“One weakness alone belonged to this lofty-minded and intrepid woman [George Washington’s mom, Mary Ball], and that proceeded from a most affecting cause. .
It was a fear of lightning. .
In early life, a female friend had been killed at her side, while sitting at the table, the knife and fork in the hands of the unfortunate being melted by the electric fluid. .
The matron never recovered from the shock occasioned by this distressing incident. On the approach of a thunder-cloud, she would retire to her chamber, and not leave it again till the storm had passed over.” . .
. Mary Ball was pregnant with George Washington when lightning struck and killed her friend across the dining table. .
The above story became more detailed in this version, echoed all over the internet, from a New York Times reprint of Chapter One of George Washington, by Willard Sterne Randall, Henry Holt, New York, 1997: .
“When she was pregnant with George Washington, she experienced a shock that may have shaped her relationship with the large child taking shape in her womb. .
One summer Sunday afternoon, while the family was having dinner with guests from church, a thunderstorm rolled in. . A bolt of lightning struck the house and traveled down the chimney and hit a young girl who was visiting the Washingtons for Sunday dinner. . The electric current was so strong it fused the knife and fork she was using to cut her meat. . She died instantly. . The lightning hit with such force that it severely jolted the pregnant Mary Washington, who was sitting only a few feet away. .
From that time on, Mary Ball Washington cringed and tried to hide whenever lightning passed overhead, burying her face in her hands. .
For the moment, she recovered, but she became increasingly fearful over the years. . She was so happy a few months later when a strong, sound baby was born that she traveled around the Tidewater showing off George Washington to all his cousins for an entire month, before she even had him baptized.” .
” Randall has an eye for the controversial ….. Problems of coherence turn up early……. Even granting such a long chain of hypotheticals, Randall’s ”probably” presumes a lot. …. That’s one kind of problem. .
Another is a narrative style that occasionally tries artificially to dramatize an already dramatic life… .
Other characterizations similarly lack restraint. Washington is described as a ”sycophant at the feet of Lord Fairfax,” for example, and as ”the first modern American corporate executive” in his conduct of the war.” .
“It would be easy to load these pages with the spurious anecdotes and the dubious traditions of Mary Ball … … Some actual unpleasant occurrence may underlie the sensational yarn in G.W.P.Custis, 141, that Mary Washington’s fear of thunderstorms had its origin in the death by lightning of a friend who was sitting beside her at the dining table. As related, authenticity of the incident is discredited by the statement that the knife and fork in the hands of the stricken friend were melted by the bolt of lightning. “ .
. Is the story true? Are parts of the story true? . Neither G.W.P.Custis nor does Freeman mention Mary Ball is pregnant with George Washington. Was Mary Ball pregnant during the lightning strike? Neither mention the stricken girl’s name. .
But, Douglas Southall Freeman does consider the possibility that, ” Some actual unpleasant occurrence may underlie the sensational…” .
According to Douglas Southall Freeman, (page 46 of George Washington A Biography Volume 1 Young Washington, by Douglas Southall Freeman, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948, New York):. “Mary Ball knew she was definitely pregnant by June 1731.” .
If the lightning struck, maybe it struck that summer? .
So… have we proved or disproved all or parts of this story? .
———— MYTHS TOO EXCITING NOT TO TELL
. Myths and Fake News are getting a lot of attention these days. .
The Mother of Washington And Her Times BY MRS. ROGER A. PRYOR, COPYRIGHT, 1903, BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY. Set up, elect retyped, and published October, 1903. Reprinted November, 1903. Norwood Press, J. S. Gushing & Co. Berwick f Smith Co.Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. .