Mildred Gale (1671-1701)

aka Mildred Warner, Mildred Washington

Mildred Warner, Grandmother of George Washington the first President of the United States, was born in Virginia about 1671. She was also born into a very prestigious Virginian family. Her grandfather had been acting governor of Virginia and her father Speaker of its House of Burgesses. She married into another important family in 1686 with the marriage to Lawrence Washington with whom she had three children John, Augustine and Mildred. Upon his death Lawrence gave Mildred and his children shares of his estate with the profits from their lands to be administered by Mildred for their education and upbringing.

In 1700 Mildred Washington then married George Gale who was part of a family of Whitehaven merchants trading with Virginia. The Gales were Irish dissenters who had fled Tralee and after suffering in Newcastle had set up in Whitehaven about 1665 under the more sympathetic wing of John Lowther. In fact John Gale appears to have lived on land originally occupied by the Wyberghs known as the Old Hall which probably became Christopher Lowther's first residence in Whitehaven.

{The exact location of his home is vague but in 1878 William Jackson, FSA. speaking to the Antiquarian Society described the Old Hall as occupying the triangular plot of land South of the Market hall and bounded by Poe Street and Swing-pump lane (formerly the road to St. Bees). Its gardens were on the west of the road stretching up to the foot of the hill. On the plan of 1699, by Andrew Pellin, plot 17 occupies buildings in the Market place and more across the road with gardens extending to the foot of the hill. It seems to me that John Gale had his house there on the site of what is now the multi-storey car park. The plots to the north west were owned by Elisha Gale and Ebenezer Gale.}

Residence of the Gale family 1738

The market place, where the current market hall is now, can be seen on the right. To the south of that, on the left, appears to be two warehouses which probably belonged to the Gale family, some lower buildings which are possibly stables and behind that is a house with gardens stretching up the hill which was probably their house.

It would seem that this is the house that Mildred Gale stayed in when she and her husband came to Whitehaven just before Christmas. She was pregnant but possibly already had fever because she made her will before her baby's baptism on 25th Jan 1701. Her Negro servant was also baptised Jane on the 7th Jan 1701. Mildred was buried on the 30th January 1701, her maid, Jane, on the 20th February and the baby Mildred on the 26th May. It seems strange to me that her baby was named Mildred as she already had a daughter by that name from her first marriage.

Mildred's will was made January 24th, I700-1, and it was proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Richmond (Copeland Deanery) the following March on the 18th. There she was described as wife of George Gale of Whitehaven, Cumberland, "being doubtful of the recovery of my present sickness;" she states that "by an Indenture of Marriage made and executed by and between John Washington one of the executors of my late husband's will of the one part, and my present husband George Gale with my own consent and approbation thereof of the other part bearing date 16 May in the present year 1700 I am empowered to demise by will or other instrument the estate and legacys of my late husband to the uses and purposes therein mentioned "

It is clear she felt she had the right to leave the care of her children and their estates in the hands of her new husband. In a similar way to how Lawrence had left his estate she gave 1000 to her husband and divided the rest of her estate between him and the children. N.B. May 16th preceded January 24th in 1700 because before 1752 new years day was 25th March.

Her will also put him in charge of the care of the Washington children - John and Augustine he obtained place for at Appleby School. Augustine was later to send his own sons from his first marriage to the same school so he must have approved of its educational abilities. When George returned to Virginia, Mildred's will was challenged by John Washington, Lawrence's cousin, who failed but won on appeal no doubt aided by the fact that his family were better connected than the foreigner, George. The children were handed over to John in 1704 to provide for their care.

Augustine Washington firstly married Jane Butler with whom he had four children and then married Mary Ball who gave him the future president George Washington (1731-1799) and five others.

With a new wife Betty Denwood, George Gale founded the town of Whitehaven, Maryland but died in 1712 leaving four sons Levyn, George, John and Matthias.

In Memory of Mildred Gale

Stone memorial of Mildred Gale grandmother of George Washington in St. Nicholas gardens

Mildred was buried in the grounds of the Chapel of St.Nicholas in the centre of Whitehaven. The grave of Mildred Gale was probably destroyed by the re-arrangement of graves in a small churchyard that became overcrowded by several epidemics in a rapidly increased population over a period of 160 years.

St. Nicholas church c.1738

The old St. Nicholas church as it appeared on the 1738 etching by Parr based on Matthias Read's "Bird's Eye View".

plan of St. Nicholas church in 1699

We can see from the 1699 plan Pellin that the burials at that time were restricted to the north side of the current gardens. In 1693 Gilpin had persuaded the bishop to consecrate this rather than the church yard for burial. However, later in conflict, Ebenezer Gale insisted on burying in the church yard. The intended brick wall to segregate the 2 areas doesn't appear on the Read view.

In 1886 J.C.C. Smith stated this:- "there is not any extant memorial to her in either the church or churchyard". Despite this the gravestone has been seen in living memory. Smith doesn't seem to be in any doubt and Muriel Cinnamon recalls it was in such good condition it could have been a copy: she also mentions anecdotal evidence of the earliest gravestones being laid flat as paving in the 1780's. Further, verbal evidence indicates the stone was seen in the 1930's then buried about 1935 to prevent theft and then seen again about 1970.

In 1971 a great fire destroyed St. Nicholas church except the tower. Since then, the graveyard has been re-modelled into gardens, that are a great asset to the town, but in so doing the gravestone disappeared. It probably lies beneath one of the paths or beds. This seems like a tragedy but it could protect it from weathering of the friable sandstone and thus it might actually reappear at some later date still intact.

To make amends there are two plaques to commemorate the grave: - one made of brass was unveiled by Lady Nancy Astor at a ceremony in 1955, the other made of polished stone is on the wall of the church. There is another plaque in the family graveyard at Warner Hall, Gloucester, Virginia.

It is also interesting to note at the time of the Gales were other Washingtons resident in Whitehaven but it isn't known if there was a family connection.

Return to Whitehaven People

Much information comes from a small booklet recently published by Muriel Cinnamon available from Michael Moon's bookshop.

Ref: Daniel Hay - Whitehaven an Illustrated History. (1979)
Royal Commission ... - Whitehaven 1660-1800 (1991)
Muriel Cinnamon - The Grave and Gravestone of Mildred Gale... (2005)
William Jackson - Whitehaven: Its Streets, Principal Houses... (1878)
J.C.C Smith - New notes on the ancestry of George Washington ... (1886)
Gilpin - Correspondance of Sir John Lowther (1693-1698)

WAWL 2006