Samuel Washington: The Brother Archaeology and DNA Testing May Bring Back Into History Books

Samuel Washington: The Brother Archaeology and DNA Testing May Bring Back Into History Books

Mar 31, 2024

My two favorite words, repeated yesterday.

Daniel Cross, Colonial Williamsburg's (CW's) Colonel George Washington, said two of my favorite words again yesterday: "new research." That's the thing about CW, research is constant. Earlier this month I posted an article about the final breakfast between Washington and Lord Dunmore, Virginia's last Royal Governor, where I mentioned how much I love to hear the words "new research." (read it here.)

So there was Daniel, on stage yesterday, dissecting the Washington family tree for a packed house (well outdoors at the Governor's Palace, but almost every seat was taken!). After greeting our new twin Leicester Longwool lambs, I grabbed a bench to hear whatever it was on the Colonel's agenda to share.

And OMG I'm glad I did. First off, having the complex relationships, as complex as the Washington household itself, and how it lent to both Washington's views on responsibility and how to approach his future-- was a treat. I had never heard of younger brother Samuel, and there's a reason.

Not much information exists about Samuel Washington. In fact, until recently no one knew where he was buried.

RELATED: This article I found on Daniel, written during the 2020 pandemic introduces him well IMO.

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Twin Leicester Longwool lambs born as part of the Colonial Williamsburg rare breeds program

Twin Leicester Longwool lambs at the Governor's Palace

Washington's immediate family.

George was the eldest son of his father, Augustine, Sr. and second wife, Mary. Augustine had two sons before marrying Mary; Lawrence and Augustine, Jr.

Augustine passed when George was 11 years old. His mother never remarried and, amazingly, as I hope to learn more about, raised George and her younger children on her own. The full list of siblings can be found here on Mt. Vernon's website.

As the third son of his father, he was clearly not in a position to inherit much. Mt. Vernon ended up his after brother Lawrence, who had inherited and named the land, died. His wife, Ann Fairfax Washington remarried and leased the land to George, who ultimately purchased it from her. (read more here- also on the Mt. Vernon website)

The Fairfax/Washington connection is a strong and fascinating one in itself for another day!

Daniel Cross portraying Colonel George Washington in Colonial Williamsburg and sharing information about brother Samuel Washington

Daniel Cross portraying Colonel George Washington

What is the latest on Samuel?

Samuel was the one sibling of Washington that seemed a bit lost to history, until now. According to Daniel, a comprehensive historian and researcher, this is one Washington who doesn't seem to have much of a relationship with George- at least not well-documented. I've been looking up Samuel on and see a few minor diary entries of George visiting his brother, but no real detail given. I've also found some letters that do exist.

And now... DNA is identifying Samuel's actual gravesite. Thank you archaeologists, historians, and scientific researchers....matching DNA with identified descendants of Samuel. And opening up a whole new facet of our first Commander-in-Chiefs life and family history.

The national media shared this information last week; I missed it but Daniel, and my partner in life Tom- who had read about it, filled me in. Click here!

Needless to say, Daniel will be diving deeper into researching this specific relationship and aspect of the Washington story.

Research is constant.

A few weeks back, Richard Schumann, who portrays Patrick Henry was bubbling over with excitement as a Dandridge family bible recently found alters the known birth year of Henry's second wife Dolly!

These little things have a big impact and I couldn't be more fascinated by books found in the attic, furniture discovered in a chicken coop or an unmarked grave gaining a name to honor using DNA testing.

There's always something new to be found in history. And living steps away from the largest living history museum in the world, I'll be asking about discoveries the incredible researchers have found recently.

Gate behind the Palace stage leading from where the Leicester Longwool lambs stay.

Gate behind Governor's Palace, leading to stage area

Closing out with words from history.

From what I've been learning of George Washington's personality through letters as well as both Daniel and Ron Carnegie, who portrays an older General (and Presidential) Washington here in CW, I'm not surprised at the tense tone used in this letter to Samuel, written in 1773. All I can say is George seems to have tried.

To read the letter in full, with notes and citations, click here.

From George Washington to Samuel Washington, 4 February 1773

To Samuel Washington

Mount Vernon Feby 4th 1773.

Dear Brother

On the 1st Instt I receivd a Letter from Mr Snickers informing me that Isaac Larew had Enterd the Land calld Sanford’s, Claimd by my Brother Charles, or some of you, and will push for a Deed from Lord Fairfax for it—I should suppose (tho. Snickers adds it is carrying on very slyly) that you cannot be altogether unacquainted with his design, but for fear you should, this Letter is intended to give you notice of it, that you may enter a Caveat till the matter can be fully enquir’d into.1 I have, in your behalfs, wrote to Lord Fairfax on the occasion, but Letters so often miscarry, that I would not have you depend upon that—indeed I cannot help further observing, that, you are all of you very negligent in this matter, to have it left open so long; and well it is, if you do not suffer by the neglect. I forwarded my Letter under cover to Mr Snickers, who promisd to take it to Lord Fairfax so soon as it came to hand; but the question is, as I had no direct conveyance to the former, whether it will get safe to him, or not.2

The Month of Jany is past, and your promise not fulfilld, which leads me again to say, that, I shall never expect to see you till you make your appearance; you are not to be surprizd therefore, if business calls me out, at not finding me at home whenever you do come, as you have kept me in continually expectation of seeing you here, for near 18 Months.3

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There is a huge practical disclaimer to the content on this blog, which is my way of sharing my excitement and basically journaling online.

1) I am not a historian nor an expert. I will let you know I’m relaying the information as I understand and interpret it. The employees of Colonial Williamsburg base their presentations, work, and responses on historical documents and mainly primary sources.

2) I will update for accuracy as history is constant learning. If you have a question about accuracy, please ask me! I will get the answer from the best source I can find.

3) Photo credit to me, Daphne Reznik, for all photos in this post, unless otherwise credited! All photos are personal photos taken in public access locations or with specific permission.