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Archive for the ‘On This Day’ Category

March 1, 2013

On This Day: The Washington Family Receives a Land Grant


March 1, 2013 marks the 339th anniversary of the land grant given to Lt. Col John Washington (George Washington’s great-grandfather) and Col. Nicholas Spencer for the land that we today call Mount Vernon.

When visitors come to Mount Vernon to see George Washington’s home and gardens, one of the major aspects of his life that is emphasized is his connection to the land, through his agricultural pursuits and his early career as a surveyor. Over the course of his life, Washington completed many surveys and drew numerous maps that detail the growth of his plantation: Mount Vernon.

Before George Washington inherited Mount Vernon, a succession of Washington family members owned the land beginning in 1674. The first Washington to own the land was George’s great-grandfather, Lt. Col John Washington (1632-1677), an English adventurer who migrated to Virginia in 1656. After a few years of farming and service in the Virginia militia, John Washington and fellow planter Col. Nicholas Spencer applied for a patent (similar to a modern land deed) for 5,000 acres on the Potomac River. A tract on the present-day Mount Vernon Neck was surveyed on April 27 1669, and an official grant was given to Washington and Spencer in March of 1674. Unfortunately, Washington did not live long enough set up a plantation on his patent, which he left to his son, Lawrence Washington in 1677.

Original Land Grant from March 1, 1674

Original Land Grant from March 1, 1674

One 17th century map drawn by surveyor George Brent survives from 1690 that illustrates how the Mount Vernon Neck was divided between the Spencers and the Washingtons . A dividing line down the center of the neck was established, effectively giving both families an equal 2,500 acres. The Spencer family sold off most of their land beginning in 1739, while the Washington family kept their acreage mostly intact. When George Washington assumed ownership of the land in 1754, he controlled about 2,000 acres. He gradually purchased the old Spencer holdings and those of other neighboring small farms, and at the time of his death in 1799 had increased his acreage to 8,000 (for more information see:

Brent Map, 1690

Brent Map, 1690

Modern Image of the 1690 Land Division

Modern Image of the 1690 Land Division


Luke J. Pecoraro
Asst. Director for Archaeological Research
Dept. of Historic Preservation and Collections

Continue reading On This Day: The Washington Family Receives a Land Grant »

Category: Classroom Connections, Mount Vernon, On This Day

February 22, 2013

Happy Birthday George Washington!


Celebrations of George Washington’s birthday date back to the Revolutionary War when soldiers at Valley Forge gathered to wish their Commander-in-Chief a happy 46th birthday. More celebrations followed, including the 1781 celebration by French troops, ordered by the Comte de Rochambeau in Newport, Rhode Island.

Here at Mount Vernon we have been celebrating the General’s birth with free admission to the Estate since 1942 when the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association welcomed nearly 4,000 visitors, many of whom were soldiers serving in World War II. This past Monday we welcomed just over 12,500 visitors who toured the Mansion and outbuildings, participated in a wreath laying at Washington’s Tomb, visited the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. They also took part in birthday festivities on the bowling green including a demonstration in 18th century battle tactics by the United States Army’s Commander in Chief’s Guard as well as visits with people from Washington’s world, including Martha Washington and Nelly Custis.

Birthday GW

Zerah Jakub and Danie Schallom
Education Outreach and Leadership Programs

Category: George Washington, Mount Vernon, On This Day

November 12, 2012

George Washington’s Prayer for His Country


On this Veterans Day, we would like to humbly thank all the men and women of the armed forces who so bravely and selflessly serve this great nation. We thought it fitting to post George Washington’s prayer for his country that was directed to the governors and states of the new nation. Huzzah!

George Washington’s Prayer for His Country
I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have the United States in his holy protection, that he would include the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the Unites States at large, particularly for their brethren who have served in the field, and finally, that he would most graciously be please to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Devine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation. Amen.

Prayer adapted from Washington’s Circular Letter to the States, which he wrote on June 8, 1783 as the commander in chief, at his headquarters in Newburgh, New York. This circular was directed to the governors and states of the new nation. His reference to them has been replaced by the words “the United States.” Otherwise, the words and the spellings are those of General George Washington of the Continental Army.

*Pictures featured in this post are from an a Veterans Day commemorative wreathlaying ceremony at Mount Vernon featuring Army representatives from Fort Belvoir.

Jennifer McCreery

Category: George Washington, On This Day

August 16, 2012

On This Day: George Washington is Sent a Job Application


On August 16, 1789, Nathaniel Ramsey–former Revolutionary War soldier and member of the Congress of the Confederation–wrote to George Washington seeking a post in the new, federal government. Writing from his home in Maryland, Ramsey explained that he had “been informed that it is your wish that every person who is disposed to serve in any of the departments of the new Government, should signify their inclination by a particular application.”

Washington was familiar with Ramsey’s military experience, as the former lieutenant colonel was wounded and taken prisoner by the British following the Battle of Monmouth in June of 1778, eventually returning to continental hands after a prisoner exchange. In his letter to Washington, Ramsey outlined his practical qualifications and past experiences in order to illustrate the breadth of his experience. Ramsey explained that, “Several years regular study of the law, together with a few years practice at the Bar…has given me, at least, an oppertunity of acquiring a moderate acquaintance with the laws of my Country.”

Ramsey believed that he had the time to dedicate to the cause of good governance, reporting that since the “disolution of the Army,” he was “ingaged in no other pursuit then paying some small attention to a farm.” Ramsey specified that he could “devote a considerable part of my time to the duties of the Office, provided you should think proper to honor me with an appointment.”1

The letter achieved its intended goal; in September of 1789, Washington named Ramsey the first federal marshal for the district of Maryland, based in Baltimore. Ramsey remained in that post until 1794, when was appointed naval officer of the port of Baltimore. Ramsey held this position until his passing in October of 1817.

1. “Nathaniel Ramsey to George Washington, 16 August 1789,” The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, Vol. 3, ed. W.W. Abbot (C)

Adam D. Shprintzen, Ph.D.
Editor, Digital Encyclopedia of

Category: On This Day

August 7, 2012

On this Day: Washington Established Badges of Military Distinction and Merit


On August 7, 1782, George Washington created three new military badges that would honor the service of ordinary, common soldiers. As Washington explained, his motives were to honor acts of bravery amongst his regular soldiers, because “The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all.” In his General Orders of August 7, 1782, Washington outlined the creation of both Honorary Badges of Distinction and a Badge of Military Merit.

The first Badge of Distinction was to be “conferred on the veteran Non commissioned officers and soldiers of the army who have served more than three years with bravery, fidelity and good conduct,” and would consist of “a narrow piece of white cloth of an angular form…to be fixed to the left arm on the uniform Coat.” Non-commissioned officers and soldiers worthy of honor who served more than six years were “to be distinguished by two pieces of cloth set in parallel to each other in a similar form.”

In addition, Washington established the creation of a Badge of Military Merit because he was “ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers…” The General Orders explained that “whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding.” Only three individuals are known to have received the Badge of Military Merit during the American Revolution.

With this order, Washington established a policy of formal recognition of the heroic contributions of regular soldiers, rather than just solely members of the officer class. In addition, Washington created the precedence for the eventual establishment of the Purple Heart, adopted by the army in 1932 at the behest of General Douglas MacArthur in conjunction with the two hundredth anniversary of Washington’s birth.

View a copy of Washington’s General Orders of August 7, 1782

Adam D. Shprintzen, Ph.D.
Editor, Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington





Category: On This Day


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Portraits in Schools

Kids holding George Washington Portrait

Mount Vernon recently invited K-12 schools nationwide to request framed portraits of George Washington to display in a respectful, prominent place.

The response was overwhelming: thousands of schools submitted letters! Along with the portrait, schools received curriculum materials to help explore our first president’s contributions.

Where has George Washington gone back to school? Click here to see!

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