In 1670, George Eskridge was “shanghaied” while in London. Welsh traffickers took him to Virginia, where he worked on a plantation for 8 years. Eventually, he studied law in England, and then returned to Virginia, where he became a politician. This little-known historical figure went from being a human trafficking victim to becoming a respected businessman and statesman in Virginia. And by becoming the guardian of Mary Washington, George Eskridge may have unintentionally helped to instill “the spirit of adoption” that makes America so openly supportive of adoption initiatives throughout the world.
[I wrote this article after visiting Fredericksburg, Virginia, where my wife and I stopped during our honeymoon. Originally, we were just going to spend time at Meditation Rock to pray, but I accidentally learned a lot more about America’s history during our short visit.]
Mary Washington, the “first mother of America”, was born to Joseph and Mary Ball in 1708. Little Mary’s father died when she was 3, and her mother died when she was 12.
George Eskridge and his wife Elizabeth were friends of the Ball family, and they took Mary into their home. There was no formal legal process for adoption at that time, but George and Elizabeth raised Mary in their home until she got married.
Of course, Mary would eventually name her first son George, in honor of her own foster father, George Eskridge.
Meditation Rock, Mary Washington Monument, and George Eskridge Memorial Tree
During our time in Fredericksburg, Virginia, my wife and I visited Meditation Rock, where Mary Washington had prayed frequently for her son. George Washington narrowly escaped death many times during America’s Revolutionary War. Some people credit his miraculous safety and success to his mother’s prayers at Meditation Rock in Fredericksburg.
While we were there, I saw the gravestone of George Eskridge. I was very moved to learn about his story. His memorial stone is under a large tree beside Meditation Rock. The tree was also planted in his honor, with the idea that it symbolically “protects” the giant 50-foot granite memorial of Mary Washington, just as he protected her during her life.
Mary Washington was an orphan. But because of the influence and care of George and Elizabeth Eskridge in her life, Mary was able to grow up to become a “founding mother of America”.
George Eskridge was a trafficking victim, a lawyer, a politician, and a foster father/guardian. And even though very little is known about him, we can say that, in a sense, he was the “foster father of a nation”, because of his role in Mary Washington’s life.
If you look at it in a global context, America has a relatively strong history of orphan care and adoption. Could George Eskridge be one of the reasons for that?
Adoption in East Asia
Obviously, there is still a lot of work to do in the world of foster care and adoption. But maybe it’s worth remembering that it has been a long and complicated process for America (and many other Western nations) to make progress in this area, both culturally and legally. Presumably, the process will be difficult in East Asia, too, where adoption is still considered a shameful thing, rather than something honorable.
We will need a long and generous Christian witness to continue turning the hearts of parents to the orphaned and abandoned.
Col. George Eskridge Memorial Tree
April 29, 1937
May this Oak Tree from “Sandy Point” Westmoreland Co. Virginia, home of Col. George Eskridge, who was guardian for Mary Ball, shelter her last resting place, as she in her early childhood was sheltered and protected by her beloved guardian. As descendants of our illustrious ancestor, we dedicate this tree to the memory of our countries noblest mother and her guardian, Col. George Eskridge.