Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis

Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis

Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis (April 22, 1788 – April 23, 1853) was an Episcopal lay leader in Alexandria County (now Arlington County, Virginia, USA). The daughter of William Fitzhugh (1741–1809) a member of the Continental Congress, and Ann Bolling Randolph Fitzhugh, Mary Lee was most likely born at Chatham, in Stafford County, Virginia.

Arlington House from an antebellum sketch, published in 1875.

On July 7, 1804, she married George Washington Parke Custis, an orator, playwright, writer, and the grandson of Martha Custis Washington through her first marriage to Daniel Parke Custis. " Molly " Custis thus became George Washington's step-granddaughter-in-law. Molly's father William Fitzhugh and George Washington were long-time friends, with Washington mentioning in his diaries the hospitality of Molly's mother Ann Bolling Randolph Fitzhugh; a visit to William Fitzhugh turned out to be the last time Washington left Mt. Vernon before his death.

The Custises lived at Arlington, an 1,100-acre (4.5 km2) plantation in Alexandria County, Virginia. Of their four daughters, only Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who later married Robert E. Lee, survived childhood; Lee's father Henry had famously eulogized President Washington at the 1799 funeral[1].

Custis was a member of a family network in northern Virginia that helped revive the state's Episcopal Church in the first part of the nineteenth century. She particularly influenced her cousin Bishop William Meade. Custis promoted Sunday schools and supported the work of the American Colonization Society.

She died at Arlington on April 23, 1853, and was buried on the estate. Her husband survived her by four years, at which point Arlington House and the grounds were inherited by their daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, Mrs. Robert E. Lee.


  • ^ Death notice and tribute in Alexandria Gazette, May 16, 27, 1853.
  • ^ Biography in John T. Kneebone et al., eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography (Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998- ), 3:640-642. ISBN 0-88490-206-4

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