NW Quadrant, West of Rock Creek, Georgetown, Architecturally Significant, Civil War Era, Female, Translators

Jessie Benton Frémont
(May 31, 1824 – December 27, 1902)

Georgetown Female Seminary, Now the Colonial Apartments, 1305-1315 30th St. NW, Georgetown neighborhood, DC. Marked by an historic plaque.

Frémont, the daughter of the renowned senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton, was raised in DC and tutored by her father, with whom she was very close. He shared his ample home library with her, and taught her politics, history, literature, and languages. Fluent in French and Spanish, Frémont helped her father translate government documents.

While a student at Georgetown Female Seminary, at age 15, she met her future husband, ten years her senior, then an Army Lieutenant visiting DC to report on explorations in the American West. They became engaged, against her parents’ objections, and when he returned to DC from further military duties, they eloped in 1841.

In the early days of their marriage, Frémont lived with her husband on Army bases, but she returned to DC in 1842 when pregnant with her first child. She would return again in 1848 for the birth of her second child (who died within a year) and her fifth and final child in 1855. Other than those brief stays, however, Frémont spent the rest of her life assisting her husband’s work as an explorer for US territorial expansion and in politics. John C. Frémont became known as the “Pathfinder to the West” and his wife was his official chronicler and recorder. Her husband was instrumental in the conquest of California, after which time they settled into San Francisco society. Frémont was active in her husband’s campaigns for Senator (a successful run) and US President (lost to James Buchanan).

During the Civil War, John was appointed Commander of the Department of the West by President Abraham Lincoln, and Frémont organized the Soldier’s Relief Society in St. Louis and served in the Western Sanitary Commission. In later years, after losing railroad investments and declaring bankruptcy, Frémont began writing books and articles to help support her family. Her husband’s final service was as Governor of the Territory of Arizona. After his death, she was granted a widow’s pension and moved to Los Angeles.

Frémont’s books include memoirs, travel books, and fiction. Her titles include: The Story of the Guard: A Chronicle of the War (1863), A Year of American Travel (1878), Far-West Sketches (1890), The Will and the Way Stories (1891), and The Origin of the Frémont Explorations (1891). She also helped her husband write Memoirs of My Life (1887).

Also home of Mabel Loomis Todd and Emma Willard.

Year: 1820
The Georgetown Female Seminary was commissioned by Miss Lydia English; the architect is unknown. English ran the school in this location from 1820 to 1861, after which time it served as a temporary Civil War Hospital. It was built with 19 bedrooms, a library, and several parlors, and had running hot water. In 1870, the building was converted to apartments.