Mary Ball Washington

Mary Ball Washington, born Mary Ball (born sometime between 1707 to 1709 – August 25, 1789), was the second wife of Augustine Washington, a planter in Virginia, and the mother of George Washington, the first President of the United States, and five other children.

Mary Ball Washington
Mary Ball Washington(Pine)
Mary Ball

sometime between 1707 to 1709
DiedAugust 25, 1789 (aged 80–81)
Augustine Washington
(m. 1731, his death)
ChildrenGeorge Washington
Betty Washington Lewis
Samuel Washington
John Augustine Washington
Charles Washington
Mildred Washington
Parent(s)Joseph Ball
Mary Montague
RelativesBushrod Washington (grandson)

Early life

Mary Ball Washington house, 1200 Charles Street, Fredericksburg, Stafford County, Virginia. Pathway
Mary Ball Washington House, 1200 Charles Street, Fredericksburg, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1927. The house was originally built in 1761 and has later additions.

Mary Ball was born sometime between 1707 and 1709 at either Epping Forest, her family's plantation in Lancaster County[1] or at a plantation near the village of Simonson, Virginia.[2] She was the only child of Col Joseph Ball (1649-1711) and his second wife, Mary Johnson Ball. Joseph was born in England and emigrated to Virginia as a child.[3][4][5] Fatherless at three and orphaned at twelve, Mary Ball was placed under the guardianship of George Eskridge, a lawyer, in accordance with the terms of her mother's will, for whom her son George Washington, was named, consistent with the naming conventions at the time.[6] Her paternal grandfather was William Ball (1615-c.1680); he left England for Virginia in the 1650s. His wife Hannah Atherold arrived later along with their four children, including Mary’s father Joseph.[4]

Married life

Augustine Washington had sailed to Britain on business (and to visit his sons who had been sent to school there) but on his return, he discovered that his first wife, Jane Butler Washington, had died in the interim. George Eskridge supposedly arranged an introduction between his friend, Washington, and his ward Mary Ball,[2] with the two marrying on March 6, 1731 when she was 22. She was wealthy by the standards of the day and brought at least 1000 acres of inherited property to the marriage.[2] The couple had the following children:

Augustine died in 1743 when son George was 11 years old. On his deathbed, "Gus" gave his son George three books on prayer. In some of those books, now in the Lyceum in Boston, Mary Ball Washington, also wrote her name. Unlike most widows in Virginia at the time, Mary Ball Washington never remarried. When George was 14, his older half-brother Lawrence Washington, who commanded a unit of Virginia Militia that served on board with British Admiral Edward Vernon, for whom Mount Vernon was named, arranged for young George to become a British Navy Midshipman. However, Mary's highly respected half-brother, Joseph Ball, under whom the Virginia House of Burgesses had voted money to pay the cost for Virginia's young men to go study for the ministry, wrote a reply to her letter requesting advice, wherein he said do not allow your son George to join the British Navy, for they will "...treat him worse than a slave or a dog."

Mary managed the family estate and 276 acres of Ferry Farm (a plantation) with the help of others until her eldest son came of age and well beyond. She lived to see that her son, George Washington, commanded the Continental Army to independence and be inaugurated as the first President of the United States in 1789. After learning that he had been elected President in April 1789, George Washington traveled from Mount Vernon to visit his mother in Fredericksburg. He was accompanied by Martha Washington's grandson George Washington Parke Custis. George Washington knew his Mother was ill. She was suffering from breast cancer, the disease to which she eventually succumbed, but, he sought her blessing as he embarked on another service to his Country: the new concept of "The Presidency of the United States."

Here, as popularly told, the stories and lore—probably begun and perpetuated by Custis—take over. It is said that Mrs. Washington informed her son of her poor health and expected to die soon. Further, the story continues, that her son, George, said that he would need to decline to serve as President. George's mother Mary responded, saying "But go, George, fulfill the high destinies which Heaven appears to have intended for you for; go, my son, and may that Heaven’s and a mother’s blessing be with you always."[7][8] This purely legendary account is frequently cited as true, but cannot be verified.

What can be documented is that he received her approval and, of course, left Fredericksburg and made his way to New York City where he was inaugurated at the end of April.


After a lengthy illness, on August 25, 1789, Mary Ball Washington died of breast cancer[9] at her home in Fredericksburg, Virginia.[10]


While there is a legend that Mrs. Washington was said to be openly opposed to her son's revolutionary politics and, according to French officers based in Virginia during the war, she was a Loyalist sympathizer,[11] there is no credible source to support that legend. The facts are that other than her son George who was Commander in Chief of the Continental forces (Army and Navy), Mary's other three sons Samuel, John Augustine, and Charles, all served in the Virginia Militia. Her son-in-law Fielding Lewis (husband to her daughter Betty), was in charge of the Fredericksburg Gunnery or Gun Manufactory. The gunnery works made muskets for use by American Revolutionary forces, and ended up almost bankrupting Lewis in the process.[12]

Some interpretations of Mary Washington label her "difficult", at best. But, she went against the social conventions of the times by not re-marrying and taking on farm management responsibilities. Of course, had she re-married, she faced the possibility that her children (George and the others) would not be entitled to the rights of the property (real and personal) that she had. Stubborn, perhaps, but, other interpretations might say she was selflessly looking out for her family.

Mary Washington was by no means poor despite the fact that she petitioned the Government of Virginia claiming, in response to a Virginia government notice to citizens to do so, asking to be reimbursed for farm animals, horses and cattle that she gave to support the American war effort.[13] Her son, George, purchased her a fine house in Fredericksburg, four blocks from some "Prayer Rocks" Mary frequented to pray for her children and only two blocks from Kenmore, where George's sister Betty (Mrs. Fielding Lewis) lived. Mary lived in her home nearby from 1772 until her death in 1789, but George also arranged for water from the "medicine springs" on the Ferry Farm property, her home for many years, to be brought to his mother in town each day. In her will, Mary Washington left George the majority of her lands and appointed him as her executor.

Mary Washington frequently visited her daughter Elizabeth "Betty" and her husband Fielding Lewis at their Kenmore Plantation two blocks from her home in Fredericksburg. She had a favorite "prayer rock" that was close to the Lewis mansion. Tradition has it that this was her favorite retreat for reading and prayer. She asked Betty to bury her there after her death, and her daughter arranged that.


Her third son, John Augustine Washington, was the father of Bushrod Washington, who was nominated by President John Adams to the U.S. Supreme Court, and confirmed by the Senate in 1798, while his Uncle George was living in retirement at Mount Vernon. Charles Town, West Virginia, is named for her fourth son, Charles Washington. The national capital and many other cities, towns and villages are named "Washington" for her first son, George Washington.

The Ancestry of George Washington can also be found on the Mount Vernon website.[14]

Legacy and honors

  • Several monuments have been erected to Mary Ball Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where she lived from 1772 until her death in 1789.
  • The Mary Washington House in Fredericksburg has been preserved by Preservation Virginia (formerly known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities) who, in mid-2012, signed an agreement passing ownership to the "Washington Heritage Museums." The residence is open to the public and operated as a historic house museum. It contains a fine collection of antique furnishings, some with Washington family provenance.
  • Mary Ball Washington is buried on the grounds of Kenmore, the former home of her daughter and son-in-law Fielding and Betty Lewis. Kenmore is operated as a house museum and is open regularly for public tours.
  • A monument to Mary Ball Washington was erected in 1833 and dedicated by President Andrew Jackson. It was left unfinished until the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, a women's organization formed in the late nineteenth century raised money for the monument. The Mary Washington Memorial Association used social events and balls to raise money for the cause. The new memorial was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in 1894 at her grave site. [1]
  • The University of Mary Washington, a public university in Fredericksburg, Virginia, was named for her.
  • The Mary Washington Hospital,[15] located in Fredericksburg, is named for her.

See also


  1. ^ "Mary Ball Washington". MountVernon.Org. Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Maass, John R. (2017). "Mary Ball Washington and the Northern Neck". George Washington's Virginia. Arcadia Publishingi. pp. 28–29. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  3. ^ George Washington: A Biographical Companion - By Frank E. Grizzard
  4. ^ a b "Ball Family". George Washington's Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  5. ^ Gizzard, Frank E. (2002). George Washington: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO. p. 335.
  6. ^ See the appendix of the book Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer for an insightful discussion of four naming conventions in use at the time in Great Britain.
  7. ^ Custis, George Washington Parke; Lee, Mary Randolph Custis; Lossing, Benson John (1860). Recollections and private memoirs of Washington. Derby & Jackson. p. 147.
  8. ^ Schneider, Gregory S. (May 12, 2017). "The mother who made George Washington — and made him miserable". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  9. ^ Thompson, Mary V. (November 9, 2017). "Mary Ball Washington's Battle with Breast Cancer". George Washington's Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Soja, Taylor. "Mary Ball Washington". George Washington's Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  11. ^ George Washington: A Life by Willard Stearne Randall (1997). New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. page 440. ISBN 0-8050-5992-X
  12. ^ Hoppe, Geoff. "Fielding Lewis (1725–1781 or 1782)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Library of Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  13. ^ George Washington: A Life by Willard Stearne Randall (1997). New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. page 440. ISBN 0-8050-5992-X
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 24, 2011. Retrieved 2015-01-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-11-22. Retrieved 2009-11-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ Hamilton, Michelle L. (2017-11-06). Mary Ball Washington - Mother of George Washington. Michelle L. Hamilton. ISBN 9780999568811.

External links

Betty Washington Lewis

Elizabeth "Betty" Washington Lewis (June 20, 1733 – March 31, 1797) was the younger sister of George Washington and the only sister to live to adulthood. She was the first daughter of Augustine Washington and Mary Ball Washington. She is considered a "founding mother" of America.She was born in Westmoreland County, Colony of Virginia, and married Fielding Lewis in 1750. Their children included Lawrence Lewis, who married Eleanor Parke Custis, a granddaughter of Martha Washington, and Robert Lewis. They built a house in Fredericksburg, Kenmore House, in 1770, and owned The Lewis Store until 1776. In later life, she stayed close with her mother. She died in 1797 while visiting her daughter, Betty Lewis Carter, at the Western View Plantation in Culpeper, Virginia, and is buried there.

She and her husband are commemorated with street names in the nearby Ferry Farm subdivision (Fielding Circle and Betty Lewis Drive).


Blakemore may refer to:

Blakemore (surname)

Blakemore, Arkansas, United States

A. F. Blakemore, British food retail, wholesale and distribution company usually known as Blakemore

Frances Blakemore (1906–1997), American-Japanese artist

G. Blakemore Evans (1912–2005), American scholar of Elizabethan literature

Thomas Blakemore (1915–1994), American-Japanese lawyer and philanthropist

Sengstaken–Blakemore tube, used in the management of upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage

Steuart Blakemore Building, museum and historical archive, part of the Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library in Lancaster, Virginia

Charles Washington

Charles Washington (May 2, 1738 – September 16, 1799) was the youngest brother of United States President George Washington. He was a son of Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington.

Craig Shirley

Craigan Paul Shirley (born September 24, 1956) is an American author, lecturer, historian and public affairs consultant. He has written four bestsellers on Ronald Reagan which include Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America (2014), Reagan's Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All (2005), and Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan (2015), and Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980 (2017). He is also the author of Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative (2017), the only authorized biography of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's early career. Shirley is now at work on three new books on Reagan and his book, Mary Ball Washington, a biography about George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, is due out in late November 2019.

Shirley also wrote December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World, a New York Times bestseller published in December 2011 about the attack on Pearl Harbor and its effects on the American people and culture. Most of Shirley's books have gone to paperback. Several documentaries have been produced based in part on the 1976 and 1980 Reagan campaign and December 1941, for the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Shirley earned a degree in History and Political Science from Springfield College. Shirley was named by the London Telegraph, "the best of the Reagan biographers" Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard called him "a prominent biographer of Ronald Reagan," Mark Levin called him "one of the best of the Reagan biographers," and the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard, said Shirley is a "noted Ronald Reagan biographer.” Laura Ingraham has often noted Shirley's authority as a Reagan scholar, and author Romesh Ratnesar noted in a review in The New York Times that he "is a sure-footed and entertaining observer of the hurly-burly of national politics." Reagan's former speechwriter Aram Bakshian refers to him as "the best source for understanding Ronald Reagan." Shirley's third book on Reagan’s final years, the topic which had never been covered before, Last Act, was also highly praised for its rich writing and intricate detail and research. With regard to his fourth book, Reagan Rising, and Reagan speechwriter Clark Judge called Shirley "the most prolific and….most influential" of the Reagan biographers. He compared Shirley’s writings to the Greek general Thucydides, who wrote a history of the Peloponnesian War, after fighting in it. “Reading Craig Shirley has become essential for any Ronald Reagan student,” said Judge.Shirley has also written numerous articles and given dozens of lectures about the life and times and lessons of Ronald Reagan.

Ferry Farm

Ferry Farm (also known as the George Washington Boyhood Home Site or the Ferry Farm Site) is the name of the farm and home at which George Washington spent much of his childhood. The site is located in Stafford County, Virginia, along the northern bank of the Rappahannock River, across from the city of Fredericksburg. In July 2008, archaeologists announced that they had found remains of the boyhood home, which had suffered a fire during 1740, including artifacts such as pieces of a cream-colored tea set probably belonging to George's mother, Mary Ball Washington. In 2015, the George Washington Foundation began constructing a replica of Washington's boyhood home on the site of the original building. The replica house was completed in 2018 and is open to the public.

George H. Steuart (diplomat)

George H Steuart (1907–1998) was an American diplomat and Foreign Service officer, and one of the last consuls of the United States of America in Liverpool, England. He was a major benefactor of the Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library in Lancaster, Virginia, donating by deed of gift the Steuart Blakemore Building, formerly known as the Old Post Office.

George Washington (miniseries)

George Washington is a 1984 American television miniseries directed by Buzz Kulik. The miniseries, released in three parts, chronicles the life of George Washington, the 1st President of the United States, from age 11 to age 51. George Washington is based on the biography by James Thomas Flexner.

The miniseries was shot mainly on location near Washington, D.C. and was aired on April 8, 10 and 11, 1984. Washington's life in the French and Indian War, the second part shows the coming and commencement of the Revolutionary War and the final part describes the victory of the independence from Great Britain. It was nominated for six Primetime Emmys.

John Augustine Washington

John Augustine Washington (1736–1787) was a member of the fifth Virginia Convention and a founding member of the Mississippi Land Company. During the American Revolution he was a member of Westmoreland County's

Committee of Safety and the Chairman of the County Committee for Relief of Boston.

Joseph Ball (Virginia public servant)

Joseph Ball (1649–1711) was an English-born justice, vestryman, lieutenant colonel, and Burgess in the Colony of Virginia.Ball was the father of Mary Ball Washington and the maternal grandfather of George Washington, the First President of the United States.Ball was born on May 2, 1649 in England. He moved to the Colony of Virginia sometime before 1680. He lived at the Epping Forest plantation in Lancaster County, Virginia. Ball served as justice in the county court, a vestryman for his church parish, and as a lieutenant colonel in the county militia. Ball was a representative in the Virginia House of Burgesses, serving in 1698, 1700, and 1702.Ball married twice. His first marriage was to Elizabeth Rogers (or Romney), who he had five children with: Anne Ball, Elizabeth Ball, Esther or Easter Ball, Hannah Ball, and Joseph Ball. Rogers died in the early 1700s. After her death, Ball married Mary Johnson. Johnson was a widow who had two children from a prior marriage. Ball and Johnson had one child, Mary Ball, in 1708. Joseph Ball died in 1711.

Lancaster County, Virginia

Lancaster County is a county located on the Northern Neck in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 11,391. Its county seat is Lancaster.Located on the Northern Neck near the mouth of the Rappahannock River, Lancaster County is part of the Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace wine-growing region recognized by the United States as an American Viticultural Area. Lancaster County is the most densely populated county in the Northern Neck. The largest town in Lancaster County is Kilmarnock, Virginia. The county's area code is '804'.

Lancaster Court House Historic District

The Lancaster Court House Historic District is a national historic district consisting of 25 structures, including one monument, located in Lancaster, Virginia, Lancaster County, Virginia. Four of the buildings make up the Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library, founded in 1958, whose purpose is to preserve and interpret the history of Lancaster County, Virginia.The Lancaster Court House Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

List of George Washington articles

List of articles about (and largely involving) George Washington

Lively, Virginia

Lively is an unincorporated community in Lancaster County in the U. S. state of Virginia. Mary Ball Washington, mother of George Washington, was born in Lively.The origin of the name "Lively" is obscure. Fox Hill Plantation and St. Mary's, Whitechapel are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.State delegate Robert O. Norris, Jr. was born in Lively.

Mary Ball Washington House

The Mary Washington House, at 1200 Charles Street in Fredericksburg, Virginia, is the house in which George Washington's mother, Mary Ball Washington, resided towards the end of her life. It is now operated as an 18th-century period historic house museum, one of several museums in Fredericksburg operated by Washington Heritage Museums. Today it displays 18th-century furniture, and her personal possessions, such as her "best dressing glass."

Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library

The Lancaster VA Historical Society/Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library is a museum and historical archive in the Northern Neck of The Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, United States. Its purpose is to preserve the history of Lancaster County, Virginia. It opened in 1958 and was named in honor of George Washington's mother, Mary Ball, a Lancaster County, Virginia native and granddaughter of the ca 1653 emigrant, William Ball I.

Past curators of the Mary Ball Washington Museum include Thomas M. Thacker II, Cathy Currey, Sarah J. Walker, and Sonja Headley.

Samuel Washington

Samuel Washington (November 27, 1734 [O.S. November 16, 1734] – September 26, 1781) was a colonial American officer and politician who was the brother of United States President George Washington.

St. Mary's, Whitechapel

St Mary's Whitechapel is an Episcopal church in Lancaster, Virginia, founded in 1669, and located three miles south of Lively, in Lancaster County, in the Northern Neck. The parish of St Mary's Whitechapel is notable for being the birthplace of Mary Ball Washington, mother of George Washington.

Steuart Blakemore Building

The Steuart Blakemore Building, originally built in 1900 and used as the Lancaster Post Office until 1931, is a museum and historical archive, part of the Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library in Lancaster, Virginia.

It forms a part of a five building complex, located in the Lancaster Court House Historic District, which also includes the Old Jail (1820), Clerk's Office (c. 1797), and Lancaster House.

The Museum is open to the public, who may view exhibits, participate in educational programs and trace family histories. It seeks to recapture the stories and the rich history of the people of the Northern Neck of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia.

The building has in recent years been used both as storage for the Museum collections and also as the office for the Lancaster County History Book Committee.

University of Mary Washington

The University of Mary Washington (UMW) is a public liberal arts and sciences university located in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Founded in 1908 as the Fredericksburg Teachers College, the institution was named Mary Washington College in 1938 after Mary Ball Washington, mother of the first president of the United States, George Washington. The General Assembly of Virginia changed the college's name to the University of Mary Washington in 2004 to reflect the addition of graduate and professional programs to the central undergraduate curriculum, as well as the establishment of more than one campus.

Each year, students pursue more than 60 majors and programs of graduate and undergraduate study through the university's three colleges: Arts and Sciences, Business, and Education. One third of UMW's undergraduate students study abroad before graduation, taking advantage of 121 study abroad programs in 56 countries. UMW Athletics' 23 teams compete in the NCAA Division III Capital Athletic Conference. Known as the UMW Eagles, 308 of these student-athletes have been named to All-American teams.

UMW has been consistently ranked a top college in the U.S. and in the southern region of the U.S. by The Princeton Review, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report. In 2018, UMW was named a top producer of Peace Corps volunteers for the tenth year in a row, placing fourth among small schools.

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