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George Washington Slept (and Tanned?) Here

gwhouse.jpgA little-known fact about George Washington: his only trip outside the present-day borders of the United States was to Barbados, at age 19, in the company of his tuberculosis-stricken older half-brother Lawrence. He lived at Bush Hill House (now undergoing restoration by the Barbados National Trust, and recently opened to the public as the George Washington House), the only home he ever lived in outside the continental U.S.

Much of the visit was apparently given over to the care of his brother, with whom he enjoyed a good deal of island hospitality, according to his diaries:

November 4 th, 1751.--This morning received a card from Major Clarke, welcoming us to Barbadoes, with an invitation to breakfast and dine with him. We went,--myself with some reluctance, as the smallpox was in his family. We were received in the most kind and friendly manner by him. Mrs. Clarke was much indisposed, insomuch that we had not the pleasure of her company, but in her place officiated Miss Roberts, her niece, and an agreeable young lady. After drinking tea we were again invited to Mr. Carter's, and desired to make his house ours till we could provide lodgings agreeable to our wishes, which offer we accepted.
Washington was right to be reluctant: he did come down with smallpox during the trip, although it proved to be a mixed blessing. The illness consumed three weeks of his six-week stay, but also gave him future immunity to the disease, sparing him from an outbreak of smallpox that ravaged the continental army in 1777-78.

George Washington House
Barbados National Trust
The Diaries of George Washington (Library of Congress)


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