Truth is uniform and narrow, but error is endlessly diversified . . . In this field the soul has room enough to expand herself, to display all her boundless faculties . . . — Benjamin Franklin

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

Washington's Journey

By the time Washington was nineteen, he had shown himself so capable, honest, and thoroughly trust-worthy that every one who knew him greatly respected him. His brother Lawrence having fallen ill of consumption, Washington went with him to Barbados, where he had an attack of smallpox.

This journey, the only one Washington ever made outside the limits of our country, was so interesting to him that he kept a diary in which he made note of all he saw and heard. After a winter spent in the West Indies, Washington came home to get his sister-in-law; but before they could sail to join the invalid, they heard he was coming home to die.

Washington tenderly nursed this older brother to the end, and was made the guardian of his delicate little girl. Lawrence Washington said that if his daughter died unmarried, the estate of Mount Vernon was to belong to George. In spite of all Washington's tender interest in this little niece, and of the utmost care, she did not live long, and, as his brother had wished, Washington became owner of Mount Vernon. There he began his favorite occupation as a planter, and showed himself to be as careful and painstaking a farmer as he was a surveyor.

We are told he packed his tobacco himself, and sent such good flour to the West Indies that barrels marked "George Washington" were always allowed to pass the customhouse without being examined. Besides filling his place as surveyor and planter, Washington also became major in the Virginia militia, and took great interest in all military affairs.

When the news of the Frenchmen's purpose to build forts along the Allegheny and the Ohio reached Governor Dinwiddie, he resolved, as we have seen, to send out a trustworthy person to see if it was true, and to carry a letter to the commander of the French force (1753). His choice promptly fell upon Washington, who, receiving his instructions, and perceiving the need of haste, started out that same day to carry out the governor's orders.

He made his way across country to Logstown, where he heard that the French commanding officer was on an upper branch of the Allegheny River. He therefore went thither, and delivered his letter. But the Frenchman shrugged his shoulders, and said he would send the letter on to Governor Duquesne, whose orders he was in the meantime bound to carry out. Tramping thus through the wilderness in the dead of winter, Washington found out all Governor Dinwiddie wished. Seeing he must hasten, if the French were to be checked, the young officer left his guides, baggage, and horses, and, alone with Gist, an experienced hunter and trapper,—went back to Virginia by a short cut. During this journey he and Gist had several narrow escapes.

Once an Indian who had probably been bribed by the French to kill them—shot at them. Gist and Washington, suspecting treachery, pretended it was only an accident; but when the Indian left them at night, promising to come back in the morning, they promptly broke camp. Pressing forward all night, they reached the Allegheny early in the morning, and found it only partly frozen. As they could not cross on the ice, as they had hoped, they plied their one dull hatchet with such a will that they soon cut down several trees and built a rude raft.

But when they got out into the stream, Washington's pole caught in the ice and jerked him out into ten feet of ice-cold water. Grasping the raft, Washington escaped; but his clothes were dripping wet, and a few moments later they were frozen stiff. The raft was now driven on an island, where Gist lighted a fire as quickly as possible; and here Washington spent the night, turning around and around so as to dry his clothes. Luckily, on the next day the travelers found that the ice was strong enough to bear them, and, crossing over to the other side of the river, they hurried on.

After visiting an Indian queen, with whom he made friends by giving her a few trinkets, Washington went on to Virginia, where he gave Governor Dinwiddie all the necessary information. The governor was so pleased with what Washington had done, and thought his news so important, that he published Washington's journal. Then, to carry out the orders he had received from England, and make sure the land south of the Ohio should not be snatched away from him, Dinwiddie raised a force of two hundred men, and sent them to build a fort at the forks of the Ohio. While these men were busy erecting their stockade, the French, one thousand strong, came down from Venango, on the Allegheny, and, driving the English away, completed the fort for their own use, calling it Duquesne, after their governor.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell