He was the youngest of eleven children of a wealthy merchant father, a Scottish immigrant who had sided with the rebels during the Revolution.
Washington Irving was born on April 3, 1783, in New York City, to William Irving, Sr. and Sarah (née Sanders). From an early age, Washington was influenced by the literary tastes of his older brothers William and Peter.
When Irving was around the age of 15, yellow fever had broken out in Manhattan, so his parents sent him away with some friends in Tarrytown, New York. Tarrytown and the near-by village of Sleepy Hollow are, of course, where his later stories are set. It was during this time too that he first saw the Catskill Mountains, which set the scene for his character Rip Van Winkle's 20-year sleep.