John Custis II (ca. 1629-1696)

Artist: Unknown
Date: ?

John Custis II emigrated from Rotterdam ca. 1650. He was the son of Henry and Johanna Custis. This is the Custis portrait most likely to have featured a man in a suit of armor (according to family tradition). Custis became a captain of the militia in 1664, a colonel in 1673, and in 1692 became commander in chief of all forces on the Eastern Shore. He was a major figure in Governor William Berkeley’s forces during Bacon’s Rebellion and sheltered Berkeley at Arlington during the conflict. The subject’s portrait surely hung at Arlington during his lifetime. His son, John Custis III, recorded that it was hanging in “his hall,” which was likely Wilsonia, near Arlington, which was his primary residence. After that, it is unclear where the portrait hung before being inherited by John Parke Custis (1754-1781) and hung at Abingdon, where 19th-century descendants remembered it. This portrait is presumed destroyed.

Reference: In John Custis III’s will, “unto my son John Custiss my fathers Picture now hanging in my hall,” quoted in Josephine Little Zuppan, ed., The Letterbook of John Custis IV of Williamsburg, 1717-1742 (2005), 39, fn.4; “standing in my hall” in John Custis III, December 3, 1708, in Letters to George Washington and Accompanying Papers, Published by the Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Virginia.

Possible reference: “I recd by Cap Halladay my account Curt; wch is right, and my great grandfathers picture to satisfaction, and return you A thousand thanks for your Care in that affair.” John Custis IV to Micajah Perry, 1717, in Zuppan, Letterbook of John Custis IV, 38-39. The word “great” is crossed out in the original, so it is unclear if John Custis was referring to grandfather (John Custis II) or his great grandfather (Henry Custis).

Possible reference: “There were some portraits of the Custis family at Abington, on the Potomac, which have long since crumbled into dust. One who bore the name of Custis is remembered as being represented as a soldier in a complete suit of armor,” in Benson J. Lossing, Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington (1860), 21.

See: Encyclopedia Virginia; The Custis Family Migration (Colonial Williamsburg Archaeology) 

Family: Custis
Decade: Unknown