Page images

founded by law in 1727, and named Fredericksburg, from Prince Frederick, the father of George II. Fredericksburg is a place of interest, from the fact that Washington passed his youthful days in its vicinity.

“The birth-place of Washington is about half a mile from the junction of Pope's creek with the Potomac, in Westmoreland county. It is upon the “Wakefield estate," now in the possession of John E. Wilson, Esq. The house in which the great patriot was born was destroyed before the revolution. It was a plain Virginia farm-house of the better class, with four rooms and an enormous chimney, on the outside, at each end. The spot where it stood is now marked by a slab of freestone, which was deposited by George W. P. Custis, Esq., in the presence of other gentlemen, in June, 1815. Desirous,” says Mr. Custis, in a letter on the subject to Mr. Lossing, "of making the ceremonial of depositing the stone as imposing as the circumstances would permit, we enveloped it in the 'star-spangled banner' of our country, and it was borne to its resting-place in the arms of the descendants of four revolutionary patriots.

We gathered together the bricks of the ancient chimney, which once formed the hearth around which Washington, in his infancy, had played, and constructed a rude kind of pedestal, on which we reverently placed the First STONE, commending it to the respect and protection of the American people in general, and of those of Westmoreland in particular.” On the tablet is this simple inscription: “HERE, THE 11TH OF FEBRUARY (0. s.) 1732, GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS BORN."

The remains of the mother of Washington repose in the immediate vicinage of Fredericksburg, on the spot which she herself, years before her death, selected for her grave, and to which she was wont to retire for private and devotional thought. It is marked by an unfinished yet still imposing monument. The corner stone of this sacred structure was laid by Andrew Jackson, President of the United States at the time, on the 7th of May, 1833, in the presence of a grand concourse, and with most solemn ceremonial. After the lapse of almost a quarter of a century the monument remains still unfinished.

The mother of Wash. ington resided, during the latter part of her life, in Fredericksburg, near the spot where she now lies buried. The house of her abode, occupied of late days by Richard Stirling, Esq., is on the corner of Charles and Lewis streets. It was here that her last but memorable interview with her illustrious son took place, when she was bowed down with age and disease."

Soon after the birth WASHINGTON'S BIRTH-PLACE.

of Washington, his fath

er, Augustine Washington, removed to an estate in Stafford county, nearly opposite Fredericksburg, where he died April 12, 1743, and was buried at Bridges' creek. To each

[ocr errors]

of his sons he left a plantation. To his oldest survivor he left an estate on Hunting creek (afterward Mount Vernon), and to George the lands and house near Fredericksburg. This house was situated a short distance below the railroad bridge, and has long since gone to decay and disappeared.

Mount Vernon, the residence of Washington, is on the western side of the Potomac, 8 miles south from Alexandria, and 15 from Washington City.

The mansion is of wood, cut in imitation of freestone. The central part was built by Lawrence Washington, brother to the general; the wings were added by the general. The seat was named after Admiral Vernon, in whose expedition Lawrence Washington served. He bequeathed it to his brother George, who came into possession of it on the death of Lawrence, who died here July 26th, 1752. The following is extracted from an account given by a visitor at Mount Vernon:

“We crossed a brook, passed through a ravine, and felt ourselves so completely in the midst of aboriginal, untouched nature, that the sight

of the house and its cluster RESIDENCE AND TOMB OF WASHINGTON, MT. VERNON. of surrounding buildings,

came like a surprise upon me. The approach to the house is toward the west front. The high piazza, reaching from the roof to the ground, and the outline of the building, are familiar to us from the engravings; but its gray and time-worn aspect must be mentioned to those whose eyes are accustomed to the freshness of white walls, green blinds, and painted bricks. We rode up to the piazza, but an unbroken silence reigned, and there was no sign of life, or of any one stirring: Turning away, we passed among the adjoining houses, occupied by the blacks, from one of which a servant, attracted by the sound of our horses' hoofs, came out, and being recognized by my friend, took our horses from us, and we walked toward the house. The door from the piazza opened directly into a large room, which we entered. It was no mere habit that lifted the hat from my head, and

I stepped lightly, as though upon hallowed ground. Finding that no one had seen us, my friend went in search of the family, and left me to walk through the halls. From the first room I passed into another, from which a door led me out upon the eastern piazza. A warm afternoon breeze shook the branches of the forest which closes in upon the house on two sides, and breathed across the lawn and rising knolls with a delicious softness. Under this piazza, upon its pavement of flat stones, Washington used to walk to and fro, with military regularity, every morning, the noble Potomac in full view, spreading out into the width of a bay at the foot of the mount, and the shore of Maryland lining the eastern horizon. By the side of the door hung the spyglass, through which he watched the passing objects upon the water. Little effort was necessary to call up the commanding figure of the hero, as he paced to and fro, while those pure and noble thoughts, which made his actions great, moved


with almost an equal order through his simple and majestic understanding. My friend approached and told me he had learned that the family were at din. ner, and we left the house privately and walked toward the tomb. At a short distance from the house, in a retired spot, stands the new family tomb, a plain structure of brick, with a barred iron gate, through which are seen two sarcophagi of white marble, side by side, containing the remains of Washington and his consort. This had been recently finished, as appeared from the freshness of the bricks and mortar, and the bare spots of earth about it, upon which the grass had not yet grown. It is painful to see change and novelty in such connections, but all, has been done by the direction of Washington's will, in which he designated the spot where he wished the tomb to be. The old family tomb, in which he was first placed, is in a more picturesque situation, upon a knoll, in full view of the river; but the present one is more retired, which was reason enough to determine the wishes of a modest man. While we were talking together here, a person approached us, dressed in the plain manner of a Virginia gentleman upon his estate. This was the young proprietor. After his greeting with my friend, and my introduction, he conducted us to the tomb. It is now going to decay, being unoccupied, is filling up, and partly overgrown with vines and shrubs. The change was made with regret, but a sacred duty seemed to require it. It is with this tomb that our associations are connected, and to this the British fleet is said to have lowered its flags while passing up the Potomac to make the attack upon the capitol.

To one accustomed to the plantation system and habits of Virginia, this estate may have much that is common with others, but to persons unused to this economy the whole is new and striking. Of things peculiar to the place are a low rampart of brick, now partly overgrown, which Washington had built around the front of the house, and an underground passage leading from the bottom of a dry well, and coming out by the river side at the foot of the mount. On the west side of the house are two gardens, a green-house, and—the usual accompaniments of a plantation-seed-houses, tool-houses, and cottages for the negroes—things possessing no particular interest, except because they were standing during Washington's life, and were objects of his frequent attention. Among the things of note shown us in the house was the key of the Bastile, sent to Washington from France at the time of the destruction of the prison. Along the walls of the room hung engravings, which were mostly battle or hunting pieces. Among them I noticed a print of Bunker Hill, but none of any battle in which Washington himself was engaged. The north room was built by Washington for a dining-room, and for the meeting of his friends and political visitors. The furniture of the room is just as when he used it, and leads us back to the days when there were met within these walls the great men of that generation who carried the states through the revolution, laid the foundations of the government, and administered it in its purer days. The rooms of the house are spacious, and there is something of elegance in their ar. rangement; yet the whole is marked by great simplicity. All the regard one could wish seems to have been shown to the sacredness of these public relics, and all things have been kept very nearly as Washington left them.”

On an adjoining page we give two fac-similes taken from the “Historical Collections of Virginia" by Henry Howe. The first is a specimen of the handwriting of Washington at thirty years of age, being the concluding sentences of a playful letter written by him to a friend. The last, the entry of the birth of Washington, is from the family record in the Bible which belonged to his mother. The original entry is supposed to have been made by her. This old family Bible is in the possession of George W. Bassett, Esq., of Farmington, Hanover county, who married a grand-niece of Washington. It is in the quarto form, much dilapidated by age, and with the title page missing. It is covered by the striped Virginia cloth, anciently much used.

Alecandria is situated on the west side of the Potomac, 6 miles S.from Washington. This city was included in that part of the District of Columbia ceded to the United States by Virginia as a location for the seat of government.

as becomes




Mo affecte


Fac-simile of the writing of Washington when thirty years of age.


the wrote on a certain 25.44 Judy when you ought have been at Church, foray ing Christian Man

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Fac-simile of the entry of the birth of Washington in the Bible of his mother.

George Washingkonzen Wlugustinef Mary his reference to yet Say hebruar; per about to in the morning g was taptis the offspri fotoning te bevestay Whilingy lepChristophe Boshe patlahero and MeMildred fazony framothing

It was in 1834 ceded back again, with all the territory west of the Potomac, and now belongs, as at first, to the jurisdiction of Virginia. The river opposite the city is a mile in width, and has a depth sufficient for vessels of the

[graphic][merged small]

largest class. The place is pleasantly situated, commanding a fine view of the city of Washington, and other interesting objects. It is laid out with much regularity. The public buildings are a court-house and about twelve

churches, in one of which Washington attended public worship while he resided at Mount Vernon. There are three banks and a number of excellent schools. The museum in, Alexandria contains quite a number of interesting relics of the revolutionary period. A considerable amount of shipping is owned here, in which corn, tobacco and stone-coal are exported. Population about 9,000. About three miles from Alexandria, in Fair. fax county, is the Virginia Theological Seminary, an institution founded in 1822


pal Church of the Diocese

of Virginia. An interesting incident occurred at Alexandria in the life of Washington. It is given below, as it has often been published:

« PreviousContinue »