In 1738 George Washington's father Augustine purchased a pretty piece of land on the bluffs above the Rappahannock known as Ferry Farm because it contained a landing for the ferry boat to Fredericksburg across the river. Augustine moved his wife, Mary Washington and their five children, including George, to the farm. Augustine passed away five years later and left the farm and 10 enslaved workers to George. In her widowhood Mary Washington continued to run the farm profitably and provide well for her two surviving children George and Betty, who later married Fielding Lewis of Kenmore Plantation in Fredericksburg. When Mary moved into town to be closer to her daughter, George sold Ferry Farm to his friend and Revolutionary War hero Hugh Mercer.

As a teenager George Washington loved land, math, and geometry. His passions turned to profit when he put them to use with the surveying tools he inherited from his father. Young George surveyed Ferry Farm and his brother Lawrence's estate. At Mary Washington's urging he earned his surveyor's license and travelled Virginia surveying and becoming familiar with the lands that wealthy aristocrats were interested in purchasing. At 17 he became the official surveyor of up-and-coming Culpeper County. Washington himself invested in over 2,000 acres near Fredericksburg, earning him more money than he ever would have operating Ferry Farm. George Washington left Ferry Farm at the age of 20 when he inherited Mount Vernon from Augustin's estate.

george washingtons ferry farm rappahannock river

Fable has it that a young George Washington tossed a silver dollar across the river. You can try it yourself on the banks of the Rappahannock at Ferry Farm.

In December of 1862 the Civil War came to Ferry Farm. By this time, the original Washington home was gone, and another house stood in its place. President Lincoln toured Ferry Farm when Union soldiers camped here and built pontoon bridges at the ferry landing during the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness and Spotsylvania and traded banter, coffee and tobacco across the river with the Rebels.

In the 1990s Ferry Farm faced another battle when it nearly became the site of a Walmart superstore. Fortunately, the farm was rescued by the George Washington Foundation and the National Park Service. In 1998 Congress passed a bill that would forever protect the 113-acre Ferry Farm and its riverfront, and in 2000 Ferry Farm became a National Historic Landmark. Archaeological excavation began in 2002, and the original home site was discovered in 2008. The original house was an approximately 2,000 square feet, 1-1/2 story clapboard-covered wood frame house with two chimneys on a bluff overlooking the Rappahannock. Archaeologists can be seen at work on weekdays carefully sifting through earth that has produced numerous Washington family artifacts - wig curlers, bone-handled toothbrushes, pieces of pottery, glass and furniture, and a pipe bowl with a Masonic crest - George Washington being a Master Mason himself.

george washingtons ferry farm excavation site

Ferry Farm is an active archaeological site that has turned up Washington family artifacts as well as Civil War and Native American artifacts.

Owned and operated by the George Washington Foundation, George Washington's Ferry Farm is open daily in season for tours of the museum, archaeology lab and grounds. Ferry Farm provides an iPad with an app that takes visitors on a multi-media tour through the gardens, grounds, excavation site, original home site and river front. The round trip walking tour is less than a mile on level ground. However, access to the riverfront requires visitors to go down (and back up) a 68-step staircase, limiting the accessibility of that area for some visitors. Those who are familiar with using mobile apps will be delighted with the iPad tour, however, those who are not proficient in using apps may require assistance.

It is not known where or even if the famous cherry tree of the George Washington fable existed, but two cherry trees grace the gardens at Ferry Farm. Likewise, it is not known whether it is true or not that a young George Washington tossed a silver dollar across the river, but you can go down and try it yourself on the banks of the Rappahannock.

Pictured at the very top: The recreation of George Washington's home on the original home site is underway at Ferry Farm.

george washingtons ferry farm garden cherry trees

In honor of the fable about George Washington's honesty, Cherry trees grow in the garden outside the museum at Ferry Farm.

george washington survey turnip garden

At the age of 16, George Washington surveyed his brother Lawrence's turnip garden as a school lesson. This is his original survey found in the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 1a. George Washington, School Copy Book: Volume 2, 1745.