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Washington Stays at His "Own House" then Dines at Dr. Brown's House

On July 6, 1774, George Washington awoke at his “own house” In Alexandria, Virginia. He stayed overnight at a small wooden house on Cameron Street. This was on a half acre lot that he purchased in 1763 and in a house that Washington had built in 1769. The previous day he had dined at Arell’s Tavern, which was located in the heart of Alexandria's Market Square. In his diary dated July 5, 1774, Washington wrote the following:

5. Went up to Alexandria to a Meeting of the Inhabitts. of this County. Dined at Arrells & lodgd at my own Ho[use]. [1]

During the meeting in Alexandria, Washington listened to concerned citizens of Fairfax County. The discussion centered around the British Coercive Acts specifically the closure of Boston harbor. The British policy was in response to the Boston Tea Party, which took place on December 16, 1773. The policy response infuriated colonists beyond Massachusetts. As far away as Virginia, the plight of Boston was seen as the plight of all colonies.

Arell's Tavern
Historic Arell's Tavern. Image Credit: Library of Congress.

In May 1774, the Virginia House of Burgesses was dissolved by Governor Lord Dunmore. Many of the burgesses met at Raleigh Tavern in the Apollo Room. Each member was tasked with the responsibility of speaking with their respective constituencies about British policies towards Boston. The goal was to reconvene on August 1, 1774, and have a more detailed plan of response.  

George Washington’s meeting with inhabitants of Alexandria on July 5 was a precursor to a follow-up assembly on July 18. In a letter to his brother, John Augustine Washington, George Washington explained that severe weather delayed the meeting until the July 18. However, the people that were able to gather at Arell’s Tavern on July 5. Washington summarized the discussions as follows:

Upon the occasion however we appointed a Committee to frame such Resolves as we thought the Circumstances of the Country would permit us to go into, & have appointed the 18 for a day of Meeting to deliberate on them. The Committee have accordingly done this; they have attempted to define our Constitutional Rights [2]

Two weeks after the gathering at Arell’s Tavern, Washington and George Mason rode into Alexandria on the morning of July 18. Washington chaired the committee that met at the old Fairfax County Courthouse, which was in Alexandria adjacent to Market Square. It was during this meeting that the Fairfax County Resolves passed. As Washington wrote to his brother, John Augustine Washington, the Resolves did seek to clarify the colonists’ “Constitutional Rights.” In fact, the Fairfax Resolves stated that those rights had been violated. The American colonists had been treated as “conquered” people. They were subject to government without their consent and taxation without representation. [3]

The 25 signatories of the Fairfax Resolves wrote a document that helped to push the American colonies closer to declaring independence. George Mason was the principal author of the Fairfax Resolves. Almost two years later, he wrote another significant document that built on the principles of the Fairfax Resolves. That document was the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was approved by the Virginia Convention on June 12, 1776. The Virginia Declaration of Rights served as a model and foundation for the Declaration of Independence.


George Washington and Dr. Brown

On the day after Washington’s dinner and discussions at Arell’s Tavern, he spent much of the day at the home of a friend and doctor named William Brown. Washington wrote:

6. Dined at Doctr. Brown’s & returnd home in the Eveng. [4]

Dr. Brown was one of the 25 signers of the Fairfax Resolves. George Washington and Dr. Brown must have conversed about the previous days gathering at Arell’s Tavern as well as the second assembly on July 18. Perhaps they also speculated about the future and whether or not the political crisis could be resolved peacefully.

Dr. Brown was formally trained in medicine. He went to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He was also a member of Pohick Church, which was part of Truro Parish. Washington was a member of Pohick Church and also served as a vestryman for the parish.

During the Revolutionary War, Dr. Brown played an important role as director of hospitals in the Middle Department. In this role, he was responsible for overseeing a network of 30 hospitals throughout Pennsylvania. He did this during one of the most challenging periods of the war in the winter of 1778. This was the winter when Washington’s army was encamped at Valley Forge.

William Brown
William Brown Historic Marker outside of Pohick Church

The winter at Valley Forge was not harsh because of the weather. On the contrary, the weather was relatively mild compared to other winters. However, the real threat to the army was the pervasive sickness and disease that spread. As a result, Dr. Brown served at a crucial moment. He made significant strides in the advancement of medical care and standardization of medical practice. In fact, his work culminated in one of the first military medical manuals known as the American Pharmacopeia.

Dr. Brown and George Washington continued to remain friends after America achieved independence. Moreover, Dr. Brown was one of several doctors that Washington called upon to assist his family, hired staff, and slaves who lived and worked at Mount Vernon. On one occasion dated February 6, 1785, Washington wrote the following:

Doctr. Brown was sent for to Frank (waiter in the House) who had been seized in the Night, with a bleeding of the Mouth from an Orifice made by a Doctr. Dick who some days before attempted in vain to extract a broken tooth & coming about 11 Oclock stayed to Dinner & returned afterwards. [5]

Dr. Brown died in 1792. He is buried at Pohick Church. Since he died in 1792, Dr. Brown is not the same Dr. Brown that was with George Washington on his deathbed on December 14, 1799.

Dr. Brown’s home can still be seen in Old Town Alexandria. His grave is located at Pohick Church in Lorton, Virginia. Dr. Brown was more than Washington’s friend and physician. He was an American Patriot, who served during one of the lowest moments of the Revolutionary War. His service and sacrifice should be remembered and venerated. The example of Dr. Brown and so many brave American patriots should inspire current and future generations of Americans.

Washington's Town House in Alexandria, Virginia
Washington's Town House in Alexandria, Virginia

Dr. William Brown Plaque
Dr. William Brown Plaque

Works Cited


[1] “[Diary entry: 5 July 1774],” Founders Online, National Archives,

[2] “From George Washington to John Augustine Washington, 11 July 1774,” Founders Online, National Archives,

[3] “Fairfax County Resolves, 18 July 1774,” Founders Online, National Archives,

[4] “[Diary entry: 6 July 1774],” Founders Online, National Archives,

[5] “[Diary entry: 6 February 1785],” Founders Online, National Archives,


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