George Washington’s Childhood Home- Ferry Farm

Posted on Jan 23, 2017 in Travel Blog

George Washington Slept Here – A Lot

Other than Mount Vernon there is probably no place where George Washington laid his head down to rest more often than at the site of his boyhood home, Ferry Farm. Located just across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Ferry Farm is a true place of discovery, a vibrant archaeological site, and contains some outside-the-box experiences for groups. 

You probably already know how we feel about Fredericksburg. It’s one of America’s most historic towns and has seen the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Monroe and even Lincoln walk its historic streets. Fredericksburg is also a terrific arts destination and there are good things to eat and drink all over town. My husband and I go up there on nice weekends and every time we visit we are impressed by how much there is to do – nearly all of which is perfect for groups.

So what about Ferry Farm? George Washington was born on Virginia’s Northern Neck peninsula east of Fredericksburg but his family moved to what is now called Ferry Farm on the banks of the Rappahannock overlooking Fredericksburg when George was just six years old. He lived there through his teenage years.

Much of what we think we know of George Washington comes courtesy of a minister named Mason Weems, commonly known as “Parson Weems,” who published a fanciful biography of Washington in 1800. From this book came two stories handed down through generations. In one, Washington the lad chops down his father’s favored cherry tree. When confronted, George fesses up, saying I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet. Well … George may not have been able to lie but Parson Weems could spin a beauty, for the story is undoubtedly fictitious. If it were true, it would have happened at Ferry Farm.

The other story, the one of the strong-armed George throwing a coin across the Rappahannock, is far more likely. If that did happen it happened at Ferry Farm and not on the banks of the mile-wide Potomac. I mean, really …

Now the original house in which young George lived is long, long gone. Sold out of the family, it was in tumble-down condition by the 1830s. But out of loss has come opportunity – the kind that sets Ferry Farm apart from other Colonial-era homesteads. Long thought lost to history, the original stone foundation was discovered by archaeologists in 2008. Work is now in progress constructing a replica house on the very footprint of the original. Plans call for the construction of a detached kitchen and other outbuildings, giving life to the Ferry Farm landscape and a view of exactly what surrounded George Washington in his formative years. When completed (target date is summer 2017) Ferry Farm will become a vibrant living history attraction.

What we love about Ferry Farm is that you can interact with the craftspeople who are building the replica structures. And when archaeologists are on site you can talk with them about their discoveries – and they are awesome people. Heart of Virginia Tours has arranged special behind-the-scenes experiences in the archaeology lab where you can see up close some of the history that has come up out of the ground. Could George Washington have actually held that spoon or looked through the window where the glass fragment came from? It is fun to speculate.

Ferry Farm is a whole different experience from Mount Vernon. Both are fabulous, and they complement each other. Our friends at Ferry Farm are eager to show the place off to groups, so we are featuring it in our George Washington’s Hometown itinerary.