Although George Washington first planned a career in the Royal Navy, by the age of 17 he was commissioned as a surveyor. He compiled sample surveys as part of his education. Washington’s so-called “School Boy Copy Books” are housed in the George Washington Papers in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. These surveys include a survey of the turnip garden belonging to Lawrence Washington, his half-brother.
In Washington’s “Journal of my Journey over the Mountains began Fryday the 11th. of March 1747/8” we learn of his first visit to the Cumberland area, to Michael Cresap’s house at the mouth of the South Branch of the Potomac. He noted of this part of his journey: “I believe ye worst road than ever was trod by Man or Beast.”
While in the Cumberland area, the young George met local Native Americans for the first time. He writes:
“We were agreeably surpris’d at the sight of thirty odd Indians coming from War with only one Scalp. We had some Liquor with us of which we gave them Part it elevating there Spirits put them in the Humour of Dauncing of whom we had a War Daunce. There Manner of Dauncing is as follows Viz. They clear a Large Circle & make a great Fire in the Middle then seats themselves around it the Speaker makes a grand Speech telling them in what Manner they are to Daunce after he has finish’d the best Dauncer Jumps up as one awaked out of a Sleep & Runs & Jumps about the Ring in a most comicle Manner he is followd by the Rest then begins there Musicians to Play the Musick is a Pot half of Water with a Deerskin Streched over it as tight as it can & a goard with some Shott in it to Rattle & a Piece of an horses Tail tied to it to make it look fine the one keeps Rattling and the other Drumming all the While the others is Dauncing.”
When you visit Cumberland for the George Washington Whiskey Rebellion Fest, Friday June 7 2019, visit the Cresap House, and the George Washington at Wills Creek marker, at the intersection of Greene Street and Bridge Street on Greene Street, next to George Washington’s HQ.