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Research Requirement, Part II.htm
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Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.

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Most plantations, especially widow owners, worked around the issue by sending such offspring to distant plantations that would use them as privileged house servants and not mention the names of their fathers.  Most importantly, sons of slave owners by slave women concubines such as Hagar, though privileged and treated with kindness, could not be regarded as heirs to their father. This is more or less the argument put forth by descendents of Thomas Woodson and West Ford in their claims about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

Unresolved questions remain as to whether or not William and Frank were baptized in the Episcopal Church of either Colonel John Lee or George Washington; and, whether or not William as his body servant attended worship services with Washington at the Pohick Episcopal Church.  

It is almost inconceivable that house slaves would not have been baptized. The evolved theology, including masonry, rationalizing and upholding slavery would have demanded it of respectable slave owners.  Both boys were used as privileged house-servants; but William by age 20 in the year 1775 was the well-known body-servant/guard/soldier later freed by George Washington in 1799 for war-time services.  

He was cited and freed in the hand-writing of Washington for services and injuries incurred in the seven year revolutionary war during which he was a witness and participant in every battle and place of presence by General Washington.  He and a sizeable number of other mulatto and black soldiers (upwards of 5,000 freemen and slaves) were with Washington at his great maneuvers and battles of Dorchester Heights in Massachusetts, Long Island in New York, Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, Monmouth and Trenton in New Jersey and Yorktown in South Carolina.  

During his winter of 1777-1778 encampment at Valley Forge, William Lee married Margaret (Thomas) a free mulatto woman of Philadelphia employed by Washington as a washer woman during the war, and fathered a son, Joseph Lee, born around 1779. With the war ending and Treaty of Ghent between Great Britain and the new United States in 1783, --- General George Washington  traveled in and about New York City and Philadelphia during 1784 as the great man executed treaty terms in the British evacuation of their former colonies. 

Research of Washington's records indicate that William Lee, because of his wartime injuries, perhaps returned to Mount Vernon during 1784. Assumptions are that his lameness prevented him from any longer being the body guard/servant of George Washington. He was not with George Washington in 1786 when the general sought to make arrangements for Margaret Thomas, to join and live with William, her husband, at Mount Vernon.  The obvious is that such special arrangements were necessary to secure a disposition by the Virginia Legislature to allow a free Negro, under law, to live in Virginia.  

The not so obvious conclusions are that Margaret Thomas refused to leave legal freedoms in Philadelphia to live in Virginia, --- risking her freeborn son Joseph who might be kidnapped and sold into slavery, or treated as a Mount Vernon slave.  The period of such emotional trauma, by a woman married to a slave, and a slave married to a free woman, offers insight into the apparent ending of that marriage; and, the beginnings of a Mount Vernon approved marriage of William to Aggie, a mansion house slave belonging to Martha Washington.

George Washington's inventory of mansion house slaves at Mount Vernon in 1799, shortly before his death, lists those owned by him, such as William Lee; and those owned by Martha Washington, such as Aggie.  Descendents believe that William Lee and Aggie were recognized as husband and wife by George Washington.   This belief is given support by facts that Aggie, Rose and Nancy were cited as related and certified in 1825 by the Arlington County Clerk as free pursuant the will of Martha Washington in 1802.

It is unlikely and unrealistic that Aggie a mansion house slave with relative privileges would have been married to a field hand (a different color and kind slave) named Will, on a distant Washington plantation --- or that such a man would have been included on the listing of mansion slaves. 

Confusion as to the slave named "Will" identified as married to Aggie is resolved by the fact that Aggie was the mother of Rose Lee (about 1787 - 1864?) who in term was mother of Nancy Bannister Lee (possibly about 1810 -1912) whose offspring included a first-born female named Kansas Lee (1844 - ?) and a last born son Thomas Lee (1859 - 1946) born at the Arlington White House the day John Brown was hanged.  

Thomas, who died in 1946, often referred to grandma Rose as apparently living for a time during his adolescent years with mother Nancy.  Freedmen's cemetery records indicate that a woman named "Rose" who died in 1864 is likely the Rose Lee left behind when and if Nancy moved to Richmond with the family of Robert E. Lee.  The mystery about Nancy Lee is not only her true age, recorded as 1825-1912 on her tombstone in Bloomington, Ohio but also how she came to be in Midlothia (outskirts of Richmond) immediately after the Civil War?  When was this Nancy freed?  Or was she a bond-servant?  

Again, the question remains as to whether Nancy was a free colored woman who hired herself out as an indentured servant to the Custiss Estate or a  woman who had been re-enslaved by some legal means, such as misrepresentation of her age in 1825? The Custiss wills were somewhat confusing as to the age required of slaves to be set free at time of the owners death.  It would appear that someone may have contested the age and freedom of Rose and/or Nancy, and returned one or both to slave status?  

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