George Washington's Ambitious Youth

Although the death of George Washington's father early on in young George's life was undoubtedly difficult on the young boy, he was afterwards taken under the wing of his older step-brother, Lawrence Washington. His older brother proved to be not only a mentor in George's life but also a valuable social connection as the teenage George Washington looked to work his way up in colonial society. Since George was forced to help his mother on their farm upon the passing of his father, he had already become a skilled farmer and plantation owner by the time he had become a teenager. However, George's first job outside of his family's farm came as a result of his brother Lawrence's connections to the influential Fairfax family. Lawrence Washington, himself a farmer, married Anne Fairfax, the daughter of Colonel William Fairfax, a powerful and well-known man in colonial Virginia. Anne Fairfax also devoted time to mentor George, specifically in the ways of the colonial upper class. There is no doubt that her training helped George to assimilate better with the prominent colonial citizens. Through his older brother's connections, George took on his first job as a surveyor when he was around fifteen years old. Just a year later, in 1748, the sixteen-year-old surveyor tagged along on a surveying expedition led by the Fairfaxes into the western lands of Virginia. His work on this expedition must have pleased Colonel Fairfax, for the very next year he appointed George as the official surveyor of Culpeper County. George held this job for the next two years. During these years, he also worked as a surveyor in the Frederick and Augusta counties. In 1753, George once again went on another expedition into the western lands. These expeditions and his work as a surveyor helped to shape the young George Washington into the man who would help found the United States of America. First, George used his experiences as a surveyor to grow his land holdings. This increase in land led to an increase in both wealth and influence (both very essential for someone to possess in order to become a prominent leader in a young nation). Secondly, the excitement that Washington experienced on his trips to the American West helped form in him a belief that the future of America lay in expanding the nation's borders westward. Finally, his surveying trips brewed within George Washington a desire to join the military. After the death of Lawrence Washington in July 1752 and Lawrence's only heir, Sarah Washington, shortly thereafter, George Washington became the sole benefactor to the Washington family's lands. It was at twenty years of age that George became the owner of the esteemed Mount Vernon estate in Virginia. Despite his western expeditions as a surveyor and his grand ambitions to serve in the military, Washington never forgot his childhood as a young farmer and continued to uphold the profession of farming throughout his adult careers as a military and national leader.