Friday, September 22, 2017

Ancestry and Youth of George Washington

       The family of the first President came of a line of well-born Englishmen. They were the Washingtons of Sulgiave Manor, in Northamptonshire, who traced their ancestry to a Nonnan knight of the twelfth century. About the year 1657 John and Lawrence Washington, brothers, emigrated to America, and shortly afterwards purchased estates in Westmoreland County, Virginia. The eldest son of John was Lawrence Washington, the grandfather of the future President. His second son, Augustine, manned Mary Ball as his second wife, and the first child of this marriage, George, was born on February 22, 1732, on the family estate at Bridges Creek, in Westmoreland County. When George was three years old his parents removed to an estate on the Rappahannock River, in Stafford County, and there the boy's first school days were spent. He went to his classes in an old-fashioned school house where the sexton of the parish acted as teacher.
       At the age of eleven George lost his father, and his widowed mother sent him to the old homestead at Bridges Creek to live with his half brother, Augustine. There he attended school until he was nearly sixteen, geometry and surveying being included in his studies. While he was not an apt classical student, he made excellent progress in surveying, and throughout this school period he cultivated robust health by outdoor exercise, such as horseback riding and athletic games. It was when he was thirteen that he wrote the rules of good behavior now so well known.
       Soon after he left school George went to live with his eldest half brother, Lawrence, who was occupying that portion of the estate known as Mount Vernon. Lawrence Washington had married the daughter of William Fairfax, who was the manager of the great estate of his cousin. Lord Fairfax, the head of the family. Lord Fairfax conceived a great liking for young Washington, and presently entrusted to him the task of marking out the boundaries of the Fairfax estate. George began his duties in 1748, when he was but a few days past sixteen, and for many months he endured the hardships of a surveyor in the wilderness. His work was so well done that he was subsequently appointed public surveyor of Culpeper County, and his surveys were considered admirable examples of thoroughness and accuracy.
       In 1751 George accompanied his brother Lawrence on a trip to the West Indies. The journey was undertaken in the hope of restoring the elder brother's health, undermined by service in the British navy. In 1752, a few months after the brothers returned to Virginia, Lawrence died, and George found
himself the guardian of his niece and one of the executors of the estate. The death of this niece a few years later made him master of the mansion and the beautiful grounds about it - the Mount Vernon that is today a sacred place to all loyal Americans. 

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