Why is Mount Vernon Named Mount Vernon?

By Stephen Yoch

 

Ironically, the home of the father of our country was not named after an American; it honors a British Admiral whom George Washington never met.

 

Upon the death of their father, George Washington’s older brother Lawrence inherited a picturesque piece of land overlooking the Potomac named Epsewasson.   Lawrence Washington, a military hero who served in the bizarrely named War of Jenkins Ear, led a group of Virginia soldiers in a campaign to South America. During the long voyage and shipboard duty, Lawrence became an admirer of Admiral Edward Vernon.
Lawrence wrote letters home that made a tremendous impression on his younger brother George. He detailed how “the enemy killed of ours some 600 and the climate killed us in greater number . . . a great quantity of officers amongst the rest are dead. War is horrid in fact, but much more so in imagination.”

 

While describing the suffering of war, Lawrence also wrote “We there have learned to live on ordinary diet, to watch much, and disregard the noise or shot of cannon.” Upon his return from war, Epsewasson was rechristened “Mount Vernon” to honor Lawrence’s mentor.

 

When George later inherited Mount Vernon upon the untimely death of Lawrence, not even a revolution could cause George to alter the name selected by his favorite brother. Thus, the home of America’s greatest revolutionary honors both an English Admiral and the brother who gave it its name.

 

Stephen Yoch is the author of the historical fiction novel Becoming George Washington.