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Hired by George Washington on December 10, 1788 to be the overseer on River Farm, William Garner was from Charles County, Maryland. Garner worked for George Washington until 1792, when he was let go for neglecting the harvest.

According to the initial work agreement signed on December 10, 1788, Garner would "strictly and indefatigably pursue the plans and obey the orders which he shall receive for conducting the business of said Plantation." In particular, Garner was contracted to "attend to the plow-horses, and working Oxen to see that their allowance is given them in due season, and without embezzlement or waste.  That he will take a regular Account of the tools of every kind, and Plantation Utensils, and see them forth-coming when called for, and that the latter are not unnecessarily exposed to the weather." The contract emphasized that Garner was to "act the part of an industrious, honest, and sober man—and in failure of either that the said George Washington may discharge him at any season of the year."1

The agreement between Washington and Garner was renewed on December 23, 1790, "with the following alterations—viz.—his wages to be thirty pounds instead of thirty six—in lieu of the shoats mention'd he is to recieve fifty pounds of fresh Beef in the fall—and in addition to his allowance will be furnished with one thousand herrings and fifty Shad if they are caught." The agreement was altered once more on August 12, 1791, giving Garner "thirty five pounds instead of thirty as above—the quantity of flour and Corn which he is to receive is…two hundred weight of middling flour in one draft but not more than two—six Barrels Corn ground into meal and not deliver[d] in less quantities than one barrel at a time from the Mill—when it is to be had."2


1. George Washington and William Garner, "December 10, 1788, Articles of Agreement," George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799.

2. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, Vol. 1, ed. W.W. Abbot (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia), 171-173.