Skip to main content

A hired overseer at River Farm, William Stewart (or Stuart) worked at Mount Vernon between 1794 and 1797. In a letter to a Mount Vernon farm manager, George Washington described Stewart as someone who "appears to me to understand the business of a farm very well, and seems attentive to it." Washington continued with some reservations, explaining that "His work however, has been behind hand all the year, owing he says, and as I believe to his having too much plowing to do, and the last omission, of not plowing when he knew my motives for wishing it, has been extremely reprehensible." Washington concluded that "upon the whole, if he stirs early, and works late, I have no other faults to find than the one I have just mentioned. His talkativeness and vanity may be humoured."1

Washington wrote Stewart around the same time regarding these hesitations, expressing that he was "extremely dissatisfied at your not commencing your fall Plowing the moment the Rains, which began the latter end of October, and continued all through the month of Novr., put the ground in a proper state for it."  Washington continued, "This neglect, and having your Wheat yet to tread out, will, with the frosts, snows, and Rains of Winter, inevitably defeat all my plans for the next year; for instead of having the ground which was intended for Oats and Buck wheat, ready to receive the first early in March, and the other shortly after:  and the Corn Ground ready for listing; all will be to be broke up at that time."2

In 1794, Stewart's salary was forty pounds per year; it increased to forty-eight pounds in 1795 and sixty pounds by 1796. In 1797, Stewart was making sixty pounds per year and received 500 pounds of pork, 200 pounds of fine flour, twenty-five bushels of Indian meal, 100 shad, 1,000 herrings, the right to keep a mare and two young pigs, and the right to keep a quarter of the amount of butter made on the farm under his supervision (140 of the 560 total pounds produced).3

Among the charges against Stewart's account in 1794 were one pound, ten shillings for breeding his mare to one of Washington's stallions. In 1798 and early 1799, Stewart was working for a salary of sixty pounds per year and one-quarter of the butter made on the farm he oversaw. Charges against his account that year included only three pounds, fifteen shillings for a heifer sold to him for beef.4


1. "George Washington to William Pearce, 18 December 1793," The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 33, 192.

2. "George Washington to William Stuart, 23 December 1793," The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 33, 207-208.

3. See account for William Stuart, Mount Vernon Farm Ledger, Jan. 1794-Dec. 1796 (Mount Vernon: Mount Vernon Ladies' Association), 12; also Cash Account, Mount Vernon Farm Ledger, Jan. 1794-Dec. 1796, 81; Account for William Stewart, Mount Vernon Farm Ledger, 1797-1798, 41-2.

4. See account for William Steward, Mount Vernon Farm Ledger, 1797-1798, 171-2.