Interesting Information Regarding Vernon's History

4 October 2001.

Subject: The Town of Vernon and The Vernon Historical Society.

Sir, I live in northern Virginia, in the Mount Vernon neighborhood adjacent to George Washington's famous estate. I am an amateur history buff and consider myself very knowledgeable on the subject of the General's eldest brother, Major Lawrence Washington, as well as Royal Navy Admiral Edward Vernon. The Latin inscription on the Admiral's family coat-of-arms, was: VER-NON SEMPER VIRET ("Spring does not always Flourish.") Running a "Google.com" search against the name "Vernon," I chanced upon your homepage --- www.vernonct.com/name -- and your brief note "HOW VERNON GOT ITS NAME."

Your Historical Society neglected to include an estimated date for when the town of Vernon was established: if it became a town during the first quarter of the 19th century, then I should think there is an excellent chance that the name was, indeed, taken from George Washington's estate. Further, that probability would increase the closer your founding date gets to ! 1800.

The purpose of this note is to point out that your "Town Name" webpage contains interesting (and informed) speculation, but there is one glaring error-- you have promoted Major Lawrence Washington to a Colonel. Lawrence Washington [born circa 1718 in Westmoreland County, Virginia - died of tuberculosis/consumption on 26 July 1752, in his bed at Mount Vernon] was awarded a Commission in the British Army, signed by King George II, as a "Captain in a Regiment of Foot" in 1740: this was the 63rd Regiment of Foot, also known as the "American Regiment" or "Gooch's Marines." The regiment was disbanded at Jamaica in October 1742 and Captain Lawrence Washington returned to Virginia later that year. Early the following year, 1743, he applied for, and was rewarded by Virginia Governor Gooch with, the vacant position of militia commander for the Colony- Adjutant General of Virginia. As Adjutant, Lawrence was appointed to the rank of militia Major. His younger brother George would eventually "inherit" this position after Lawrence's death in 1752, and it was George, not Lawrence, who rose to the rank of Virginia Colonel (see: the ! famous Peale portrait of 1772.)

General George Washington was extremely proud of his eldest [half]brother-- Lawrence's protrait, resplendant in his Army officer's Redcoat, was the only family portrait that the General kept in his private Studio/Library at Mount Vernon. The original home was purpose-built for Lawrence by his (and George's) father, Augustine Washington, and it was Lawrence who gave it its name, Mount Vernon, probably in late 1741 or very early 1742, while he was still serving under [then, Vice] Admiral Vernon in the Caribbean. The
earliest surviving record of the name, "Mount Vernon" is contained in a letter dated 3 August 1742: that letter, written by Lawrence's future neighbor and father-in-law, William Fairfax (of Belvoir), is preserved in the archives at Mt. Vernon.

That George Washington would live, for nearly 50 years, in a home named for a British hero is a testament to the General's respect for both his brother and "The Angry Admiral." But, George Washington would be the first to tell you that you do his brother no honor by promoting him well beyond his rank. Major will do just fine.

Thank you.
Rick Gamble, Alexandria, VA


[Note: HMS Burford (64 guns) was Admiral Vernon's flagship before Lawrence Washington reported for duty in 1741. I highly recommend English historian Cyril Hartmann's excellent 1953 biography of Vernon, "The Angry Admiral," which contains a brief appendix on Lawrence Washington and his Mount Vernon home. A scale model of HMS Burford is the centerpiece of the model ship collection at Mystic Seaport.]