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History at its Best: The Charles Washington Family

Dec 22, 2022 | Happy Retreat History, News & Announcements

By Marjorie Gaestel, Happy Retreat Historian

A big part of being the Historian of Happy Retreat is knowing about the Washington family who lived here. The person I am featuring in this issue of the newsletter is Samuel Washington, the son of Charles and Mildred. He was the youngest of their four children, having been born in 1774. He passed away while living in Kanawha County, Virginia (now West Virginia), in 1831.

Samuel had a lot on his shoulders during his father Charles’ later years. He took over running the family’s estate plus was responsible for his father’s debts.

The gold headed cane Benjamin Franklin gave to George Washington.

In my research about Samuel, I came across two fascinating details that connect him with his famous uncle George. The first is a gold headed cane that Benjamin Franklin gave to General Washington and which the General gave to his brother Charles. Samuel inherited this cane from his father. The second is a battle sword which the General left to Samuel in his will. This green handled Baily silver and ivory hilted cuttoe (a battle sword with a green stained ivory grip) can be seen at George Washington’s side in the famous painting by Emanual Lutze “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

Both items were eventually inherited by Samuel’s son Samuel T. Washington. He donated them both to the United States Congress and they are now at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. It’s fun to realize both of these items were once at Happy Retreat.

I recently became acquainted with Kenneth Washington, another Washington descendant of Charles and Mildred through their son Samuel. He was also interested in this great find at the Smithsonian. He sent me a photo of him and his wife at the Smithsonian with both items.

Sadly, we lost Ken Washington who was a great friend and generous supporter of Happy Retreat. Ken passed away in early February of 2022 with his family by his side. Ken was eighty-three and an avid Washington history researcher. You can learn more about Charles’ son Samuel and this interesting story when you visit Happy Retreat.

The Friends of Happy Retreat would like to thank the American History Museum/Smithsonian and also give thanks to Erik Goldstein, Stuart C. Mowbray and Brian Hendelson for their great book “The Swords of George Washington” which is now part of The Kevin Sarring Research Library at Happy Retreat.


The battle sword George Washington left to Charles’s son Samuel in his will.


Detail from “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emmanuel Lutze showing
The battle sword.