George Washington’s Ferry Farm is where young George Washington spent his formative years and it is the sight of some of the greatest legends from Washington’s boyhood. The future general and first president moved to King George County, now Stafford Count in 1738 when Washington was 6 years old.
The Ferry Farm House is a replica of George Washington’s boyhood home. The house tells the story of his young life and times on the plantation. It tells the story of the adversity he faced, and what happened to him after his father died. The Ferry Farm also explores the evils perpetrated upon the people enslaved by the Washington family. The Washingtons called this property the Home Farm. Later the property became known as Ferry Farm because of the ferry system on the property that was used by locals on the farm to cross the Rappahannock River to the town of Fredericksburg.
The Visitor Center is where you can see the introduction to The Science of History. You can find out about colonial and Civil War artifacts found at Ferry Farm. This is also where archaeologists identify and study thousands of artifacts found at Ferry Farm. Artifacts are discovered on the farm grounds to this very day.
When you arrive at Ferry Farm, check-in at the Visitor Center. You can buy tickets for a tour there or online. You should pick up a map of the grounds so you know where to go. Then take a 5-minute walk from the Visitor Center to Washington house for your scheduled tour time. You can explore Ferry Farm grounds before or after you tour the house replica. Visitors are invited to explore the rest of the grounds (approximately 80 acres), enjoy gardens with plants from 300 years ago, walk on a road that was used in the 1800s, go on a hike and watch for birds.
Ferry Farm is the setting of some of the most famous stories about George Washington. Many of these stories were first told by Mason Locke Weems, best known as Parson Weems, when he first began telling the story of George Washington in the early 19th century. The most famous of these tales is the “cherry tree” story. This story first appeared in the 1806 edition of “Life of Washington.” Weems claims that 6-year old George Washington cut down his father Augustine’s favorite cherry tree. When Augustine confronted George, George told the truth, “I cannot tell a lie; I did it with my little hatchet.”
In later years, George Washington’s step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, told an updated version of the “cherry tree” story. Custis wrote that Washington attempted to break in his mother’s new horse, but rode the horse so hard that blood vessels in the horse burst, and the horse died. When confronted, Washington confessed to killing the horse. Both stories became iconic tales of Washington’s famous honesty, however, looking back with modern eyes both stories seem to have been greatly exaggerated if not entirely fabricated.
Another famous Washington myth set on the Ferry Farm is the “silver dollar” story. It is claimed that Washington “three a silver dollar across the Rappahannock River.” Today that feat doesn’t seem impossible as skipping a flat rock across the river can be done, however, in Washington’s time the river was very wide near the Ferry Farm and the feat would’ve been difficult if not impossible. Each year on Washington’s birthday, townspeople attempt to replicate Washington’s feat of legend.
If you’d like to learn more about Fredericksburg, click here to read about Gary Melcher’s Home and Studio.