Mount Vernon Local Customs

  • CABBAGE FIELD IN WASHINGTON'S PIONEER FARMER SITE
    CABBAGE FIELD IN WASHINGTON'S PIONEER...
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  • WASHINGTON'S PIONEER  FARMER  SITE
    WASHINGTON'S PIONEER FARMER SITE
    by matcrazy1
  • WOODEN  BOWLS  FOR  WASHING  DISHES
    WOODEN BOWLS FOR WASHING DISHES
    by matcrazy1

Most Recent Local Customs in Mount Vernon

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    First residents of Mount Vernon

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 12, 2005

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    ALONG  MOUNT  VERNON MOUNTAIN  TRAIL

    On the hilltop close to the Mount Vernon Mountain Train and this ravine, on my picture, archeologists excavated a variety of Indian artifacts, including stone tools, flakes produced from tool making and fire-cracked rocks from campfire cooking.

    At the time of first European contact, three seperate groups or tribes: the Dogue, Patawomeke and Piscataway Indians lived along this part of the Potomac River, usinf the rich resources of both the rivers and forests. By the time George Washington moved to Mount Vernon in 1754, Indians were no longer in this area. Washington named one of his farm "Dogue Run". The protected forest which exists today directly across the Potomac in Maryland is called Piscataway National Park.

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    Unique fences

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 12, 2005

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    UNIQUE  SEPERATION OF  FIELDS

    Fields of different crops at George Washington Pioneer Farm site were seperated by a kind of fence, on my picture. The fence was low and made of wooden trunks put in zig-zag pattern. I have never seen something like this before.

    Mount Vernon is located close to the Atlantic Ocean which brings a lot of rains and makes the climate milder with no large snow falls in winter time. So, I think that even such low fence was eventually high enough to mark border of a path for a horse rider. The zig-zag pattern of fences made the border between fields wider which guaranteed better seperation of them.

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    Slavery and random thoughts

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 12, 2005

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    PIONEER FARMER SITE BY THE POTOMAC RIVER

    I got to know that not counting women and children Washington had 300 Negroes of whom a large number belonged to Mrs. Washington. There were only a hundred who work in the fields including this reconstructed farm on my picture.

    RANDOM THOUGHTS
    I was taught at school and college in Poland, behind the iron wall, that time, wrong history and especially history of the main enemy of communist rulers: the USA. My school book on history contained very short mention on US constitution and long writings on awfull, unhuman and slavery American system, never-ending crimes against slaves commited by their criminal owners etc., etc. No-one believed in it, but not because of any special historical knowledge (right books were not available), but just because it was written in a book censored by communist, foreign in real, authority. Now, since the fall of communism and in times of internet I luckily can choose and read what I want and need.

    Now, I think that the very human, at first, annoncement: "each form of slavery is evil" is right in developed countries now in the 21st century. But in Washington's times, earlier and even later things were not so simple. There is historical evidence that quite often the economic and human situation of a slave working basically for food and shelter and sometimes earning some money for private needs was better than of free man of lower class with no shelter, no food and no hope. Don't take me wrong, I do not support slavery but I just try to understand that making slavery illegal took place so late.

    After the victory of the North in the Civil War in 1865 , the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution which banned slavery was aproved. But even if the South won the Civil War, slavery would have disappeared before 1900, I am sure.

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    Washington's six crops

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 12, 2005

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    WASHINGTON'S PIONEER FARMER SITE!

    There is information table with display of six crops chosen by Washington to grow in Mount Vernon, located by Pioneer Farmer site.

    Once Washington decided to stop growing tobacco, he carefully tested crops to determine which one to grow. He experimented with over 60 crops in Mount Vernon and selected six as best suited to the needs of the farm and commercial markets.

    1. WHEAT was Washington's cash crop, which he sold overseas and in local markets to generate income.

    2. CORN was grown for use at Mount Vernon. Cornmeal was a mainstay in the slaves diet and corn husks, stalks and cobs were fed to livestock.

    3. POTATOES were consumed at Mount Vernon, providing food for both people and livestock.

    4. BUCKWHEAT was planted as a fertilizer. it was plowed under while green to decay and enrich the soil.

    5. OATS provided valuable feed for horses and mules, supplemented their diet of grass and hay.

    6. GRASSES such as timothy were planted with alfalfa and clover in fallow fields to reduce erosion and provide pasture for sheep and livestock.

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    Seven-year crop rotation plan

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 12, 2005

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    WASHINGTON'S PIONEER  FARMER  SITE

    The land of George Washington: Pioneer Farmer site includes 6 equal fields for various crops, two smaller fields for vegetables and a grazing land for sheep. A seven-year crop rotation plan invented by Washington is used to plant the fields.

    Washington sought a way to farm that would not wear out his land. He tested many different crop rotation plans and settled on a plan in which a field a harvest only four years out of seven. For the other three years it "rested" and was planted with grass or a crop that was plowed under as "green manure". Washington's new system of farming could be sustained year after year without exhausting the land.

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    Farm versus plantation

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 12, 2005

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    CABBAGE FIELD IN WASHINGTON'S PIONEER FARMER SITE

    One of the first, basic thing I got to know during my Virginia trip was the difference between a plantation and a farm (during my visit to the Berkeley Plantation in Charles City) and farm. Plantation is a large area of land on which a particular type of crop is grown whereas on a farm there are various, different crops.

    In early colonial America, in the South, the most common were tobacco (in Virginia) and cotton (in Georgia) plantations. Later on when communities grew up, they needed more different crops and food for themselves. It was expensive to import them or to transport from other colonies, thus plantations started to transform to farms, like it happaned in Mount Vernon - tobacco plantation at the beginning - in Washington's times.

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    Slavery and Polish mark :-)

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 10, 2005

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    PIONEER FARMER VIDEO PRESENTATION INSIDE

    I got to know a lot on farming and slavery during my visit to Mount Vernon. There is display of farm tools, some info and video presentation on farming and slavery in this hut, on my picture, located at Pioneer Farmer Site, close to the Potomac River. Let me share some of my new knowledge.

    Over 300 slaves lived and worked on the five farms at Mount Vernon. The best and rare source of knowledge on living and working conditions of Washington's slaves is the diary written by the Polish patriot and Count Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz (1758-1841) who visited Washington in Mount Vernon in June 1798. The diary was translated into English and published under the very long title: "Under a Vine and Fig Tree: Travels through America in 1779-1799, 1805 with some further account of life in New Jersey" - read the passage on Mount Vernon here. The book is available in good US libraries, the list here (enter a postal code/zip, state, province or country on the page).

    It was very nice for me to find the next Polish mark in the USA.

    Niemcewicz wrote in 1798: "Washington treats his slaves far more humanely than do his fellow citizens of Virginia. Most of these gentlemen give to their Blacks only bread, water and blows." The slaves were allowed to breed limited number of chicken in a very small garden by a hut. They sold the poultry in Alexandria. They were able to hunt, fish, raise poultry, and garden. So, over 300 slaves in Mount Vernon were able to supplement their rations and, more surprisingly, their income.

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    Don't I work like a slave?

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 10, 2005

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    GEORGE WASHINGTON: PIONEER  FARMER SITE

    I got to know in Mount Vernon that Washington's field slaves worked at a farm, as on my picture, from sunrise to sunset, with 2 hours off for meals. Wow! I do work more in Poland now, in early January 2004! When I go to work in the morning it's dark and the same when I left back and I do NOT have 2 hours off for meals (no time off). Lucky slaves? Am I a slave? What about your work?

    Lucky me, in summer I sweet sleep (or I am still on VT :-) at time when slaves started to work and I finish my work much earlier than they did. And they worked 6 days a week, me generally 5 days (hmm... plus many over-time hours). I have more holidays each year, they had only Eastern Monday, Christmas (3-4 days, I have only 2: 25-26 Dec.) and Pentecost (Whitsunday). And the most important: they had no vacation, even a single day. I have 26 business days each year! Hmm... I know now, I really wouldn't like to be a slave, even if my Master was George Washington.

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    They use golf carts

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 10, 2005

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    E-G-ZO  GOLF  CAR AT  MOUNT  VERNON

    The area of the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens is closed for any motorized vehicles. There are only bicycles and electric vehicles allowed. I saw the grounds crew using E-Z-GO golf carts, the most common in US golf courses. The one on my picture stood by the Potomac River.


    The E-Z-GO company was founded in Augusta, Georgia in 1954 and became the world's largest manufacturer of golf carts and utility vehicles. Currently it's a part of Textron, a global, multi-industry and multi-billion dollars company with the worlds headquarter in Providence, Rhode Iskand (Bell Helicopter and Cessna Aircraft are its part).

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    Washington and mules

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 9, 2005

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    MULE  SHED

    Behind the stable is a shed-like extension (on my picture) where mules were tethered. George Washington introduced the mule to American agriculture. The mule is the result of crossbreeding a male donkey and a female horse.

    It began when the King of Spain presented to Washington Andalusian donkey named "Royal Gift" and then a donkey named "Knight of Malta". Mules are stronger and easier to care for than horses. That's why Washington started to cross the donkeys with horses and breed mules in Mount Vernon (57 in 1799).

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    Modest power

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 9, 2005

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    MODEST  CLERK'S QUARTER

    One of the most surprising feature of the Washington's estate was simplicity and modesty of interior design of both outbuildings and the mansion itself. It seems that the function of each room and quarter was more important for the practical Washington than any richness and splendor of power. What a difference with royal British Governor's Palace I visited in Colonial Williamsburg a day before.

    Well, the power of the first US president came from the people (there were no parties that time) not from the King of Britain and served the people, at least at that time.

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    Containers of the past

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 9, 2005

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    IN THE LARDER

    I always admire different shape and size of old ceramic, glass or metal containers used for storage food, secret herbs, soft and alcoholic drinks, various medicines as well. In Mount Vernon I found a lot of jars, bottles, pots in the larder put by the kitchen and scullery.

    They were sold in both the Lady Washington Shop and Shops at Mount Vernon. Well, I would even buy a few but my small appartment and kitchen can't store more of them :-).

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    Washing dishes in the past

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 9, 2005

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    WOODEN  BOWLS  FOR  WASHING  DISHES

    There is equipment including these large wooden bowls, on my picture, used for handwashing dishes in the scullery of the estate where the dishes were dried as well.

    In turn of 17/18th century there were no detergents known yet but a soap. Nothing changed till 1916 when the first synthetic detergent was developed in Germany in response to a World War I - related shortage of fats for making soap. Earlier Josephine Cochran of Illinois invented the dishwashing machine in 1886, but till 1950s they were popular mainly in restaurants and hotels.

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Mount Vernon Local Customs

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