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The President's House in Philadelphia


By Edward Lawler, Jr.

Richmond was the son of Hercules and Lame Alice, a dower slave who worked as a seamstress at Mount Vernon. He was born in 1776, and had two sisters, Evey (born 1782) and Delia (born 1785). Richmond was 11 when his mother died in 1787. Three years later, when his father learned that he was to be transferred from Mount Vernon to the President's House, he asked Washington's permission to bring Richmond. Washington reluctantly agreed, and Richmond worked as a scullion in the kitchen for the first year in Philadelphia. Among the teenager's duties was to sweep the chimneys. He probably slept with his father on the fourth floor of the main house.

Richmond was caught stealing money at Mount Vernon in November 1796. Washington made the assumption that the theft was part of a planned escape attempt, possibly the father and son together. Hercules did escape to freedom several months later in Philadelphia, but alone. Richmond was demoted to a simple laborer, and was unmarried and working at River Farm in 1799. His fate and that of his sisters, also dower slaves, after Martha Washington's death in 1802 is not known.

(This biographical sketch is partially based upon the unpublished work of Mary V. Thompson, Research Specialist, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.)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