georges washington de la fayette

The Georges

The other day I found out that Lafayette named his only son after George Washington. Georges Washington de La Fayette. This immediately became my new favorite fact.

It also led me on a search to find out if there were other founding family members named after other important people of the time. The highest concentration of this seems to be in the Jefferson family. Thomas Jefferson’s daughter was apparently named both after her own mother and after Martha Washington. Martha Randolph, among her other kids, had three sons named James Madison Randolph, Benjamin Franklin Randolph, and Meriwether Lewis Randolph (born a year after Meriwether Lewis died). One of Sally Hemings’s sons was also named James Madison, so I guess he was a pretty popular guy at the Jefferson house.

I went down the wikipedia rabbit hole for the Washington household and discovered a wonderful possibility. Bear with me here.

Martha Washington had four kids with her first husband, Daniel Parke Custis. One of these kids, John Parke Custis, lived to marry and have kids. He married Eleanor Calvert, had seven kids with her (four of which survived), and then died in 1781. Eleanor kept her two older kids with her and remarried, going on to have 16 more kids (yikes).

The younger two were adopted by George and Martha. Eleanor Parke Custis was 2 and George Washington Parke Custis was only a few months old.

So now we have two George Washingtons living in the same house. Apparently the younger George was nicknamed ‘Wash’.

Fast forward a few years. The Reign of Terror is happening in France, and it’s bad news for the Lafayette family. Many are imprisoned, a few are killed. Little Georges manages to avoid all this. He goes to America to attend Harvard in 1795, and stays there for two years. While he’s there, he’s a house guest in the Washington household, both in Philadelphia and at Mount Vernon.

In 1795, George Custis was 14. He went to school in Philadelphia for some amount of time. Which means that at any given time between 1795 and 1797, there could have been THREE GEORGE WASHINGTONS in the SAME HOUSE. None of which were biologically related.

I am delighted by this possibility.