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Colonel Dennis Ramsay: Mayor and Confidant of George Washington | A Life Rooted in History and Community

Introduction: A Life Rooted in History and Community

Born as the son of William Ramsay, a founding figure of Alexandria and its first Mayor, Colonel Dennis Ramsay’s upbringing at the Ramsay House laid the foundation for a life intertwined with significant historical events and unwavering community commitment. Dennis was born in Alexandria in 1756. He entered the Revolutionary War as a Captain of the Virginia Continental Line and served with distinction. By the war’s end, he had achieved the rank of Colonel. Beyond his military service, Ramsay was a zealous Mason. He joined Alexandria Lodge 39 in 1783 as a charter member and dedicated 20 years as an officer of the Lodge. Following in his father’s footsteps, Dennis also served as a Mayor of Alexandria. Notably, he was chosen as an honorary pallbearer at George Washington’s funeral.

The Ramsay House, located at the corner of King and North Fairfax in Alexandria, is considered one of Alexandria’s oldest homes. It was initially owned by William Ramsay, a founder, trustee, and the first Lord Mayor of Alexandria in 1749. His son William later occupied the house. It is now the location of the Alexandria Visitor’s Center.

A Patriot’s Call to Service: The Revolutionary War Years

Colonel Dennis Ramsay’s dedication to the cause of independence led them to serve as a Colonel in the Virginia Line during the American Revolutionary War. Their valor on the battlefield underscored their unyielding commitment to shaping the nation’s destiny.

Mayor of Alexandria: Continuing the Family Legacy

Following in their father’s footsteps, Dennis Ramsay’s ascent to Mayor of Alexandria marked a pivotal chapter in their life. As a council member and alderman, their contributions to local governance resonated within the community, leaving an indelible mark on the town’s growth.

A Multifaceted Legacy: Public Service and Commerce

Beyond their civic responsibilities, Dennis Ramsay’s impact extended to trade. Owning a thriving tavern and engaging in merchant pursuits showcased their entrepreneurial spirit and diverse contributions to Alexandria’s economy.

Farewell to a Founding Father: George Washington’s Departure

In a historic moment, Dennis Ramsay delivered a poignant farewell address to none other than George Washington himself at Wise’s Tavern. This significant occasion marked Washington’s departure from Alexandria before assuming the presidency, exemplifying their connection to a momentous era. The speech, written by “Light Horse” Harry Lee, eloquently encapsulated the sentiments of the time and underscored Washington’s significance as he embarked on his presidential journey. If you would like more information on Ramsay’s farewell speech, refer to the article on George Washington’s Mount Vernon website: Ramsay’s farewell speech at Wise’s Tavern. Retrieved from

AGAIN your country demands your care.—Obedient to its wishes, unmindful of your own case, we see you again relinquishing the bliss of retirement; and this too, at a period of life, when nature itself seems to authorize a preference of repose!

Not to extol your glory as a Soldier—Not to pour forth our gratitude for past Services—Not to acknowledge the justice of the unexampled honor which has been conferred upon you, by the spontaneous and unanimous suffrage of three millions of Freemen, in your election to the Supreme Magistracy—Not to admire the patriotism which directs your conduct, do your Neighbours [sic] and Friends now address you.—Themes less splendid, but more endearing, impress our minds.—The first and best of Citizens must leave us! Our Aged must lose their Ornament! Our Youth their Model! Our Agriculture its Improver! Our Commerce its Friend! Our infant Academy its Patron! Our Poor their Benefactor! And the interior Navigation of the Potomack [sic], an event replete with the most extensive utility, already, by your unremitted exertions, brought into partial use—Its Institutor and Promotor!

“Farewell!—Go; and make a grateful people happy; a People who will be doubly grateful, when they contemplate this recent sacrifice for their interest.

“To that Being, who maketh and unmaketh at his will, we commend you; and, after the accomplishment of the arduous business to which you are called, may He restore to us again the best of Men, and the most beloved Fellow-Citizen.

Honoring a Great Man: Pallbearer

Dennis Ramsay’s esteemed position in the community was underscored when he was selected as an Honorary Pallbearer at George Washington’s funeral in 1799—a testament to the deep respect he garnered among contemporaries.

Remembering a Nation’s Loss: George Washington’s Funeral on December 18, 1799

Navigating the Political Currents: Legacy and Challenges

Dennis Ramsay, appointed as one of the “Midnight Justices” by President John Adams, experienced the intricate political dynamics of his time during his judicial service. These appointments, made on the cusp of Adams’ departure from office, aimed to shape the judiciary in favor of the Federalists. However, Thomas Jefferson’s choice not to seat some of these appointees underscored the era’s complex and politically charged landscape.

Personal Bonds and Family Ties: Forging a Lasting Partnership

In matters of the heart, Dennis Ramsay’s lifelong partnership with Jane Allen Tayler stood as a testament to their personal convictions. Their union laid the foundation for a family that would mark Alexandria’s history.

Continuing the Lineage: Family and Posterity

Dennis Ramsay’s legacy extended through multiple generations, with his descendants upholding the family’s storied heritage. Among these notable descendants were Eliza Johnston Ramsay Blacklock and Ann McCarty Ramsay Blacklock, whose unions interwove the Ramsay lineage with that of the Blacklock family. In addition to his impactful legacy, Dennis Ramsay’s personal life was enriched by the presence of nine children. Remarkably, one of his sons was named after the very figure who had played a significant role in American history—George Washington. This son, George Washington Dennis Ramsay (1809-1900), bore the name of the nation’s founding father, thus further connecting the Ramsay family to the historical tapestry of the United States.

A Final Resting Place: Legacy Preserved

Colonel Dennis Ramsay and his beloved wife Jane found their eternal rest side by side in plot 42:72 of the Presbyterian Cemetery. Their resting place is a poignant tribute to a family whose influence reverberates through Alexandria’s annals.

In memory of 
who died / Sep. 1st, 1810 
aged 54 years. 
JANE A[llen Taylor]. 
his wife
died Nov. 24th 1848 
aged 80 years 
died Sep. 23rd 1814 
aged 22 years 
died Oct. 18th, 1822 
aged 35 years.
42:72, obelisk

Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of Colonel Dennis Ramsay

Colonel Dennis Ramsay’s life journey mirrored a nation’s evolution and a community’s growth. As a devoted public servant, confidant of George Washington, and esteemed Mayor of Alexandria, their legacy remains etched in the heart of the city’s history, a testament to the enduring impact of a remarkable individual and their family.

Sources of Information

McGroarty, W. B. (1940). The Old Presbyterian Meeting House at Alexandria, VA 1774 – 1874. Richmond, VA: The William Byrd Press, Inc.

Moore, G. M. (1949). Seaport in Virginia George Washington’s Alexandria. Garrett and Massie, Incorporated.

The Alexandria Association. (1956). Our Town 1749-1865 at Gadsby’s Tavern Alexandria, Virginia. The Dietz Printing Company.

Pippenger, W. E. (1992). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia: Volume 1. Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, and Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc.

Dahmann, D. C. (2002). The Roster of Historic Congregational Members of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. Unpublished.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon. (n.d.). Ramsay’s farewell speech at Wise’s Tavern. Retrieved from [URL

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By David

Hello. My journey has taken me through various paths, from owning businesses to delving deep into the annals of history. For many years, I dedicated myself to researching and leading tours of Civil War Battlefields, bringing the past to life for those eager to learn.

In 2015, I assumed the role of Superintendent of the Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex in Alexandria, Virginia. This cemetery holds a profoundly special place in my heart. It's owned by the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, where I was baptized and raised, and my parents are laid to rest. It's also the place where I will one day be buried. This responsibility allowed me to assist families during pivotal moments and opened a unique avenue for me. Most Saturdays, I lead tours within the complex, combining my passion for teaching history with the stories of the 35,000 souls resting there. To further share these narratives, I established this blog focusing on the lives and tales of those buried in Alexandria.

In addition to my work at the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex, I am honored to serve as a dedicated Board member of the Alexandria Historical Society and the Lee-Fendall House Museum. I am a Northern Virginia Cemetery Consortium member dedicated to preserving endangered cemeteries throughout the region, representing the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex.

If you're intrigued by history or curious about the stories that shaped Alexandria, I invite you to join me on my tours, read my writings, or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram.

One reply on “Colonel Dennis Ramsay: Mayor and Confidant of George Washington | A Life Rooted in History and Community”

[…] During this reception, Mayor Dennis Ramsay addressed Washington as “Mr. President.” This was the first recorded instance of the title being used in this manner, establishing a precedent that continues today.  Notably, Dennis Ramsay, who had the honor of addressing Washington in this historic manner, is buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex. (To read more about Dennis Ramsay, including a transcript of the actual speech, click on this blog [Colonel Dennis Ramsay: Mayor and Confidant of George Washington | A Life Rooted in History and Commu…].) […]

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