Chapter V. The Young Surveyor
Lawrence Washington was about fourteen
years older than his brother
As I have already said, he had been to England and had spent
Appleby school. He had served in the king's Army for a little
had been with Admiral Vernon's squadron in the West Indies.
He had formed so great a liking for the admiral that when
he came home
he changed the name of his plantation at Hunting Creek, and
Mount Vernon--a name by which it is still known.
Not far from Mount Vernon there was another fine plantation
Belvoir, that was owned by William Fairfax, an English gentleman
wealth and influence.
Now this Mr. Fairfax had a young daughter,
as wise as she was beautiful -
and so, what should Lawrence Washington do but ask her to be
He built a large house at Mount Vernon with a great porch fronting
the Potomac - and when Miss Fairfax became Mrs. Washington
and went into
this home as its mistress, people said that there was not a
happier young couple in all Virginia.
After young George Washington had changed his mind about going
he went up to Mount Vernon to live with his elder brother.
had great love for the boy, and treated him as his father would
At Mount Vernon George kept on with his studies in surveying.
He had a
compass and surveyor's chain, and hardly a day passed that
he was not
out on the plantation, running lines and measuring his brother's
Sometimes when he was busy at this kind
of work, a tall, white-haired gentleman would come over from
Belvoir to see what he was doing and to
talk with him. This gentleman was Sir Thomas Fairfax, a cousin
owner of Belvoir. He was sixty years old, and had lately come
England to look after his lands in Virginia - for he was the
many thousands of acres among the mountains and in the wild
Sir Thomas was a courtly old gentleman,
and he had seen much of the
world. He was a fine scholar - he had been a soldier, and then
a man of
letters - and he belonged to a rich and noble family.
It was not long until he and George were
the best of friends. Often they
would spend the morning together, talking or surveying - and
afternoon they would ride out with servants and hounds, hunting
and making fine sport of it among the woods and hills.
And when Sir Thomas Fairfax saw how manly and brave his young
was, and how very exact and careful in all that he did, he
is a boy who gives promise of great things. I can trust him."
Before the winter was over he had made a bargain with George
his lands that lay beyond the Blue Ridge mountains.
I have already told you that at this time nearly all the country
the mountains was a wild and unknown region. In fact, all the
part of Virginia was an unbroken wilderness, with only here
and there a
hunter's camp or the solitary hut of some daring woodsman.
But Sir Thomas hoped that by having the land surveyed, and
some part of
it laid out into farms, people might be persuaded to go there
settle. And who in all the colony could do this work better
young friend, George Washington?
It was a bright day in March, 1748, when George started out
on his first
trip across the mountains. His only company was a young son
Fairfax of Belvoir.
The two friends were mounted on good horses
- and both had guns, for
there was fine hunting in the woods. It was nearly a hundred
the mountain-gap through which they passed into the country
there were no roads, but only paths through the forest, they
travel very fast.
After several days they reached the beautiful
valley of the Shenandoah.
They now began their surveying. They went up the river for
distance - then they crossed and went down on the other side.
they reached the Potomac River, near where Harper's Ferry now
At night they slept sometimes by a camp-fire in the woods,
in the rude hut of a settler or a hunter. They were often wet
They cooked their meat by broiling it on sticks above the coals.
ate without dishes, and drank water from the running streams.
One day they met a party of Indians, the
first red men they had seen.
There were thirty of them, with their bodies painted in true
style - for they were just going home from a war with some
The Indians were very friendly to the young surveyors. It
and they built a huge fire under the trees. Then they danced
war-dance around it, and sang and yelled and made hideous sport
far in the night.
To George and his friend it was a strange
sight - but they were brave
young men, and not likely to be afraid even though the danger
They had many other adventures in the woods of which I cannot
in this little book--shooting wild game, swimming rivers, climbing
mountains. But about the middle of April they returned in safety
It would seem that the object of this first trip was to get
knowledge of the extent of Sir Thomas Fairfax's great woodland
estate--to learn where the richest bottom lands lay, and where
The young men had not done much if any
real surveying - they had been
George Washington had written an account of everything in
note-book which he carried with him.
Sir Thomas was so highly pleased with the report which the
brought back that he made up his mind to move across the Blue
spend the rest of his life on his own lands.
And so, that very summer, he built in the midst of the great
hunting lodge which he called Greenway Court. It was a large,
house, with broad gables and a long roof sloping almost to
When he moved into this lodge he expected soon to build a
mansion and make a grand home there, like the homes he had
England. But time passed, and as the lodge was roomy and comfortable,
still lived in it and put off beginning another house.
Washington was now seventeen years old.
Through the influence of Sir
Thomas Fairfax he was appointed public surveyor - and nothing
but that he must spend the most of his time at Greenway Court
on with the work that he had begun.
For the greater part of three years he worked in the woods
and among the
mountains, surveying Sir Thomas's lands. And Sir Thomas paid
doubloon ($8.24) for each day, and more than that if the work
But there were times when the young surveyor did not go out
to work, but
stayed at Greenway Court with his good friend, Sir Thomas.
gentleman had something of a library, and on days when they
neither work nor hunt, George spent the time in reading. He
_Spectator_ and a history of England, and possibly some other
And so it came about that the three years which young Washington
in surveying were of much profit to him.
The work in the open air gave him health and strength. He
and self-reliance. He became acquainted with the ways of the
backwoodsmen and of the savage Indians. And from Sir Thomas
learned a great deal about the history, the laws, and the military
affairs of old England.
And in whatever he undertook to do or to
learn, he was careful and
systematic and thorough. He did nothing by guess - he never
half done. And therein, let me say to you, lie the secrets
of success in