In this video, archaeologist Mara Kaktins shares bits of Mary Washington’s dishes excavated at Ferry Farm and explains their significance.
Read more about Mary’s dishes in this blog post.
In this video, archaeologist Mara Kaktins shares bits of Mary Washington’s dishes excavated at Ferry Farm and explains their significance.
Read more about Mary’s dishes in this blog post.
The story of Mary Ball Washington is one of overcoming a lifetime of adversity. Often overshadowed by her larger than life son George, Mary’s place in history fluctuated from saint to shrew with many historians ignoring the obstacles she faced and overcame. The archaeological record sheds light on some of the strategies Mary used to navigate her way through mid-18th century life as a widow while trying to maintain her own social status and that of her children. Fragments of highly-specialized ceramics excavated at Ferry Farm, the plantation Mary called home for much of her life, speaks to her efforts.
Specialized dishes are those designed for a very specific job unlike, say, a bowl which is multi-purpose. We have uncovered evidence of many dishes Mary owned that fulfilled single tasks. These type of ceramics are a sign of gentility. Most households could not afford these items and likely did not possess the resources to make the food and drink that they were designed to hold.
As the 18th century progressed, so did dining habits. Increasingly, people of means gravitated toward dinners with multiple courses of entrees, appetizers, beverages, and deserts. Previously, most meals consisted of large one-pot creations with multiple ingredients. In order to pull course cooking off, one required the specialized dishes designed for serving multiple courses.
One prime example of such specialized dishes from Ferry Farm is Mary’s elaborately decorated creamware sauce boats. The sauce boats are a luxury in and of themselves. They’re highly decorated and were very fashionable at the time. Not only were they expensive, but they showed that Mary had the refinement to serve her guests the fancy sauces being introduced into colonial cooking. They also indicated that she had a trained kitchen staff of enslaved workers capable of executing these new and intricate recipes. You never thought a sauce boat could hold so much meaning, did you?
Fragments of an extremely fancy white salt glazed fruit dish are further examples of Mary’s calculated purchasing of dishes. Previously written about here and here, this dish was meant to display fruit, another luxury in the 18th century. Being able to afford non-local or out-of-season fruit was a status symbol and necessitated the proper dish to proudly display the fruit. To put the rarity of fruit in perspective, in colonial America, pineapples were so expensive you could rent one for display at parties in the holiday season because most people couldn’t afford to buy one outright. While renting a fruit may seem ridiculous to modern readers, the action highlights just how important being seen to own certain items was during the colonial era. Of course, we still engage in this same behavior today, but just not with pineapples.
Ferry Farm archaeologists also excavated fragments of two creamware condiment dishes. Once again, the ability to serve various condiments to dinner guests conveyed status. Condiments could include relishes, dips, mustards, ketchups (mushroom ketchup being the preferred type), and pickled vegetables such as capers. Castor sets were also a way to serve other condiments such as olive oil, vinegar, pepper, etc. Generally, these castor sets were only owned by well-to-do households in the colonial period. The base of a creamware castor was recovered at Ferry Farm.
The fact that so many of Mary’s specialized ceramics are made of creamware should also be noted. Creamware was invented in 1762 and wasn’t the most expensive type of ceramic (that was porcelain) but it was highly fashionable. Mary, as a widow with five children and a diminished income following her husband’s death, likely couldn’t afford much porcelain. She opted for the less expensive but still highly-desirable creamware, instead.
The Washington family went to great lengths to demonstrate their status and refinement to visiting friends, neighbors, and relatives. At Ferry Farm, this burden fell solely on Mary after the death of her husband. Her specialized ceramics served to illustrate her place within the gentry class despite her diminished income and refusal to remarry after being widowed. Her goal was to remain independent while raising five children to be successful adults and members of the Virginia gentry class. In doing so, she likely realized that the socioeconomic security of her children would ensure her own into the future as well. Consequently, it was important that Mary cultivate a refined household with appropriate table and teawares. Ceramic artifacts from Ferry Farm reveal a woman who carefully selected choice ceramics to perform very specific tasks, while at the same time not overextending her budget. These ceramics contributed to her goal of remaining a part of the gentry class and teaching her children genteel habits so they could do the same. It was a task in which she overwhelmingly succeeded.
Mara Kaktins, Archaeologist
Ceramics & Glass Specialist
True or False?
Mary Washington had a set of false teeth like her son George?
FALSE – Mary did not have a famous set of dentures like her son George.
All of Mary’s children lived to adulthood?
FALSE – Mary and Augustine Washington had six children together, five living to adulthood. Their youngest child, Mildred, born in 1738, died at the age of 16 months and is buried at Ferry Farm.
Mary often traveled to Mount Vernon for extended visits with her son George and his wife Martha?
FALSE – In fact, George dissuaded his mother from living with them in her later years, arguing that Mount Vernon was much too busy with constant travelers and guests for someone such as his dear and aged mother who deserved peace and quiet.
Mary lived in Virginia her whole life?
TRUE – Born and raised on the Northern Neck, Mary moved with her husband throughout their marriage to different family farms located in Westmoreland County, Fairfax County, and then King George County. She lived at Ferry Farm, then called the “Home House”, from 1738 until 1772, when George purchased her a house – the Mary Washington House – in the town of Fredericksburg. She lived there until her death in 1789.
Mary Washington’s Fredericksburg home was almost sold and moved in its entirety to Chicago for The Colombian Exposition of 1893?
TRUE – Plans were made to disassemble the Mary Washington House and rebuild it at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities stepped in and purchased house in 1889. They restored and opened it up to the public.
Mary remarried after her husband Augustine died in 1743?
FALSE – It was commonplace during the Colonial era for women to remarry after the death of a spouse. Mary did not, however, preferring to manage the family properties and raise her five young children herself without committing to another marriage that might have restricted her parental control.
Mary did not live to see her son George become president of the new United States of America?
FALSE – George visited his mother at her home in Fredericksburg on the way to his presidential inauguration in April 1789 in New York City. Mary died later that same year in August at the age of 81.
Mary died of breast cancer?
TRUE – Two doctors treated Mary during the last months of her life in 1789. They could do nothing for her cancer beyond making her comfortable with palliative remedies.
Mary did not know how to read or write?
Mary Ball Washington had a ship named after her?
TRUE – The SS Mary Ball was a “Liberty ship” built during World War II. Liberty ships were a class of mass-produced cargo vessels simple in design, cheap in cost, and constructed in just a few months. Built and launched in 1943 as a tank carrier and aircraft freighter, the SS Mary Ball was eventually sold for scrap in 1972.
Judy Jobrack, Archaeologist
The Presidential election of 1789 looked quite different than our current election day. For one, the election had to last almost a month to ensure that each state had time for their voters to choose their candidate. Then, in February, the Electoral College announced that Washington would be the first president with a resounding 69 electoral votes. Along with this victory, George Washington was unanimously chosen by the popular vote to lead our country. No other president has accomplished this feat. To most, Washington was the obvious choice. His status as a war hero, his strong self-will, and his determination to provide our new nation with solid-ground to build upon were just a few of the things that led him to victory.
When George was first notified of his new job title, he was at Mount Vernon and knew he must prepare to travel to New York City, the nation’s first capital city, to be inaugurated. First, he started by preparing Mount Vernon for his departure. He ordered his overseers, farm managers, secretaries, and even nephews keep him up-to-date on all goings-on while he was away. Washington, like most landed-gentry in the new country, was land rich and cash poor. So he also wrote a letter to a friend and merchant, Richard Conway, asking to borrow money. “Five hundred pounds would enable me to discharge what I owe in Alexandria &ca;” he wrote, “and to leave the State (if it shall not be permitted me to remain at home in retirement) without doing this, would be exceedingly disagreeable to me.” From this letter, we can see that Washington apparently was not especially enthusiastic about his new appointment. Nonetheless, he saw undertaking the presidency as his duty as expressed in his first inaugural address.
Among the other plans and arrangements he made, George visited his mother Mary in Fredericksburg. Once Richard Conway had agreed to lend him the needed funds, Washington thanked him and wrote that he would “set of tomorrow for Fredericksburg in order probably to discharge the last Act of personal duty, I may, (from her age) ever have it in my power to pay my Mother it would be very inconvenient for me.” Indeed, by 1789, Mary had fallen quite ill with breast cancer. She had been sick for a while, but only recently had the family realized she was ultimately nearing her end.
It had all started in April of 1787. George was heading to Philadelphia to join the Constitutional Convention when he received an urgent letter from Fredericksburg. He wrote to Henry Knox to inform him of his delay in reaching the convention, saying “I am summoned by an express who assures me not a moment is to be lost, to see a mother, and only Sister (who are supposed to be in the agonies of death) expire; and I am hastening to obey this melancholy call, after having just bid an eternal farewell to a much loved Brother who was the intimate companion of my youth and the most affectionate friend of my ripened age.” The previous few months had been rough for the entire family, as George’s letter suggests. John Augustine had passed away suddenly and it had taken its toll. George himself was complaining of arthritis, saying that he was “so much afflicted with a rheumatic complaint (of which I have not been entirely free for Six months) as to be under the necessity of carrying my arm in a sling for the last ten days”.
Upon arriving in Fredericksburg, after a hasty pace of a ride, George found Betty to be doing much better. Mary, on the other hand, he said “left little hope of her recovery as she was exceedingly reduced and much debilitated by age and the disorder.” It is not certain that this bout of illness had anything to do with the cancer that would later take Mary’s life, but the illness certainly kept the children, especially Betty, watchful of Mary’s health.
So in 1789, when Mary’s health was deteriorating once more, George knew that he had to visit her before he left for New York and the presidency. Later, he wrote Betty, “When I was last at Fredericksburg, I took a final leave of my Mother, never expecting to see her more.” Many say that when George visited Mary in March of 1789, it was to ask for a blessing on his new position as President of the United States. Unfortunately, there is no documentation of what their visit entailed other than Washington spending time with his sick mother. Furthermore, given his personal adversity to taking the position, it seems unlikely that he would have needed or wanted permission to take the job. However, I think it can be said that given Mary’s strong influence as a single parent, George’s sense of duty may have been all the blessing or permission he needed from his mother.
Manager of Interpretation and Visitor Services
On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, Archaeologist Mara Kaktins, Ceramics & Glass Specialist at The George Washington Foundation, presented a lecture titled “Drinking with the Washingtons: Archaeological Evidence of Colonial Imbibing at Ferry Farm.” Mara explored a wide variety of beverage-related artifacts from teawares to punch bowls and discussed how cups and glasses reflected efforts by Mary Washington to demonstrate the family’s economic status and refinement.
Join us on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 for “Food in the Eighteenth Century” when Deborah Lawton, Park Ranger at George Washington Birthplace National Monument, will explore the new dishes and changing tastes that marked the foodways of the eighteenth century. Talk begins at 7:00 p.m. The lecture is FREE and hosted at the Fredericksburg branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library at 1201 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, Virginia. To learn more, visit http://www.kenmore.org.
Originally, this post was going to explore colonial America’s fear and fascination with lightning and the practical tools created to help prevent destructive lightning damage. During my research, however, I encountered a tale about Mary Ball Washington and a close encounter with lightning that supposedly traumatized her for the rest of her life. If true, this story would be a fabulous illustration of the destructiveness of lightning as well as of the anxiety colonial Americans felt about these random bolts from the sky.
According to the story, one summer evening, Mary was having supper with friends when a bolt of lightning struck the house, traveled down the chimney, and instantly killed the woman sitting next to Mary. This alleged event was said to be so traumatizing for Mary that it affected every facet of her life from then on. She trembled at the approach of thunderstorms, she never traveled far from home, she discouraged her children from taking risks, and her nervousness had a negative effect on her relationships with her family. If true, this story is indeed disturbing and would definitely have been a seminal moment in the life of Mary.
I began researching the story to try and establish its legitimacy and accuracy. This began a deep descent down the rabbit hole of historical myth versus truth. All of which had absolutely nothing to do with lightning. So I set Benjamin Franklin and his lightning rod to one side in a quest to prove or disprove this tale about Mary.
My goal was to find primary source documentation that would support this story. I wanted direct or firsthand evidence about the event from documents like newspaper articles, journal or diary entries, letters or other accounts of the incident from the time. If I was unable to find primary sources that recorded the incident, then my secondary objective was to trace the story to its point of origin.
The most recent reiteration of the story comes from a biography first published in 1997. The author writes, “When [Mary] was pregnant with George Washington, she experienced a shock that may have shaped her relationship with the large child taking shape in her womb. One summer Sunday afternoon, while the family was having dinner with guests from church, a thunderstorm rolled in. A bolt of lightning struck the house and traveled down the chimney and hit a young girl . . . . The electric current was so strong it fused the knife and fork she was using to cut her meat. She died instantly. The lightning hit with such force that it severely jolted the pregnant Mary Washington, who was sitting only a few feet away.” The author theorizes that “Mary Ball Washington never recovered fully from the shock she had seen and felt. She rarely traveled any farther than church on Sunday and her timorousness touched off a number of dashes with her family, especially her son, who she discouraged from taking any risks . . . she could not understand; in fact she resented [George’s] desire to stray from her side and leave the safety of the farm to go off to war.”
I was quite excited to find such a detailed account of the event so I flipped to the book’s bibliography to find the author’s source but there was none listed.
Disappointed, I continued my work to trace the story to its origin. Eventually, I found six different accounts of Mary’s traumatic lightning story with the earliest appearing in 1850. Margaret Conkling was the first to recount the tale in Memoirs of the mother and wife of Washington stating that Mary’s “almost constitutional timidity, was occasioned by a singularly distressing incident of her youth – the instant death, from the effects of lightning, of a young friend, who was at the moment when the accident occurred, sitting close beside her.”
This account has none of the details of the 1997 account and makes no mention of Mary being pregnant with George at the time and instead states the lightning strike occurred in “her youth”. Subsequent accounts from 1852 to 1892 recount the tale but none of them provide a primary source.
And that is where my search ended. There are no primary sources or references about Mary and the lightning incident before 1850, nearly 120 year after the incident supposedly took place.
This must lead us to ask if the story is even true and, if it isn’t, why would writers continue to use it as a pivotal and personality molding event in Mary’s history?
We do not know much about Mary Ball Washington’s youth. We know that by the time she was twelve both her parents had died and she became the legal ward of her uncle. In 1731, she was introduced to recently widowed Augustine Washington and the two married and moved to Pope’s Creek, Virginia. Mary left relatively few written records and many letters from various family members at the time barely reference her, let alone give us detailed stories from her life.
Mary’s enigmatic past has led to many different interpretations of her personality over the years. In the different lightning stories I found, it seems that each writer was trying to use the story to explain their own ideas of who Mary was as a person. The earlier versions use the story to illustrate a woman of courage and intelligence who, despite being strong, still had flaws. The later version uses the story to show a nervous, harsh woman who tried to hinder her son’s greatness due to her own fears. While traumatic for Mary, this alleged lightning event also serves as a kind of prophecy or superhero origin story for her future son, turning George into a demigod worthy of becoming the father of a nation. Each writer used the story as an illustration to fit their own narrative but none of them provide evidence that the event really happened. The temptation to include a story as dramatic and potentially consequential as a fatal lightning strike and, for Mary, a near death experience is indeed hard to resist.
This is not to say these authors knowingly falsified the story. They simply are relying more on legend than on fact. Mary’s reputation and, for that matter, Washington family history has always been steeped in much legend. So was Mary present when one of her friends was struck and killed by lightning while eating supper? It’s not impossible but it is highly improbable the event ever took place.
 Randall, Willard Sterne. George Washington: A Life. Galahad Books, 2006.
 Conkling, Margaret Cockburn. Memoirs of the mother and wife of Washington. Derby, Miller and company, 1850.
 Hervy, Nathaniel. The memory of Washington. Boston, J. Munroe, 1852; Custis, George Washington. Recollections and Private Memoir of Washington. J.W. Bradley, 1859; Lossing, John Benson. Mary and Martha, the mother and the wife of George Washington, New York, Harper & Brothers, 1886; Walter, James. Memorials of Washington and of Mary, his mother, and Martha, his wife. New York, C. Scribner’s Sons, 1887; Harland, Marion. The Story of Mary Washington. New York, Houghton, Mifflin & Co, 1892.
 “Mary Ball Washington.” George Washington Digital Encyclopedia. George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 2019, www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/mary-ball-washington/ [accessed March 22, 2019].
In July, we were very excited to see the culmination of at least a year’s worth of research and work when the “best bed” was installed in the Hall Back Room (the master bedchamber) of the Washington House. Between its imposing size (it nearly touches the ceiling) and it’s bright blue bed curtains in a house where there was very little color, the best bed is one of the most memorable pieces in the house, both today and when the Washington family resided at Ferry Farm.
The “best bed” in a colonial gentry home like the Washington’s was intended to be a showstopper, and a visual statement to visitors about the prosperity of the family that owned it. It was one of the reasons that the bedchamber in which the best bed stood was usually considered a public entertaining room – all the better to have people see the bed.
But how do we know what the Washington best bed looked like? In this case, we had several clues from historic documents and archaeological finds that we pieced together with what we know about life in early 18th century Virginia households.
The first question we had to answer was what type of bed was it? Augustine Washington’s 1743 probate inventory describes the bed simply as “1 Bed & Furniture…..£8.” At first glance, this scant information doesn’t seem to tell us much (other than this bed is indeed the most valuable single item in the entire Washington household at £8). But, the mention of “furniture” along with the bed is actually quite useful.
In this context, “furniture” refers to all the textile accessories associated with the bed, including bed curtains. In order for a bed to have bed curtains, it must be an expensive tall-post bed, rather than low-post. While we refer to the Washingtons as being among the gentry class, meaning they were able to furnish their home with higher end furnishings, this was actually a question for some time. At this early point in the 18th century, being gentry might not actually mean living in the luxury that we associate with homes like Kenmore or Mount Vernon of the century’s later decades. Simply owning a bedstead – of any variety – put you well ahead of the vast majority of colonial Virginians. The traditional view of George Washington’s childhood is one of a very simple, primitive lifestyle. Our archaeological findings at Ferry Farm have begun to change that view. In actuality, the Washington family owned and used a wide variety of imported luxury goods in their home.
Bed bolts are one artifact changing the old view and pertain directly to the level of bed in the house. Bed bolts were long, heavy screws inserted through the lower ends of the tall bed posts to hold them to the side rails of the bed. Their presence at Ferry Farm proves the existence of tall-post beds. So, this line item in the probate inventory actually serves to bolster the idea that the Washingtons were living a relatively high lifestyle – they had a tall-post bed with curtains in the Hall Back Room.
Once we determined the style of bed, we had to decide what the bed curtains and bed covering would look like. The probate inventory was not overly helpful on this front – almost no descriptive information of any textile in the house is given. However, there are several other documents related to Mary Washington’s estate that we could consult.
The first was her will, which was recorded in 1788, the year before her death. This document details a number of her household goods, and which of her family members they were to go to. While the list of items is not nearly as complete as a probate inventory, it does provide more descriptive information. Among other textiles, a blue and white quilt, a white counterpane, purple bed curtains and “Virginia cloth” bed curtains are mentioned.
In another document, a list of household items sold at vendu (a public sale of personal property, sort of like a yard sale today) after Mary’s death in 1789, reference is made to blue and white coverlets, a blue and white counterpane, and several blue or white bed coverings, one of which is called “ye best.” Several sets of bed curtains are mentioned, but they are not described.
Although both of these documents date to more than 40 years after the time period that we are interpreting at Ferry Farm, we can surmise that much of Mary’s bed textiles were blue and white and that this color combination was a particular favorite of hers. As bed curtains and bedding such as quilts and counterpanes represented major financial investments in an 18th century household, it’s not unlikely that many of the finer textiles in the Washington house at Ferry Farm were still in use at the time of Mary’s death many years later, when she was living across the river in downtown Fredericksburg. Because of these documents, we decided to depict the best bed at Ferry Farm with blue and white bedcoverings (a quilt for winter, and a matelessé counterpane for summer) and blue bedcurtains.
As with all the furnishings in the Washington house, we hope that Mary would recognize her bed if she were set foot inside the room today.
Aldrich Director of Curatorial Operations
Not long ago, we explored Three Military Adventures that Inspired George Washington and the influence that Lawrence Washington and his wartime service played in stoking George’s interest in military matters.
Lawrence fought with the British in the War of Jenkins’ Ear in the early 1740s and spent time aboard the flagship of Admiral Edward Vernon, who commanded British forces during the Battle of Cartegena de Indias. Lawrence returned to Virginia with stories sure to spark his 10-year-old brother George’s imagination and desire for adventure. Lawrence’s military service and George’s interest in military things had a fascinating, if perplexing, practical outcome when, late in 1746, Lawrence proposed for 14-year-old George to join the Royal Navy.
This is a relatively little known and rather mysterious incident in the life of young George Washington. Few documents survive that address the matter directly. There are no documents written by George, Lawrence, or Mary Washington that reveal their actions or motivations in the matter. The three letters that do address the incident were all written by secondary figures involved.
It all began in the fall of 1746 when Lawrence sent two letters — one each for George and Mary respectively – to Fredericksburg via Colonel William Fairfax. George was to deliver Mary’s himself and keep the one to him a secret from her. We do not know what either of these letters said.
What we do know is only what William Fairfax told Lawrence in a report dated September 9, 1746 and sent to Lawrence at Mount Vernon. Fairfax wrote:
“The weather being so sultry, and being necessarily obliged to go about this town to collect several things wanted, I have not yet seen Mrs. Washington. George has been with us, and says He will be steady and thankfully follow your Advice as his best Friend. I gave him his Mother’s letter to deliver with Caution not to shew his. I have spoke to Dr. Spencer who I find is often at the Widow’s and has some influence, to persuade her to think better of your advice in putting Him to Sea with good Recommendation.”
The Dr. Spencer mentioned may have been William Spencer, who often was involved as a witness for land transfers to Lawrence. The secretiveness of George hiding his letter from Mary and of Lawrence apparently enlisting his business partners to argue in favor of the proposal for George to go to sea emphasize the conspiratorial nature of Lawrence’s efforts.
It appears that, for a time, Lawrence’s manipulations may have worked. On September 18, 1746, Robert Jackson, a Washington family friend, wrote to Lawrence that “I am afraid Mrs. Washington will not keep up to her first resolution.” This seems to indicate that she wasn’t against the idea immediately but she did change her mind. Jackson reported that Mary “seems to intimate a dislike to George’s going to Sea and says several Persons have told her it’s a very bad Scheme.” He condescendingly dismisses her concerns as “trifling objections such as fond and unthinking mothers naturally suggest” and expresses frustration that “one word against [George’s] going has more weight than ten for it.”
Jackson noted that William Fairfax was inclined to visit Mary and, moreover, Jackson noted that he himself would “take an opportunity to talk with her and will let you knew her result.” While Jackson may have let Lawrence know the result, no document has been found to let us know the result of these specific discussions two centuries later.
At some point, perhaps feeling outnumbered, Mary decided to solicit the advice of her brother Joseph Ball in England. Dated May 19, 1747, his reply, which is a disdainful rejection of the entire proposal, is worth quoting at length.
“I understand that you are advised and have some thoughts of putting your son George to sea. I think he had better be put apprentice to a tinker, for a common sailor before the mast has by no means the common liberty of the subject; for they will press him from ship to ship where he has fifty shillings a month, and make him take twenty-three, and cut and slash and use him like a negro, or rather like a dog. And as to any considerable preferment in the navy, it is not to be expected, as there are so many gaping for it here who have interest, and he has none. And if he should get to be master of a Virginia ship (which is very difficult to do), a planter who has three or four hundred acres of land, and three or four slaves, if he be industrious, many live more comfortably, and have his family in better bread than such a master of a ship can . . . He must not be too hasty to be rich but go on gently and with patience as things will naturally go. This method without aiming at being a fine gentleman before his time, will carry a man more comfortably and surely thought the world than going to sea, unless it be a great chance indeed.”
Mary must have ultimately and definitely rejected Lawrence’s plan, a courageous act for a woman in male dominated colonial Virginia. George, of course, did not pursue a career at sea but turned to surveying instead.
Like many incidents in young George Washington’s life, the historical record is elusive and often raises more questions than it answers. What prompted Lawrence to make the suggestion in the first place? What were George’s views on the proposal and the debate? What were Mary’s specific objections? None of these questions may ever be answered. Of course, the greatest question raised by the incident is the also unknowable counterfactual one. Would history have unfolded differently if the man who was supposed to have been the commander of the Continental Army ended up spending his life on the King’s ships?
Manager of Educational Programs
 William Fairfax to Lawrence Washington, September 9, 1746, quoted in Moncure Daniel Conway’s Barons of the Potomack and the Rapphannock, New York, Grolier Club, 1892: 238, available at https://books.google.com/books?id=zDESAAAAYAAJ&dq=barons%20of%20the%20potomac%20and%20rappahannock&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false [accessed August 26, 2017].
 Robert Jackson to Lawrence Washington, September 18, 1746, quoted in Moncure Daniel Conway’s Barons of the Potomack and the Rapphannock, New York, Grolier Club, 1892: 239-40, available at https://books.google.com/books?id=zDESAAAAYAAJ&dq=barons%20of%20the%20potomac%20and%20rappahannock&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false [accessed August 26, 2017].
 Joseph Ball to Mary Washington, May 19, 1747 quoted in Marion Harland’s The Story of Mary Washington, New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co, 1893: 79-80 available at https://archive.org/details/storyofmarywashi00harl [accessed August 26, 2017].
On Tuesday, September 12, 2017, Laura Galke, archaeologist, small finds analyst and site director at The George Washington Foundation, presented a lecture titled “The Mother of the Father of Our Country.” Laura examined how historical documents and newly-unearthed artifacts indicate that Mary Washington, George’s mother, faced challenges, governed her home, and managed the family’s plantations with a skill and determination that recent biographers have not appreciated. Laura explored how the Washingtons’ investments in attire, furnishings, and landscape modification reflect their strategy for overcoming setbacks and exhibiting British colonial refinement. The lecture was given at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library headquarters in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Join us at the Washington House Celebration on Saturday, October 7, 2017 from 12:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m to celebrate the construction of the Washington house! A special ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. featuring notable speakers. After the ceremony, guests will be invited to view the reconstructed Washington house! Parking for the event is off site at the VRE Fredericksburg Park and Ride Lot G at the corner of Prince Edward Street and Frederick Street. Limited handicap parking is available at Ferry Farm. Buses will transport guests to and from Ferry Farm. The Washington House Celebration is a free event and RSVPs are not required.
As construction of the Washington house at George Washington’s Ferry Farm nears completion, we want to share the many years of archaeology, historical research, scientific investigation, skilled craftsmanship, and hard work that made building this reconstruction possible. Next month, The George Washington Foundation will present a lecture series titled George Washington: Boy Before Legend – Introducing the New Ferry Farm over three consecutive Tuesdays.
First, on Tuesday, September 5, Dave Muraca, archaeologist and the Foundation’s vice president of museum content, will present “Building George’s House,” his account of the last eighteen months as Ferry Farm witnessed the careful reconstruction of the Washington House using many traditional techniques. Dave’s talk will review the archaeology that made our replica possible and recount the work of the skilled craftsmen building George’s house.
Second, on Tuesday, September 12, archaeologist and artifacts analysts Laura Galke will present “The Mother of the Father of Our Country.” Laura’s lecture will examine how historical documents and newly-unearthed artifacts indicate that Mary Washington, George’s mother, faced challenges, governed her home, and managed the family’s plantations with a skill and determination that recent biographers have not appreciated. Laura will also discuss how the Washingtons’ investments in attire, furnishings, and landscape modification reflected their strategy for overcoming setbacks and for exhibiting British colonial refinement.
Finally, on Tuesday, September 19, Meghan Budinger, director of curatorial operations, will survey how we plan to furnish the reconstructed Washington house in “The Rooms at Ferry Farm.” In recent years, accuracy in historic house museums has become a primary focus of the curator’s presentation to the public. How we know what we know about the past has become almost as interesting as the objects we curate. As such, curators are not only decorative arts scholars, but have adopted skills from genealogists, architectural historians, material cultural experts, scientists, and even investigative reporters. Meghan will discuss how the Washington house and the effort to accurately furnish its rooms is a prime example of the synthesis of all of these vocations.
Each lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. and admission is free. The lectures will take place at Central Rappahannock Regional Library Headquarters, 1201 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401. For more information, call 540-370-0732 ext. 24 or email email@example.com.
Then, in October, celebrate the construction of the Washington house at a special ribbon-cutting event at George Washington’s Ferry Farm. More details soon!
Manager of Marketing, Communications, and Technology
Manager of Educational Programs