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The President's House in Philadelphia


By Edward Lawler, Jr.

Giles, a dower slave, worked as a postillion or footman for the carriage at Mount Vernon, and sometimes as a driver. He appears to have been about the same age as Austin, a teenager in 1774, which would have meant he was born in the late 1750s. Giles may have accompanied Martha Washington on her trip to Valley Forge from January to June 1778. There is no record of Giles having had a wife or children.

Giles accompanied Washington to Philadelphia in May 1787 for the Constitutional Convention, along with the general's body servant, Will Lee. The two black men probably stayed with Washington in Robert Morris's house, which 3 years later became the Philadelphia President's House. They returned to Mount Vernon in September.

Giles was brought to New York City in April 1789 to work in the stables of the presidential residence, and probably accompanied Washington on his Northern tour in October and November of that year. In Philadelphia, he almost certainly lived in the slave quarters adjoining the stables of the President's House. He drove the baggage wagon for Washington's Southern tour in March through June 1791.

Early in the tour, Giles was somehow injured so severely that he was no longer able to ride a horse, and was left behind at Mount Vernon when Washington returned to Philadelphia. Giles is not listed in the slave census done in June, 1799, which probably indicates that he had died.

(This biographical sketch is partially based upon the unpublished work of Mary V. Thompson, Research Specialist, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.)

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Copyright ©1999- by the Independence Hall Association, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1942. Publishing electronically as On the Internet since July 4, 1995.