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Ferry Farm

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Title: Ferry Farm  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: George Washington, Happy Retreat, Kenmore (Fredericksburg, Virginia), Charles Washington, Lawrence Washington (1659–1698)
Collection: Farms in Virginia, George Washington, Historic American Buildings Survey in Virginia, Historic House Museums in Virginia, Houses in Stafford County, Virginia, Houses on the National Register of Historic Places in Virginia, Museums in Stafford County, Virginia, National Historic Landmarks in Virginia, National Register of Historic Places in Stafford County, Virginia, Plantations in Virginia, Presidential Homes in the United States, Presidential Museums in Virginia, Rappahannock River, Stafford County in the American Civil War, Washington Family Residences
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Ferry Farm

George Washington Boyhood Home Site
One of the post-Washington farmhouses at Ferry Farm[1][2]
Ferry Farm is located in Virginia
Location Stafford County, Virginia, USA
Nearest city Fredericksburg, Virginia
Area 68.8 acres (278,000 m2)[3]
Built 1738 (1738)
Architectural style Central-passage house
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 72001417[4]
VLR # 089-0016
Significant dates
Added to NRHP May 5, 1972
Designated NHL February 16, 2000[5]
Designated VLR November 16, 1971[6]

Ferry Farm, also known as George Washington Boyhood Home Site or Ferry Farm Site, is the name of the

  • Official website
  • Ferry Farm, Stafford County, one photo at Virginia DHR
  • Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania Historical Markers: George Washington’s Childhood Home J-61

External links

  1. ^ George Allan England (February 1926). "Where Washington Was a Boy". Boys LIfe. p. 10. Retrieved May 27, 2011. 
  2. ^ Note: In some contexts, like on this circa 1900-1920 Library of Congress photograph and in the referenced 1926 'Boys' Life article, the Farm is also referred to as "Pine Grove Farm".
  3. ^ a b c d Jack D. Warren, Jr., and John H. Sprinkle, Jr. (January 1, 1999). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: George Washington Boyhood Home Site / Ferry Farm" (pdf). National Park Service.  (version scanned and made available by Virginia DHR)
  4. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  5. ^ a b "George Washington Boyhood Home Site". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  6. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Randolph E. Schmid (2008-07-02). "Washington's boyhood home found, but no hatchet". AP Science. Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  8. ^ Thomas H. Maugh II (2008-07-02). "Remnants cannot tell a lie: George Washington's boyhood home found". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  9. ^ John Noble Wilford (2008-07-03). "Washington’s Boyhood Home Is Found". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  10. ^ Philip Levy, Where the Cherry Tree Grew (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013) 55, 76
  11. ^ a b "The Washington House at Ferry Farm". Ferry Farm. The George Washington Foundation. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  12. ^ Phil Levy, Where The Cherry Tree Grew: The Story of Ferry Farm, George Washington's Boyhood Home (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013)
  13. ^ Phil Levy, Where The Cherry Tree Grew: The Story of Ferry Farm, George Washington's Boyhood Home (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013) 68
  14. ^ Phil Levy, Where The Cherry Tree Grew: The Story of Ferry Farm, George Washington's Boyhood Home (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013) 70
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Phil Levy. Where the Cherry Tree Grew: The Story of Ferry Farm, George Washington's Boyhood Home. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013. 
  16. ^ Philip Levy, "'Crystallized into Solid Reality' How Mason Locke 'Parson' Weems Shaped George Washington's Boyhood Home", Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 121, No. 2
  17. ^ "Unearthing the Past". Ferry Farm. The George Washington Foundation. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  18. ^ GW Foundation site
  19. ^ Staff, Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission, James W. Moody, Jr., Director (September 1971). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Ferry Farm (George Washington's Boyhood Home) / Ferry Farm" (pdf). National Park Service.  (version scanned and made available by Virginia DHR)
  20. ^ George Washington Surveying Office, 712 King's Highway, Falmouth vicinity, Stafford County, VA, HABS
  21. ^ a b "Archaeology at Ferry Farm". The George Washington Foundation. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Phil Levy. Where The Cherry Tree Grew. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013. p. 5. 
  28. ^ Phil Levy. Where the Cherry Tree Grew. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013. p. 101. 
  29. ^ Phil Levy. Where The Cherry Tree Grew. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013. p. 219. 
  30. ^ Phil Levy. Where The Cherry Tree Grew. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013. p. 227-228.


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, archaeology intern Jim Trueman duplicated Washington's alleged throw and did it again the following summer to prove the first throw was not a fluke.[30]

Silver Dollar Toss

George Washington's step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, published a newer version of the story in which George Washington tried to break his mothers new colt (horse). In this story, Washington rode the horse "so hard" that one of the horse's blood vessel's burst, killing the horse. Like the cherry tree story, when confronted George Washington admitted to killing the horse.[28] Both stories celebrate George Washington's honesty and share a theme of loss, which Washington was painfully familiar with after his father's death and losing his opportunity to study abroad.[29]

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 cherry trees with a new hatchet. Upon being confronted by his father, the boy confessed.[27]

Cherry Tree

Ferry Farm in Stories and Myth

In 1862 the Civil War arrived at Ferry Farm leaving behind a variety of artifacts throughout the duration of the war. Such as objects from battle including bullets; personal items, like ink bottles; and buttons and medallions from uniforms.[26]

Civil War

Popular artifacts found from the Colonial Period include the ends of 18th century wig hair curlers. "[...] These were associated with maintaining wigs for George Washington's younger brothers. The fashionable gentlemen of the late 18th century wore a wig- the single most expensive part of the gentry-class man's wardrobe."[25]

Colonial Life

While evidence is scarce, artifacts have been dated back to 1,500 B.C. until 1,500 A.D. when Woodland Indians inhabited the land around current day Ferry Farm.[24]

Pre-Colonial Life

Artifacts found at the Ferry Farm site have dated back to 10,000 B.C. This period of prehistoric artifacts continues on until 1,500 B.C.[22] Artifacts from this period include hunting and gather tools, which prehistoric peoples used to hunt wildlife around and in the Rappahannock River. The land around Ferry Farm was rich in nutrients and populated with multiple animals. "Such diversity in food sources required these groups to expand the types of tools they used."[23] Examples of artifacts that were found include spear points, stone axes, and quartz scrapers, which were as tools for hunting.


The George Washington Foundation now owns the land as well as Kenmore, the Fredericksburg home of Washington's sister Betty and her husband Fielding Lewis. The GWF is funded by donors and grants and has been managing the land since the Walmart purchase. In addition to funding, staffing, cataloguing, and overseeing the site's excavations there are now plans to recreate the historical landscape and build a new museum on the site.[21]

Foundation and Museum

[21] In 2006-2008 the

The House

The George Washington Foundation purchased the land in 1996 and since 2003 has supported archeological field school at the site. The summer excavations are l led by Philip Levy (associate professor of history at the University of South Florida) and David Muraca (who previously worked at Colonial Williamsburg). Digs are organized through university groups and consist of undergraduate and graduate volunteers. Archeologists and volunteers have found artifacts dating from the prehistoric period through the Civil War and beyond.


Samuel Warren and Irma Warren bought the land in 1969. While the Warrens were interested in historical preservation, and kept it in the family for nearly 30 years. For many years the family enjoyed the property, but unfortunately, they needed to sell off some of the land. As a result, the Warren’s sought to rezone the land immediately as B-1 commercial lot.[15] The Warren’s reached an agreement with Stafford county, the county agreed to rezoning a parcel of the land, and the Warren’s agreed to donate the 24 acres surrounding the Colbert house.[15] The sale, however, marked the start of a long controversy between commercial interests and proponents of national heritage. Robert Siegrist entered the controversy and expressed an interest in maintaining the land that was recently donated to Stafford County. Siegrist maintained the property for 4 years until early morning of September 26, 1994 when a fire broke out at the Colbert house.[15] The Stafford County quickly ended its relationship with Siegrist and looked for alternate applications of the property. In 1995, the Daughters of the American Revolution.[15] The conflict came to a head on April 1, 1995 after the review board assigned to the task rejected Walmart’s offer.[15]

Wal-Mart Controversy


It is located at 237 King's Highway (Virginia Route 3), near Fredericksburg.[3] A building associated with George Washington's surveying work is listed at 712 King's Highway.[20]

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. [7] Extensive archaeological investigations began in 2002 under the direction of David Muraca (formerly of

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2000.[3][5][19]

[18] In the 1990s Stafford County's

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.

Since the 1920s the property has been the subject of many preservation and money making schemes. James Beverly Colbert sought to profit form the land's associations with Washington. After a meeting George Allen England, England agreed to write real-estate ads promoting the historical value of the land for a $5,000 fee upon the land's sale. He made full use of the many Weem's tales. Colbert also helped promote the thought that a non-important structure called "The Surveyor Shed," was a genuine relic, though it was not. Since the bicentennial celebration of George Washington's Birthday was approaching, Colbert and England thought the land would sell quickly, but there were other historical sites vying for preservation and the Great Depression finally killed their dream.[15]

A new farmhouse was built at the site in 1850 for the use of an overseer. It was the site of skirmishing during the American Civil War in 1862.[3] Throughout the Civil War, the area surrounding Ferry Farm was prone to encounters between Confederate and Union armies due to a concentration of ferry and train traffic.[15] Because of these encounters, many significant battles occurred in the city surrounding Ferry Farm, although no battles occurred on the actual site. Ferry Farm was periodically occupied by Union Soldiers as a war campground, which military personnel used to prepare for battle.[16] In 1862, amid the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, familiar with Weems' Washington myths, toured Ferry Farm. While occupying the Farm, many soldiers familiar with the Cherry Tree Myth, carved trinkets, such as rings, from a tree they believed to be the myth.[15] Much of the farm was destroyed during this time. Another new farmhouse was built during the 1870s, along with many outbuildings. A surviving "surveyor’s shed" is a remnant of this period.[17]

After Washington

(direct ancestor of Gen. Geo. S. Patton Jr.). The Washington-era house was in ruinous condition by 1833. Hugh Mercer. Washington’s mother lived in the house until 1772, when she moved to Fredericksburg, and the farm was sold to friend Mount Vernon He often stayed with his half-brother Lawrence at [14] At age 18 Washington was granted a 453-acre tract in western Frederick County by Lord Fairfax. Washington surveyed the 453 acres of land and also purchased an adjoining tract. Washington soon had acquired close to two thousand acres in western lands. Washington had acquired more land through his own hard work than Ferry Farm would be worth in the three years Washington had to wait to legally claim Ferry Farm.[13]


Before Washington

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.



  • History 1
    • Before Washington 1.1
    • Washington-era 1.2
    • After Washington 1.3
  • Preservation 2
    • Wal-Mart Controversy 2.1
    • Archaeology 2.2
    • The House 2.3
    • Foundation and Museum 2.4
      • Prehistoric 2.4.1
      • Pre-Colonial Life 2.4.2
      • Colonial Life 2.4.3
      • Civil War 2.4.4
  • Ferry Farm in Stories and Myth 3
    • Cherry Tree 3.1
    • Silver Dollar Toss 3.2
  • References 4
  • External links 5


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