Mary Downman (1833-1926), William Yates Downman (1830-1864)

Mary Hayes Downman gave the “Road to Emmaus” stained glass window to St. George’s in 1912 which was the church’s first Tiffany windows. It was given in honor of two sons who predeceased her –Rawleigh W. and James H. Downman. James Downman died of a gun accident in 2011 and left Mrs. Downman all of his real and personal property.

William Yates Downman, born in January 1830, was descended from a William Downman who is on record in 1649 as owning land in Northumberland County (which later became Lancaster County). Rawleigh Downman, the grandson of this first William Downman, married a Colonel William Ball’s granddaughter, Margaret. Margaret was the first cousin of Mary Ball, who would become the mother of George Washington. The Ball and Downman families would intermarry often. William Yates Downman was educated at Princeton in the late 1840s and married Mary Ann Hayes in Fredericksburg, in 1852. He was mustered into VA Fredericksburg Light Artillery as a Private. He was discharged on June, 1862 due to frail health. He would not survive the war, dying of typhoid at Idlewild in December 1864. Although William Downman’s military service was short, the Downman farm helped to support the Confederate war effort

Before he died Mrs. Downman had 6 children:
Ann Hayes Downman (1853-1935)
Sophia Chinn Downman (1855-1936)
Joseph Henry Downman (1857)
Rawleigh Downman (1860-1881)
James Hayes Downman (1862-1911)
John Yates Downman (1858- 1949)

She and her husband William Yates Downman are best known for building the plantation home Idlewild on 400 acres outside of Fredericksburg in 1858.

The Gothic Revival-style house, with its pointed windows and elaborate exterior woodwork, made it unique and was one of the few plantation homes in the area. A stained-glass entranceway may have indicated that Mrs. Downman loved the stained glass medium. It also had dogwood rosette medallions around the lighting fixtures. The staircase led to a landing with a lancet door with etched and stained glass. There was a beautiful paladian styled window on the front on the second floor. Lee used as a headquarters in the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. She was not there long since it became a battleground during the Battle of Chancellorsville and her husband died in 1864. She would move to her relative’s home in the city at 1021 Caroline Street. Unfortunately the home was damaged severely by first in 2003.

Mrs. Downman was a pew holder (#12 and #17) and life long member of St. George’s.

The newspaper remarked on 88th birthday that she was“cheerful and happy and took a lively interest in the affairs of the day” as well as proud she was living in the same house she was married. She later cut her 90th birthday cake in 1923 with the same cake server from her wedding in 1859. With family in Richmond and Baltimore, many of her later years were spent visiting friends and relatives and entertaining at Idlewild.

When Mrs. Downman died in 1926 she was the oldest citizen of Fredericksburg at 93.