Monday, July 6, 2015

George Washington's Chidhood Home Ferry Farm

First let me warn you, if you think that you are going to come to Ferry Farm to see the house where George Washington spent his childhood, you are going to be disappointed. Ferry Farm is an archaeological project. The original farm is long gone. Having said that it is still a very interesting place to visit.

You begin your visit at the Visitor Center. This is where you are going to paint the picture in your head that will carry you through the grounds. We arrived on a rainy Saturday afternoon and we had the site to ourselves. Even had we decided not to walk around the grounds there would have been plenty to read and enjoy in the Visitor Center. Ferry farm is included on the Passport but if you haven’t purchased one be sure to ask for the AAA discount.

The exhibit in the visitor center was entitled "George Washington, Boy before the legend". We learn that he moved here in 1738 at 6 years old with his father Augustine, his mother Mary, and his younger brothers Samuel, John, and Charles, and his sister Betty. His older half-brothers were off in England getting their formal education. On Christmas Eve 1740 the house burned down. Then in 1743 his father died. His elder half-brother Lawrence inherited the main family home, Mount Vernon.

At age 15 he went off into the far reaches of Virginia with Lord Fairfax and it was the beginning of his career as both a surveyor and a soldier. Much of his reputation was being developed during this period. He was the quintessential gentleman, as a young man, he copied the "Rules of Civility, a guide to gentlemanly behavior. In many ways, it became the benchmark that he modeled his life upon. He was an elegant dancer, he loved to gamble, to fence, to foxhunt, and he was a superb horseman

I could continue for an hour with all we learned in the visitor center but do take a walk out into the grounds. It was October so the archaeological dig was closed for the year but there is plenty of evidence left uncovered. There is ongoing research on the property. They have not yet discovered the exact location of the house built after the 1740 fire. They also know that there were several warehouses, a kitchen, and at least one slave quarters. They have excavated more than 500 exploratory holes. The items removed from the holes are being identified and when they have more information that will begin large-scale digs.

You can take a walk that goes along the Rappahannock and goes to the site of the Ferry crossing which gave the farm its name. It also played a vital part in the battle of Fredericksburg. If you are interested in George Washington this is a must visit and even if you're not, it is a fascinating look at mid-18th century life.

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