George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lawrence Washington, 5 May 1749

To Lawrence Washington

May 5th 1749

Dear Brother

I hope your Cough is much mended since I saw you last, if so likewise hope you have given over the thoughts of leaving Virginia.

As there is not an absolute occasion of my coming down, hope you’l get the Deeds acknowledged without Me;1 my Horse is in very poor order to undertake such a journey, and is in no likelihood of mending for want of Corn sufficient to support him; tho’ if there be any certainty in the Assembly’s not rising untill the latter end of May, will if I can be down by that; As my Mothers term of Years is out at that Place at Bridge Creek, she designs to Settle a Quarter on that Peice at Deep Run, but seems backward of doing it untill the Right is made good, for fear of accidents.2

It’s Reported here that Mr Spotswood intends to put down the Ferry that is kept at the Wharf where he now Lives,3 and that Major Frans Talliaferro intends to petition the Assembly for an Act to have it kept from his House over against my Mothers Quarter,4 and right through the very Heart and best of the Land; whereas he can have no other view in it but for the Conveniency of a small Mill he has on the Water side, that will not Grind above three Months in the twelve, and the great Inconveniency and prejudice it will be to us, hope it will not be granted; besides, I do not see where he can Possibly have a Landing Place on his side that will ever be Sufficient for a Lawful Landing (by reason of the steepness of the Banks;) I think we suffer enough with the Free Ferry,5 without being troubled with such an unjust and iniquitous Petition as that, but hope as its only a flying report he will consider better of it and drop his pretentions. I should be glad (if its not too much trouble) to hear from you in the mean while remain with my Love to my Sister6 Dear sir Your Affectionate Brother

George Washington


Lawrence Washington (c.1718–1752) was GW’s eldest living half brother, the son of Augustine Washington (1694–1743) and his first wife, Jane Butler Washington. He attended Appleby School in England with his brother Augustine and after his return to Virginia in 1738 was commissioned a captain in one of the Virginia companies raised to fight in the War of Jenkins’ Ear. He served with the Virginia troops in the siege of Cartagena under Admiral Vernon in Mar. 1741. Returning to Virginia in 1742 or early 1743, he was appointed adjutant general of the colony and on 19 July 1743 married Ann Fairfax, daughter of Col. William Fairfax of Belvoir. About the time of his marriage he began the rebuilding of a house on the site of his father’s earlier residence on Little Hunting Creek, naming it Mount Vernon in honor of his wartime commander. Very much a substitute father to young GW, Lawrence afforded at Mount Vernon a welcome refuge from the austere life of Ferry Farm. Lawrence’s marriage into the powerful Fairfax family introduced GW to the social life of the beautiful Fairfax estate at Belvoir, some 4 miles from Mount Vernon, where he met the most influential segment of Virginia society. By 1749 Lawrence had served for 7 years as burgess for Fairfax County and was established as an active participant in the economic expansion of Virginia. His deteriorating health, however, was of increasing concern to his family and friends. He joined the 1748 session of the House of Burgesses, which convened on 2 Mar. 1749, but on 2 May was excused from further attendance “for the Recovery of his Health” (JHB, 1742–1748, 1748–1749 description begins H. R. McIlwaine and John Pendleton Kennedy, eds. Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. 13 vols. Richmond, 1905–15. description ends , 387). Apparently suffering from tuberculosis, Lawrence sailed for England in the summer of 1749 to seek medical advice.

1This may be a reference to the deed for the recently sold Ferry Farm. See Deed for Ferry Farm Land, 7 July 1748.

2GW’s mother was Mary Ball Washington (c.1708–1789), daughter of Joseph Ball (c.1649–1711) of Lancaster County and his second wife, Mary Johnson Ball (d. 1721). On 6 Mar. 1731 Mary Ball married Augustine Washington of Pope’s Creek, Westmoreland County, a widower with three children. GW was the first of their five children. In 1738 the Washington family settled at the Strother farm, later called Pine Grove Farm and Ferry Farm, which lay across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg in King George (after 1776 in Stafford) County. Bridges Creek, in Westmoreland County, was the location of the original home plantation of GW’s ancestors in America. By 1743, when Augustine Washington died, the Bridges Creek quarter was merely a part of the larger Washington plantation at Pope’s Creek, all of which was left in GW’s father’s will to the second surviving son of his first marriage, Augustine Washington. By the terms of the will the product of the Bridges Creek quarter was left to GW’s mother for 5 years, giving her time to establish a residence on the Deep Run Tract, in King George County, which had been divided between GW and his brother Samuel (will of Augustine Washington, 11 April 1743, DLC:GW).

3John Spotswood, son of former Gov. Alexander Spotswood, lived at New Post, about 5 miles south of Fredericksburg near the mouth of Massaponax Creek on the Spotsylvania County side of the Rappahannock River. In 1732 the General Assembly authorized the establishment of a ferry to cross the Rappahannock from Spotswood’s plantation to the land of Joseph Ball, Mary Washington’s half brother. The ferry was still in operation in 1748 (4 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 363; 6 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 18).

4No record appears in the proceedings of the assembly of such a petition by Francis Taliaferro (died c.1757), whose home, Epsom, was about 1 mile upriver from Spotswood’s. GW’s mother’s quarter, a 400–acre tract on the King George County side of the Rappahannock River near the mouth of Little Falls Run, was willed to her by her father Joseph Ball.

5From 1742 until the spring of 1745 a “free” ferry, paid for by local subscribers, ran from “Anthony Strother’s Landing, in King George County, to the public Lot or Landing in Fredericksburg” (Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg], 2–9 May 1745). In May 1745 it was taken over by a Mr. Gordon and, still paid for by subscription, ran “from Williams’s Landing to Mrs. Washington’s” (ibid., 2–9 May 1745). The next year it was being run by William Lynn and Archibald McPherson on behalf of Charles Dick (Spotsylvania County Order Book, 1738–49, p. 325).

6GW’s sister-in-law was Ann Fairfax Washington.

Index Entries