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March 08, 2021


Richard Gamble

William Fairfax purchased the land and selected the site for his home “Belvoir” overlooking the Potomac in the late 1730s, within a year or two of moving into the Northern Neck to take the job of Customs Collector for the South Potomac and, more importantly, to act as land agent for his cousin Lord Fairfax. His lordship thought it best to place a family member in charge of selling land and collecting rents after learning of the shocking amount of money and land amassed by his previous agent, Robert “King” Carter. Their Belvoir brick mansion was completed in 1741 and the Fairfax family moved in that year (as testified by Mrs. Deborah Fairfax in 1745.) Future son-in-law Lawrence Washington appears to have lived, temporarily, with the Fairfax family in the late winter/early spring 1743, which is how he became engaged to young (age 14 or 15) Anne Fairfax and married her that summer. Lawrence was NOT a naval officer. He was commissioned as a captain in the British Army and served two years in the Caribbean, 1740-42. Upon his return to Virginia at the end of 1742, Lawrence applied for, and was appointed, to the [then vacant] position of Adjutant of the Virginia militia at the rank of major. While stationed in the Caribbean, Lawrence had served aboard Admiral Edward Vernon’s flagship, “Princess Caroline” (80 guns), as acting captain of the Marines: Vernon’s squadron having deployed from England without Marines. Lawrence’s only surviving portrait, displayed in George Washington’s library/office at Mount Vernon, shows him wearing an iconic redcoat of a British Army officer, paired with a gold-braided hat signifying his role as militia commander. Lawrence was the third and last Virginia Adjutant. After his death and the arrival of a new governor, Robert Dinwiddie, a decision was made to divide command between four regional officers (of whom George Washington was one; Within a few years Washington was given command of the entire Virginia militia.)

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