In 1873, descendants of the Ford family decided to offer the family mansion for sale at an auction. On the day of the sale, four men, like-minded in their concern for the preservation of Washington's Headquarters as a public historic site, fortuitously met at the auction. Without having had prior discussions, these men agreed then and there to purchase the building, preventing this "sacred relic" falling into unsympathetic hands. As a result of their joint action, we enjoy today one of the finest and best preserved sites of George Washington' s military residence of the American Revolutionary period.
Thomas Randolph, the first president of the Washington Association, was born in 1826 in New Brunswick, where his father was founder and editor of the newspaper, The Fredonian. He was in the New Jersey Legislature in 1861. In 1866, he moved to Morristown. He served three years as governor of the state starting in 1869, and later became a U.S. senator.
William Van Vleck Lidgerwood, born in Morristown, was a stepson of the locally well-known owner of the Speedwell Iron Works, Judge Stephen Vail. For several years, he was United States Consul General in Rio de Janeiro. Though he later moved to London, he maintained his interest in Morristown and made substantial gifts to the Washington Association.
George Halsey, who succeeded Randolph as president of the Washington Association, was born in Springfield, New Jersey. Halsey's historical interests were apparent prior to his Washington Association involvement, as he was already active in the New Jersey Historical Society and the sons of the American Revolution. During his career, Halsey served in Congress.
Nathaniel Norris Halsted was interested in the military, serving in the State Militia and being involved with the New Jersey military camps during the Civil War. Halsted was undoubtedly influenced by his wife, a Vice-regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which had acquired Washington's estate twenty years previously.