He later attended King’s College (now Columbia University) in New York City and studied agriculture at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. After inheriting his father’s plantation, Arlington House, Custis married Mary Lee Fitzhugh in 1804. They had six children together.
John Parke Custis
John Parke Custis was born on April 27, 1754, at Mount Airy plantation in Virginia. He was the first child of Martha Washington’s first marriage to Daniel Parke Custis. John inherited a share of his father’s estate and later attended King’s College (now Columbia University) in New York City. John married Eleanor Calvert in 1774. They had four children together and lived at the Calvert family’s plantation, Mount Airy. John Custis served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and died of camp fever at the age of 26.
Betty Washington Lewis
Betty Washington Lewis was born on June 5, 1733, at the Wakefield Plantation in Virginia. She was the first child of Augustine Washington and his first wife, Jane Butler Washington. Betty married Fielding Lewis in 1750. They had 11 children together and managed several plantations, including Kenmore in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Betty was very close to her sister, Martha, and served as a witness at Martha’s wedding to George Washington.
George Washington was the US first President and his family was large and loving. They may not have had any biological children together, but they raised Martha’s children as their own and later adopted two of her grandchildren. The family was close-knit and supportive of one another, even during difficult times. They made many contributions to the United States and will always be remembered as one of the most influential families in American history.