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A short story by Etta Belle Walker

The Mary Washington House

Title:     The Mary Washington House
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

There stands on the corner of Charles and Lewis Streets in Fredericksburg, Virginia, an unpretentious but charming little house. There is no spot in America more sacred. It was the home of Mary Ball Washington, wife of Augustine Washington, and the mother of George Washington.

It is recorded that on Dec. 8, 1761 lots 107 and 108 upon which the Mary Washington House stands were sold by Fielding Lewis and Betty, his wife, with all houses, trees, woods, under-woods, profits commodities, hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever, to Michael Robinson for L250 and bought by George Washington Sept. 18, 1772 for L275.

After remodeling and adding to the house, George Washington moved his mother from the Ferry Farm, which had been her home since 1739, to Fredericksburg and it was here that she spent her last days.

It was here that she received the courier sent by General Washington to tell her of the victory at Trenton. It was here that Washington came after the Battle of Yorktown with the French and American officers and she received him with thanksgiving after an absence of nearly seven years. It was here he came in December, 1783, when Fredericksburg gave the Peace Ball in his honor, and it was at that time that he made his memorable reply to Mayor McWilliams in which he spoke of Fredericksburg as "the place of my growing infancy."

It was here that the Marquis de LaFayette came to pay his respects to her, who was the mother of the greatest American. She received him in her garden, met all his fine phrases with dignity and gave him her blessing when he bade her goodbye.

It was here, March 12, 1789, that Washington came to receive his mother's blessing before he went on to New York to his inauguration. This was his last farewell to his mother. She did not not live to see him again. It was here she died Aug. 25, 1789. Town and country assembled to do honor at her burial. Her remains lie near the "Meditation Rock" where she requested to be buried and a stately monument "erected by her country-women" marks her last resting place.

Except for a portion of the house at Epping Forest, where she was born, the Mary Washington House in Fredericksburg is the only house now standing in which Mary Washington lived.

It passed into various hands and finally in 1890 it was about to be sold to the Chicago Exposition but through Mrs. Robert C. Beale and Mrs. Spotswood W. Carmichael, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities was appealed to. Mrs. Joseph Bryan of blessed memory was at that time President and from her own means advanced the money to purchase it, $4,500, and the place was saved.

In 1929, through the generosity of Mr. George A. Ball of Muncie, Ind., the first work of restoration on the house was done. Mr. Ball also purchased for the A. P. V. A. the adjoining house and garden for a home for the custodian.

In 1930 the house was redecorated and refurnished by Mr. and Mrs. Francis P. Garvan. The original colors have been restored and contemporary fabrics used for all draperies and coverings.

The furnishings, with the exception of a few pieces that belonged to Mary Washington, are authentic antiques loaned from the Mabel Brady Garvan Institute of American Arts and Crafts at Yale University. The original mantels and paneling are interesting.

The old English-type garden is especially beautiful. The boxwood she planted still grows there, as well as the flowers of her time. The original sun-dial still marks the sunny hours.

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Etta Belle Walker's short story: Mary Washington House