Friday, October 5, 2012

Week Seven Update on 18th Century Farming

Weekly Objective: To determine if George Washington had been a slave breeder, and to find out if his farms had been financially solvent.

What I did: Basically I did this week was read the rest of the book about George Washington’s farming, George Washington: Farmer by Paul Leland Haworth, and write on my research paper. And, of course to write this update! Just as in last week, I have found it much easier to read on the subject than to write on it. There is a lot to say, but I just can’t seem to get it out of me with this particular paper. I will “suffer” through it, though, and make sure that it is completed on time.

What I am finding the most difficult is looking up what I want to cite out of my Kindle. I am not Kindle literate yet. So, this may be a large part of my problem. You may recall that I purchased this bit of technology specifically for this study. I find regular books much easier to find my source. I like to write in the margins, underline and put stars in the corners of the pages that I know that I will absolutely look back at. You can’t really do this with the Kindle. There are highlighting and notes, but you can’t flip through the pages like a real book. So, what I’ve started doing is writing in a notebook. I am not typically a notebook person, I find that when I write the entire line down by hand, I lose myself OUT of my thought. I am not tactile, after all. But, we will see if that helps me. It has so far in at least the terms portion of my study.

William Lee, Washington's Personal Servant

Discussion on this week’s text: The last chapters of George Washington: Farmer were not that great in regards to what I was looking for. I did get some tidbits, so it wasn’t an altogether waste of time. However, I wish, again, that the author would have stayed on track with the title, which is what I thought the subject was. I did learn, much to my almost happiness, that Washington was not a “breeder” of slaves. He did own many slaves, he inherited more when he married Martha, purchased more and was given some people as well. However, as I thought that the author had meant that he literally bred people as animals, I cannot see that he actually did this. Washington apparently treated his slaves better than his neighbors, but was chastised by a visitor by their appearance as men, and their lodging. Washington upgraded their rations, and living quarters after this because he did not want to be thought poorly of.[1]

There was an entire chapter on profit and loss, reportedly by the title.[2] However, there was very little information that I needed within. I do now have the understanding of the fact that Washington, while making a higher profit and having better quality of goods than his neighbors, made very little money in his pursuits. This bodes well for my paper, as this is my thesis! (Hooray for me, but poor Washington.) He had five plantations on his estate, and made very little profits during a good year, and lost in bad years. But, just like farming today, much lends to weather. So, during droughts, little was had, just as today. I am wondering if this was more so in the new world, than in England because this was mentioned very little in my other texts.

I should think not, actually. However, in England at this time was much more technologically advanced than America and could have had irrigation systems that America did not have. I have not read of any irrigation within this week’s, nor last week’s text. So, this could certainly have been possible. Or, perhaps the author just was not aware of any, or that Washington did not use this technology. This could certainly be argued either way. Washington used much higher standards than his contemporaries and had written to many farmers in both America as well as England. He was most probably aware, even if he did not use it.[3]

Another point that I found out about Washington is that he was an avid foxhunter!  He bred horses for racing and jumping, and dogs for the hunt. His friend Lord Fairfax was such an avid hunter that he would literally take foxing trips where he would stay at inns, or at friends for a hunt. Chases lasted for days with hunting for three to seven hours per day. Some people had copses where they had leaning trees for the foxes to climb, and hollowed trees for the foxes to hide in.[4]


Snake Fence (2529) – “Rails laid with the ends of one upon another from eight to sixteen in number in one length.”

Dr. (2731) – Shortened version of the endearment “dear” used in letter writing as in “My dr. sr.”

Sr. (2731) – Shortened version of sir used in letter writing.. see above term.

Originally written for class at American Military University.

[1] Paul Leland Haworth, George Washington: Farmer. (1915), location 1797. Kindle Edition.
[2] Ibid, 2613.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid, 2402-2408.


  1. Great, informative post!

  2. PS~
    I am from Ill., having lived there my whole life before moving to New Hamspshire, buying a rundown 230 year old house, and restoring it alone 15 years ago!
    Now I am married to to my soul mate and our "little brown cape" is for sale.
    My blog is the story of our lives as historical reenactors in an 18thc. house!
    You can 'see' my house here:

    and here:

    I also have the story of my "house adventures" with BEFORE and AFTER photos in past posts on my blog~


  3. Mary,

    Thanks for the kind words! I love your place, it is so darling. I am now a follower! I hope that a new loving caretaker will be able to follow in your footsteps and continue the great love that you have shown for your cottage.

    Wishing you luck and love...


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