Martha Washington 

 

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Martha WashingtonWashington, MARTHA, wife of George Washington; born in New Kent county, Virginia, in May, 1732. Her maiden name was Dandridge, and at the age of seventeen years she married Daniel Parke Custis, son of one of the King's council for Virginia. At his death she was left with two children and a large fortune, and dwelt at his mansion, known as the White House, in New Kent county, until her marriage with Colonel Washington in January, 1759. Soon after their marriage they took up their abode at Mount Vernon, on the Potomac. She was a very beautiful woman, a little below the medium size, elegant in person, her eyes dark and expressive of the most kindly goodnature, her complexion fair, and her whole face beamed with intelligence. Her temper, though quick, was sweet and placable, and her manners were extremely winning. She loved the society of her friends, always dressed with scrupulous regard to the requirements of the best fashions of the day, and was in every respect a brilliant member of the social circles which, before the Revolution, composed the vice-regal court at the old Virginia capital. During the Revolutionary War she usually spent the winter months at the headquarters of her husband; and after the war she received with grace and dignity, as the head of the household of the great patriot, the numerous distinguished guests who thronged to Mount Vernon. One of her two children died just as she was blossoming into womanhood; the other, a son, was aide-de-camp to Washington during the war. He died in October, 1781, leaving two children - a son and a daughter - whom Washington adopted as his own.

Martha Washington as a Young LadyOn Dec. 11, 1775, Mrs. Washington arrived at Cambridge, accompanied by her son, John Parke Custis, and his wife. She was very hospitably received and welcomed by the most distinguished families in Massachusetts. The army hailed her presence on this, as on all other occasions, with enthusiasm. She was urged to make the visit and spend some time at headquarters by two motives - one, affection for her husband; and another, because of apprehensions of danger at Mount Vernon on account of the operations of Lord Dunmore. She remained in Cambridge until Howe evacuated Boston. Washington's headquarters there were in the fine mansion that was for many years the residence of Longfellow, the poet.

George and Martha WashingtonThe people showed affectionate regard for Mrs. Washington, as the wife of the first President, when she journeyed from Mount Vernon to New York to join her husband there after the inauguration. She left Mount Vernon in her chaise on May 19, 1789, with her two grandchildren, George Washington Parke and Eleanor Parke Custis. She was clothed tidily in American textile manufactures. She lodged at Baltimore on the first night of her journey. When she approached that city she was met by a cavalcade of gentlemen and escorted into the town. Fireworks were displayed in her honor, and a band of music serenaded her in the evening. When she approached Philadelphia she was met, 10 miles in the suburbs, by the governor of the State, the speaker of the Assembly, a troop of dragoons, and a large cavalcade of citizens. Some distance from the city she was welcomed by a brilliant company of women in carriages. She was escorted by these gentlemen and ladies to Gray's Ferry, on the Schuylkill, where they all partook of a collation; and from that point to the city, Mrs. Robert Morris occupied a seat by the side of Mrs. Washington. When the procession entered the city the wife of the President was greeted with a salute of thirteen guns. She journeyed on to New York. At Elizabethtown Point she was received by her husband, Robert Morris, and several distinguished gentlemen, in the splendid barge in which Washington had been conveyed from the same place to New York a month before. It was manned by thirteen sailors. When the barge approached Whitehall, the landing-place in New York, crowds of citizens were there assembled, who greeted Mrs. Washington with cheers, and from the battery nearby the thunder of thirteen cannon gave her a welcome. In all this there was nothing very extravagant, considering the circumstances. Yet there were sturdy republicans who viewed the pageantry with suspicion, believing that they saw in this a foreshowing of monarchical ceremonies. She died at Mount Vernon, Va., in May, 1802.

 

 

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