George Washington’s Childhood Home J-61

Historical Marker Text
The Washington family moved to a plantation here in 1738 when George Washington was six years old. Along with his three brothers and sister, young Washington spent most of his early life here, where, according to popular fable, he cut down his father’s cherry tree and uttered the immortal words, “I cannot tell a lie.” His father, Augustine, died here in 1743, leaving the property to him. His mother, Mary Ball Washington, lived here until 1772 when she moved to a house in Fredericksburg that Washington bought for her. [1997]

Extended Research

George Washington’s Childhood
Ferry Farm was George Washington’s childhood home. In 1738, Augustine Washington, George’s father, moved the family to the estate across the Rappahannock river from Fredericksburg. He had accepted a job managing the Accokeek Iron Furnace located in Stafford County. George Washington lived at Ferry Farm from age six to age twenty with his three brothers and one sister. When the Washington family bought the plantation from William Strother, the farm consisted of a house with eight rooms, three storehouses, and various outbuildings (Freeman, 59). Two years later, in 1740, the Washingtons’ house caught fire on Christmas Eve. The family lived in the disjointed kitchen until the house was repaired.

Three years later, Augustine Washington died and left Ferry Farm to George. That same year, when George was eleven or twelve, he and his siblings began attending school in Fredericksburg. They were taught by Reverend James Marye, the parish minister of St. George’s Episcopal Church (60). When George’s father died, he left behind surveying tools. In 1748, at age sixteen, George left the farm for a surveying trip of western Virginia with Lord Fairfax. A year later, George was given a surveying job in nearby Culpepper county. In 1752, George officially left home and began his career in the military. There is no evidence to prove that young George Washington actually chopped down his father’s cherry tree and then told him he could not tell a lie. The story was popularized to represent Washington’s character. Parson Mason L. Weems wrote a biography about Washington soon after he died that includes the cherry tree story as well as some other fables about our nation’s first president (“Ferry Farm”).

Later Years
Mary Washington continued to live at Ferry Farm with her younger children until 1772, when the political situation in the colonies persuaded her to move into the town of Fredericksburg. Her only daughter, Betty Washington Lewis, provided her with a house on her Kenmore plantation (“Ferry Farm”).

Photo credit
“Ferry Farm sketch,” George Washington’s Fredericksburg Foundation Ferry Farm history page, (accessed April 15, 2008).

For Further Reference
“Ferry Farm.” George Washington’s Fredericksburg Foundation. (accessed April 12, 2008).

Freeman, Douglas Southall. George Washington: A Biography. Vol. 1, Young Washington. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948.

Grizzard, Frank E. George Washington: A Biographical Companion. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2002.

King, George H.S. “Washington’s Boyhood Home.” William and Mary Quarterly Historical Magazine 17, no.2 (April 1937): 265-281.

Randall, Willard Sterne. George Washington: A Life. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1997.

Rasmussen, William M.S. and Robert S. Tilton. George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1999.

Stetson, Charles W. Washington and His Neighbors. Richmond, VA: Garrett and Massie, Inc., 1956.

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