An excavation of George Washington’s Virginia “Home Farm.”
Since 2002, Levy (History/Univ. of South Florida; Fellow Travelers: Indians and Europeans Contesting the Early American Trail, 2007) has been poking around the site of Mary Washington’s old homestead at Ferry Farm, on the Rappahannock’s north bank near Fredericksburg, looking for clues to Washington’s upbringing and life story. Washington lived there from age 6 to about 15, and the author was bent on finding out whether there was any factual evidence behind some of the legends ascribed to the Founding Father by the Parson Weems in his book of dubious veracity, The Life of Washington. Specifically: Did young Washington really chop down his father’s cherry tree and then refuse to lie about it? First, Levy looks at what the successive history of ownership of the land tells about the place, beginning with the first English settlers who arrived in the early 17th century, including ambitious sailor John Washington. In 1738, his son Augustine relocated his growing clan to Ferry Farm, a “very handsome Dwelling house” among 400 acres situated near the commercial town of Fredericksburg. Here young George, the couple’s firstborn, would experience lessons that Levy characterizes as “the most deeply ingrained of his life.” Although the land was bequeathed to George, his elder stepbrother sold off the northern portion in 1748. Nonetheless, the boy was enterprising and went on to start a lucrative career as a surveyor. Levy’s exploration yields clues to George’s life there, such as whether there really was a cherry tree.
Not much with which to flesh out Washington’s bio, but a wealth in deliberative detail to contemplate and relish.