Early colonial years (1732–1752)
George Washington was born February 22, 1732, the first child of Augustine Washington and his second wife Mary Ball Washington, at Wakefield on their Popes Creek Estate in the Colony of Virginia. He was a common subject of the British Empire at that time, under the reign of George II.
Washington was descended primarily from English gentry of Sulgrave, England through his great-grandfather John Washington who immigrated to Virginia in 1656 and began accumulating land and slaves, as did his son Lawrence and his grandson Augustine. George's father was a planter and the Justice of the Westmoreland County Court. In Washington's youth, his moderately prosperous family was among the members of Virginia's "country level gentry" of "middling rank".
Raised in the rich open farmlands of Virginia's Tidewater region, Washington's childhood was described as "roving and unsettled". He was one of seven surviving children of Augustine's two marriages, including older half-brothers Lawrence and Augustine from his father's first marriage to Jane Butler Washington, and full siblings Samuel, Elizabeth (Betty), John Augustine, and Charles. Three siblings died before adulthood: sister Mildred at age one, half-brother Butler in infancy, and half-sister Jane at age 12.
When Washington was 3, the family left Popes Creek and moved to Epsewasson, a 2,500-acre plantation that his father purchased on the bluffs of the Potomac River. When he was six, his family then moved to Ferry Farm in Stafford County, Virginia near Fredericksburg. He spent much of his boyhood at Ferry Farm, which was the alleged location of the Parson Weems cherry tree fable. His father died of a sudden illness in April 1743 when George was 11, and he was kept under the care of his 35-year-old mother Mary. His half-brother Lawrence inherited the Epsewasson plantation from their father and changed the name to Mount Vernon in honor of his commanding officer Vice Admiral Edward Vernon. George inherited Ferry Farm and 10 slaves, although his mother controlled the farm until well after George attained adulthood.
Without his father, Washington relied on other men for guidance, including Lawrence. He also grew up under the wing of the powerful Fairfax family, as Lawrence had married Ann Fairfax, daughter of William Fairfax, a wealthy Virginia plantation owner. William Fairfax's son George was a close friend and associate of Washington. His wife Sally was also a friend of Washington, as well as an early romantic interest, and they maintained correspondence when she moved to England with her father.
The death of his father deprived Washington of the formal type of education his older brothers received at England's Appleby Grammar School. His primary education lasted seven to eight years, with his father and half-brother Lawrence as early instructors. He was tutored for two or three years by various masters, including Mr. Hobby, his father’s former tenant; he also attended the Fredericksburg school of Anglican clergyman James Mayre. By early adulthood he was able to write with precision and considerable force. He was taught mathematics, trigonometry and surveying by school master Henry Williams, and had a natural talent in draftsmanship and map making. He purchased books on military affairs, agriculture, history, and popular novels. An appointment for him in the Royal Navy was rumored when he was 15, but his mother rejected the idea.
In 1751, Washington made his only trip abroad when he traveled with Lawrence, to Barbados, in the hope that the climate would be beneficial to Lawrence's tuberculosis. During the trip, Washington contracted smallpox which immunized him but left his face slightly scarred. Lawrence's health continued to decline and he returned to Mount Vernon, where he died on July 26, 1752, and George suffered the loss of this surrogate father. Washington eventually inherited Lawrence's Mount Vernon estate after the deaths of Lawrence's wife Ann and their daughter.
Surveyor and land investor
In 1748, at the age of 16, Washington and George William Fairfax, accompanied surveyor James Genn, sent out by Lord Fairfax, to survey for a month, the Shenandoah lands, where he worked hard and gained valued experience. In 1749, at age 17, Washington received a commission and surveyor's license from the College of William & Mary, and was appointed surveyor of Culpepper, due to Fairfax's influence. After a preliminary survey of eastern Culpepper County, Washingtion primarily surveyed for Lord Fairfax, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the Spring of 1750 Washington packed his surveying equipment and made repeated surveys of the Shenandoah Valley, where he became accustomed to the wilderness. In October, Washington bought almost fifteen hundred acres of valuable land in the Shenandoah Valley, his first large investment. Having made enough money with his surveying business he resigned his commission of Culpepper County surveyor. By the age of 18 Washington had accumulated a vast wealth of land, 2,315 acres, in the Shenandoah Valley.
Although Washington stopped surveying within a few years, he would continue to purchase lands. During his lifetime he acquired over 70,000 acres of land, in what would later be seven different states plus the District of Columbia. It took Washington 25 years to expand his Mount Vernon estate from 2,000 acres to 8,000 acres. While the Federal City that would bear his name was being built, Washington bought more parcels of land to spur development. Rather than sell multiple lots to large investors, Washington sold individual lots to middle income investors, believing they were more likely to make committed improvements.