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Charles Washington honored with plaque, day of recognition

By Staff | Sep 21, 2018

A musket salute concluded the festivities at Happy Retreat on Saturday afternoon following the unveiling of a plaque honoring Charles Washington. Photo by Toni Milbourne.

CHARLES TOWN — Happy Retreat, the home of Charles Washington, founder of Charles Town, was the site of a celebration honoring the county’s forefather on Saturday, as members of the Daughters of the American Revolution unveiled a plaque honoring Washington.

The event, held in the yard of what was once Washingtons home, saw guests from several neighboring NSDAR groups, as well as other groups, who laid memorial wreaths as part of the celebration.

Guest speaker for the event was local historian Doug Perks, who shared the sparse information one can find when researching Charles Washington.

“There is not a lot to find in researching about Charles,” Perks said. “And what there is written about him is not good.”

Perks went on to explain that Charles suffered from ill health and financial concerns, and those facts are what can be found, often in correspondence to Washington’s older brother, George.

The Bee Line Chapter NSDAR offered a plaque in recognition of Charles Washington's service that was unveiled Saturday at Happy Retreat. Photo by Toni Milbourne.

What is known about Charles is that he was born May 2, 1738 in Little Hunting Creek, what was later renamed Mount Vernon, Virginia. He was the youngest brother of President George Washington.

Records can be found highlighting that Charles raised his voice against “taxation without representation” and was a protester of the Stamp Act. As a protester, he was one of the signers of the Leedstown Resolutions. He served on local Committees of Correspondence and Safety before accepting a commission as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Spotsylvania County Militia.

Washington married Mildred Thornton and the two had four children, residing in Fredericksburg, Virginia until the family relocated to the Shenandoah Valley where they built Happy Retreat.

Even more important than the home he built, Washington set aside 80 acres of his estate to establish Charlestown, Virginia — now Charles Town, West Virginia. The town was recognized by the General Assembly in 1787.

Perks shared that Washington donated the four corner lots at the intersection of George and Washington streets to become the public square. The streets of the town were named after family members, including Samuel, Charles, Lawrence, Mildred and George.

“The anchor for the town and the county was that public square,” Perks said. “As you walk through the streets, think about those names and what they represent.”

Walter Washington, descendant of the Washington family, also spoke Saturday. Walter resides in what was Samuel’s home, Harewood, outside of Charles Town.

“What the DAR has done is begun to understand the person who lived in this home [Happy Retreat],” Walter said. “We can start to understand the individual who lived here and all he brought to this county.”

Washington died in the home Sept. 16, 1799.

A proclamation was issued by Gov. Jim Justice proclaiming Sept. 16, 2018 as Charles Washington Day. Greetings were also shared from Sen. Joe Manchin, recognizing not only Washington, but members of the Bee Line Chapter of the NSDAR for honoring Washington with the plaque unveiled at Saturday’s event.

The plaque unveiled Saturday, honoring the patriotic and military service of Charles Washington, was a replica of the official plaque that was placed at the gravesite of Charles Washington, neighboring the Happy Retreat property.

“The gravesite was not a large enough location to hold this celebration,” said Sharon McCarthy, Regent, Bee Line Chapter, NSDAR.