George Washington Ferry Farm Home

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Ferry Farm, also known as George Washington Boyhood Home Site or Ferry Farm Site, is the name of the farm and home at which George Washington spent much of his childhood. In July 2008, archeologists announced that they had found remains of the boyhood home, which had burnt in a fire, including artifacts such as pieces of a tea set probably belonging to George's mother, Mary Ball Washington.

The site is located in Stafford County, Virginia, along the northern bank of the Rappahannock River, across from the city of Fredericksburg. 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. It is unclear what the farm was called during the Washington occupancy. Sometime in the late 19th century the farm became known as Pine Grove, as well as The Ferry Farm. The farm rose to national prominence during the Washington Birth Bicentennial of 1932—during the years surrounding this celebration some authors cited both the names Ferry Farm and Pine Grove.

Ferry Farm is the setting for some of the best known stories about George Washington, most particularly those brought to the American public by Mason Locke Weems, best known as Parson Weems, in the early 19th century. These include the anecdote, appearing first in the 1806 edition of Weems's Life of Washington, in which 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 exclaimed "I can't tell a lie, Pa; you know I can't tell a lie, I did cut it with my hatchet."

Another version states that George was on his horse and that the horse "barked" (accidentally scraped the bark off with its hoof) the cherry tree and George accepted the blame.

It has also been claimed to be the site where George Washington "threw a silver dollar across the Rappahannock River." It is possible to "skip" a coin or flat rock across that area. Regardless, the river was considerably wider during this period than it is today, making the feat that much more difficult. Each year during the celebration of Washington's birthday, townspeople are invited to attempt to recreate this event. In the summer of 2006, Ferry Farm archaeology intern Jim Trueman completed the throw becoming the first intern to successfully cross the river bank to bank. To prove it was not a fluke, he made the same throw again in the summer of 2007.

It was the site of skirmishing during the American Civil War in 1862. Union soldiers used the house as a headquarters, and then demolished it for firewood.

Since the 1920s the property has been the subject of a series of failed preservation attempts. The first, led by then land owner James Beverly Colbert, was felled by the Great Depression. In each subsequent decade different groups of preservationists have tried to make a "national shrine" out of Washington's boyhood home. The 1960s saw the creation of a home for troubled boys on the site. This project left on the landscape the site's most visible feature—a large pseudo-Georgian building which now houses a museum, offices, and archaeological lab, which, since 2006, is viewable for visitors.

In the 1990s Stafford County's Board of Supervisors set out to both preserve the site and bring business to the county. Their attempts ultimately led to rezoning and a bid by Wal-Mart to buy the property and construct a large store adjacent to the boyhood site. This was opposed by many in Fredericksburg, which would have been able to see the back of the store from town. There was widespread feeling that such a change in this historical town's view shed would have had adverse affects on the town's crucial tourist trade as well as harming the town's charm and quality of life. The result was a deal whereby Historic Kenmore (the circa 1770s Fredericksburg home of Washington's sister Betty Washington Lewis and her husband Fielding Lewis), in conjunction with the National Park Service and commonwealth funds purchased the site. Historic Kenmore became George Washington's Fredericksburg Foundation and in 2008 The George Washington Foundation. This foundation oversees both sites as well as Augustine Washington’s ironworks at Accokeek (Potomac) Furnace (1726~ 56) in Stafford County, part of the Principio Company.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2000.

Extensive archaeological investigations began in 2002 under the direction of David Muraca (formerly of Colonial Williamsburg) and Philip Levy of the University of South Florida. The goal of the excavations is to locate and understand the original Washington farm complex. There also is a long term goal of reconstructing the farm on the site. Ferry Farm also runs children's programs and other public events.

In 2008, Levy and Muraca announced that one of three sites excavated yielded the original home site, including foundations of a 53 by 37 feet (11 m) home. The home had suffered a small fire during George Washington's lifetime.

It is located at 237 King's Highway (Virginia Route 3), near Fredericksburg. A building associated with George Washington's surveying work is listed at 712 King's Highway.

Within the 1740s 113-acre (0.46 km2) Ferry Farm, the county-level gentry house was a 1½-story residence perched on a bluff. George was 6 when the family moved to the farm in 1738. He inherited the farm and lived in the house until his early 20s, though he also stayed with his half-brother Lawrence at Mount Vernon. Washington’s mother lived in the house until 1772, when she moved to Fredericksburg, and the farm was sold in 1777. As goal, they were set to restore the house.


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