Early Life

The Mary Ball Washington Museum is located in Lancaster County, where Mary was born in 1708.

The Parents of Mary Ball

Joseph Ball (1649-1711) was the second son of William Ball, who originally immigrated to Lancaster County from England in 1650.  Joseph Ball was a leader in the militia and a ranking justice on the Lancaster County court making him a member of the gentry class.  He was also elected to the House of Burgesses in 1695 and served until 1702.  Mary Johnson was a young widower who caught the eye of Joseph Ball.  She was most likely a housekeeper for the Ball family.  Historians are not certain of the origins of Mary Johnson’s maiden name.  1

Early Life

Historians do not have an exact date for Mary’s birth, but know that she was born in approximately 1708.  She was born after February 7, 1707 based on a deed which stated, “if the said Colonel Joseph Ball shall take a wife”, indicating Joseph Ball was not married.  Mary was also born before June 25, 1711, because Joseph included Mary Ball as a recipient in his will. 2

For the first few years of Mary’s life, she was raised at her father’s plantation, “Epping Forest”.  Her father died when she was three years old and left Mary three slaves, fifteen cattle, a good feather bed and 400 acres of land up the Rappahannock River. 3  Mary’s mother remarried a man named Captain Richard Hues and they moved to Cherry Point on the Potomac River.  Hues was a member of the parish vestry which made him a part of the gentry, or wealthy class.  When Hughes died, he gave his estate to his wife and her children, including Mary Ball.  After these two marriages, Mary Johnson had secured assets for all of her children. 4

Girlhood at Cherry Point

Colonel George Eskridge, Mary Ball's guardian

Mary Johnson Ball Hues died in 1720 when Mary Ball was only twelve years old.  Mary Ball was put under the guidance of George Eskridge who was the “most prominent lawyer in the Northern neck.” 5   Eskridge knew Mary Ball through his first wife who was related to Mary’s sister, Elizabeth’s, husband. 6

The “Northern Neck” in the early 1700s was one of the wealthy areas in Virginia.  Mary was taught to have excellent manners because she was the daughter of a member of the gentry.  For example, Mary was expected to sit on high chairs with no cushions for an extended period of time with perfect posture.   Because of her social status, her family was friends with the prominent families of the area including the Washingtons, Mercers, and Randolphs.  The traditional dress at the time for women was very proper so Mary would most likely have worn hoop skirts and stiff bodices.  Mary was an avid horse rider and was an accomplished rider by her teens.  She was also able to manage a boat and knew how to handle a gun.  7

Mary continued to live at Cherry Point with her sister Elizabeth Bonum and not with Eskridge. Colonel Eskridge had very little personal contact with Mary which was why Mary was able to stay with her sister at Cherry Point. By the time she was eighteen, Mary had three horses along with numerous acres of land. She was a good candidate for marriage because she could take care of a home and she also brought with her many goods, slaves, cattle and horses.  When John, her half brother, died in 1721, Mary also received 600 acres in his will.  At age 14, Mary had acquired over 1000 acres to her name. 8

Marriage to Augustine Washington

Since Eskridge was Mary’s guardian, he oversaw her land and knew it was a prized asset.  In 1725, the Principio Mine opened in Stafford County which was on land adjacent to Mary Ball’s land.  Eskridge’s brother in law was the manager of the mine company.  His name was Augustine Washington.  Washington was married to Eskridge’s sister in law, Jane Butler.  Washington sailed to England in October of 1729 to negotiate a new contract with Principio Company and when he returned he learned that Jane had unexpectedly died.  Eskridge recommended Mary for Augustine’s second wife due to her immense wealth and assets. 9  Augustine and Mary were married in 1731 at Yeocomico Church in Westmorland County. 10  Augustine and his company gained Mary’s land and mined the 600 acres in Stafford county. 11

Yeocomico Church in Westmorland County where Mary and Augustine were married

Mary and Augustine moved to his family home called Pope’s Creek Plantation also located in Westmorland County.  Mary was twenty-two when she married Augustine.   Twenty-two was considered old for a woman to marry during the time period.  Because there is a nine-year period of Mary’s life that historians have little or no information on her, it is unclear why Mary wed at an older age.  12  In 1732, Mary gave birth to her first child George, named after George Eskridge, at Pope’s Creek Plantation. 13


  1. Paula Felder, “Mary Ball,” in Fielding Lewis and the Washington Family, (Fredericksburg: American History Company, 1998),10-19.
  2. Carolyn Jett, “Where was Mary Ball Washington Born?” in Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine 51, no.1 (Dec 2001).
  3. Felder, Fielding Lewis and Washington Family, 12.
  4. Ibid., 13
  5. Virginia Carmichael, Mary Ball Washington (Fredericksburg: Colonial Press, 1967), 9.
  6. Felder, 13.
  7. Sara Agnes Rice Pryor, The Mother of Washington and her Times (New York: MacMillan, 1903), 55.
  8. Felder, Fielding Lewis and the Washington Family, 12.
  9. Ibid., 13.
  10. Ibid., 13;  Sara Agnes Rice Pryor, The Mother of Washington and her Times (New York: MacMillan, 1903) 74.
  11. Felder, 17.
  12. Pryor, 74.
  13. Ibid., 75.