Dear Dr. Eardley,

I am not a family connection but I am contacting you apropos of some information I came across both on your family website and on the Virginia Ghotes website about Audley Farm near Berryville Virginia and the Washington and Custis families.

As a result of research for my new biography of Martha Washington ( "Martha Washington First Lady of Liberty" pub. by John Wiley March 2002) I think I can clarify the connection Robert Francis Eardley made in a letter of 18th October and a subsequent one ( by yourself) on Ghotes. There is a lot more in my book about the Custises, the Parkes,their peculiar wills and even a possible murder connected to one will, but the main points for your purposes are:
Martha Dandridge's first husband was Daniel Parke Custis, not John Parke Custis. Her two surviving children from that marriage were John Parke Custis (Jacky)and Martha Parke Custis (Patcy), about whom more follows.

Martha's first husband Daniel died after 7 years of marriage and she remarried George Washington who was, as Robert Francis Eardley says, extremely fond of his two Custis stepchildren. Patcy died age 17 of epilepsy but Jacky lived to the age of 27 , by which time he had married and fathered 4 living children- 3 daughters and one son. These 4 children stood to inherit the vast Custis fortune which came to them via their Custis grandfather, Martha's first husband.
Martha's first father-in-law and Daniel Parke Custis' father was John Custis IV. As far as my research revealed, the Custis family of Virginia , though of English origin, had owned a well known inn in Holland prior to emigrating to Virginia colony probably around 1640. On arrival in Virginia, through a series of prudent marriages over four generations the Custis family amassed enough land and slaves to make John Custis IV, by now the sole heir of the wealthy branch of the family, extremely rich. John Custis IV was educated in England was a member of Middle Temple, which suggests he was trained as a lawyer.
On his return to Virginia John Custis IV merged his fortune with another whn he married Frances Parke, daughter of a very wealthy but very odd man named Daniel Parke, who left a provision in his will that none of his descendants could inherit his fortune unless they had " Parke" in their names- hence Martha's husband being named Daniel Parke Custis and for the next four generations everyone confusingly has a Parke middle name.
When Martha Dandridge Custis Washington's son Jacky ( see above) died age 27 his four children - Elizabeth Parke Custis (Eliza), Martha Parke Custis (Patty), Eleanor Parke Custis ( Nelly) and George Washington Parke Custis (Wash) - each became entitled to a share of his Custis/Parke fortune. The Washingtons raised Nelly and Wash, and Nelly married George Washington's nephew Lawrence Lewis.
Nelly and Lawrence Lewis built their home "Woodlawn" on land given to them by George Washington as a wedding present, and using Nelly's Parke/Custis inheritance because Lawrence had no fortune of his own. They had 5 children who lived past infancy , and one of those, Lorenzo Lewis, bought "Audley" near Berryville , once the home of George's relative, Warner Washington.
After the death of her husband Lawrence Lewis, Nelly Parke Custis Lewis moved to Audley in 1841 and died there in 1852.
So though there was indeed a Custis connection with Audley to the extent that Nelly had been born a Custis and her son was part Custis, I doubt Audley was financed with Custis/Parke money . Lorenzo Lewis did not have a "Parke" in his name. There was probably little if any left of Nelly's share of the fortune, and the only one of her children to bear the name Parke was her eldest daughter. That suggests that there was no point sticking Parke into the names of the younger children because there was nothing for them to inherit.
Equally, there was a Washington connection via Nelly and via Warner, but only very indirectly through George.
Do please get back in touch if you have any questions.

best wishes

Helen Bryan

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