Family talk:Joseph Ball and Mary Unknown (1)

Discussion from now merged Joseph Ball and Mary Montague page

In addition to "The House of Montague," it is accepted by all serious researchers, and the Mary Ball Washington Museum & Library in Lancaster, Virginia, the the maiden name of Mary (----) Johnson Ball was not Montague. It would be a triumph for all genealogists and researchers on this line to put a final and fatal stake through the heart of this red canard. There is no credible evidence for this assertion, and seems only to derive from some very wishful thinking by some late 19th century people. As for the Widow Johnson being a BENETT, this too is extremely doubtful. Many base this on the fact that one Mary Johnson married one William Johnson in Middlesex County. The dates do line up, nor do the facts, and nor do the social stations. The best anyone can do in this case is leave her maiden name a blank.--unless of course someone has any proof otherwise. Something that has never been produced. Persisto

The House of Montague has disproved that Mary Montague married Joseph Ball. Please refer to the following article which still is posted on their official website:

Mary's maiden name was thought to have been Montague, according to L.A. Richardson, but this appears to have been contradicted by other informed sources and thoroughly researched, based upon the information presented below. It appears possible that Mary's maiden name may have been Bennett, based upon this record:

10 Feb 1688/9: Christ Church Parish Register of Middlesex Co., 1615-1812, "William Johnson of Norwich and Mary Bennett of West Chester were married 10 Feb 1688/9." [Could this be the Mary Johnson who m. Joseph Ball between 6 Feb 1707-25 Jun 1711? They had two children: Elizabeth & John. This is not proved. There is no record of the birth of either Elizabeth or John Johnson in the Christ Church Parish, Middlesex Parish records.]


INTRODUCTION. A fair number of researchers believe that Mary Montague, dau. of Peter & Mary (Doodes/Minor) Montague, may have been the widow Mary Johnson, 2nd wife of Col. Joseph Ball. Why is this particular fact interesting? Because Joseph and Mary Ball's daughter Mary was, in fact and documented to be, the mother of George Washington. At the heart of this issue is the maiden name of Mary Johnson. What follows is a complete, source-based presentation of the facts surrounding the issue. It includes all documentation known to this writer, as of this writing, concerning Mary Montague, Joseph Ball, Mary Johnson, and Mary Ball. Unfortunately these facts are not sufficient to know her maiden name. 

For now, we can only judge the relative probability of Mary's maiden identity from a limited number of potential candidates. We open this treatment with the earliest known documented discussion of George Washington's presumed maternal grandmother from George William Montague's, History and Genealogy of Peter Montague of Nansemond and Lancaster Counties, Virginia, and His Descendants, 1621-1894. (Amherst, Massachusetts: Carpenter & Morehouse, 1894, p. 48 (Hereinafter cited as HGPM):

"A tradition has existed for fifty years or more, that George Washington was of Montague descent, through his mother Mary Ball. It probably originated from the fact that William Montague married, 1727, a dau. of Capt. Richard Ball, who was Mary Ball's cousin [their fathers were brothers].

This subject has been thoroughly investigated by Rev. Horace E. Hayden in his Va. Genealogies, published Wilkes-Barre, Pa., 1891. The compiler also has made a thorough search, and left no means untried to obtain the truth. The result is, that the only place where such descent could be possible, was through Mary Ball's mother who was, before Col. Ball married her, a Mrs. Mary Johnson, a widow, of Lancaster Co., Va. A tradition exists in the Ball family that Mrs. Mary Johnson was born in England. This tradition has been traced to Mrs. Ann Shearman, whose mother was Esther Ball, the half sister of Mary Ball. If it is true, that she was born in England, then - any descent from Peter Montague was impossible. No record has been found to show the maiden name of Mrs. Mary Johnson, or who she was before her marriage to Johnson. If she was a Miss Montague, she would have to be a daughter of one of the sons of the emigrant Peter Montague. One of his sons did have a daughter whose name was Mary Montague, but church records prove that she married, Oct. 24, 1682, Thomas Payne, and no record exists to show that she ever afterward married any one else. Records of that time and locality are lost, and the maiden name of Mrs. Mary Johnson [Washington's grandmother] will probably never be known."

Undocumented Sources

Following are four other respected sources which have published their own accounts of the legend that a Montague was the grandmother of George Washington (followed by parenthetical commentary by this writer):

George Washington - A Life, by Willard Sterne Randall, 1997, p. 15, "Mary Ball had gone to London to be introduced into English society. On her illiterate mother's side she was a Montague, a member of a famous landed family." (Only problem here is that I find it hard to believe that Mary Montague, granddaughter of Peter who was a member of the House of Burgesses, could not read or write? She is from a well-to-do family, a very prominent family, yet had not been taught what basically separated the upper class from the lower, the ability to read & write? Also, no source is provided for the "Illiterate" Montague statement.)

Montague Genealogy and Virginia Genealogy, by Rev. Hayden, p. 664, "Joseph Ball would select his wife from the neighboring family of Montague." (Again, no source cited. Also, could it be that this Mary was a servant of the Montague's? Big stretch .. but have to be open to all possibilities.)

George Washington, by Douglas Southall Freeman, p. 532, Note 23, "It has been .... Maintained that she was Mary Montague before her marriage and that from her George Washington received the Montague seal he used." (Again, no source cited.)

Colonial Families of the Southern States of America, by Stella Pickett Hardy, p. 39, In the genealogy of Col Joseph Ball, "m. (second) 1707, Mary (Montague) Johnson, of Lancaster Co., VA, a native of England." (Again, no source cited.)

Documented Sources

None of the authors above cite their sources for the statements they have made. It's as if they are feeding from one another's work. What follows are a compilation of all the documented facts available on the issue. Each fact standing alone is but a brick, but taken together with all the other bricks creates something of a brick wall, in that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts:

About 1664: The approximate birth date of Mary (dau. of Peter I) [citing HGPM 62, (8)]. Prior to 12 March 1666/7: Mary [Montague] was born before 12 March 1666/7 because on that date she "... was given a "heyfer" by her aunt Elizabeth Montague" [Adventurers of Purse and Person, pp 452-453 citing Lancaster Co. Deeds &c 4, 1666-82, p. 18.] Establishes Elizabeth Montague (dau. of Peter I and sister of Peter II) had niece named Mary and that Mary was one of the children of Peter II. See more at paragraph D below. 13 Dec 1677: Meindert Doodes will states ". . . son Doodes Minor's children were to have half of the Negroes and the other half to go to Peter Montague for the sole use of his wife [Mary Minor], and after her death to the sole use of her children." [Adventurers of Purse and Person, p. 451 citing Middlesex Co. Wills 1675-1798, p. 6]. Establishes that Meindert Doodes had two living children-son Doodes and a daughter married to Peter Montague II referred to as "his wife". Note that both of Meinert Doodes children married children of Peter I-(i.e. Elizabeth Montague m. Minor Doodes Jr. and her brother Peter II m. Mary Minor Doodes). [Note: Meindert Doodes' children dropped "Doodes" and used "Minor" as their last name, thus Minor Doodes, Jr became Minor Minor, Jr.] 17 Nov 1678: The will of Mary Doodes states: "Mary Doodes will named her sons Doodes Meindert and Peter Montague and daughter Marie Montague's daughter Marye" (Adventurers of Purse and Person, p. 451, citing Middlesex Co. Wills 1675-1798, p. 35). Establishes Mary Montague is daughter of Peter II. 24 Oct 1682: Mary Montague weds Thomas Paine, [John Otto Yurechko's, Christ Church Parish Register of Middlesex County Virginia, 1615-1812, p. 12; and Adventurers of Purse and Person, p. 453 citing Lancaster Co. Deeds 1666-82, p. 18]. "Adventurers" shows this is Mary Montague, dau. of Peter II & Mary Minor. We also know "John Mountague, son of Peter and Mary, bapt 21 May 1682" [Christ Church Parish Register, p. 10]. These two dates place the Mountague family in Middlesex County, Christ Church Parish as late as 24 Oct 1682. It is almost certainly her first marriage, as she is listed as a Montague, and not "widdow" or "relic" as is the custom. Establishes that Mary's first husband was Thomas Paine or Payne. 17 Feb 1686/7: Christ Church Parish Register of Middlesex Co., 1615-1812 lists that in 1686/7 "17 Feb Mary Payne" was buried. This doesn't state if it is Mary, wife of Thomas; a child of Thomas & Mary; or a completely different person. [This is the last time the name of Mary (Montague) Payne is ever known to have been recorded on any documents.] 10 Feb 1688/9: Christ Church Parish Register of Middlesex Co., 1615-1812, "William Johnson of Norwich and Mary Bennett of West Chester were married 10 Feb 1688/9." [Could this be the Mary Johnson who m. Joseph Ball between 6 Feb 1707-25 Jun 1711? They had two children: Elizabeth & John.] 4 Feb 1693/4: "Indenture to Richard Hutchens of ye said Parish and county .... parcel of land and plantation where I now live situated in ye aforesaid Parish of South Farnham containing by examination one hundred seventy-seven acres, with all appurtances and houses building edifaces, structures, gardens, orchards, fences there unto belonging or appertaining to ye land." For this Richard paid 2000 pounds of sweet-scented tobacco. The deed was written on Feb 4 1694, and was recorded on Feb 11, 1694. On that same day, Richard gave Mr. Edward Adock a permit for free passage through his land to Thomas Payne's landing at the Rappahannock River. He also offered to help Mr. Payne's father-in-law to find timber. The document was signed by Richard with his mark R. (From Tidewater Virginia Families, no page listed). Once again, a mention of Thomas Payne having a father-in-law. Same problem as in para above. Before 2 Dec 1695: Both Peter II and his wife Mary are dead by this date. This is known because Peter "Mountecough" and William "Mountecough" petitioned the Middlesex court "on behalf of themselves and their two sisters Elizabeth and Catherine" for a division of five Negro slaves "given by Mindret Dodes to the children of Peter Mountecough, deceased, after their mother's death." [Adventurers of Purse and Person, p. 451 citing Middlesex Co. Order Bk. 3, 1694-1705, p. 78]. This is interesting in that there is no mention of Peter II siblings, Mary or John, suggesting they were both deceased by this time. It is also possible they did not pursue this because they were out of the area. In fact, John apparently did remove himself to Essex Co., where he lived out his life and died, unmarried in 1733 [Adventurers of Purse and Person, p. 452, footnote 25, citing Essex County Will Bk. 5, pp. 204-05], or just not interested in obtaining their share (unlikely). This again establishing the likelihood that Mary was already deceased. Before 15 Jan 1694/5: Estate of Thomas Payne needed for his debt of 1300 pounds. (Essex Co., VA. Deeds & Wills Book 9, pg 16). It appears that Thomas Payne is dead by this date. It appears that he left no will (probably died a young man). Also it is highly unlikely that he could be the unproved son Thomas, b. abt 1684, who would have been too young to leave an estate. However, if Thomas were now deceased, leaving Mary (Montague) Payne as his widow, she would theoretically be free to remarry. June 1698: Richard Hutchens was a witness for Captain Edward Thomas, and was paid for his court attendance according to law. In 1698, Richard witnessed a deed for John Miller, and in 1700 he proved the will of John Ellett, who was the father-in-law of Thomas Payne. (From Tidewater Virginia Families, no page listed). Interesting in that Thomas Payne has now acquired a father-in-law. This could mean 1) Thomas has remarried a woman surnamed Ellett (Elliott); or 2) Thomas Payne's mother has married (2) John Ellett. Neither one has been proven because there is no mention of Thomas Payne's mother's name (in records that I've seen). Adds to the likelihood that Mary is deceased and her widowed husband has remarried. [Note: The term "father-in-law" was used when the relationship was what today would be called a stepfather.] 1703: Mary Johnson is witness to a gift deed from Col. Joseph Ball to his son-in-law Rawleigh Chinn. After 6 Feb 1707: Mary Johnson marries Col. Joseph Ball. Married Well and Often--Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1649-1800:24, citing Parish Register of Christ Church Middlesex Co., 1997, p. 37. 1708: Mary Ball is born to Mary Johnson and Col. Joseph Ball. [Mary Montague would have been about 44 years old.] 25 June 1711: Col. Joseph Ball's will leaves to his beloved step daughter Elizabeth Johnson, 100 acres of land for her life. Bef 12 Aug 1712: Richard Hues (Hewes, Hughes) marries Mary Johnson Ball. His will mentions his wife Mary & her children Elizabeth & John Johnson in his will. [Married Well and Often--Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1649-1800:190, citing Northumberland Co., VA, 12 Aug 1712-17 Feb 1713/4] 26 May 1715: Thomas Payne m. Catherine Lydford (Christ Church Parish Records, p. 60). Is this the son of Thomas & Mary (Montague) Payne, or a new person completely? 7 Feb 1720/1: In Thomas Montague's will he leaves, "Thomas Paine of Middlesex County, 150 acres out of the upper side of my land lying in Essex County." (Adventurers of Purse and Person, p. 455 citing Essex Co. Deeds, Bonds. Letters of Attorney 17, 1721-24, pp. 359-60). This Thomas Montague would be the cousin of Mary (Montague) Payne. He doesn't state the relationship between himself & Thomas Paine, but one would assume that he is related somehow. This reestablishes the long-running relationship between Montague and Payne families. 1721: Mary (--?--) Johnson Ball Hewes dies at Cherry Point Farm, Northumberland Co., VA, as did her son John. [Robert K. Headley, Jr., Married Well and Often--Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1649-1800, p. 45, citing Northumberland Co. Record Book, 1718-1726:176; Northumberland Co. Wills, 1713-49:2; Johnson:176]. Mary Hewes in her will mentions her dau. Mary Ball (a minor), her dau. Elizabeth Bonham & her son John Johnson. [Married Well and Often--Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1649-1800, p. 190, citing Northumberland Co., VA, Order Book 1713-19:17; Record Book 1718-26:176; Johnson:176]

Sources from Published Genealogical Articles

"Col. William Ball of Balleston, MD, and Millenbeck, VA, Great Grandfather of George Washington". ("Genealogies of Virginia Families" from Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine) 

"Colonel Joseph Ball, youngest son of Colonel William Ball, was transported by his father from Maryland to Virginia. By his first marriage he had one son and four daughters: Joseph. born 11 March, 1684, who was educated in England and there wooed and wed Miss Frances Ravenscroft; Elizabeth married Rev. John Carnegie, Hannah married Mr. Rawleigh Travers, Anne married Colonel Edwin Conway, and Easter married Mr. Rawleigh Chinn. He married second Mrs. Mary Johnson, a widow with two children, John and Elizabeth Johnson. She was born in England and was living neighbor to him in Lancaster County, Virginia, at the time of their marriage. Colonel Joseph Ball died at "Epping Forest," Lancaster County, Virginia, in 1711, leaving an only child by this marriage, Mary Ball."' Probably his widow with their daughter, Mary, returned home to visit relatives. She married, as her third husband, Captain Richard Hewes. They were living in St. Stephen's Parish, Northumberland County, Virginia, when he died circa 1713. In her will dated 17 December, 1720, she leaves her daughter, Mary Ball, "under tutelage and government of her friend, Captain George Eskridge, during her minority." She died in 1721 and when her daughter, Mary Ball, was of age most likely she went to England to live. "Mary Johnson, Second Wife of Col. Joseph Ball", by Elizabeth Combs Pierce ("Genealogies of Virginia Families" from William & Mary Quarterly, pp. 194-95) (a) "The identity of Mary Johnson, widow, whom Col. Joseph Ball made his second wife sometime after Feb. 6th, 1707 and who became the mother of Mary, the mother of Washington in 1707/8 has remained an unsolved riddle but by comparison of the records of Westmoreland Co. compiled by Miss Lucy Beale with the records of Lancaster and Middlesex Counties a reasonable solution is seen.

(b) In 1703, Col. Joseph Ball made a gift deed to his son-in-law Rawleigh Chinn, Gent. of 190 A. "To the westward of the land of the sd Col. Joseph Ball," which afterwards bore the name, "Oakley," and which has never been out of the possession of descendants of Rawleigh and Esther Ball Chinn. This deed was witnessed by "Mary Johnson, her mark."

(c) On Feb. 6th, 1707, Col. Joseph Ball made a gift deed to his five children as follows, "To son Joseph Ball, To Hannah Travers, wife of Mr Rawleigh Travers of Stafford Co. To Ann Conway, wife of Mr. Edwin Conway of Lancaster Co. To Easte-Chinn, wife of Mr Rawleigh Chinn aforesaid each daughters of the aforesaid Col. Joseph Ball and to Joseph Carnegie, son of Elizabeth Carnegie late dec'd, which sd Elizabeth, my daughter and wife of Mr John Carnegie, minister in Northumberland Co." and adds this "If I the sd Col. Joseph Ball should decide to marry,"--evidently having the "Widow Johnson" in mind at that time as he reserves certain dower rights in his estate.

(d) No record of the marriage of Col. Joseph Ball to Mary Johnson has ever been found in court records but in his will dated June 25th, 1711-he leaves to his beloved step daughter Elizabeth Johnson, 100 A. of land for life.

(e) The "Register of Christ Church Parish" Middlesex Co., p. 41, records this marriage -"William Johnson of Norwich and Mary Bennett of West Chester, England was married the 10th. of February 1688/9"

(f) In Middlesex Co., we also find the will of a Capt. George Johnson -9th. Sept. 1701-naming sons, John, William and George also wife, Elizabeth. In this we note the similarity of names.

(g) After Col Balls death in 1711, His widow married Richard Hewes who died in or before 1713. A suit was brought by Joseph Ball against the estate of Richard Hewes, Dec'd in that year. (Lancaster Co.)

(h) Following the death of her third husband, Mary Hewes lived either in Westmoreland Co. near her daughter Elizabeth Johnson who married Samuel Bonam or with her son John Johnson. She died in 1721 and appointed her son John Johnson and well beloved friend, George Eskridge, executors of her will in which she placed her daughter, Mary Ball, "under the tutelage and government of Capt. George Eskridge."

(i) John Johnson died unmarried soon after the death of his mother and bequeathed to his sister, Mary Ball, land which his father-in-law (step-father) Richard Hewes, had willed him and Samuel Bonam, husband of Elizabeth Johnson died in 1726 leaving a son, Samuel Bonam.

(j) As Samuel Bonam the younger was a grandson of Mary Johnson Ball Hewes the following is offered as proof of the fact that her maiden name was Bennett.

(k) Fiduciary Accts. 1742-P,89-Date 1738/9 Westmoreland Co., "Lindsey Opie, Guardian of Samuel Bonam, son of Samuel and Elizabeth Bonam etc., Pay to Mrs Bennett for board 400 lbs of tobacco. Pay to Mrs Chatten for board. Pay to Mrs Kennedy. Paid Mr Bennett. Credit to John Johnson for a wig. To pay Mr Thos. Bennett cash etc. Aunt and Uncle Thomas and Elizabeth Bennett.


Based on the body of evidence compiled here, the only factual statements are: (1) Mary Montague, b. abt 1664, is the dau. of Peter Montague and Mary Minor; and (2) she m. 24 Oct 1682, Thomas Paine (or Payne) in Middlesex Co., VA. What follows is my interpretation of what the indirect evidence suggests: 

Mary Montague probably d. in 1686/7 as Mary Payne--probably while giving birth to her first child, Thomas Paine Jr. This supposition is enhanced further by the fact that Mary (Montague) does not appear in the record after 1687. It is not insignificant, for example, that Mary is not mentioned with her siblings in the settling of her father's estate in 1695. Furthermore, her husband Thomas appears to have remarried, as the few extant records containing Thomas Paine show he had a father-in-law named Ellett or Elliott. Thomas Paine apparently did not leave a will when his estate was being settled in 1694/5, but there is no record of a widow or other court orders against his estate as one might expect were there any surviving family. On the other hand, the evidence supporting Mary Bennett as grandmother of George Washington is far more convincing, if not actually proven.