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A Journal Devoted to Historical Research in the Western Hemisphere.

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Magazine of Western History.

Vol. XIV.

AUGUST, 1891.



ABOUT five hundred years ago Richard II. ordered the head of Rev. John Ball cut off. It was done and displayed upon a pike on London Bridge.

Weighty reasons are assigned by historians for asserting that Mary Ball, the mother of Washington, lineally descended from this "mediæval champion of the rights of man," from whom, rather perhaps than from his aristocratic ancestors of Sulgrave of Sulgrave Manor House, Northamptonshire, were derived those democratic tendencies which distinguished Washington.

Rev. John Ball was called "the mad preacher of Kent." Lossing says he was of the class of married priests so hated and harried by St. Dunstan centuries before.

His habit was to preach to the yeoman in Kentish churchyards, in market places and at fairs, taking for his text his favorite couplet :

When Adam delved and Eve span Who was then the gentleman?

No. 4.

For this he was imprisoned and placed in stocks by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but nevertheless, and in spite of beatings and insults, he continued his harangues, directing them chiefly against the tyranny of rank. and wealth and privilege which oppressed the people.

He preached "the seminal doctrine of our Declaration of Independence, pure and simple; and the people listened to him with loving hearts and eager ears as a prophet and evangelist."

Sir John Froissart, the chronicler of the times of the Plantagnets, reports the following sermon, delivered one Sunday, after mass, as the people came out of the church:

"My good friends, things cannot go on well in England, nor ever will, until everything shall be in common; when there shall neither be vassal nor lord, and all distinctions levelled; when the lords shall be no more mas

ters than ourselves. How ill they have used us, and for what reasons do they thus hold us in bondage? Are we not all descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve? and what can they show, or what reasons give, why they should be more the masters than ourselves? except, perhaps, in making us labor and work for them to spend in their pride. They are clothed in velvets and rich stuffs, ornamented with ermine and other furs, while we are forced to wear poor clothes. They have wines, spices, and fine bread, when we have only rye and the refuse of the straw; and, if we drink, it must be water. They have handsome seats and manors, when we must brave the wind and rain in our labors in the field; but it is from our labor they have wherewith to support their pomp. We are called slaves; and if we do not perform our services, we are beaten, and we have not any soverign to whom we can complain, or who wishes to hear us and do justice."

The imprisonment of Ball and an unjust tax levied about the same time threw England into tumult. Wat Tyler's Rebellion followed, when his army plundered the Archbishop's palace, released John Ball from prison, set him on a horse as their leader and marched on to London. This evoked from Richard II. a pledge to issue charters and grant forgiveness if they would disperse and go home. All but about one-third complied. These remained to enforce the fulfillment of the royal pledge.

A quarrel with the Lord Mayor of London brought on a conflict. Tyler was killed, and John Ball was seized and beheaded at Coventry, A. D. 1381.

The historian Green, says it was in the preaching of John Ball that England first listened to the knell of feudalism and the declaration of the rights of men.

Col. William Ball, a descendant of the preacher, was a native of Kent, England. He had a brother John Ball, a Calvanistic divine of Woodstock, whose name is enrolled as one of Fuller's Worthies of England. Colonel Ball served reluctantly for awhile in the royal army, and was at Marston Moor and Naseby. After the death of Charles I., he came to America and settled as a planter in Lancaster County, Virginia. He died in 1669, leaving two sons, William and Joseph, and a daughter, Hannah, who married Daniel Fox. Joseph returned to England to look after the estates left by their father. There he married and lived until 1695, when he returned to Virginia.

His youngest daughter, Mary, was born late in 1706. Not much is recorded of the youth and young womanhood of this Virginia damsel who found grace in the eyes of Augustine Washington. Her father was a planter upon the Rappahannock River, not far from its confluence with the majestic Chesapeake Bay, and was known as "Colonel Ball of Lancaster."

This was the age, in the history of colonial Virginia, when "learning was

very good overseer at this quarter

considered unbecoming a gentleman," at least it was less than fifty years now. Captain Newton has taken a

from the time when Governor Berkeley had thanked God there were no free schools nor a printing press in Virginia.

large lease of ground from you which I Deare say if you had been hear yourself it had not been don. Mr. Daniel & his wife & family is well. Cozin Hannah has been married & lost her husband. She has only one child a boy, pray give my love to Sister Ball & Mr. Downman, his son-in-law & his Lady & I am Deare Brother,

your loving Sister,

Mary Washington. "Mr. Joseph Ball, Esq.,

Mary at seventeen years of age, laments the lack of educational advantages in these words, the conclusion of a letter to her brother Joseph, a lawyer in London, and written. January 14, 1723: "We have not a school-master in our neighborhood until now in nearly four years. We have now a young minister living with us, who was educated at Oxford, took orders, and came over as assistant to Rev. Kemp at Gloucester. That parish is too poor to keep both, and he teaches school for his board. He teaches sister Susie and me and Madam Carter's boy and two girls. I am now learning pretty fast. Mama and Susie and all send love to you and Mary. This from your loving sister, Mary Ball."

At Stratford by Bow, Nigh London. The late Dr. B. J. Lossing, the distinguished antiquarian and historian, to whose recent work I am so much indebted for these facts, pays this tribute to Mary and her mother, attributing her characteristics rightfully to the maternal source:-"But her career indicates that she had received at home an education for the higher duties of life, of far greater value and importance than any taught in schools. From her mother, who died in 1728, after a widowhood of many years, she had doubtless inherited the noblest qualities of mind and heart, and had been taught all those domestic virtues of which cotemporary testimony and tradition tell us she was a bright exemplar-industry, frugality, integrity, strength of will and purpose, obedient to the behest of duty, faithfulness and modesty, and with deep religious convictions."

The following allusion to Mary Ball


The spelling in the above copy was corrected. The following is a literal copy of another autograph letter to the same brother, in possession of Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, of New York :July 2, 1760. DEAR BROTHER, this Coms by Captain Nickleson. You seem to blame me for not writeing to you butt I doe ashure you it is Note for a want of a very great regard for you and the family, butt as I don't ship tobacco the Captains never call on me soe that I never know when tha com or when tha goe. I believe you have got a

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