GW: The Gentry Background
George Washington (1732-99) was born to a solid middle class gentry family. His father, Augustine Washington, had been married previously, fathered two sons and a daughter, was widowed, and remarried Mary Ball. They had five children together, George being the eldest.
The Washingtons, raised in the Fredericksburg, VA area, owned property and prospered, but they were a far cry from the wealthy planters. The Dandridges, Martha Washington’s family, were in similar circumstances financially, albeit down in New Kent Country, some 100 miles away.
Martha Dandridge married Daniel Parke Custis when she was seventeen, and he more than twice her age. It was a happy union lasting eight years until Custis’ death. He was one of the wealthiest planters in Virginia, and Martha and her two surviving children were his only heirs. She…
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