Sarah "Sally" Cary Fairfax and her husband George William, were early and closes friends of George Washington's. Sally, born Sarah Cary in 1730, came from one of the wealthiest families in Virginia. Fairfax grew up at "Ceelys on the James," a large plantation located on the James River in Southern Virginia. Fairfax married George William Fairfax, the eldest son of Sir William Fairfax, part of Virginia's largest landowning family, in 1747.
George Washington was introduced to the Fairfax family through his older half brother Lawrence Washington, who married Sally's sister-in-law Anne Fairfax. Lawrence often brought his younger brother with him to visit George William and at Belvoir, their estate the Potomac just south of Mount Vernon.
The couple first met Washington in 1748. They taught him the best manners for moving in Virginia's highest circles. Sally and her husband, opened a new world of history, philosophy, and literature to Washington. Washington was quite taken with the young couple, and emulated their societal practices to the best of his abilities.
After Washington married Martha Custis, the couples socialized frequently at both Belvoir and Mount Vernon. However, in 1773, Sally and George William moved to England. Later in life, George and Martha Washington wrote a joint letter to Sally Fairfax, where Washington reflected back on the couples' friendship. He wrote, "eradicate from my mind the recollection of those happy moments, the happiest in my life, which I have enjoyed in your company."
After George William Fairfax died in 1787, Sally retired to a quiet life in Bath. She died in England in 1811.
1. "George Washington to Mrs. George William Fairfax, 12 September 1758," The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition, ed. Theodore J. Crackel (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008.)
2. "Sally Fairfax to a Sister-in-Law in Virginia, 1788," quoted in Wilson Miles Cary, Sally Cary: A Long Hidden Romance of Washington's Life (New York: The De Vinne Press, 1916), 45.
Cary, Wilson Miles. Sally Cary: A Long Hidden Romance of Washington's Life. New York: The De Vinne Press, 1916.
Fleming, Thomas. The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.
Fleing, Thomas. "Washington in Love." American Heritage 59 (Fall 2009) 3: 42-51.
Washington, George. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscripts, Volume 2, ed. John Fitzpatrick. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1931-1944.