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Washington as Surveyor

22 July 1749–25 October 1752

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Compiled by Jim Moyer 12 August 2015

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Between the ages of 17 and 20 GW was a practicing professional land surveyor. During that time he made more than 190 surveys, nearly all of them for grants of new lands on the frontiers of Lord Fairfax’s Northern Neck Proprietary.

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20 July 1749 GW appeared before the justices of the Culpeper court and, after presenting his commission, took the oaths of public office for the first time and became the county’s first surveyor.

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28 Aug. 1750 Washington’s last survey as “SCC” surveyor with a Culpeper County commission.  This survey and all others except one were done outside of Culpeper County.  All other  survey work  was completed in Fairfax’s proprietary lands, the Northern Neck.

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How could Washington’s Surveys continue to be legal?

… Washington continued surveying in Frederick County, and for his surveys there to continue to be legal he should have had another surveying appointment of some kind. The absence of any title at all on GW’s surveys after he stopped using “S.C.C.” suggests that he may have become one of the several assistants to Frederick County surveyor James Wood, since Frederick County assistants signed their surveys without title.8 No record, however, has been found of GW’s being commissioned as an assistant surveyor in Frederick County. It is certain only that Lord Fairfax continued to allow GW to survey for grants after he ceased to be surveyor of Culpeper County and that no one challenged the legitimacy of his work.

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When was the surveying work done?

GW, like most frontier surveyors, usually surveyed in the spring and fall, when the weather was most pleasant, snakes and insects were least troublesome, and the thin foliage of trees made it easier to sight long boundary lines through wooded areas. He departed significantly from this pattern only in Aug. 1750 when he made a brief surveying trip to the Shenandoah Valley and in the fall of 1751 when he did not survey because of his trip to Barbados with his ailing half brother Lawrence Washington.

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Land Acumulation

Between 1749 and 1752 GW acquired 2,315 acres of good land in the lower Shenandoah Valley, some of it by purchase and some by grants. That holding matched Lawrence Washington’s Mount Vernon in acreage.

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Click on map to enlarge.

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Vernon-Estate-Mount

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Source: 1766 map of Mt Vernon by George Washington 

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Did Washington go to Greenway Court much?

GW usually received his surveying assignments in packets of land warrants issued from the Proprietary land office at Belvoir, not from Greenway Court.

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Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron (October 22, 1693 – December 9, 1781),  moved out to the Shenandoah Valley in 1752 (the year Washington quit as a surveyor), At the suggestion of his nephew Thomas Bryan Martin, he fixed his residence at Greenway Court, near White Post, Clarke County, but not all of the paperwork left Belvoir to go to Greenway Court until 1762.

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Washington begins a new job

GW quit the profession of surveying after the last survey 25 October 1752.

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6 Nov. 1752 appointed  adjutant for southern Virginia with a salary of £100 a year.25 GW did not survey professionally thereafter, but throughout the remainder of his life he frequently employed his surveying skills for his own private purposes

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SOURCES

http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-01-02-0004

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Appointed Surveyor must live in County

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September 1744, Volume V,  Chapter XXII, page 254-255

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…whereas it hath been found, by experience, that many controversies and disputes have arisen, and daily arise, among people in those counties where any such lands are, about priority of entries, especially where the surveyor of such county doth not actually reside therein, he often times deputing other persons to take entries; and many times it so happens, that entries have been made with such deputy, and with the surveyor himself, for the same land, by different persons: for preventing any such disputes and controversies for the future, and for the greater ease and conveniency of the people, in repairing from time to time, to the respective surveyors of such counties, and for the better ascertaining the right of any such entries

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