John Broad was an indentured joiner that worked for George Washington from 1774 until 1776. Broad was a convict whose time was purchased by George Washington in 1773. Broad arrived at Mount Vernon in March of 1774. During his time working at Mount Vernon, tools were given to him in March, April, October, and November of 1774, including a hammer, smoothing planes, raising planes, plow planes, a "snakes bill" plane, quarter round planes, ovolo planes, "leed" planes, saws, chisels, a compass, a "furmor," cutting knives, plane irons, and an auger.1
Broad suffered a seemingly minor injury during the Christmas festivities of 1775. However, he passed away weeks later after a lingering illness resulting from the incident. Farm manager Lund Washington initially informed his cousin about the accident in mid-January of 1776, writing that "John Broad got a small Hurt in the thigh on Christmass Day—he is still bad with it—much reduced unable to help himself."2
About a week later, Lund Washington reported that, "John Broad is still liveg but the discharge of matter from his legs is so great that the Doctor says it often is the cause of a person Dieing." An explanation of how the injury occurred appeared in a letter written by Lund a week later, explaining that "I told you he got a Slight wound in his thigh on Christmass Eve in Alexandria—he was it seemes at play with Aaron (my fellow) who had an Old rusty Sword in his hand, Broad with a Stick got to parreing with him, & by Chance he was prickd in the thigh but so slight that it scarcely cou'd be calld a wound, in short it was only skin deep & no wider than the point of a sword will make."3
By early February, Broad was reportedly "still alive," but Lund Washington expressed the opinion that he was "as poor an object as I ever look’d at." A week later, Lund noted that, though "still alive," Broad was not expected to live "many days longer." Broad's suffering finally ended in mid-February, almost two months after he was initially wounded.4
1. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, Vol. 10, 137 & 138n; Mesick, Cohen & Waite, “Building Trades,” Mount Vernon: Historic Structure Report (unpublished report, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association), 2-29.
2. "Lund Washington to George Washington, 17 January 1776," The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, Vol. 3, 129.
3. "Lund Washington to George Washington, 25 January 1776," The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, Vol. 3, 188.
4. "Lund Washington to George Washington, 22 February 1776," The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, Vol. 3, 355.