Caddo Parish

Why is Martha Washington’s great-great granddaughter buried in Shreveport?

One of my favorite books as a child was “George Washington’s Breakfast.” The main character was a modern day little boy with an insatiable curiosity about what George Washington ate for breakfast. I was like that little boy. Actually, I’m still like that little boy. I’m endlessly curious about inane things.

That brings me to this question: How did Martha Washington’s great-great granddaughter end up in a Shreveport cemetery? It’s long hike from Mount Vernon to the Deep South. Join me, won’t you?

The great-great granddaughter in question was Eleanor Angela Isabella Butler Williamson. She died in 1866 at the young age of 34 and was buried at Oakland Cemetery in Shreveport. A marker for her exists to this day.

Isabella– as she was known – was descended from Martha through her mother, Frances Parke Lewis Butler. Her father was Edward George Washington Butler. You’ve probably heard of Edward Butler’s adopted parents: Andrew and Rachel Jackson. Yep. That’s two ties to the White House in one family tree that ends in Shreveport.

From her birth at Mount Vernon, Martha’s great-granddaughter moved to Louisiana and died in Mississippi.

But back to Frances. She was born at Mount Vernon to Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis, who was Martha’s granddaughter. Supposedly, the night before George Washington died, Martha took time away from his deathbed to visit the new baby. Frances’ parents are buried at Mount Vernon, but Frances is buried in Pass Christian, Miss., which seems an odd place for a Martha Washington descendant to be buried. Then I remembered who reared her husband.

Andrew Jackson and his wife, Rachel, never had children of their own, but they opened their home to children who needed shelter. The most permanent additions included 1. Rachel’s nephew, 2. a young Indian boy orphaned by war and sent home to Rachel by Andrew, and 3. Rachel’s great nephew. However, the children of Captain Edward Butler and Rachel’s brother also stayed with the Jacksons for spells.

Edward George Washington Butler was named for the first president, reared by another president and married a George Washington descendant.

The Butlers were known for their military service. Captain Edward Butler and his four brothers fought in the Revolutionary War. Their descendants also served in the military and fought in wars. In fact, they coined a phrase – “Die like a Butler” – which means to die in battle.

Captain Edward Butler left four young children when he died at age 40. Andrew Jackson took them all in. Edward George Washington Butler may have been present when Andrew Jackson triumphed at the Battle of New Orleans. You have to wonder if Jackson’s family joined him in Louisiana for the ensuing celebration and fell in love with the culture. From his birth in Tennessee, Edward would grow up to graduate from West Point, meet his wife in Washington, D.C., own a plantation in Louisiana, winter in Pass Christian through the generosity of friends and die in St. Louis. Something drew him to Louisiana.

The last descendant? Frances left behind grandchildren so that doesn’t seem accurate.

It was Edward George Washington Butler who brought Martha’s descendants to Louisiana. His wife spent her life in the D.C. area, growing up at Mount Vernon and circulating in Washington society, until meeting her husband and moving to Iberville Parish in south Louisiana, where she would rear her children, outlive a son who died on the battlefield (where else) and move to Mississippi after her husband’s finances were destroyed.

Their daughter Isabella, who is buried in Shreveport, married an attorney who was a South Carolina transplant. They settled in Shreveport, where they lived amongst farmers and stagecoach drivers.

So, I guess, love and Andrew Jackson brought Martha’s descendants to Shreveport.

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