Syphax Family history ties to Freedman's Village
February 28, 2012
Freed but still living under scrutiny of the government, former slaves of Freedman's Village struggled to get recognition and respect.
One Family in particular, the Syphax's, have a more connected historical tie to the land where Freedman's Village once stood. Charles and Maria Syphax were originally owned by George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon. After the former president's death, Martha's grandson from her first marriage, George Washington Parke Custis, inherited the Mount Vernon slaves, according to the Syphax Family history on the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, Virginia, website.
Upon completion of all construction on Custis's new home the Custis-Lee Mansion which is now in Arlington National Cemetery, Charles became the supervisor of the formal dining room. Maria, his wife, also worked inside the house as a maid and was in contact with Custis Family members often, according to the museum's website.
Maria, with her two children Elinor and William Syphax, were granted their freedom in 1826 and were to inherit 17.5 acres of the 1,100 acre Custis-Lee Mansion property, also known as Arlington House.
"John Syphax [Charles and Maria's son] was superintendent of the poor, which is the equivalent of the welfare system," said Craig Syphax, president of Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, Virginia, and great-nephew of John Syphax. "He was in charge of making sure the poor got what they needed if they were free."
John also served on the Board of Supervisors in 1872 and was elected Delegate to the General Assembly and served as a Justice of the Peace in the Arlington Magisterial District, according to a Freedman's Village pamphlet by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy
His brother Austin, as mentioned in the pamphlet, served as Justice of the Peace in 1875.
Syphax also explained his grandfather, William Syphax another son of Maria and Charles, was a prominent lawyer and politician.
Today, only Craig and his brother live in Arlington, the rest of the Family have either passed away or moved out of the area.
Charles died in 1869 and his wife in 1885. Both were buried in a Family plot where Henderson Hall currently stands, however, they were re-interred in 1944 at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Md.