George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 7 May 1774]

7. Went with the above Company to a Boat Race & Barbicue at Johnson’s Ferry. Returnd at Night with Mr. Milner.

In 1745 a ferry was authorized to cross the Potomac from the land of William Clifton to the Maryland shore (HENING description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends , 5:364). GW’s 1760 purchase of the Clifton’s Neck land included Clifton’s home, which, after Clifton moved out in 1761, GW rented to Samuel Johnston (Johnson). Near the house was the ferry, which was now called Johnston’s ferry. It was often used by GW in trips northward, and GW described it in 1773 as being “upon the most direct Road leading from Annapolis . . . to Williamsburg” (Va. Gaz., P&D, 29 July 1773). A boat race held in 1774 on the Rappahannock River involved two long boats, each with a captain and five or six Negro hands, who rowed a mile out “round a Boat lying at Anchor” and then back to shore. Among the spectators, who picnicked on the shore and in boats in the river, small bets were made (FITHIAN description begins Hunter Dickinson Farish, ed. Journal & Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian, 1773–1774: A Plantation Tutor of the Old Dominion. Williamsburg, Va., 1943. description ends , 198, 202). GW ordered 48 bottles of claret “for the Boat Race at Johnsons Ferry” from William Herbert, who later assumed the cost (LEDGER B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 122).

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