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Edward Wayson
circa 1774 - December 13, 1863
Blacksmith, Washington Navy Yard
Furnished by : John G. Sharp

Edward Wayson   (circa 1774 -1863) was born in Maryland circa 1774 and lived in the District of Columbia most of his adult life. He married his Anne (maiden name unkown) 1784-1848. Wayson went to work at the Washington Navy Yard shortly after its founding and his name is found on the 1811 WNY Payroll, the 1819 muster list and the 1829 employee listing .In 1856 Edward Wayson, after working for the Yard for over 50 years almost since it's founding as blacksmith and mechanic he was to be let go apparently due to his age and health. Like other mechanics and workers Edward Wayson could not afford to retire for although he owned property he like most mechanics had little saving and was apparently the sole support for his daughter Elizabeth Reeves and her son Edward W. Steward who was an invalid. All most all employees in America had no retirement except for private savings or the kindness of relatives and friends those who could no longer work at to exist on charity or the county poor house. Fortunately Wayson his friends were able to convince the Secretary of the Navy J. C.Dobbins to reinstate him to his former position where he remained till his death December 13, 1863 age 89. He is buried at the Congressional Cemetery R/50 next to his wife Anne R/34/51 Due to the length of the probate of Edward Wayson's will there may have been challenges to the will by one or more relatives .

Ann Wayson Tombstone
Congressional Cemetery
Ann Wayson
and daughter Elizabeth "Eliza" Reeves

Last Will and Testament of
Edward Wayson (circa 1774 - December 13, 1863),
Washington Navy Yard Blacksmith


This transcription was made from a copy of the holographic manuscript of the Last Will and Testament of Edward Wayson, dated 20 March 1854. Edward Wayson died 13 December 1863 and probate began 17 December 1863 and was completed 15 May 1866. Edward Wayson's will is filed in the District of Columbia Orphan's Court (Probate Court) as: Wayson, Edward 1866 Box 36. The spelling, punctuation and the use of ampersands are those of the original documents.
  Acknowledgement :

My thanks to Mr. Ali Rahmann Archivist, District of Columbia Archives, for generously providing a copy of the Edward Wayson's last will and testament for transcription

John G. Sharp                 October 4, 2008

Edward Wayson Last Will and Testament
dated 20 March 1854
        Know all men by these presents, that I, Edward Wayson of Washington city in the District of Columbia of sound and disposing mind do make, publish and declare this is my last will and testament.
        It is my will that after my death my just debts shall be faithfully and honorably paid that I may preserve after my death the reputation for honesty that I have endeavored to maintain during life.
        And after the payment of my past debts, including my funeral expenses, I devise and bequeath my property as follows:
        I devise and bequeath to my granddaughter Matilda Fletcher Wayson and her heir, the house and lot situated in said Washington city, and known as Lot two in Square Nine hundred and fifty.
        I devise and bequeath to my afflicted grandson Edward Stewart Wayson, during the term of his natural life, the house and lot where now I reside in said city of Washington, being on lot "L" in Square Nine hundred and three. And I appoint and constitute his mother Eliza Reeves to be trustee for said Edward, and for him, in his name, place and stead to manage said property as she may conceive will best promote his interest and welfare. And upon the death of said Edward then it is my will, that siad property shall be equally divided between my daughters Eliza Reeves, and Matilda Fletcher Robinson, and their respective heirs.

        And I do hereby constitute and appoint my said daughter Eliza Reeves to be sole executor of this my last will and Testament.
        In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal and revoking all previous wills, I do publish and declare this to be my last will and testament in the presence of the witnesses named below, on this twentieth day of March Eighteen hundred and fifty four.

					Edward  X  Wayson 

Signed, sealed, published and declared       }
by the said Edward Wayson as and for         }
his last will and testament, in our presence }
who/at his request, in his presence, and in  }
the presence of each other, have hereunto    }
subscribed our respective names thereto      }

	John Mc Kim       May 5/66
	Saml A.H. McKim   Dec 22, 1863
	J. W. McKim       May 1st 1866


District of Columbia }				Orphans Court 
Washington County, to wit } 				     December 22nd 1863

	This day appeared Samuel A, H. McKim one of the subscribing witnesses to the 
aforegoing  last will and testament of Edward Wayson late of Washington County 
aforesaid, deceased and made oath therein on the Holy Evangels of almighty God that he 
did see the Testator therein named sign, and seal this will that he published, pronounced  
and declared the same to be his last will and testament; that at the time of so doing he was, 
to the best of his apprehension of sound and disposing mind memory and understanding; 
and that his name as witness to the aforesaid will, was signed in the presence at the 
request of the testator and in the presence of John McKim and J.W. McKim, the other 
two subscribing witnesses thereto

[D.C.  Court Clerks notes on back of document re probate actions 1863 -1866]
Edward Wayson's last will and Testament 1854
Filed for probate December 17th 1863- 
Partially probated by SamlA. Hill Mc Kim Dec 22nd 1863
Caveat within partially proven by John W. McKim May 1, 
Partailly provedn by John Mckim May 5th 1866.
Caveat dismissed with caost fully admitted to probate and 
record by orders of the Court. 
Recorded Liber Z CR  No.1 folio 180 compared   

CCHD 3-4-1890



1822 DC Directory Edward Wayson is listed in the D.C. Directory for 1822 as blacksmith, 8 east near barracks, Navy Yard

1860 DC Directory Edward Wayson listed as blacksmith house at 519 8th street

Edward Wayson Steward died 11 may 1864 age 27 he is buried near his grandfather in Congressional Cemetery R34/50

Elizabeth Wayson Reeves was born circa 1821 and died 1873 she is buried with her mother Ann Wayson ( see above) at Congressional Cemetery R34/51


Washington Navy Yard Blacksmiths Petition October 1812


[circa October 1812]
To the Honorable Paul Hamilton Secretary of the Navy


           The petitions of the undersigned now in the employ of the public at the Navy yard in the city of Washington respectfully represents That your petitioners conceiving themselves very aggrieved in being deprived of the privilege of sending for necessary refreshments during the hours of work as blacksmiths, altho' this business is of such a nature as frequently to require that some refreshments should be allowed , when the constitution is relaxed by excessive heat or exertion That tho the business of your petitioners requires as much skill & industry in them, as is necessary in any other mechanic , the pay of your petitioners is such less in proportion to the services, than that of any other mechanical, & they can see no reason why they should receive less pay & the work provided for than ship carpenters

           Your petitions further complain that they [ar]e now subjected to the insolence of negroes employed in the Navy Yard, altho' no redress is [suffic]iently provided for your petitioners, against the misconduct of blacks. That one of their body was lately threatened with being discharged for having struck a negro who had grossly misbehaved & they conceived that some provision ought to be made for the purpose of restraining the misconduct of blacks & of only employing such as are orderly & absolutely necessary.

           Your petitioners regret that they are compelled to lay such complaints before the Navy Department, but as they materially affect their interest & independence they hope that the redress they pray for will be granted.


Henry Kurtz							Frederick Bopp
James Bury * presented this petition 				Seth Robbinson 
Edward Wayson							Charles Sanderson 
William Parsons							William Ardrey
Stanislaus Ridgley 						Henry Clarke

This petition was recently found in Record Group 45 NARA


Commodore Thomas Tingey To Secretary of The Navy Hamilton


Navy Yard Washtn    
7th Octr 1812


           I have maturely considered the Petition of the blacksmiths, which you did me the honor to refer to me, and which is herewith return'd.1

           Their first charge of being deprived of "refreshments" (liquor) while at heavy work, is not well founded. my orders were that, if such indulgence was necessary, they should bring it in with them, on the bell ringing to work, the objection was to the breaking off from work, several boys or men for half an hour at a time, in the course of the day, to bring the liquor from outside the yard.

           In respect to raising their wages to that of the Shipwrights, it behoves me to observe that they, certainly are a valuable set of workmen. most of them of extraordinary ability and industry, but as far as my knowledge goes, I conceive there is no precedent, at any port in the union, where smiths wages are equal to those of shipwrights: and again should we at this time make a rise of wages in any one class, I conceive that all the other will expect it, the same proportions being paid in the different branches from the first establishment of this yard.

           Their third request being granted, would have strong tendency to destroy all organization & discipline in the Yard, my determination being long made known to discharge from this service, any of the men, who should strike another, within the yard. Understanding however that the Negro who was struck , had been extremely careless in his duty & gave provocation thereby, I only observed to the man who struck him, that on a repitition of such an act, I would certainly dismiss him. All of which is respecfully submitted. I have the honor [&c.]

Thos: Tingey


1Petition not found.

Sources :
Dudley, William S., et al. eds.
The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. Vol. 1. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, 1985. Page 524

ALS, DNA, RG45, CL, 1812, Vol.3, No. 102

Letter to Secretary of the Navy on behalf of Edward Wayson 29 March 1856


Honorable J. G. Dobbin
Washington, 29 March 1856

Dear Sir

I respectfully request that you will authorize Commodore Forest of the Washington Navy Yard to grant such indulgence to Edward Wayson , now 82 years of age and in feeble health, as may be compatible with the needs of the service and the dictates of humanity. Mr. Wayson has been for more then fifty years a faithful and skilled mechanic in the Yard and assisted in fitting out some of the best ships of the Navy. His life remaining must necessarily be short, but he is too poor to surrender his place as long as he can stand on his feet. He has a widowed daughter dependent upon him. Commodore Forest is disposed to grant the indulgence if authorized.

With great respect your obedient servant.

John S. Gallagher, 232 F St, Washington DC

(John S. Gallagher, 29 March 1856, National Archives and Records Service Record Group 45)

Fortunately, his friend Mr. Gallagher was wrong, and Edward Wayson was not only reemployed but he lived for another ten years, dying, 13 December 1863.age 89 (Evening Star, 15 December 1863)

William Easby
January 22, 1791 - July 29,1854
Shipbuilder and Early Washington Entrepreneur

Captain William Easby
Shipbuilder and Early Washington Entrepreneur
      The Last Will and Testament of William Easby provide a remarkable portrait of a highly successful shipbuilder, civic leader and early Washington D.C. entrepreneur. His will reflects Easby concern for his family; his multifaceted business and broad cultural interests. William Easby was born in Yorkshire England on 22 January 1791 the son of Ann Tate and John Ward Easby. Easby immigrated with his parents to the United States about 1796. The Easby's settled in Philadelphia. The family appears to have been a relatively prosperous clan that was close knit and valued education and learning. Years later Easby's youngest daughter, Wilhelmina Maria, recalled his family "formed part of a little colony of kinfolk, who seem to have been in quite good circumstances, for they immediately bought lots and built residences." The great yellow fever epidemic of 1798 killed thousand of Philadelphia residents and many of the Easby family including Easby's father John. William Esby became an apprentice shipwright and rapidly learned his trade. Shortly after Washington Navy Yard opened Easby moved into the District of Columbia and took employment at the Yard. One of the first indications of his presence is his signature is on the WNY mechanics letter to President Thomas Jefferson, commending Jefferson on his election 1805.1

      At WNY Easby, a young intelligent and energetic shipwright advanced rapidly to become a Master Boat Builder. Like other early Yard employees, Easby served as a member of the District of Columbia militia, during the War of 1812 where he saw active service as a private with Commodore Barney's command in August 1814. Easby was with Barney's unit when they futility tried to stop a large number of veteran British regulars at Bladensburg Md. Following the American defeat, the British advanced on the Capitol and Navy Yard was set ablaze to prevent the British capturing stored naval supplies and gun powder. Following the conflagration, Easby like other civilian employees was out of work for a year. As a married man with two children to support, Easby returned to Philadelphia where his family lived and presumably found work till the following year when he was once again able to resume his duties at the Yard.

      In 1824 President James Monroe made Easby a Captain of Riflemen of the Second Legion, First Brigade, of the Militia of the District of Columbia. Easby was ever after known by the title thus awarded him. William Easby's name is listed in the 1827 Directory of the City of Washington, his occupation: master boat builder at navy yard and his residence: "down w Es btw 9 and 10e." On March 24, 1828, William Easby added his name to that of one thousand citizens of the District of Columbia petitioning the Congress to gradually abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and to ban the further importation and sale of slaves within the District. Many of those who signed the memorial were slave holders. Yard employees like Master Caulker Robert Armistead, Naval Constructor William Doughty, Clerk Thomas Howard and Master Shipwright Thomas Lyndall all leased their human property to WNY. Many of these men saw no contradiction in owing enslaved workers and favoring gradual compensated emancipation. Their support though was contingent however on the provision that all newly emancipated individuals of African descent, immediately immigrate to Africa. Easby's exact position on slavery and emancipation is not known, however Easby had business dealing with black freeman Michael Shiner in 1848 when he bought land from Shiner. His last will contains no reference to slaves nor is there any evidence that Easby ever owned slaves or used enslaved workers in his businesses or household. 2

1845 daguerreotype of William Easby, his wife Agnes and daughter Wilhelmina.
Daguerreotype courtesy of :
Ms. Janice Enzone.

      From 12 to 20 February 1829 the Board of Navy Commissioners conducted an investigation into accusations made by Easby against Master Blacksmith and Chain Cable Maker, Benjamin King (1779-1837) and his son Robert. Easby alleged that the King's had taken the property of federal government and had used official time to conduct their own private blacksmithing and iron foundry business. The Board inquiry called numerous master mechanics, journeymen blacksmiths, and apprentices who had worked with King and his son Robert over the years as witnesses. The Board concluded the King's had in fact worked on a variety of private business, while on the rolls of the Washington Navy Yard (WNY) and on occasion, used government supplied materials for their private endeavors. After reviewing the investigation file, Hull noted that he found William Easby's complaints justified. "I find King so excessively stupid that I cannot get at time or anything else for him." Hull later wrote to the Chairman of the Board of Navy Commissioner, Commodore John Rodgers, "from some cause he appears deranged in his mind, and not to know what he is doing . . .I have informed Mr. King, that his services were no longer required in the Shop until your pleasure could be known." Hull pressed for King's removal but the Secretary of the Navy intervened with the decision that in view of Benjamin King's long service, he would be reduced to journeyman status, and allowed to continue on the rolls.3 William Easby later married Ann Agnes Maria King the daughter of Benjamin King.

      Shortly after Andrew Jackson's election Easby left federal employment and set up his shipbuilding firm. He built a successful shipbuilding operation and became a noted ship designer and builder. Leaving WNY with him was a small group of shipwrights who departed with Easby and helped make his firm a successful endeavor. Among the vessels launched at Easby's Wharf was the Sailing Ship Russia. Easby later built a series of Coast Guard Revenue Cutters such as the Cutter Forward in 1842. Another project which occupied Easby was a lime kiln and his experiments to convert coal particles into solid lumps which would be furnace ready. Easby was granted a patent on the process on August 29, 1848. In edition to his ship building and lime kilns, Easby acquired a great deal of prime real estate where he built and rented dwellings and office space. His will provides some indication of the size of his real property holdings.

      His engineering skills were put to the test on numerous occasions such as when in 1840 he and his workers removed the old wreck of the frigate New York from the Potomac channel. On another occasion Easby directed the difficult and complex relocation of the Greenough statue of George Washington. In 1836 his talents and hard work won Easby a position on the District of Columbia Common Council representing Ward 1. Easby served again on the Common Council in 1837, 1841, and 1847. Politically Easby aligned himself with the Whig Party, and joined them in their opposition to Andrew Jackson. Easby despised President Jackson whom he considered a something of an autocrat. Easby like many Whigs favored the supremacy of Congress over the Executive Branch and preferred a program of modernization and economic protectionism. The Whig Party counted among its members such national political luminaries as Daniel Webster, William Henry Harrison, and their preeminent leader, Henry Clay of Kentucky.

      Easby was an early member of the Washington Monument Association which solicited funding and support to raise a memorial to the nation's first president. His continuing involvement with science is reflected in his position as Treasurer of the National Institute, a precursor of the Smithsonian Institute.

      Throughout his life Easby retained a deep and biding love for England and especially his native North Yorkshire. On the walls of his large library he proudly kept prints of the old ruins of Easby Abbey and among his substantial collection of 2, 500 plus volumes were many volumes on England. Easby was a bibliophile and even his will reflects his love of fine books and prints. His will mentions his treasured collection of great English authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Samuel Johnson, Thomas Smollett and Robert Burns. In 1849 Easby was selected to represent the United States at the first exhibition of British Manufacturers. The US Census for the District of Columbia 1850 reflect William Easby prosperity. His household was enumerated as William Easby age 60, his wife Agnes Maria, age 45, their daughter Wilhelmina Maria age 14 and two house servants Ann Mundy age 45 and John Donley age 45. The enumerator notes Easby owned his property and had an estate valued at $75,000. Easby last will was drawn up about the time he left for England in 1849 it expresses his desire to provide for the comfort of his wife and daughters. In keeping with his patriarchal duties and responsibilities he is exceptionally careful that his executors guard his daughter's economic interests and protect them from any possible deprecation of their assets.

      Following the June 1854 marriage of his daughter Wilhelmina Easby to Congressman William R. Smith of Alabama, William Easby was suddenly taken ill with "bibulous fever" and died on 29 July 1854.4 Easby was laid to rest at in Congressional Cemetery Washington D.C. R50/S94, His beloved wife Agnes Maria who died 4 December 1878 is buried alongside him.

Last Will and Testament of William Easby
Transcription :
This transcription was made from a copy of the holographic manuscript of the Last Will and Testament of William Easby . The source for this document is: Archives of the District of Columbia District of Columbia Orphans Court (Probate) Court Records Group 2, Records of the Superior Court 1854 Box 23. The spelling, punctuation and the use of ampersands is that of the original document.

Acknowledgement :
My profound thanks to Ms. Janice Enzone for generously providing me important information and photos of her distinguished ancestors William Easby, Agnes Easby and their daughter Wilhelmina Maria Easby Smith. My thanks also go to Mr. Ali Rahmann Archivist, District of Columbia Archives, for so kindly providing a copy of the William Easby's last will and testament for this transcription

John G. Sharp
Stockton CA
 January 12, 2009

WILLIAM EASBY 1791 -1854

I William Easby of the City of Washington and the District of Columbia being of sound and disposing mind memory and understanding Considering the Certainty of death and the uncertainty of the time thereof and being desirous to make a disposition of my worldly goods do make publish and ordain this my last will and testament.

Item: 1: I give devise and bequeath to my beloved wife Agnes Maria in lieu of her dower right - Five hundred dollars in Cash my dwelling house and lots in the said City in Square number nine hundred and twenty-five also all the furniture therein (except the piano) all the books pictures Etc also two frame houses and the Lot three in Square nine hundred and forty-nine on which they are erected - also Lot Twelve in Square six hundred and ninety - one with all the buildings therein erected: also Lots sixteen and seventeen in square Three hundred and sixty -eight with all the buildings therein erected being a two story frame house also : Lots seven and eight in Square Six with a two story frame house thereon erected to have and to hold the same to her for and during her natural life -

Item: 2: I give and bequeath to my beloved wife for her sole use three Certificates of Stock in the Odd Fellows Hall, amounting to Seven hundred and eighty dollars - and one Certificate of Stock in the Temperance Hall amounting to One hundred dollars -

[signed]             Wm. Easby            

Item: 3: I give and bequeath to my daughter Wilhelmina Maria Easby the Piano - forte on which she now plays together with all the music: a Bond of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company for One thousand four hundred and seventy - eight dollars and thirty four cents( $ 1,478. 34/100) and the interest thereon from the day of my death to the day of her marriage which bond shall remain in the hands of my executors or such person as they may appoint in trust and be conveyed to her on the day of her marriage - Provided such marriage takes place with the Consent of her mother or in the event of her mothers death the consent of brother H.W. Easby or her brother J.W. Easby and not otherwise - If however she should not be married before the age of twenty- four years the said bond and interest shall be conveyed to her on the twenty -fourth anniversary of her birth - and in the event of her death before that age or her marriage as herein provided the said bond and interest shall be equally divided between her sisters Marian E. King and Cecilia Jane Hyde-

Item: 4: I give and bequeath to Catherine Easby the widow of my brother James Easby Five hundred dollars if alive at the time of my death if not living at that time to be equally divided among her children then living -

Item: 5: I will that the residue of my property

[signed]             Wm. Easby            

real, and personal and mixed shall be sold on the best terms and to the best advantage by my Executors herein - after named for which purpose I give devise and bequeath to them and survivors of them and their heirs and assigns of such survivor all the residue of my property real personal and mixed of whatsoever kind and nature the same may be and whatsoever the same may be situated - In trust nevertheless for the uses intents and purposes following to wit: That after the payment of all my just debts and legacies herein created to divide the remainder equally among my children Horatio W. Easby - John W. Easby Marion E. King Cecilia Jane Hyde and Wilhelmina Maria Easby - Provided that the portions falling to my married daughters shall be safely invested and remain in the hands of my Executors and the survivor or his assigns In trust for the use and benefit of such married daughters share and share alike and out of reach and control of each or either of their husbands and on the death of each such married daughter her portion shall still be held in Trust by my Executors and the survivor or his assigns for the use and benefit of such deceased daughters children share and share alike and shall be conveyed to each of such children being or coming to the age of maturity -

[signed]             Wm. Easby            

Item: 6: I will that on the death of my Wife the property left her during her life as contained in this will shall be divided as follows and I give and devise to Horatio W. Easby the lots and dwelling house in Square nine hundred and twenty- five - to John W. W Easby Lots Sixteen and seventeen in Square three hundred and sixty - eight with the improvements thereon - to Cecelia Jane Hyde Lot three in Square Nine hundred and forty - nine with improvements thereon - to Marian E. King Lots seven and eight in Square Six with improvements thereon - to Wilhelmina M. Easby Lot Twelve in Square Six hundred and ninety -one with the improvements thereon - I give and bequeath to John W. Easby three hundred volumes of books to be by him selected - to Wilhelmina M. Easby three hundred volumes of books to be by her selected - and the remainder of the books to Horatio M. Easby - to Horatio M. Easby my large portrait to John M. Easby one view of Easby abbey - to Wilhelmina M. Easby one view of Easby abbey - her mothers large portrait - all her mothers drawings and painting and all those done by herself also one of the best beds, bedsteads and bedding and my old arm chair - To William Easby son of my brother John before named Hume, Smollett and Bissetts History of England a quarto copy of Burns

works and Maltebourns Geography -

Item:7: And I further will and direct that all portions real and personal or mixed falling or coming to my married daughters as herein set forth shall be held by my Executors and hte Survivor or his assigns In Trust as herein provided in the 5th Item of this will - and no other use or intent or purpose whatsoever -

Item: 8: In the event of my Brother John Easby Surviving me I will and bequeath to him Speeds History of England and Johnston's quarto Dictionary to be delivered to him immediately after my death, anything before devised to the Contrary notwithstanding -

And I lastly I do hereby Constitute and Appoint Horatio M. Easby and John W. Easby ( my sons) - And Agnes Maria Easby ( my wife) to be Executors and Executrix of this my last will and testament and annulling all former wills by me heretofore made, ratifying and Confirming this and none other to be my last will and testament -

      In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my sea, this Seventh day of December One thousand eight hundred and forty - nine - Signed, sealed, published and declared by

[signed]             Wm. Easby            

William Easby the aforegoing named testator as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us, who at his request and in his , presence and in the presence of each other, have subscribed our names as witnesses thereto -

Jas Adams          [signed]

H B Sweeny       [signed]

G. W. Venable   [signed]

The foregoing Will is written on five pages all of which I have signed a the Bottoms

[signed]             Wm. Easby            


District of Columbia		}	Orphans Court 
Washington County to wit 	} 	August 8. 1854

	This day Jarvis Adams - Hugh B. Sweeny & George W. Venable the Subscribing 
Witnesses to the aforegoing last will and testament of William Easby late of Washington 
County, aforesaid deceased , & severally make oath on the Holy Evangels of Almighty 
God, that they did see the said Testator therein named sign & seal this will; that he 
published pronounce & declare the same to be his last will & testament; that at the time 
of so he appeared to the best of their apprehension of sound & disposing  mind memory 
& understanding & that they respectively subscriber their names as witnesses  to this will; 
in the presence of and at the request of the Testator & in the presence of each other - 

				Test Ed N. Roach  


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Personal Recollection of Early Washington with a Sketch
of the Life of Captain William Easby

by Wilhelmina M. Easby-Smith
Wilhelmina Easby   Wilhelmina Maria Easby Smith was born in Washington DC on 14 July 1835 the youngest daughter of William Easby and his second wife Ann Agnes Maria King. She married Alabama Congressman William Smith in 1854. A gifted musician, she played both the harp and piano. Smith was also a gifted linguist and artist. She wrote these recollections which follow of her father for talk she gave at the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia in 1913. As a young girl she had an opportunity to see many notable and famous persons such as William Henry Harrison and Dolly Madison. She is a marvelous story teller and witness to by gone era. She died on 18 June 1918. Her account of her father William Easby's career and family follows. I have only edited to remove some extraneous items. The original is now online at the Library of Congress website.



Daguerreotype dated 1854 of Wilhelmina M. Easby
Daguerreotype courtesy of : Ms. Janice Enzone.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      William Easby was a native of Yorkshire, which Carlyle calls the epitome of England, because thence have sprung so many of England's greatest men. The same may be said of .America, since, among many others, the family of Washington himself came originally from Yorkshire. Yorkshire birth and American training at that earlier time made a great combination. William was but five years of age when he was brought to Philadelphia by his father, accompanied by other relatives. They formed part of a little colony of kinfolk, who seem to have been in quite good circumstances, for they immediately bought lots and built residences, some of which are still the homes of their descendants.

      The famous yellow fever epidemic of 1798 swept off very many of them. My grandfather, one of his children, and his brother's whole family, were among the victims. So it happened that William's school days were shortened, and it was necessary that he should learn some occupation. Shipbuilding was his hobby, and he was sent to be taught that trade. His wonderful mathematical mind caused him to become so expert, that when the Navy Yard was opened in Washington he was employed there, not yet being of age.

      When, during the war of 1812, in August, 1814, the British were advancing up the Patuxent toward Bladensburg, threatening the Capital City, every man employed at the Navy Yard, my father among them, rushed to enlist under Commodore Barney's command. They were mustered, I believe, in General Smith's Brigade. Of course we all know that the retreat from Bladensburg was a great military blunder on the part of General Winder, although the circumstances left him without blame. The idea, however, that it was an ignominious rout is an error. I have heard that the men were so exasperated at being obliged to obey the order that many of them turned and fired frequently during their retreat. Three or four hundred of the British were killed and six hundred wounded, while the American loss was but twenty killed and thirty or forty wounded, which would prove that a pretty good fight was had.

      Thomas Parker, an officer of General Smith's command, thus closes a letter describing the battle: "It is but justice to the troops of General Smith's Brigade, and those attached to it, to say, that no vestige of trepidation or alarm was shown, and that they retained their positions till ordered to retreat. I speak of those troops especially, and of Barney's and Miller-s, because I was most with them." The ravine in which the British were killed was known for years as '"Dead Men's Hollow," and the stories I heard of their scant burial always brought grew'some thrills, while driving over the spot so called. Once, accompanying my mother on a visit to Mrs. Madison, she kindly, to gratify a child's desire, gave me a sketch of the part she played in those strenuous days.

      There was never a more ardent American than was William Easby. He had a very powerful baritone voice and was a fine singer. He was a friend of Francis Scott Key and, if not the first, was, I think, among the very first to sing "The Star Spangled Banner," which was adapted to the air of a familiar Masonic drinking song. The Masons of that day seem to have been decidedly convivial. I have never heard anything so inspiring as the singing by my father and brothers of Key's immortal song.

      After the burning of the Navy Yard in 1814, Mr. Easby with his wife, who was the sister of Edward Simms, and their two little girls, returned to Philadelphia, where he remained until recalled to take the position of Master Builder after the Navy Yard was rebuilt. While in Philadelphia his two sons were added to the family.

      In 1823 John Lenthall was employed in the Mould Loft at the Navy Yard, where acute mathematical knowledge is absolutely essential. It was here under my father's supervision that Mr. Lenthall became an expert constructor, and so proved himself when in the course of time and through promotion he filled with credit and honor the Position of Chief Constructor of the Navy.

      In 1824 my father was appointed by President Monroe Captain of Riflemen of the Second Legion. First Brigade, of the Militia of the District of Columbia, and was ever after known by the title thus awarded him. At the head of different divisions were also my grandfather, Benjamin King, and my great uncle, John Davis of Abel. These with my father had much to do with the foundation and the flourishing condition of the Masonic Naval Lodge. My father also belonged to Washington Chapter, No. 16, of Royal Arch Masons, where in 1849 he was King [of the Royal Arch Masons]. Benjamin King built his residence on the corner of I and Tenth Streets, and John Davis of Abel built his on adjoining property with garden spots between. Both houses are still standing.

      In a description of the District of Columbia by David Baillie Warden, published in Paris in 181G, under the head of '"Navy Yard, Forges," etc., I find: "The director, Benjamin King, a native of England, formerly employed at the Clyde and Carron Works, has a salary of $2,000, besides an annual allowance for house rent." Benjamin King afterwards built another residence farther east. He died in Philadelphia in 1840. My grand uncle lived in the same house, where he died in 1853, as did his widow in 1881. In the Congressional Cemetery Commodore Tingey's lot is the first as one enters the old gate; my grandfather's is the second, and my granduncle's is just in the rear. The first graves opened in the cemetery were those for Mrs. Tingey and my grandmother King on the same day. They died before the cemetery was ready, and were first buried in Georgetown.

      Captain Easby was an ardent Whig, and upon Andrew Jackson's inauguration he resigned his position rather than be subject to dismissal, for the Shibboleth of that time was: "To the Victors belong the Spoils." It is well for the country that the Civil Service rules have, to a great extent, silenced that cry. For Captain Easby, however, it was most fortunate. And so it was that, looking out for a place in which to establish a shipyard of his own, he decided to locate in the First Ward.

      When Captain Easby severed his connection with the Government service and began his personal business career, his studies enabled him to turn his attention to various pursuits. Whatever particularly required mathematical calculation, quickness of perception and scientific knowledge he was well equipped to perform. Industry he regarded as a cardinal virtue, and a falsehood he held in almost infinite abhorrence. He was a man of great independence of character with an indomitable will. Naturally he had enemies. He soon surrounded himself with a force of employees that he could use for any purpose. Many of them had followed him from the Navy Yard. Were canal locks to be constructed, his men could do the work; were bridges to be built, they were ready. They could work on boats of wood or iron. The names of many of his workmen were on his rolls for twenty years, or more, of whom some remained with my brothers when they took charge of the shipyard in 1848.

      The honest, efficient workmen that my father employed, and he very quickly eliminated any others, always held him in most affectionate regard. The bond of friendship between them was never broken. When in the early thirties he met with reverses, his employees simply refused to leave him. and together they weathered the storm until the sun of prosperity shone again. William Knowles, William Frush, William Fletcher, William Martin, William Marshall, Dyson Moran, George Bean, Samuel Middleton, Adam Ferguson, Alfred Pollard, William Wise, are among those whose names appeared on the pay-roll, week after week, month after month, year after year.

      My mother was my father's second wife, and as his youngest son and my mother's son by her former marriage were respectively sixteen and thirteen years older than myself, I occupied the position of an only child. My brother Horatio and his cousin, William Easby, from Philadelphia, were students at Georgetown College. John's school hours were shorter, and his leisure was spent in building a small boat, which was finished, ready for launching, which he proposed to do with considerable ceremony. The older boys came in from the College earlier than John one day, and when he arrived he beheld them to his great indignation in his boat out in the middle of the river. John was known as a very amiable boy, but on this occasion, standing on the wharf and stuttering with rage, he shrieked : "I hope -- I hope -- I hope you may set up!" which exclamation became ever after a household word.

      My father's employees were always very much interested in his little daughter. During my whole life I have never forgotten their kind attentions. Every New Year's morning the dining room in the basement was overflowing with toys, mostly made with their own hands, ranged ready to greet my first appearance. I might here remark that Christmas was not at that time kept universally as it is now, perhaps because the English-speaking world had not as yet entirely recovered from the paralyzing effect of the abolition of the Feast, with its customs, by the Puritan Parliament.

      Captain Easby performed several feats of engineering which sixty years ago were considered marvelous. Mr. James Croggon in his admirable letters on old Washington, has described the removal of Greenough's statue of Washington from the Navy Yard wharf to the rotunda of the Capitol, and afterwards the taking of it down again. He referred to the unpleasant feelings toward Captain Easby of the official engineers, who would not even undertake the job. This was so, for Captain Easby had many experiences of what Tennyson calls "The jealousies of little men." The elevation of a huge lantern over the dome of the Capitol was also engineered by Captain Easby. At the Arsenal he underpinned and raised a brick or stone building a story higher.

      While he was Commissioner of Public Buildings during a heavy storm the elm tree at the northeast corner of Lafayette Square, was so injured that its three huge limbs were prone upon the ground. Jemmy Maher, the Public Gardener, coming in with his report, asked leave to clear away what he considered useless debris. Captain Easby, who could not brook the idea of losing a full-grown tree, sent to the ship yard for riggers and to the blacksmith shop for iron workers. He superintended the work himself, had the limbs lifted into position, and secured with a heavy iron band riveted through the trunk of the tree. The "Easby Elm," as some old inhabitants call it, is standing yet and a little search will disclose the scar of the band which it has been wearing for more than sixty years.

      When the statue of Jackson was being raised upon its pedestal for its unveiling on the 8th of January, 1852, Captain Easby drove up in his buggy to find the riggers almost in despair at their inability to raise it one or two inches higher. Giving a glance at the rigging he ordered a few. Captain Easby was one of the original members of the \\'ashington Monument Association, and took a lively interest in its erection. He incurred the displeasure of its President by protesting against the stone that was to be used. He insisted that the iron pyrites in this stone, oxidizing, would cause fissures which would eventually endanger the whole structure. I fear that the present condition of the Monument verifies his prediction. The displeasure of the officer named led him to refuse to accept a beautiful corner-stone for the Monument prepared at my father's quarries. This stone was afterwards used as the corner-stone of the extension of the Capitol in 1851.

      Captain Easby was an incessant reader and a lifelong student. He collected a most valuable library, which became so noted that many strangers visited and consulted it.

      He and Colonel Peter Force often exchanged their discovered treasures, as one or the other suited better the trend of thought of either. He was always prominent in politics. His name may be found on all the committees appointed for special arrangements in connection with the incoming of a Whig President elect. He was a delegate to the Baltimore Convention that nominated Henry Clay, who was his personal friend. General Harrison held a reception in February. 1841 in the Court House. The occasion was especially for ladies. He stood inside a booth decorated with flags. I, with my mother, was presented by my father. I was very small for my age, being not yet six, and had to be lifted to speak to him. He took me in his arms and. resting my feet on the railing, he held me by his left arm while greeting many of the visitors passing by. I was very happy to be thus noticed by the Hero, for I had been singing for months "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too," and deemed myself a great political partisan, and my grief when he died was sincere.

      I was my father's companion whenever it was practicable for me to be with him, as he drove around from point to point in the city and out into the country whenever his interests called him. To be with him was my greatest happiness. In these drives he taught me more of botany, of geology, of animal and vegetable life, than I learned in my schoo. Besides, I met in his company many of the prominent men of the day, Webster, Clay, Benton. Dr. Blake, Professor Henry, Messrs. Dickens and Noland, Charles F. Stansbury, M. F. Maury, Peter Force, J. G. C. Kennedy, the sculptors Greenough and Crawford, and others, many of whom to have seen and heard was in itself a branch of a liberal education. "There were giants in those days,'" and the eyes once uplifted to behold them have perhaps found it difficult to adjust their vision since to mediocrity.

      Very enjoyable were the visits to old Georgetown College that we made. The old tower building is the one I remember, with its library in which a door was concealed by its being painted in imitation of shelves of books. While my father was conversing with Father Ryder one of the other Jesuit fathers would entertain me in the museum and the physics room. I thus learned enough about electricity to give me some slight comprehension of the working of the telegraph, when I was taken to the Capitol, where Prof. Morse was making his demonstration in one of the committee rooms. As I remember the location it was a room facing east on the south of the crypt. Referring to the crypt, it was when my father was Commissioner of Public Buildings that he had the sub-crypt, which had been closed up for years, opened, and I was the first female to stand upon the spot, once intended for the sepulcher of Washington. It is likely that in the visits to Georgetown College the first impressions were made upon my mind which, after a score of years and long research, brought me into the Catholic Church.

      My recollection of the famous Mrs. Ann Royal is quite vivid. She was a much talked of individual and suffered the penalty of living ahead of her time. While her enmities were strong her friendships were true. I had heard so much about her that the idea of meeting her rather filled me with uneasiness, but I found her very pleasant; and evidently, as I judge from this excerpt from the "Huntress," her celebrated paper, my father was decidedly persona grata with her :

Captain Easby.-- The benevolent, the lively and good natured Captain Easby it was likewise our good fortune to meet in the street. He is one of our earliest friends in this city, and one of those few Christians who 'does good by stealth.' "Alas ! He reminded us of the many dear friends of which death has deprived us in the past few years, viz : Generals Ripley and McComb, Colonel James Reeside, Captain Haman of Georgetown, and others. -- The Huntress, October 2, 1842.

      Captain Easby was a member of the Common Council from the First Ward almost continuously from 1830 until he went back to the east end of the city in 1848. Frequently associated with him in the Common Council was Edmond Hanley, his partner in the lime kilns. My brother Horatio also represented in 1858 and in 1860 this ward in the Common Council.

      In 1841 Captain Easby was elected a Member of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science. He was also elected its Treasurer and was appointed its delegate to the World's Fair. The National Institute was the offspring of the Metropolitan Society, established in 1816, succeeded by the Columbian society chartered by Congress in 1818. which, falling into decrepitude, was revived as the National Institute, and after many years was absorbed by the Smithsonian. A monograph on these societies, their members and their work would be a valuable document to the "Oldest Inhabitants."

      The last position of importance that Captain Easby filled was that of Commissioner of Public Buildings. I believe that the duties which devolved upon him are now distributed among three officers. He was appointed by President Taylor in 1849 and held the office until the year after Pierce's inauguration. When President Pierce came into office he had just lost, under most distressing circumstances, his only child, a son. Mrs. Pierce's grief-stricken condition aroused all my entire father's sympathy, and when she expressed a wish for a conservatory, he had a beautiful greenhouse built on the southeast of the White House in front of the stables. There was some fund of which the Commissioner had absolute control, which enabled him, independently of Congress, to gratify Mrs. Pierce's desire. This was the first conservatory at the White House. Pierce did not desire his resignation, but he gave it in favor of Colonel B. B. French. July 29th, 1854, he died from a severe attack of bilious fever. One of his obituaries, written by Colonel French, I wished to incorporate in this paper, but failed to lay hand upon it.

      An obituary notice of the death of Captain Easby in the National Intelligencer, August 1, 1854, ends: "The poor will need him, his friends will miss him, the energetic and active will enquire for him, and the answer to all will be in the ancient phrase of the Preacher: (Ecclesiastes) 'Man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.' "

      At my father's obsequies the concourse was so great that the first carriage arrived at the Congressional Cemetery before the last left the house. I hope, gentlemen, I have not wearied you with my reminiscences. The theme has been a pleasant one for me. and they say that old ladies are apt to be garrulous. I thank you for your kind attention.



      I have been asked by one of the Oldest Inhabitants who is also a member of the Columbia Historical Society for information regarding the old house at Ninth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, east, which was my father's home for many years. This house was situated upon the tract known as Cern Abbey Manor, originally belonging to the Notley family. William Easby bought lots 10 and 11 in square 925, upon which the house is located, at a mortgage sale held March 29th, 1821, for $1,500. His deed was dated March 2rth, 1822. The property had been bought fourteen years before by Josiah Fox for $1,800. The house was standing in 1795, but so far I have been unable to trace it beyond that date. The foundation and basement of the house are three feet thick. It was thirty-six feet broad and the same depth, massively built, it might stand a siege. In 1795, in a sale made by a party in Philadelphia, one William Tunicliff was appointed attorney. I suppose he it was who established a hotel there. It is supposed to be the oldest house now standing in the city.

      I have been told that there was so much water in the neighborhood that it was necessary to keep a deep ditch on the Pennsylvania Avenue front, so the place, for that and other reasons, was dubbed "Warwick," by which name it was known in the family until 1857. Here my father lived before moving to Easby's Point for more than seven years, beautifying the lot with flowers and fruit trees. He was especially fond of the crabapple blossoms and of hyacinths. I have learned that these blossoms abound in the Cleveland vales of Yorkshire, where he spent his early childhood.

      For some years, during the residence in the First Ward, the house was rented to William Doughty, the Naval Constructor at the Navy Yard. After Mr. Doughty left it became, for reasons which will be seen, not easy to rent. Being the first real estate my father owned in Washington, he was very much attracted to the place, and when he turned over the ship yard business to his sons, in 1848, he returned to the old place, remodeled it inside, redeemed the old garden that had become a wilderness, and made it a comfortable and handsome residence and a beautiful spot. From around the chimneys on the first floor he had tons of brick removed. It may be that an immense brick oven was demolished.

      During these intervening years the house had acquired the reputation of being haunted. The most unaccountable sounds were heard at intervals both day and night. Neither my father nor my mother was liable to fright, and it was only after long investigation that the source of the sounds was discovered. The house was isolated for quite a distance around, giving back echoes from several directions. As vehicles came down the Avenue the sounds began, increasing as they came nearer, decreasing and dying away as Tenth or Eleventh Street was reached. It sounded as if someone, entering the side door, tramped slowly up the stairs, across the second hall and up the stairs again to one of the half story rooms, and was lost in one of the "cubbyholes" under the eaves. In this room was a deep spot on the floor which could not be removed, where they said a man wounded by the British in 1814 had bled to death. There is no doubt that the noises were but the echoes of passing vehicles. With the cause of the sounds established imagination no longer ran riot, and the "haunts" were forgotten. The house, built long before the laying out of the squares, found itself fronting on an alley between the northern and southern lots of the square, so the entrance was made on Ninth Street. Subsequently, my father became the owner of the whole square (925) ; the lot upon which he erected his new stables and carriage house being that at the north west corner where the store of Ney & Co. is now situated, he bought in 1848 from Mike Shiner, a free negro celebrated as a wag, and for being possessed of a remarkable memory.

      There were three cherry trees in front of the house, from two of which whoever wished might pick the fruit, but the one in front of the library window must be left untouched, solely for the birds, of whom there were myriads. In this house, six weeks before my father's death, I was married to the Hon. William R. Smith of Alabama, and we resided there with my mother, until, upon his retirement from Congress in 1857, we returned to Alabama. My two older children were born in the old house. After that my brothel Horatio, to whom it was bequeathed, came into possession, but not caring to live in that part of the city, he eventually sold it. It is in rather a dismal condition now, and makes one's heart ache to see it.


Wilhelmina M. Easby -Smith Personal Recollection of Early Washington with a Sketch of the Life of Captain William Easby printed by Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia 1913 (pages 10-28)

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Easby Home   Home of Captain William Easby.
Located on East Capitol street in Washington DC.
The house is mentioned in the last will and testament.

Courtesy of : Ms. Janice Enzone.

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End Notes

1 Washington Navy Yard Mechanics' Memorial to President Thomas Jefferson 1805

2 The Diary of Michael Shiner entry for 1829, see page 36: Diary of Michael Shiner

3 1829 Inquiry re Benjamin King

4 See Rudy's List of Archaic Medical Terms for bibulous fever which is defined as :
When a continual, remitting, or intermitting fever is accompanied with a frequent or copious evacuation of bile, either by vomit or stool, the fever is denominated bilious. [Buchan1785].The common remittent fever of summer and autumn; generally supposed to be owing to, or connected with, derangement of the biliary system. [Dunglison1855]Typhoid fever, remittent fever or simple gastritis. [Appleton1904]A term loosely applied to certain intestinal and malarial fevers. See typhus. [Thomas1907].

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