Bicycling through History

BICYCLING THROUGH HISTORY

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Fredricksburg

Across the Rappahannock River from the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, is the site of Ferry Farm, which was George Washington's home from age six until he moved to Mount Vernon as a young man. The Ferry Farm in Stafford County was purchased by Augustine Washington from William Strother in 1738 in order to be near his iron mining operation on the Accakeek Creek. George Washington essentially grew up at Ferry Farm and in the town of Fredricksburg. The home of Mary Ball Washington, George's mother, is still in beautiful condition and is near the center of the residential area. Mary continued to live here after her husband's death in 1743, with George's three brothers, and his sister, Betty. The entire family prospered in the town despite the fathers death.

Life on the farm was frequently challenging and difficult. Although the family was moderately wealthy, they suffered the usual rigors of the mid-1700s. George's infant sister Mildred, born at Ferry Farm in 1739, died in the fall of 1740. A few weeks later, on December 24, the family's house burned, forcing them to take refuge in the kitchen dependency, where they spent a less than cheerful Christmas Day. The Washingtons rebuilt the home, but their troubles did not end there. In early 1743 George's father, Augustine Washington, died at the age of forty-nine, leaving Mary Ball Washington to care for George, his sister Betty, and three younger brothers. Mary was a woman of independent spirit. She never remarried. She was remembered as stern and serious, which also characterize her famous son.

George Washington

The young George Washington had a lighter side as well. His earliest letters describe the familiar frustrations of youthful romance. His love of horses - Thomas Jefferson described him as the greatest horseman of his age. This obviously developed at Ferry Farm. His love of fishing was also undoubtedly discovered on the banks of the Rappahannock, if not on the Potomac just a few miles away. The young Washington excelled at athletics of all kinds, and developed early the strength and physical endurance that would serve him so well in the trials of adulthood. He also enjoyed swimming, which once caused him some embarrassment. Once at the age of nineteen, two girls stole his clothes while he was swimming in the Rappahannock!

The young George Washington was able to develop intellectual skills through school as well as exchanges with travelers through the town. Fredricksburg was at the junction of an important waterway and a trail serving directions north and south. Other friends from the community became trusted leaders in the Continental Army. Hugh Mercer became a General and was recognized for his valor in New Jersey battles.

Other landmarks of the Washington family remain in use today at Fredricksburg. The Sunrise Tavern was first established by George's younger brother, Arthur.

Potomac River Map

In March of1748, George Washington began a career as surveyor in a venture to the Shenandoah Valley on behalf of prominent Virginia landowner, Lord Thomas Fairfax. He accompanies James Genn, surveyor for Prince William county, and George William Fairfax, the son of Lord Fairfax.


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Bicycling Through History
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