Moll, Slave Caregiver to President Washington’s Adopted Children

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Washington at Home

The slave Moll took care of George Washington Parke Custis and Eleanor Parke Custis, Martha Washington’s youngest grandchildren.

When Martha Washington’s grandchildren arrived at the President’s House in Philadelphia in November 1790 with President and Mrs. Washington, Moll was already their longtime nurse. She had begun caring for them at Mount Vernon where they were sent because Martha’s daughter-in-law, who was then ailing, was unable to care for children so young.

Moll Cared For Martha’s Children Too

Before there were the grandchildren, Moll had cared for the younger two children born to Martha and her first husband Daniel Parke Custis. The Custises had four children. Daniel (born in 1751) and Frances (born in 1753) died before they were five years old. Moll cared for the surviving children John or “Jacky” (born in 1755) and Martha or “Patsy” (born in 1756). Patsy died in Virginia in 1773 at the age of 17 from an epileptic seizure. She seems to have suffered from epilepsy for many years with Moll being her caregiver.

Moll, who’s sometimes referred to as Molly, was a dower slave who was brought to Washington’s Virginia plantation Mount Vernon in 1759. This was just after his marriage to the widowed Martha. Moll was born about 1740 so she was about 50 years old when the Washingtons moved to the President’s House. The mansion was the official residence of the president of the United States when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800.

Moll Cares For Grandchildren At the President’s House

In Philadelphia when President Washington arrived at the President’s House with Nelly (born 1779) and Wash (born 1781). The Washingtons raised these children as their own. Their parents were Eleanor “Nelly” Calvert and Martha’s late son John Parke Custis. He had died of typhoid fever in 1781. The children’s two older siblings and three stepsisters lived with their mother and stepfather in on a plantation in Virginia.

No records examined by historians indicates that Moll ever married or had any children. She was the only slave to work at the President’s House for all the years Washington was president. She was one of four slaves in or near President Washington’s bedroom when he died.

Sources:

  1. Lawler, Jr., Edward. “The President’s House in Philadelphia – Moll.”
  2. Thompson, Mary. “Different People, Different Stories: The Life Stories of Individual Slaves From Mount Vernon and Their Relationaships With George and Martha Washington.” Talk at Symposium. George Washington & Slavery. Mount Vernon, VA.
  3. Wiencek, Henry. An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2003.
  4. Brady, Patricia. Martha Washington: An American Life. New York: Viking. 2005.