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Lewis, Eleanor Parke Custis

American, 1779 - 1852

Custis, Nelly; Lewis, Lawrence Mrs.; Custis, Eleanor Parke


Known as "Nelly Custis," Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis was the granddaughter of Martha Washington from her first marriage, and the adopted daughter of George Washington. When Martha married General Washington in 1759 she was the widow of Daniel Parke Custis [1711-1757], and had two young children, John Parke Custis [1754-1781] and Martha Parke Custis [1755-1773]. Nelly was one of four children of John Parke Custis and his wife Eleanor Calvert, daughter of Benedict Calvert, the illegitimate son of the fifth Lord Baltimore. After John Parke Custis' death in 1781, his widow was remarried, to Dr. David Stuart, and took her two older children with her to Fairfax, VA. Her younger children, including Nelly, were left at Mount Vernon where they were reared their grandmother Martha Washington, and General George Washington. Nelly lived with her adoptive parents in New York and Washington during his presidential years. Her portrait by Gilbert Stuart is now in the NGA (1974.108.1). On 22 February 1799 Nelly married Lawrence Lewis [1767-1839], Washington's nephew. They had eight children, of whom three survived to maturity: Lorenzo [1803-1847], Frances Parke [1799-1875], and Mary Eliza Angela [1813-1835]. Their home, Woodlawn, was built on two hundred acres of Mount Vernon property given to them by George Washington. It was designed by William Thornton, whose portrait by Gilbert Stuart is also in the NGA (1942.8.25). Woodlawn is now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. [Compiled from sources and references recorded on CMS]


Brady, Patricia, ed. George Washington's Beautiful Nelly: The Letters of Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis to Elizabeth Bordley Gibson, 1794-1851. Columbia, S.C., 1991
Miles, Ellen G. American Paintings of the Eighteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1995: 237-240

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