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Washington's place in Charles Town history to be marked

November 30, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The 200th anniversary of George Washington's death will be recognized during a special ceremony Dec. 12 at Zion Episcopal Church in Charles Town.

The event, called "Evensong," will include music and an appearance by U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who will temporarily exchange his role of a Congressman for that of a preacher, according to the Rev. John W.T. Weise, interim rector at Zion.

Byrd, D-W.Va., was selected as the keynote speaker because of his great knowledge of American history, particularly involving the Washington family, Weise said.

"He's quite a Washington scholar," Weise said.

Although Washington, who died Dec. 12, 1799, was not buried in Charles Town, many of his family members were.

Local history buffs say they believe there are more members of Washington's family buried in Charles Town than any other place in the country.

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"How accurate that is, I can't say," said Weise.

The only place where there might be more Washingtons buried is in Sunberry, England, where the Washington family originated, according to Weise.

About 77 Washington family members are buried behind the tall brick wall surrounding the cemetery at Zion, and Charles Washington, brother of George Washington, is buried at his former Charles Town home, Happy Retreat.

George Washington was laid to rest in Virginia at Mount Vernon.

The ceremony at Zion will start at 3 p.m. A choir performance will offer selections of music reflective of that to which Washington listened when he was alive, Weise said.

The Washington family's history in Charles Town is a growing source of interest this holiday season.

The town's Christmas in Historic Charles Town this year will tell the story of when Charles Washington and his family lived in town.

Actors portraying the Christmas of 1786, the year Charles Washington founded Charles Town, will greet holiday revelers to explain how Christmas celebrations were simple during the life of the Washingtons. The actors will board a tour bus as it makes stops around town at such landmarks as the Washington House Inn and Happy Retreat.

Weise said the ceremony at Zion is not connected with the town's holiday celebration.

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