George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Hugh Mercer, 21 March 1774

From Hugh Mercer

Fredg 21 March 1774

Dear Sir,

Ever since I understood that the Land whereon Mrs Washington lived joining Mr Hunters was for Sale I have had an Inclination to purchase it, but till now was not in circumstances to propose the matter to you—I have heard that the Tract contains about 600 Acres and that it is held at £3 per Acre—If these are your lowest terms, I would not dispute them, were my terms of Payment agreable to you—that is one third of the purchase Money to be paid in a Twelvemonth after the Sale & the Same Sum yearly afterwards till the Whole is discharged—Interest to commence from the Sale.1 I should be glad to have a line from you on this Subject and am with great Esteem Dear Sir Your most obedt St

Hugh Mercer


1For Mary Washington’s move to Fredericksburg from the farm in what was then King George County inherited by GW from his father, see Account with Mary Washington, 27 April 1775, source note, Fielding Lewis to GW, c.29 Dec. 1772–February 1773, n. 1, and Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:52, 69. Although the Washington farm across the river from Fredericksburg seems not to have been known as Ferry Farm until long after GW’s death, it is now customarily referred to by that name. GW and others indicate that the farm contained 600 acres, but it may have been considerably smaller. The extant deeds to the land are often vague and there are no known surveys made of the entire farm in Washington’s time. Further, the parcels were split and joined several times over the years. Adding to the difficulties of tracing the land is the loss of many of the Stafford County records during the Civil War.

GW’s father, Augustine Washington, in 1738 purchased three parcels of land from William Strother’s executors. One of the parcels was separated from the other two whereon the Washington house stood. The separate tract was one of 165 acres, and in 1748 Augustine Washington’s executors sold it to Anthony Strother for GW’s benefit, as provided by the will. Before his death Augustine Washington in December 1738 leased from Roswell Neale approximately three hundred acres adjoining the two tracts making up his home place. At some time before GW sold the farm in 1774, this 300–acre tract had also come under his ownership. In 1771 GW surveyed a portion of the farm (Survey Book, PPRF), a plat of which was made in 1932 for the George Washington Atlas description begins Lawrence Martin, ed. The George Washington Atlas. Washington, D.C., 1932. description ends (plate 9). Hugh Mercer bought the Washington farm in 1774, agreeing to pay £2,000 Virginia currency in five installments. Mercer was mortally wounded in 1777 at the Battle of Princeton, but his heirs retained the land until 1829. Much of the information regarding the Washington farm, now called Ferry Farm, comes from “Reconstructing the Washington Farm and the Catlett Patent,” a manuscript prepared by Thena S. Jones of Fredericksburg, who has painstakingly traced from existing records the history of the Washington farm and adjoining farms from the patenting of the land in 1666 to the twentieth century. See also GW to Mercer, 28 Mar., 11 April, and Mercer to GW, 6 April 1774.

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