Jonathan Alton was a hired overseer who worked for George Washington between 1755 and 1785. Alton served as Washington's body servant during the Braddock campaign, and contracted the same illness that afflicted George Washington during that time. In 1756, John Alton accompanied George Washington and his aide Captain George Mercer on a trip to Boston, via Philadelphia, New York, New London, Newport, and Providence.1
Alton later returned to work for Washington at Mount Vernon. In the fall of 1757, George Washington sent Alton to his mother Mary Ball Washington's home, in order to pick up clothing for enslaved workers at Mount Vernon.2
When George Washington was bringing his new bride and two stepchildren to Mount Vernon for the first time in the spring of 1759, he wrote to John Alton to ensure that everything at the house was ready for their reception: "I have sent Miles on to day , to let you know that I expect to be up to Morrow. . .You must have the House very well cleand, and were you to make Fires in the Rooms below it w'd Air them. You must get two of the best Bedsteads put up, one in the Hall Room, and the other in the little dining Room that use to be, and have Beds made on them against we come. You must also get out the Chairs and Tables, and have them very well rubd and Cleand; the Stair case ought also to be polished in order to make it look well." Washington continued, "Enquire abt. in the Neighbourhood, and get some Egg's and Chickens, and prepare in the best manner you can for our coming."3
In the spring of 1762, Alton became an overseer at Dogue Run Farm but was transferred in the fall of the same year to work at Muddy Hole Farm. Over the ensuing years Alton held a series of jobs, including managing the Mill plantation, and as an overseer at River Farm at the time of his death.4
In his will, George Washington made a bequest of $100 to Ann Walker, who was John Alton's daughter, in gratitude for Alton's "attachment" to him, shown by his "having lived nearly forty years in my family."5
1. "George Washington to John Augustine Washington, 28 June 1755," The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 1, 145; George Washington, Notes on Journey to Boston, February 1756, The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 1, 297n, 298, 299.
2. "George Washington to Mary Ball Washington, 30 September 1757," The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 2, 137.
3. "George Washington to John Alton, 1 April 1759," The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 2, 318-19.
4. The Diaries of George Washington, eds. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig (Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia, 1976-1979), Vol. 1:296 & 296n, 307; Vol. 2:162, 163, 164; Vol. 4:182, 183, 184, 185, 187, 188, 190, 212, 244, 252; Vol. 5:26, 66; 6:381.
5. George Washington, "Last Will and Testament, [July 1799]," The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 37, 287.