Daniel Parke Custis

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Daniel Parke Custis
Born October 15, 1711 (aged 46)
York County, Virginia
Died July 7, 1757
New Kent County, Virginia
Nationality American
Occupation Planter
Parents John Custis
Frances Parke Custis
Relatives Daniel Parke (maternal grandfather)

Daniel Lewis Parke Custis (1711–July, 7 1757) was a wealthy Virginia planter. After his death, his widow Martha married George Washington.


Early life[edit]

Daniel Parke Custis was born in York County, Virginia. He was the son of John Custis (1678–1749), a powerful member of Virginia's Governor's Council, and Frances Parke Custis. He was a grandson of Daniel Parke, also a member of the Council and governor of the Leeward Islands.


He inherited Southern plantations. However, he did not choose to take a leading role in colonial Virginia politics.

Personal life[edit]

He married Martha Dandridge on 15 May 1750. They had four children:

  • Daniel Parke Custis, Jr. (November 19, 1751 – February 19, 1754)
  • Frances Parke Custis (April 12, 1753 – April 1, 1757)
  • John “Jacky” Parke Custis (November 27, 1754 – November 5, 1781)
  • Martha “Patsy” Parke Custis (1756 – June 19, 1773)

Two years after his death, his widow, Martha, married George Washington, who became stepfather to "Jacky" and "Patsy" Custis.

Death and estate[edit]

He died in New Kent County, Virginia. As he died intestate, his widow received the lifetime use of one-third of his property ("dower share"), while the other two-thirds was held in trust for their children. The January 1759 Custis Estate inventory listed 285 enslaved Africans.[1] The October 1759 Custis Estate inventory listed 17,779 acres (71.95 km2), or 27.78 square miles of land, spread over 5 counties.[2]

Upon Martha Custis's January 6, 1759 marriage to George Washington, her "dower share" came under his control, pursuant to the common law doctrine of seisin jure uxoris. He became guardian of her two minor children, and administrator of the Custis Estate. John Parke Custis was the only child to reach his majority, upon which he inherited the non-dower two-thirds of his father's Estate.

Upon Washington's December 14, 1799 death, the "dower share" reverted to his widow, and then, upon her May 22, 1802 death, to the Custis Estate. Because of Martha Washington's "dower share," the Custis Estate could not be liquidated for more than 45 years. Following her death, the "dower share" was divided between John Parke Custis's widow, Eleanor Calvert Custis Stuart, and their four children.

Dower slaves[edit]

In 1759, Martha Washington's "dower share" included at least 85 slaves.[3] By 1799, according to the Mount Vernon slave census, the "dower share" included 153 slaves. Through a provision in his Will, Washington directed that his 124 slaves be freed following his wife's death.[4] But, at her request, they were freed on January 1, 1801. Because the "dower slaves" were part of the Custis Estate, Martha Washington never had the legal power to free them. In her Will, she made Elisha, the one slave that she owned herself, a bequest to her grandson, George Washington Parke Custis.


  1. ^ "Complete Inventory, by Counties, of the Estate", in Joseph E. Fields, Worthy Partner: The Papers of Martha Washington (Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. 61-75.
  2. ^ "Account of Land and Acreage, Estate of Daniel Parke Custis", in Worthy Partner, pp. 103-04. This land inventory was incomplete, not listing Custis lots in Jamestown and Williamsburg.
  3. ^ The number is imprecise because the January 1759 Custis Estate inventory listed some enslaved mothers "with children," but didn't specify the number of children.
  4. ^ Washington's private letters indicate a plan to rent out the dower slaves to other plantations, with the income going toward purchasing them from the Custis Estate, and ultimately freeing them. This would have required the approval of all the Custis heirs to succeed, but it is not known why it was never implemented. See George Washington to Dr. David Stuart, February 7, 1796.