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Martha Dandridge Custis married George Washington in 1759. Learn more about the many important roles that Martha Washington played throughout her life.

Martha Dandridge was born on June 2, 1731 to John and Frances Dandridge, a well-to-do planter family situated in New Kent County, Virginia.  As an 18-year old, Martha married the wealthy Daniel Parke Custis on May 15, 1750.  The marriage to Daniel Parke Custis lasted seven years and produced four children, of which two lived past the age of 5.  Daniel’s death on July 8, 1757 left Martha as a young and wealthy widow who now owned 300 slaves and 17,500 acres of land. George Washington first met Martha Dandridge Custis on March 16, 1758 and their mutual attraction led to their marriage on January 6, 1759.  Martha was a vivacious and engaging companion for George and he valued her company during his many winter encampments during the American Revolution.

Martha Washington

1731
1802
Martha Dandridge is Born
Martha Dandridge marries Daniel Parke Custis.
Martha Dandridge Custis gives birth to her first child
Martha Dandridge Custis gives birth to her second child
Martha's oldest child dies at the age of three
Martha gives birth to her third child
Martha gives birth to her fourth child
Martha’s father dies
Frances dies at the age of four
Daniel Parke Custis dies, leaving Martha one of the wealthiest widows in Virginia
Martha Dandridge Custis marries George Washington
Martha Washington’s daughter, Patsy has a seizure and dies
Martha Washington’s son, John Parke Custis, marries Eleanor (“Nelly”) Calvert
George Washington writes, asking his wife to come to stay with him at his winter quarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Martha Washington becomes a grandmother
Martha Washington heads for her husband’s winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey.
Martha Washington’s becomes a grandmother for the third time
Martha Washington’s daughter-in-law, Nelly, gives birth to twin girls
Martha Washington’s fourth and last grandchild, George Washington Parke Custis is born
Martha Washington’s niece, Fanny, marries George Washington’s nephew, George Augustine Washington, at Mount Vernon
In New York, the First Family initially makes their home at #3 Cherry Street
Martha Washington becomes a great-grandmother for the first time
Martha Washington is widowed for the second time, with the death of George Washington
Martha Washington’s first great-granddaughter, Martha Eliza Eleanor Peter, dies
Martha Washington dies surrounded by friends, relatives, and slaves, about noon on May 22nd.

June 2, 1731

Martha Dandridge is Born

Martha Dandridge is born on June 2nd, at Chestnut Grove Plantation in New Kent County, Virginia, the oldest of eight children born to John Dandridge and his wife, Frances Jones.

Martha Dandridge marries Daniel Parke Custis.

Martha Dandridge marries socially prominent Daniel Parke Custis, a vestryman from her family church, who is twenty years older than herself and someone she has known since childhood, on May 15th.

Martha Dandridge Custis gives birth to her first child

Martha Dandridge Custis gives birth to her first child, Daniel Parke Custis.

Martha Dandridge Custis gives birth to her second child

Martha Dandridge Custis gives birth to her second child, Frances Parke Custis.

Martha's oldest child dies at the age of three

Daniel, the oldest child of Daniel and Martha Custis dies at the age of three. 

Martha gives birth to her third child

On November 27th of that year, Martha gives birth to her third child, John Parke Custis; he will be known in the family as “Jacky” or “Jack.”

Martha gives birth to her fourth child

Martha Dandridge Custis gives birth to her fourth and last child, Martha Parke Custis, who will be known in the family as “Patsy.”

Martha’s father dies

Martha’s father, John Dandridge, dies at the age of fifty-six.

Frances dies at the age of four

Frances, second child of Daniel and Martha Custis dies at the age of four.  

Daniel Parke Custis dies, leaving Martha one of the wealthiest widows in Virginia

In July, Daniel Parke Custis dies suddenly, leaving Martha one of the wealthiest widows in Virginia, with two small children to raise alone.  Her reaction to Daniel’s death brings praise; Daniel’s lawyer, Robert Carter Nicholas, writes to her that, “It gave me no small pleasure to hear with how great Christian patience and resignation you submitted to your late misfortune; the example is rare, though a duty incumbent upon us all; and therefore I can not help esteeming it a peculiar happiness when I meet with it.”

Martha Dandridge Custis marries George Washington

Martha Dandridge Custis marries George Washington on January 6th, in a ceremony at her home.  The couple and the bride’s two surviving children will move to the groom’s home, Mount Vernon, in the spring of that year.

Martha Washington’s daughter, Patsy has a seizure and dies

Martha Washington’s seventeen year old daughter, Patsy, who has been suffering for years, probably from epilepsy, has a seizure after dinner and dies within just a few minutes, about 5 o’clock on the evening of June 19th.  A funeral is held the following day and her body is laid to rest in the old family vault on the Mount Vernon estate.  George Washington writes to his brother-in-law that Patsy’s death has “reduced my poor wife to the lowest ebb of misery.”  During the rest of the summer, Washington makes a concerted effort to get her out of the house and see that she keeps busy.

Martha Washington’s son, John Parke Custis, marries Eleanor (“Nelly”) Calvert

Martha Washington’s twenty-year-old son, John Parke Custis, marries sixteen-year-old Eleanor (“Nelly”) Calvert at the bride’s family home, Mount Airy Plantation in Maryland, on February 3rd.  His stepfather goes to the ceremony, but his mother is still too grief-stricken to attend.  Jack, his new bride, Nelly, and the latter’s parents and sister will visit Mount Vernon between March 1st and 7th.

George Washington writes, asking his wife to come to stay with him at his winter quarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts

In early October, George Washington writes, asking his wife to come to stay with him at his winter quarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts; she leaves Mount Vernon to be with him in mid-November, traveling with her son Jack, daughter-in-law Nelly, and her husband’s nephew, George Lewis.  She would arrive at his headquarters on December 11th.

Martha Washington becomes a grandmother

Martha Washington becomes a grandmother for the first time on August 21st, with the birth of her eldest surviving granddaughter, Eliza Parke Custis, at Mount Airy Plantation in Maryland.

Martha Washington heads for her husband’s winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey.

Martha Washington leaves Mount Vernon in March, heading for her husband’s winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey.

Martha Washington’s becomes a grandmother for the third time

Martha Washington’s becomes a grandmother for the third time on March 21st, with the birth of Eleanor Parke Custis, who will be called “Nelly.”

Martha Washington’s daughter-in-law, Nelly, gives birth to twin girls

Martha Washington’s daughter-in-law, Nelly, gives birth to twin girls, who live only three weeks; the exact date of their birth is unknown.

Martha Washington’s fourth and last grandchild, George Washington Parke Custis is born

Martha Washington’s fourth and last grandchild, George Washington Parke Custis (known to the family as “Washy” and later “Wash”) is born on April 30th at Mount Airy Plantation in Maryland.

Martha Washington’s niece, Fanny, marries George Washington’s nephew, George Augustine Washington, at Mount Vernon

Martha Washington’s niece, Fanny, marries George Washington’s nephew, George Augustine Washington, at Mount Vernon on the evening of October 15th.  Over much of the next decade, the young couple will make their home at Mount Vernon and assist the Washingtons in running the estate and entertaining guests.

In New York, the First Family initially makes their home at #3 Cherry Street

Martha Washington and her youngest grandchildren, Nelly and Washy, set off from Mount Vernon on May 16th, accompanied by George Washington’s nephew, Robert Lewis, and arrive in New York on the 28th.  They leave Mount Vernon in the care of George Augustine and Fanny Bassett Washington.  In New York, the First Family initially makes their home at #3 Cherry Street, which has been rented for them by Congress.

Martha Washington becomes a great-grandmother for the first time

Martha Washington becomes a great-grandmother for the first time, with the birth of Martha Eliza Eleanor Peter on January 20th.  The baby is described by granddaughter Nelly Custis (the child’s aunt) as, “a very fat, handsome good tempered, clever toad.” 

Martha Washington is widowed for the second time, with the death of George Washington

Martha Washington is widowed for the second time, with the death of her husband of forty years, George Washington, between 10 and 11 o’clock o on the evening of December 14th.  Sitting at the foot of the bed, she makes the statement, “’Tis well….All is now over[.]  I shall soon follow him!  I have no more trials to pass through!”  She will be too distraught to attend the funeral on December 18th and it would be too weeks before the shock of her husband’s death had worn off enough that she could cry.

Martha Washington’s first great-granddaughter, Martha Eliza Eleanor Peter, dies

Martha Washington’s first great-granddaughter, Martha Eliza Eleanor Peter, dies on August 31st; she was four years old.

Martha Washington dies surrounded by friends, relatives, and slaves, about noon on May 22nd.

On March 4th, Mrs. Washington adds a codicil to her will, bequeathing the only slave she owns outright to her grandson, George Washington Parke Custis.  In accordance with Virginia law, the remaining slaves at Mount Vernon, all of whom belonged to the estate of her first husband, Daniel Parke Custis, will be divided among her four grandchildren upon her death.

Martha Washington becomes seriously ill in early May with a bilious fever.  Both the doctor and minister come to care for her, as she makes preparations for her death and burial.  She will die at Mount Vernon, surrounded by friends, relatives, and slaves, about noon on May 22nd.

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