St. Mary's Cemetery

Unveiling the Stories of Cavan Boa: George Washington’s Tailor and Revolutionary War Veteran


Unveiling the stories behind the notable figures of history can provide a fascinating insight into the past. One such significant individual is Cavan Boa, who played a crucial role in the American Revolutionary War and held the prestigious title of George Washington’s tailor.

Cavan Boa: An Overview

Cavan Boa (1756 – August 20, 1798) – also known as Caven Bowe – holds a distinguished place in the annals of American history. His interment at St. Mary’s Cemetery was the very first recorded burial according to the records of The Basilica of St. Mary.

Not Just a Tailor: Cavan’s Legacy

Beyond his work with threads and fabrics, Cavan’s life was deeply intertwined with the nascent United States:

The Revolutionary Veteran: Boa demonstrated notable bravery as a distinguished Corps of Artillery member during the American Revolutionary War. While most of the regiment service was in the Hudson Highlands, some companies were integral to Washington’s main army from 1777 to 1779 and played pivotal roles in landmark battles like Trenton and Princeton.

Cannon, likely a 3-pounder, displayed at Washington’s Crossing Historic Park, PA, with the Delaware River as a backdrop. From Wikipedia.

Washington’s Tailor: Cavan’s skills as a tailor were sought after by none other than George Washington. Their relationship was multi-faceted; Cavan was once an indentured servant of Washington for three years.

Slave Owner: Boa once owned Samuel Reeder, an enslaved individual, whom he purchased from the estate of Samuel Harrison in January 1797 for £9,,6 (approximately $5,294.96 in 2023 dollars when adjusted for inflation). Upon Boa’s death, Samuel Reeder became the property of Boa’s wife, Margaret Boa.

Entrepreneurial Spirit: He managed a thriving tailor shop on Union Street alongside his wife, Margaret.

Life After Cavan: Margaret’s Journey

Cavan’s passing marked the end of one chapter but the beginning of another for Margaret:

New Beginnings: Margaret found love again and became the first recorded bride at St. Mary by marrying Matthew Robinson.

From Tailoring to Groceries: Matthew’s profession differed notably from Cavan’s, as he ventured into the grocery and ice sectors.

Family Life: Together, the couple had three children. Initially, they settled at 515 Duke Street but eventually made their way to Washington, D.C.

Tragedy Strikes: Margaret’s life was cut short at 27 in 1806.

In Memory of
Consort of Matthew Robinson
who departed this life
Oct. 30th 1806, Aged 27 Years.
Section F


The tale of Cavan Boa serves as a testament to the diverse tapestry of individuals who contributed to the early history of the United States. From his service in the Revolutionary War to his association with George Washington and his family’s subsequent legacy, the Boa narrative is a captivating piece of Americana.

In memory of
CAVAN BOA, who depart
ed this life, August 20th, 1798
Aged 33 years
All you that come my grave and see
prepare yourself to follow me
Repent and turn to God in time,
for I was taken in my prime.
Section F

Sources of Information

Healy, R. (1987). Genealogical Abstracts from 18th-century Virginia Newspapers. Genealogical Publishing Com.

Greely, M. (1996). Those Upon Whom the Curtain Has Fallen: Past and Present Cemeteries of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia With Walking Tours of Old Town (Alexandria Archaeology Publications No. 88). Alexandria Archaeology Office of Historic Alexandria City of Alexandria, Virginia.

Pippenger, W. E. (2014). Husbands and Wives Associated with Early Alexandria, Virginia (and the Surrounding area). Heritage Books.

Pippenger, W. E. (2014). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria (Vol. 5). Heritage Books.

Guy, K. (Parish Historian). (2022, December 18). From the Archives. The Basilica of St. Mary’s Worship Bulletin. Also, see the URL [].

George Washington’s Mount Vernon. (n.d.). Cavan Boa (Caven Bowe). From URL [].

O Say Can You See: Early Washington, D.C., Law & Family. (n.d.). Samuel Reeler vs. Matthew Robinson. Retrieved September 20, 2023, from []

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By David

As a public historian, I am dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of Alexandria, Virginia, and the surrounding region. With a deep passion for bringing the past to life, I serve my community in this meaningful role.

Before this, I enjoyed a fulfilling career as a businessman and entrepreneur. Now retired, I have found a new sense of purpose in my work as a public historian.

Since 2015, I have had the privilege of serving as the Superintendent of the historic Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium, located within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex in Alexandria. This cemetery holds a special place in my family's history, as it was started in the early 1800s by the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, a historic congregation dating back to 1772 that is situated one mile east in the heart of Old Town. The cemetery is the final resting place of my parents, and the Meeting House is where I have worshipped for over 60 years.

As a public historian, I am thrilled to lead tours of the Wilkes Street Cemetery, which has thirteen cemeteries in a complex with over 35,000 interments. It is considered the most historic cluster of cemeteries in the United States. These sacred grounds offer a fascinating glimpse into the story of Alexandria and its people. I also enjoy guiding tours of nearby Civil War battlefields, combining my passion for history with the compelling narratives of those who fought and fell on these hallowed grounds, bringing their stories to life. I primarily lead tours of Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, and the Antietam Battlefields, along with tracing the footsteps of those involved in the Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865. I am also a licensed tour guide in Washington, D.C.

To further engage the community, I manage a blog focused on Alexandria's cemeteries, where the many souls buried across the city are memorialized. I am also an active Board Member of the Alexandria Historical Society and the Lee-Fendall House Museum.

Whether you are a resident or a visitor to the area, I invite you to explore Alexandria's rich history by joining one of my cemetery or battlefield tours, reading my blog, or connecting with me on social media. It is my sincere pleasure to bring the city's captivating past to life and serve my community meaningfully.

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