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Letter signed by George Washington, kept in Mission Hills mansion, now up for auction

By Betsy Webster

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    SHAWNEE, Kansas (KCTV) — A Mission Hills man is reluctantly letting go of a very personal piece of American history: A letter handwritten and signed by America’s first president.

He bought the artifact after discovering he is descended from George Washington’s family.

The letter hung for years in Dr. Michael Frost’s 10,000-square-foot home. The home went up for sale when Frost went into memory care. The new owners close on the house this week. The letter is among several Colonial-era artifacts now being auctioned by Circle Auction.

“Genealogy has always been a hobby,” Frost said from the lobby of the care home where he now lives.

Some days, he’s more lucid than others. His memory was sharp and his tone full of enthusiasm when KCTV5 sat down with him at his care home in Shawnee.

“I wanted to know more about my family, so I just did the research when I was in my late teens to early 20s,” Frost recounted. “I was just excited about doing the research. It wasn’t to find someone famous. I mean, it really wasn’t. I just wanted to know who they were.”

He eventually traced his lineage to Betty Washington, George Washington’s only sister. He read all he could find about her until he felt like he knew her.

“I love her dearly,” he said.

Years later, he saw someone was selling a letter written by George Washington in 1797. It was a dinner invitation. Frost had to have it.

“Because two sides of my family were talking and they were going to have dinner together,” Frost explained. “I thought, ‘Gosh that is so unique.’ You know? It’s personal.”

Sure, it was exciting to trace his ancestry back to a family so significant, but that’s not the part that matters most to him.

“I’ve never cared so much about who begat who begat who,” Frost said. “I want to know them as people.”

A successful career as an educational psychologist, helping struggling adolescents with their future, helped to fund his collecting of things from the past. But his number one message has nothing to do with prestige. It’s about preserving family history, whoever you are.

“Search for family papers, letters and documents before they’re thrown away,” Frost implored. “We are human, and we have a story to tell. It doesn’t make a difference if we are famous or not.”

The online auction ends on May 20.

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