Ferry Farm– George Washington’s Boy Hood Home

The future general and first president was 6 years old when his family moved to King George County (now Stafford County), Virginia, in 1738.

George Washington Bust in Visitors Center

The farm was named after the Washington family had left the property. Its namesake was a free ferry that crossed the Rappahannock River on Washington land—the family did not own or operate it.

In 1738, George Washington’s father, Augustine, acquired the plantation while owning two other plantations with Ferry Farm being the smallest at 600 acres. Augustine Washington died unexpectedly in 1743, from a respiratory infection leaving George fatherless at the age of 11. His fathers death devastated the young George. He wouldn’t be able to afford a formal education. He felt that his life was over. In Augustine’s will, he endowed Ferry Farm and ten slaves to young George. The boys are awarded the estates of the family by age with the slaves divided. George was third born and inherited the third plantation. Different from today where it usually goes to the spouse. It was done this way to keep the family money in the family.

The family struggled several years through some tough financial times. Although he would not legally become the owner of Ferry Farm until his twenty-first birthday, George still assisted his mother in running the farm. Mary Washington had control of the estate until George turned 21.

Mary Washington expected the children to be refined while expecting them to help raise the family up in society. Despite this, George and his brothers worked hand in hand with the slaves to keep the farm running. George lived on the farm for another five years before moving.

Ferry Farm is the setting for some of the best known stories about George Washington, a 6-year-old George barked one of his father Augustine’s favorite English cherry trees with a new hatchet. Upon being confronted by his father, the boy confessed, saying: “I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet.” Today this story can’t be verified, but they do know there were cherry trees on the plantation. In the foundation of the original house, they found cherry pits embedded.

The Washington-era farm, then referred to by others as the Washington Farm and by the Washingtons as the Home Farm, had a 1½-story central passage house, two rooms deep, perched atop a bluff on the Rappahannock River. It was built by Augustine Washington. Around 1830, the house is believed to have collapsed from disrepair.

House reconstructed to the believed state of George Washington’s boyhood home. The front of the house faces the river.
Inside house, this room was the dining room, ball room for entertaining and office for running the plantation.
This room with it’s large fireplace was the parlor. Plaster was a show of wealth.

The ferry that crossed the Rappahannock River was adjacent to the plantation. There are letters written by Augustine seemingly being annoyed by the people coming to the ferry so close to his house.

Ferry Road circa 1763
Site on river where ferry was located

Throughout the Civil War, the area surrounding Ferry Farm was prone to encounters between Confederate and Union armies due to a concentration of ferry and train traffic.

Because of these encounters, many significant battles occurred in the city surrounding Ferry Farm, although no battles occurred on the actual site. Ferry Farm was periodically occupied by Union Soldiers as a war campground, which military personnel used to prepare for battle. The soldiers not knowing the Washington home had collapsed thought they were burning wood from the house to stay warm in the winter. They were burning other buildings on the plantation. In 1862, amid the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln toured Ferry Farm.

George, being a land surveyor, left behind information that today historians and archaeologists have been able to recreate the farm. George left a list of contents inside of the house. The historians were able to find a lot of information about the plantation, thus making the house we see today historically correct.

Mary Washington continued to live at Ferry Farm until 1772 when George Washington bought her a house in Fredericksburg. In 1774. Washington sold the 600 acre farm for two thousand pounds to Hugh Mercer, a Scottish immigrant and physician who served as a brigadier general in the Revolutionary forces.

On January 12, 1777, American Brigadier General Hugh Mercer dies from the seven bayonet wounds he received during the Battle of Princeton, while under the command of General George Washington.

Mary Washington died at age 82 from breast cancer. She lived to see her son, George, become the first president of the United States of America.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s