Richard Burnet was hired by Martha Washington in the spring of 1783 to assist her as a housekeeper and steward. The Washingtons were generally pleased with Burnet's work. However, he left Mount Vernon in September of 1785 upon his marriage to Ann Alton, the daughter of Jonathan Alton a hired overseer.
At the end of the American Revolution, when Lund Washington found Richard Burnet to assist Martha Washington as steward, he wrote to announce that: "the Man who lives with Dulany and who she wanted as a House keeper, will come and live with her the first of May." Lund assured George Washington that he had met the individual in question, who appeared "to be a very modest well behaved man," and that as soon as there was certainty regarding the end of the war, Burnet would have a better idea of his financial needs.
After getting to know Burnet, Lund Washington painted a picture of a man who was "clever in his Way. . .good Natured Peacable inoffensive well behaved man, and so far as we have been able to judge will answer the purpose for which he was got, he certainly is a good cook, he appears to be careful active & Industrious, with respect to preservg., Pickling &c.-he is at no loss, but does these things very Ready & Well."1
Between 1783 and 1785, Burnet earned a salary of twenty-five pounds per year. A suit of clothes was purchased for him from the firm of Paton & Butcher at a cost of four pounds, nineteen shillings, and nine pence in November of 1783.2
Burnet was replaced by Thomas McCarty on September 26, 1785, but was back at Mount Vernon by the end of May 1786, when Washington found him living (with his wife) in "the House formerly Barrys" at Dogue Run.3 Burnet (then going by the name Richard Burnet Walker) was hired back as butler or steward in August of 1786. He remained at Mount Vernon until February of 1789, shortly before George Washington left for New York to become President. Burnet may have catered or otherwise assisted with preparations for Nelly Custis' wedding, which took place on February 22, 1799.4
1. "Lund Washington to George Washington, 12 March 1783" (manuscript, A-283, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association; typescript); George Washington, "12 August 1786," The Diaries of George Washington, Vol. 5, 26, 26n.
2. See "Dr…Richard Burnet…Cr.," Lund Washington Account Book (Mount Vernon Ladies' Association), 124; "3 November 1783, Cash pd. on Acct. of General Washington," Lund Washington Account Book, 126.
3. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, Vol. 3 ed. W.W. Abbot (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1995), 186n.
4. See "Cash…Contra, 26 February 1799," in Ledger C (bound photostat, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association), 51a.