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This Day in Georgia History

June 19, 1732

Oglethorpe’s Mother Died

At age 70, Lady Eleanor Wall Oglethorpe died in London. She was born in 1661 in Ireland, but at age 17 became a maid to Madam Carwell in the court of Charles II of England. In 1680, Eleanor - or Ellen, as she was known - became head laundress to the king. In her new post, she was given lodging at the rear of the palace - opposite the quarters of a young major in the Dragoons, Theophilus Oglethorpe. Before year’s end, the two were married. Their union produced a series of ten sons and daughters beginning with Lewis in 1682 and ending with James Edward in 1696. After the death of Charles II and the Glorious Revolution of 1688, Theophilus and Ellen went to France to be with the deposed James II. By 1696, however, they reconciled with England’s new monarchs William and Mary - and returned to live permanently in their Surrey County estate in Godalming. At the time of Sir Theophilus’ death on April 10, 1702, Ellen was left to raise the seven Oglethorpe children (though some of the daughters continued to live as Jacobites in Framce. In Ellen’s final years, all of her children were dead or in France except for James Edward, who alone was left to care for his mother (perhaps a reason why he remained unmarried). Her death, however, changed the life of her 35-year-old son, who by now was a member of Parliament. Now he quickly devoted his life to making Georgia a reality. In the fall of 1732, James decided to personally lead the first shipload of colonists to America - and the rest is history. Had Lady Oglethorpe lived but five months longer, James likely would not have been aboard the Anne with the first colonists. Without James Oglethorpe present to lead (and often personally finance) the colony, who knows how Georgia history would read today?