A gardener, William Spence arrived at Mount Vernon in late October of 1797. George Washington learned of Spence through correspondence with Scottish acquaintance, Dr. James Anderson. Washington wrote to Anderson that though Spence was "rather younger than I should have chosen," he "seems to be decent in his appearance, and as far as time and opportunity have hitherto allowed me to form an opinion is orderly in his conduct."
Washington continued, reflecting on Spence's personal life: "He has deceived you or me however, with his tale of Matrimony; for he has brought no wife with him, and says it was a promise only, of marriage from the Girl you saw; which, ultimately, she would not comply with. I am well satisfied as matters are, and perfectly approve, and thank you for every step you have taken in this business."1
In 1798, Spence was working for a salary of thirty-five pounds per year and Washington paid his passage from England (at a cost of nine pounds, sixteen shillings). Charges against Spence's account between June of 1798 and January of 1799 included the following items: a "best new Hatt," two pairs of shoes, 2 pieces of Nankeen cloth, several cash advances, postage of five letters, leather for three pairs of shoes, and sixty-six and a half gallons of whiskey.2
Spence continued working at Mount Vernon following George Washington's death. In addition, he also served as a witness to Martha Washington's will, which was signed on September 22, 1800.3
1. "George Washington to Dr. James Anderson, 4 November 1797," The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 36, 64-5; George Washington, "6 April 1799, Cash Memoranda," 46.
2. See account for William Spence, Mount Vernon Farm Ledger, 1797-1798 (Mount Vernon, VA: Mount Vernon Ladies' Association), 159-60.
3. "The Will of Martha Washington of Mount Vernon," in The Last Will and Testament of George Washington and Schedule of his Property, to which is appended the Last Will and Testament of Martha Washington (Mount Vernon: Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, 1939), 62.