In 1900, the Virginia Historical Society received from former Confederate general George Washington Custis Lee, president
of Washington and Lee University and the eldest son of Robert E. Lee, a splendid collection of Custis family papers.
Martha (Dandridge) Custis Washington (1732–1802)
Members of the Custis family had come to Virginia in the seventeenth century, and had established themselves on the colony's
Eastern Shore, where they prospered as planters and local officials. By the early eighteenth century, when Tidewater planter
Daniel Parke Custis married Martha Dandridge, they had entered the elite ranks of Virginia society and economic leadership.
Daniel died prematurely, however, and his widow administered his vast estates until her marriage to a young militia
officer and planter from Fairfax County named George Washington.
The Custis papers reveal much about the relationship between George and Martha Washington as they trace the
estate settlements, Washington's own farming operations and management of the Custis plantations in King William,
New Kent, and York counties, and the care of his stepchildren and stepgrandchildren.
Many of the Custis family papers suffered water damage during the Civil War, when they were buried for safekeeping.
In 1999, the VHS received a grant from Save America's Treasures,
administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), to treat this collection of historic
documents. In 2002, the project was completed with the treatment of close to 800 documents from the collection. This
website contains a sample of the documents in the collection and describes the
Introduction | Document gallery |
Conserving the documents |
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