Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Mary (Ball) Washington 1708 ~ 1789


Mary Ball Washington

Mary Washington, the mother of Washington, was descended from an ancient family of note which emigrated from England in 1650, and settled in Lancaster, Virginia, on the Rappahannock River. Mary, the youngest child of her father, Joseph Ball, was born in 1706, at Epping Forest, the family homestead, which he inherited from his father, William Ball, the first emigrant. Joseph Ball was made Colonel by Governor Spotswood in 1710, and known as Colonel Ball, of Lancaster. Five years before that time he executed a will in which is found the following:

"I give and bequeath unto my daughter, Mary, four hundred acres of land in Richmond County, in ye freshes of Rappa-h-n River, being part of a patten of 1,600 acres to her, ye said Mary, and her heirs forever."

She was then five years old.

We also have the Ball coat-of-arms as follows:

"The escutcheon has a lion rampant, a coat-of-mail and a shield bearing two lions and a fleur-de-lys. The crest is a helmet with closed visor. Above the lion is a broad bar, half red and half gold. On the scroll which belongs to it are these words: 'Coelumque tueri.'

"When Mary was twenty-one her mother died, and she was taken by her brother Joseph, a lawyer of London, to his home near that city in 1728-29. In 1729 she met Augustine Washington, a son of an eminent and wealthy family of illustrious English descent, and described as "a stately and handsome gentleman." In the prime of early maturity, a widower with two little sons, he had come to England to look after an estate left him by his grand-father. Renewing, it is supposed, a passing acquaintance, he was captivated with Mary Bail and married her. They returned to this country and to his Westmoreland plantation of Wakefield on the Potomac, where George Washington, their son, was born February 11, 1732. In 1735 their dwelling was burned to the ground.

Instead of rebuilding upon the site of the old homestead, Augustine Washington removed to his plantation "Pine Grove," in Stafford County, upon the Rappahannock River, opposite Fredericksburg, where he died August 12, 1743, aged forty-nine years. They took him back to Westmoreland County, and laid him in the family vault at Wakefield, and the widowed mother returning to the home thus suddenly bereft of its honored head, gathered about her the fatherless children and "took up with both hands life as God had made it for her."

Her own five, and the two little lads who had been left to her guardianship, with their several estates, were a burden and responsibility to appall the stoutest heart; but she shrank not from it, and so faithfully and judiciously did she carry the burden, that she won and retained the affection and respect of all till her life's end, turning over, with added value, the shares of her step-sons' property when they arrived at maturity. We know with what care and judgment she trained her own eldest born for usefulness; how her wisdom and firmness kept him from service on a British man-of-war, and saved him to his country. The civil engineer of sixteen years of age soon became the brave and successful soldier and officer, and defender and hope and pride of his country, the great General who struggled through eight weary years of war to its triumphant close. Early in the struggle her son earnestly entreated her to leave her plantation of "Pine Grove," and take refuge in the town for better protection and safety, which she finally but reluctantly did, establishing herself in a snug home near her only daughter, Betty (Mrs. Fielding Lewis) where during those "weary eight years" she labored incessantly with her servants in making homespun clothing for the suffering soldiers, herself knitting the stockings.

Her big Bible with its family record of births, marriages and deaths, is now the precious possession of her descendant, Mrs. Ella Barett Washington. On "Kenmore" the home plantation of her daughter, rises a gentle eminence overlooking the valley of the Rappahannock and the lovely amphitheater of hills rising from it, where are clustered a mass of bold rocks sheltered by fine old oaks looking towards her old home, "Pine Oak." This spot was a favorite resort for the mother for meditation and prayer. The hours spent there, her children and grand-children held sacred, and never intruded upon. It is still venerated as "Oratory Rock." On August 25, 1789, after a painful illness, in unfaltering faith, she passed from earth and was buried at her own request at this spot, sacred to her for all future time unto the Resurrection Mom.

Though the life of Mrs. Washington was a changeful one, and had its full measure of sorrow and joy, it affords little material for the biographer. Yet, as someone said in writing about her years ago, none who take an interest in the history of the Father of this country, can fail to desire some knowledge of her who shared his thoughts and plans, and was associated with him in the great events of his life. And, indeed, few women have been called to move in the drama of existence amid scenes so varied and imposing; and few have sustained their part with so much dignity and discretion. In the shades of retirement or in the splendor of eminent station, she was the same unostentatious, magnanimous woman. Through the gloom of adverse fortune she walked by the side of the chief, ascending with him the difficult path that had opened before him, and at length stood with him on the summit, in the full light of his power and renown.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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