Facts about George Washington

Just like is great to learn about the background of an ancestor; how they grew up, their education, their trade skills, any hardships they had to deal it – all which helps define a person in adult life. We can examine a well-known American – the first US President – George Washington to learn more on his background to see what help shape the man. It might even give you clues for your own ancestors.

First, George was the oldest of six children in his father’s second marriage. His father was Augustine Washington and Mary (Ball) Washington). His father, born in Virginia, died in 1743 when George was only 11 years old. The same thing had happened earlier, Augustine’s father died when he was only a boy of 4 years old. For young George, his formal schooling ended as the oldest he had new responsibilities now. He did suffer early bouts with smallpox or tuberculosis, which may have been the reason he and his later wife Martha, never had children. He had to learn to operate a tobacco farm and when he turned 16, he took a job as a land surveyor.

As a young man, George met Sally Fairfax, wife of one of his family friends. She provided the need for schooling in the Virginia social graces including about proper behavior, haw to speak to wealthy and powerful individuals and how to dance the minuet. George and Sally remained long-time friends, Sally and her husband visiting Mount Vernon many times. Washington referred to the times he spent with Sally as the happiest of his life.

He operated his farm at Mount Vernon (built by his father in 1734) and developed new methods to help in the work. One was cross-breeding a horse and donkey to create a mule. It would serve as a great work animal.

Diseases were everywhere in the 1700s and George had his share including diphtheria, malaria, dysentery and pneumonia. On top of that he nearly drowned in an ice-clogged river and had two horses shot out from him.

To assist George Washington during the American Revolution he used many different spies to give him an upper hand to make bold decisions. He had a female spy agent (considered very unusual), he had an African-American as a double agent, and to send messages he used invisible ink. It was James Jay, brother of John Jay, who invented a chemical solution—often using acidic fluids like lime juice, milk or vinegar—that functioned as invisible ink. Messages could be written, literally, in between the lines of what would appear to be an innocuous note. When treated with heat (say, over a candle) the secret writing would emerge.

Like most landed families in Virginia in the 1700s, many owned slaves, as did George. By the time of the Revolutionary War, 1776) he became uncomfortable owning slaves. He would free them in his Will, until Martha’s death years later. But Martha did free the slaves that belonged to George a year after his 1799 death.

His last few years at Mount Vernon aster serving as President, many people came to visit and speak with the first president. In 1798 he had 677 visitors that year.

It was the US Congress after George’s death that wrote a eulogy that was remembered forever: “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Photos: George Washington and Sally Fairfax; George Washington, wife Martha and his stepchildren; and George as President.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Washington’s Genealogy

Related to a US President?

People Named for US Presidents

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