“A Journal of My Journey over the Mountains” beginning March 11, 1748

By George Washington (1732-1799)



Washington’s surveying expedition for Lord Thomas Fairfax when he was just seventeen years old enters today’s Jefferson County across the Shenandoah River to the extreme southeast. He surveys east-to-west across the southern portion of the county, in the process discovering what would be his first land purchase, called Rock Hall plantation. He goes north and along the Potomac until he reaches Old Town, Maryland then goes on to Warm Springs, Virginia at what is today’s Berkeley Springs. His group turns south through what is today Hedgesville and on to today’s Winchester then home to the east. – ED.


“Sunday March 13. Rode to his Lordships Quarter about 4 Miles higher up the River we went through most beautiful Groves of Sugar Trees & spent the best part of the Day in admiring the Trees & richness of the Land.


“Monday 14th. We sent our Baggage to Capt. Hites (near Frederick Town) went ourselves down the River about 16 Miles to Capt. Isaac Penningtons (the Land exceeding Rich & Fertile all the way produces abundance of Grain Hemp Tobacco &c.) in order to Lay of some Lands on Cates Marsh & Long Marsh.


(The region just described is the southern part of Jefferson County and Frederick Town is Winchester.  Jost Hite (d. 1760) was born in Strasbourg, Alsace, and emigrated to America about 1710, settling first in the vicinity of Kingston, N.Y. About 1716 he moved to Pennsylvania and in 1731 purchased a tract of nearly 40,000 acres from John and Isaac Van Meter in what soon became Frederick County, VA.  In 1732 he moved to his Virginia lands with 16 other families of settlers.  He was a member of the first Frederick Parish vestry.  Hite was one of the leading land speculators and developers in Frederick, eventually settling families on a tract amounting to 94,000 acres.  Isaac Pennington came to the Shenandoah Valley probably from New Jersey about 1734 near present-day Berryville, VA. - Cartmell, Thomas K., “Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and their Descendants: A History of Frederick County, VA from its formation in 1738-1908,” Eddy Press Corporation: Winchester, VA., 1909, p. 23.  In 1750, GW surveyed a tract of land for him in Frederick County, 23 Oct. 1750.)


“Tuesday 15th. We set out early with Intent to Run round the sd. Land but being taken in a Rain & it Increasing very fast obliged us to return. It clearing about one o’Clock & our time being too Precious to Loose we a second time ventured out & Worked hard till Night & then returnd to Penningtons we got our Suppers & was Lighted in to a Room & I not being so good a Woodsman as the rest of my Company striped my self very orderly & went in to the Bed as they call’d it when to my Surprize I found it to be nothing but a Little Straw—Matted together without Sheets or any thing else but only one Thread Bear blanket with double its Weight of Vermin such as Lice Fleas &c.  I was glad to get up (as soon as the Light was carried from us) & put on my Cloths & Lay as my Companions. Had we not have been very tired, I am sure we should not have slep’d much that night.  I made a Promise not to Sleep so from that time forward chusing rather to sleep in the open Air before a fire as will Appear hereafter.


“On this day the party surveyed a tract of land for George William Fairfax on Cates Marsh and Long Marsh, the “names of small streams which flow from the foothill of North mountain to the Shenandoah river and have along their course considerable meadow or marshy land.”  (This would be just east of the lands the Washington family would buy for themselves. - ED).    


“Wednesday 16th. We set out early & finish’d about one oClock & then Travell’d up to Frederick Town where our Baggage came to us.  We cleaned ourselves (to get Rid of the Game we had catched the Night before) & took a Review of the Town & then return’d to our Lodgings where we had a good Dinner prepar’d for us Wine & Rum Punch in Plenty & a good Feather Bed with clean Sheets which was a very agreeable regale.


“Thursday 17th. Rain’d till Ten oClock & then clearing we reached as far as Major Campbells one of there Burgesses about 25 Miles from Town. Nothing Remarkable this day nor Night but that we had a Tolerable good Bed [to] lay on.  (Andrew Campbell, who lived northwest of Winchester, was one of Frederick County’s most prominent residents. - Cartmell, p. 21.)


“Fryday 18th. We Travell’d up about 35 Miles to Thomas Barwicks  on Potomack where we found the River so excessively high by Reason of the Great Rains that had fallen up about the Allegany  Mountains as they told us which was then bringing down the melted Snow & that it would not be fordable for severall Days it was then above Six foot Higher than usual & was Rising. We agreed to stay till Monday. We this day call’d to see the Fam’d Warm Springs. We camped out in the field this Night. Nothing Remarkable happen’d till sunday the 20th. (Warm Springs is now Bath, or Berkeley Springs, Morgan County, W.Va.)


“Sunday 20th. Finding the River not much abated we in the Evening Swam our horses over & carried them to Charles Polks in Maryland for Pasturage till the next Morning.


“Monday 21st. We went over in a Canoe & Travell’d up Maryland side all the Day in a Continued Rain to Collo. Cresaps right against the Mouth of the South Branch about 40 Miles from Polks I believe the Worst Road that ever was trod by Man or Beast.


(Thomas Cresap (1694-1790) was born at Skipton, Yorkshire, Eng., and emigrated to America about 1719, settling first in Maryland and later moving to the area of present-day Wrightsville, Pa.  There he became a leader of the Maryland forces in the boundary dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania, 1730-36.  His Pennsylvania establishment was burned by Pennsylvanians in I766, and he moved to the vicinity of Shawnee Old Town (now Oldtown, Md.), where he built a fortified trading post at the crossroads of a series of trails much traveled by Indians and whites.)


“Tuesday 22nd Continued Rain and the Freshes kept us at Cresaps.


“Wednesday 23d. Rain’d till about two oClock & Clear’d when 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.


“Thursday 31st Early this Morning one of our Men went out with the Gun and soon Returned with two Wild Turkies we then went to our Business run of three lots and returned to our Camping place at Stumps


“March 31st Lot 4th. this Lot survey’d myself Beginning at a Pine by a Rock . . .


“Fryday April the 1st This Morning Shot twice at Wild Turkies but kill’d none run of three Lots and returned to Camp

”Saterday 2d Last Night was a blowing and Rainy night Our Straw catch’d a Fire yt. we were laying upon and was luckily Preserv’d by one of our Mens awaking when it was in a [blaze] we run of four Lots this Day which Reached below Stumps


“Sunday 3d Last Night was a much more blostering night than the former we had our Tent carried Quite off with the Wind and was obliged to Lie the Latter part of the night without covering there came several Persons to see us this day one of our Men Shot a Wild Turkie.


“Monday 4th this morning Mr. Fairfax left us with Intent to go down to the Mouth of the Branch we did two Lots and was attended by a great Company of People Men Women and Children that attended us through the Woods as we went showing there Antick tricks I really think they seemed to be as Ignorant a Set of People as the Indians they would never speak English but when spoken to they speak all Dutch this day our Tent was blown down by the Violentness of the Wind


“Wednesday 6th Last Night was so Intolerable smoky that we were obliged all hands to leave the Tent to the Mercy of the Wind and Fire this day was attended by our afored Company untill about 12 oClock when we finish’d we travell’d down the Branch to Henry Vanmetris’s on our Journey was catched in a very heavy Rain we got under a Straw House untill the Worst of it was over and then continued our Journey


“Thursday 7th Rain’d Successively all Last Night this Morning one of our men Killed a Wild Turkie that weight 20 Pounds we went and Survey’d 15 Hundred Acres of Land and Return’d to Vanmetris’s about 1 oClock about two I heard that Mr Fairfax was come up and at I Peter Casseys about 2 Miles of in the same Old Field I then took my Horse and went up to see him we eat our Dinners and Walked down to Vanmetris’s we stayed about two Hours and Walked back again and slept in Casseys House which was the first Night I had slept in a House since I came to the Branch.” End of diary.”