Before George Washington began his career of public service as a soldier then as a diplomat and eventually President of the United States, he was a surveyor. This profession of his was his first and one in which he was active throughout most of his life.
George’s father died when he was eleven years old and he inherited the 260-acre Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg. George also inherited his father’s surveying instruments and he began to run lines at Ferry Farm with the help with his older half brother, Lawrence Washington. George was spending a large amount of time at Lawrence’s estate at Mount Vernon running lines on the vast area as well as being mentored by his brother.
In 1748 at Mount Vernon, George met with Thomas, Lord Fairfax, who had inherited a land grant over 5 million acres which was located in the area between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers and westward across the Blue Ridge Mountains. George was invited to accompany George William Fairfax, Lord Fairfax’s nephew, and James Genn, the county surveyor for Prince William County, on a month long surveying expedition of Lord Fairfax’s newly acquired land. This trip was George’s first formal initiation into the field and began a lifelong relationship between George and the Fairfax family.
After his surveying trip in the western frontiers, George prepared two maps of an area which would become the city of Alexandria, Virginia. The maps show a before and after interpretation of the incorporation of the city of Alexandria. It is widely noted that these maps were derived or copied from the originals even though the maps are in George’s writing. He did gain valuable experience being a part of this survey plan.
In 1749 at the age of seventeen, George was appointed as the county surveyor for Culpeper County where he served for over a year. Late in the year Lord Fairfax hired George to survey the land of the Northern Neck Grant in the Shenandoah Valley. He worked there for two years where he earned the reputation as being fair, honesty and dependable. During this time he also purchased is first tract of land of 453 acres in the Shenandoah Valley.
He continued to work as a surveyor until his brother, Lawrence became gravely ill and died in 1752. George then started to manage the Mount Vernon Plantation and later inherited it after Anna Washington, Lawrence’s widow, died in 1761.
In his lifetime George would survey more than 200 tracts of land but less that seventy-five are in tact today. The majority of his surveys were in the westernmost counties of the Northern Neck Land Grant. But after managing and inheriting Mount Vernon and well into his public service of the United States, George would only survey his own lands that he had acquired throughout the years. George even surveyed a tract of land in the year of his death in 1799.