Mary, The Mother Of Washington
( Originally Published 1900 )
To the southward of the Potomac a short distance, and flowing almost parallel, is another noted river of Virginia, the Rappahannock, rising in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, and broadening into a wide estuary in its lower course. Its chief tributary is the stream which the colonists named after the "good Queen Anne," the Rapid Ann, since condensed into the Rapidan. The Indians recognized the tidal estuary of the Rappahannock, for the name means "the current has returned and flowed again," referring to the tidal ebb and flow. Upon this stream, southward from Washington, is the quaint old city of Fredericksburg, which has about five thousand in-habitants, and five times as many graves in the great National Cemetery on Marye's Heights and in the Con-federate Cemetery, mournful relics of the sanguinary battles fought there in 1862-63. The town dates from 1727, when it was founded at the head of tide-water on the Rappahannock, where a considerable fall furnishes good water-power, about one hundred and ten miles from the Chesapeake. But its chief early memory is of Mary Ball, the mother of Washington, here having been his boyhood home. A monument has been erected to her, which it took the country more than a century to complete. She was born in 1706 on the lower Rappahannock, at Epping Forest, and Sparks and Irving speak of her as "the belle of the Northern Neck" and "the rose of Epping Forest." In early life she visited England, and the story is told that one day while at her brother's house in Berkshire a gentleman's coach was over-turned nearby and its occupant seriously injured. He was brought into the house and carefully nursed by Mary Ball until he fully recovered. This gentle-man was Colonel Augustine Washington, of Virginia, a widower with three sons, and it is recorded in the family Bible that " Augustine Washington and Mary Ball were married the 6th of March, 1730-31." He brought her to his home in Westmoreland County, where George was born the next year. His house there was accidentally burnt and they removed to Fredericksburg, where Augustine died in 1740 ; but she lived to a ripe old age, dying there in 1789. When her death was announced a national move-ment began to erect a monument, but it was permitted to lapse until the Washington Centenary in 1832, when it was revived, and in May, 1833, President Jackson laid the corner-stone with impressive ceremonies in the presence of a large assemblage of distinguished people. The monument was started and partially completed, only gain to lapse into desuetude. In 1890 the project was revived, funds were collected by an association of ladies, and in May, 1894, a handsome white marble obelisk, fifty feet high, was created and dedicated. It bears the simple inscription, "Mary, the Mother of Washington."