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NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.

Popes Creek, Virginia - Where Our Founding Father Was Founded

By: Michelle Harper

Washington's Birthplace Popes Creek VirginiaWhen thinking of George Washington's home, most people's thoughts turn immediately to Mount Vernon, VA. However, Washington's first home was just a little further south along the same Potomac River at Popes Creek Plantation in Westmoreland County, VA. This President's Day if you would like to find out more about "The Father of Our Country" but don't want the hassle of the DC traffic, why not take a leisurely ride to the Northern Neck down Rt. 3 and Rt. 204 to the George Washington Birthplace National Monument? Here a miniature version of the Washington monument (1/10th scale) marks the entrance to the site of the actual birthplace of our first President. In addition to the replica of the monument, the Park Service maintains the historic birthplace home area, a working colonial farm complete with costumed interpreters demonstrating life on an 18th century tobacco farm, hiking trails, picnic areas and the Washington family burial grounds.

Washington's Birthplace Popes Creek VirginiaGeorge Washington is without a doubt one of our most popular Presidents and even the youngest schoolchild can recall at least a few facts about him, yet there still remains an air of mystery around the man. Though he wrote many letters and kept journals, little is known of his childhood. Perhaps it is this lack of information that leads us to fill in gaps with such wonderful myths such as his chopping down a cherry tree and willfully confessing his misdeed or throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River - stories which only help to enhance the legend of the great man. Maybe it is the need to separate the man from the myth that drives us to discover as much as we can through visiting his home and viewing artifacts from his life. This attempt at understanding what motivated one of the greatest American historical figures is one of the greatest attractions of the George Washington Birthplace National Monument.

Washington's Birthplace Popes Creek VirginiaWhat is known for certain is that George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 at Popes Creek Plantation. He was the first son of Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball. George was the third generation of Washington's in the area and the family value of public service was instilled in him from the very beginning. The Washington family had a long-standing history of serving when called upon. Washington spent his first 3 years at Popes Creek and returned throughout his life. One can't help but feel that these first experiences on the plantation helped shape his strong love of the land and farming.

Washington's Birthplace Popes Creek VirginiaWith all the intertwining of fact and fiction surrounding George Washington, it seems most appropriate that even the location of his actual birth had some misleading elements. The original home burned on Christmas day in 1779 even though the land was passed down in the family, the birthplace location was never resettled. The burn site remained neglected and eventually its exact location faded from memory.

In 1930 a memorial home was built over what was thought to be the remains of the original site. An exact replica was not possible as there were no photographs or pictures available, so the house was built to resemble one typical of the period. But as with so many things regarding George Washington, things were not what they appeared to be. In 1936, a new excavation on the property revealed that the memorial house was built over the wrong building. Once the exact location of the actual birthplace was determined, the foundation was thoroughly searched for artifacts and reburied for protection. Today all that identifies the true location of the residence is an oyster shell outline marking the dimensions.

Washington's Birthplace Popes Creek VirginiaWhether you are a history buff or are just looking for a nice ride to a peaceful country plantation that time forgot, George Washington Birthplace National Monument is the perfect place to visit. If you aren't careful you just may learn a little bit more about a man you thought you already knew so well.

Hours: 9 - 5 daily
Fee: $3.00 per person over 17

For more information visit:
http://www.nps.gov/gewa/

 

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