The man who came to eventually be known as Sambo Anderson worked as a slave carpenter at Mount Vernon for many years. His first name was a common West African name, frequently used amongst the Hausa of modern northwestern Nigeria and southern Niger to refer to a second son. It is not precisely clear when exactly Anderson arrived at Mount Vernon.1
Sambo Anderson was trained as a carpenter by William Bernard Sears, an English-born craftsman who originally came to Virginia as a young indentured convict. Anderson was one of seventeen slaves—fourteen men and three women—who attempted to escape his servitude at Mount Vernon during April of 1781, when the British warship Savage anchored in the Potomac off the coast of the plantation. Anderson, who was described at the time as "a man about 20 years old, Stout & Healthy," got as far as Philadelphia before he was recovered, along with four of the other runaway slaves from Mount Vernon.2
Sambo was also one of the 123 slaves freed by the terms of George Washington's will on January 1, 1801. As a free man Sambo took the last name Anderson, making his home on Little Hunting Creek and supported himself by hunting game and wildfowl that he sold to private customers and hotels in Alexandria. With the money he earned, Anderson purchased two slaves himself that he subsequently freed. At least one is known to have been his son, William Anderson, born around 1812, while the other, a young woman named Eliza Anderson who was six years younger, was probably his daughter.3
Mary V. Thompson
Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens
2. "George Washington to Lund Washington, 30 April 1781," The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 22 ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Washington. DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1942):14-15 & 14n.
3. "Herman Stump to George Washington, 20 December 1794" George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799; History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, ed. Franklin Ellis (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: L.H. Everts & Co., 1882), 718.