Maria Carter Syphax (1804-1886) was the daughter of Arianna Carter, an enslaved maid of George and Martha Washington, and was owned by George Washington Parke Custis. In 1821 She married Charles Syphax. In 1826, Mr. Custis gave Maria Carter Syphax and her children their freedom and a seventeen-acre plot within the Arlington plantation. The Syphaxes had ten children who lived as free persons on the estate. According to Syphax family tradition, George Washington Parke Custis was the father of Maria Carter Syphax.
Many of their children became leaders in the Arlington community. Their son William Syphax served as Chief Messenger for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Through William’s efforts, his mother was able to retain the rights to her Arlington property when the U.S. government confiscated Custis’s estate after the Civil War.