Jane Phillips: Meet the 'Spanish Lady'
Jose Mariano Hernandez was born in the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, Fla., in 1788, and became a very influential man. He was a lawyer, planter, politician and soldier.
Once Spain withdrew from Florida, he changed his name to Joseph Marion Hernandez and pledged allegiance to the United States. He was the first Hispanic to serve in the U.S. Congress. During the Second Seminole War (1835-38), he was appointed a brigadier general. In his later years, he died on his plantation in Cuba.
In 1823, Louisa Caroline (Lucia Catalina) was born the seventh of 10 children of Joseph Hernandez. She grew up in an affluent family and was exposed to the best of life that could be had in 19th century Florida.
Having received a most thorough education at the best literary institutions in the Union, her many graces and accomplishments added to the natural sprightliness of her disposition, rendered her the delight of every circle in which she mingled.”
At 20, Louisa met aristocrat widower George Lawrence Washington of Kinston — an alleged distant relative of George Washington. He went to Florida as surveyor of Government Lands and to locate timber for the use of the Navy, perhaps hired by his brother-in-law Alexander Graham, Secretary of the Navy at that time.
Within a year, they married. In 1856, George brought his wife to Kinston where he practiced law and engaged in various business ventures. They lived in a house at the end of Blount Street and facing East Street; the house is no longer there. Louisa was known by her Kinston friends and neighbors as a woman with a pure and gentle nature.
Louisa and George had eight children and they were christened in St. Augustine Catholic Church. It is believed Louisa died in childbirth in Kinston. That was in the late spring of 1859.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church records in Kinston state she died May 12, 1859 and was buried two days later. Her obituary states following the funeral service a concourse of followers followed the casket to the grave where she was buried.
It’s a bit strange that research has found a tombstone for Louisa in Oakdale Cemetery in Atlanta; the tombstone gives her correct date of birth and death and that she was married to George Washington of Kinston, N.C. There are also tombstones for her mother and one of her daughters at that location. No tombstone in Kinston has been found.
This Spanish Lady who once walked the streets of Kinston made her mark on the community as a tablet was erected by the members of St Mary's Parish to her memory; it may be seen in the church in Kinston as a memento of her many virtues and Christian graces.
In 2005, a team of anthropologists conducted a dig on the property once owned by Gov. Richard Caswell and later the Washington Family. Two coffins were exhumed and taken to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D. C., where Doug Owsley, a world-famous forensic scientist, examined the remains hoping to identify the remains as Gov. Caswell.
However, Caswell was never identified as one of the remains. One was identified as a woman of child-bearing years and had borne children, had black hair and a comb such as Spanish ladies wore in their hair was found in the iron coffin. The iron coffin type was determined to have been one of the period when Louisa died. It was surmised by those present that the remains were those of Louisa Hernandez Washington.
St. Mary's Episcopal Church records
Flagler County Families
Yale University Alumni Records
American Advocate Obituary
Martha M. Marble