Following the death of her husband Augustine - a wealthy planter from Westmoreland - Mary Ball Washington was determined to ensure that she and her children remained within the 'Tidewater Aristocracy' of Virginia despite her widowhood. She herself was an orphan, and with her husband gone, she took charge of the family plantation across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg that was known as Ferry Farm. Mary never remarried - mostly likely so that she could maintain her independence and protect her children's inheritance.

Mary worked and ran Ferry Farm herself and raised her children to take their place in society. Her daughter Betty married wealthy patriot and businessman Fielding Lewis at the age of 17. It was the savvy Mary who steered her son George away from joining the Royal Navy at the age of 14 and instead embarking on a career of land surveying that provided financial security as well as the opportunity to hobnob with wealthy plantation owners and land investors. Her plan paid off, and young George married the wealthiest widow in Virginia, Dorothy Dandridge Custis, after he inherited Mount Vernon.

The independent Mary continued to live and work on Ferry Farm well after her children were grown and married. As she got older, however, her son George felt it best for her to move into town to be closer to her daughter and her doctor, Hugh Mercer - an apothecary from Scotland who was promoted to Brigadier General during the Revolutionary War and gave his life at the Battle of Princeton. George Washington bought this house on Caroline Street for Mary, and while she lived here Mary Washington entertained a Who's Who of patriots and revolutionaries. She was visited by Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, the Marquis de Lafayette and, of course, her son George who won the war for independence and become the first President of the United States.

Mary frequently visited her daughter Betty and her husband, Fielding Lewis - an aristocrat turned rebel gun maker and gun runner for George Washington's Continental Army. While at Betty's home at nearby Kenmore Plantation, Mary Washington often sat in prayer and reflection at a place now called Meditation Rock. Mary Ball Washington passed away at the age of 81 and was buried near the rock at Kenmore. A monument to Mary Washington was erected here in 1894.

Owned and operated by Washington Heritage Museums, Mary Washington House offers daily guided tours of the home by costumed interpreters and self-guided tours of the gardens. The home has been restored to its original appearance and contains period furnishings as well as some of Mary's original pieces. Mary Washington House features a gift shop and is within two blocks of her daughter Betty's home Kenmore Plantation, and four blocks from the Mary Washington Monument and Mary's Meditation Rock that is located next to the Monument.

Pictured at the top: Mary Washington was a passionate gardener, and the gardens at Mary Washington House feature Mary's original sundial.

mary washington house sundial

The lush gardens at Mary Washington House feature dogwoods, crepe myrtle and boxwoods. A few of the boxwoods were there when Mary occupied the house.

kenmore plantation rear entrance

The Mary Washington Monument is located near Kenmore and is inscribed 'Mary, Mother of Washington.'

kenmore plantation rear entrance

A marker near the Mary Washington Monument commemorates Mary Washington's 'Meditation Rock' where she would often go to reflect and pray.

kenmore plantation rear entrance

Mary Washington's Meditation Rock.