Skip to main content

A gardener who worked at Mount Vernon in the early 1770s, David Cowan left George Washington's employ by July 1774. In an agreement dated January 11, 1773, Cowan was contracted to work for a salary of twenty-five pounds per year plus lodging, food, and washing. The work agreement with Cowan, which was witnessed by Mount Vernon servant Thomas Bishop, explained that "in the capacity of a Gardener" Cowan would "work duely & truely. . .at the business; as also when need be. . .employ himself in Grafting, Budding, & pruning of Fruit Trees and Vines—likewise in Saving, at proper Seasons, and due order, Seeds of all kinds."1

Cowan remained at Mount Vernon for a little more than ten months. Mount Vernon's temporary manager Lund Washington paid Cowan twelve pounds, seven shillings, and ten pence on October 19, 1773. This sum included deductions from the total nineteen pounds, four shillings, and one pence owed, as George Washington had advanced him the sum of five pounds. In addition, another one pound, four shillings, were deducted that Cowan owed to George Washington's tailor, and twelve shillings, three pence for "lost time."2


1. "David Cowan and George Washington, January 11, 1773, Contract for Gardener," George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799.

2. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, Vol. 9, ed. W.W. Abbot (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia), 156n; See also entry for "29 July 1773,David Cowan Gardner---Dr.," Lund Washington Account Book (Mount Vernon: Mount Vernon Ladies' Association), 14.