Notes for Martha Dandridge

Martha was the eldest daughter of John and Frances Dandridge, she was born June 2, 1731, on a plantation near Williamsburg. She had three brothers and five sisters, the youngest of whom was born when Martha was 25 and had already had four children of her own. As a girl of 18--about five feet tall, dark-haired, gentle of manner--she married the wealthy Daniel Park Custis. Two babies died; two were hardly past infancy when her husband died in 1757. They lived in his Pumunkey River mansion called White House. Custis managed the large New Kent County plantation of his father, Counselor John Custis, who lived at the brick house known as Custis Square in Williamsburg. Typical for a girl in an 18th-century family, her education was almost negligible except in domestic and social skills, but she learned all the arts of a well-ordered household and how to keep a family contented.

Martha and George Washington raised two of their grandchildren, Eleanor Parke Custis (Nelly) and George Washington Parke Custis (called Wash or Tub) at Mount Vernon. Martha's son John Parke Custis died of "camp fever" (probably typhoid fever) on November 5, 1781. When his widow remarried Dr. David Stuart in 1783, she and her two eldest daughters lived at the Stuart home in Abingdon, while the two youngest children continued to live at Mount Vernon. In 1784, Martha's niece Frances Basset, age 15, came to live at Mount Vernon. She married George's nephew, Major George Augustine Washington, in 1785.

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