Mary DeButts

Side profile illustration of a woman
Mary Welby DeButts. Artist: St. Memin. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.
Mary DeButts was the wife of Irish doctor and farmer Samuel DeButts. She met him in England and immigrated with him and their first two children to the Chesapeake region in 1791. Inheriting wealth and land from their families, Dr. and Mrs. DeButts had a home–Mount Welby—and farm with a view of the Potomac River across from Alexandria.

In this residence, Mary DeButts was positioned to observe some of the actions of the war in the Chesapeake. In a letter to her brother Richard, she wrote about the stress that the Battle of Bladensburg caused for her:

“The termination of the war has cheered the Hearts of thousands but its bitter consequences will long be severely felt. I cannot express to you the distress it has occasioned at the Battle of Bladensburg. We heard every fire (that place being not more than 5 or 6 miles from us). Our house was shook repeatedly by the firing upon forts & bridges, & illuminated by the fires in our Capital.”

When the British navigated up the Potomac River in 1814, they sailed past Mount Welby; the DeButts later found three Congreve rockets near their home.

Visit the National Park Service site at Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm to see Mount Welby, home of Mary DeButts, and learn about two centuries of farming through hands-on activities and living history programs.

Last updated: May 13, 2020

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