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The Ownership of Happy Retreat by the Hammond Family, 1800-1837

Jun 2, 2021 | Happy Retreat History, News & Announcements

As detailed in previous issues of our newsletter, Charles and Mildred Washington were forced by poverty and ill health to deed their interest in Happy Retreat, consisting of the house, outbuildings and about 800 acres, to their son Samuel by two deeds, one in 1796 and the second in 1798. Charles died in 1799. In 1800, Samuel sold the house and about 180 accompanying acres to his brother-in-law Thomas Hammond, who had married Samuel’s sister Mildred Gregory Washington.

Mildred Gregory Washington Hammond

Mildred Gregory Washington

Courtesy of the Jefferson County Historical Society

The research provided to us by Jane Ailes tells us that Hammond was born in Ireland in 1769 and was sent from there to Baltimore in 1784, at age 15, under the guardianship of an older brother already living in that city. After serving six years as an apprentice to a merchant in Baltimore, Hammond moved to Charlestown in 1790, where another brother was living, and, at age 21, went into business for himself as a merchant. He bought his first property in Charlestown in 1792 and that same year married Mary Lewis “Polly” Tabscott. Hamond was appointed captain of a Berkeley County militia company in 1793. His marriage to Polly Tabscott lasted only two years until her death in 1794.


Thomas Hammond married Mildred Gregory Washington, the daughter of Charles and Mildred, in 1797. Charles’s widow Mildred stayed on at Happy Retreat after his death until she died sometime in 1803 or 1804. The Hammonds, meanwhile, lived in a house in Charles Town. It is unknown whether they moved to Happy Retreat while Mildred Washington was still living there. Their marriage was filled with tragedy. Their first-born child, a son, lived only a few months. A second son lived less than a year. Then Mildred Hammond herself died on December 8, 1804, perhaps due to complications from the birth of her third son just four days earlier. He also died four months later. Mildred Hammond and her three children with Thomas may have been buried in the family burial ground at Happy Retreat.

George Washington Hammond

George Washington Hammond

Thomas Hammond, then living at Happy Retreat, took as his third wife Ann (or Nancy) Newton Collins in 1807. The tragedies of his marriage to Mildred Washington seemed only amplified in his marriage to Nancy Collins. Of their seven children, only two lived past the age of 21, a son George Washington Hammond and a daughter Nancy (or Ann) Jackson Hammond. The two youngest sons, John age five, and Thomas, age four, died within days of each other in 1820 after eating the poisonous root of a pokeweed plant. Their grief-stricken father Thomas Hammond collapsed and died a few weeks later while walking home from church. His widow Ann Hammond remained at Happy Retreat until her death in 1835. Thomas Hammond, his wife Ann and four of their children who did not live into adulthood are buried in the Zion Episcopal Church Graveyard in Charles Town. The fifth, who died an infant in 1810, may have been buried in the family burial ground at Happy Retreat.


George Washington Hammond, Nancy’s only surviving son, first placed an ad for the sale of Happy Retreat in the local newspaper, Virginia Free Press, in 1834. He married Sarah Ann Milton Taylor in 1836 and their first child, Mary Mildred Hammond, was born at Happy Retreat. George Washington Hammond sold Happy Retreat to Judge Isaac R. Douglass in 1837.

This article was originally featured in the May 2021 Rising Sun NewsletterRead more about the history of happy retreat here.