As a child you no doubt heard of the legends of George Washington and the cherry tree, George Washington not being able to tell a lie, etc., etc. What you may not realize, however, is that the Father of Our County rose to greatness from fairly humble beginnings.
Although all federal offices have celebrated George Washington’s Birthday on the third Monday of February since 1885, he was actually born on February 22, 1732. He was the first child of Mary Ball and the fifth child of Augustine Washington. Augustine was also born in Virginia, and his first wife, Jane Butler, inherited 640 acres of land from her father. Jane died in 1728, and Augustine married Mary in 1731.
George inherited a portion of his father’s estate (as well as its slaves) in 1743. His mother managed the property because George was only 11 years old. The land that George inherited was not sufficient for him to adopt the role of gentry man farmer, so he was forced to seek employment rather than obtaining more extensive education. Mary continued to manage the property that produced timber and grew tobacco until 1772. She purportedly was a loyalist who disagreed with George’s politics. George was one of ten siblings and step-siblings. He attended school at a nearby church and later at a boarding school not too distant from his home. However, his formal education did not amount to more than a completion of elementary school.
George’s first job, at the young age of 16, was as a surveyor. He saved his income, used the income to purchase land, and owned more than 1500 acres by the time that he was 21 years old. George inherited another piece of his father’s estate after his step-brother’s death. That property later became known as Mount Vernon. The attached map is one that George completed of Mount Vernon. More importantly, he assumed his brother, Lawrence’s, office as an Adjutant General of the Colony of Virginia. It was in this role, as well in his sixteen year service as a member of Virginia’s House of Burgesses from Frederick County, that the dye of Washington’s future was cast. He became a loud voice of protest against unfair taxation, assisted in the composition of the Fairfax Resolves, and was commissioned as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Forces in June, 1775.
Not bad for a child who lost his father at age 11, had an elementary school level education, and began working at age 16…..It is just another example of how George Washington’s actual life, as opposed to the myths, can serve as inspiration to us all. Happy Birthday George!