National Geographic : 1949 Jan
Shrines of Each Patriot's Devotion An epoch was ended. But America was on the march. After the founding of James town and Plymouth, Massachusetts,* other beachheads were won by the English, Dutch, and French. How French fur traders and priests bored inland from Canada is shown by Father Millet Cross National Monument, in western New York, where pious Pierre Millet raised a cross in 1688, and by Verendrye National Monument, on the Missouri River, to the 1738-42 explorers of North Dakota. Swedish settlers in 1700 built Philadelphia's oldest church, Gloria Dei, or "Old Swedes'," a national historic site. Storm Gave Us George Washington Forty-nine years after the landing at James town, an English ship, Sea Horse of London, was sailing down the Potomac River with a cargo of tobacco when she ran aground; a sudden storm completed her destruction. Her second officer was John Washington, who already had been considering settling down in the New World. The shipwrecked sailor fell in love with Ann Pope, daughter of a wealthy planter, and married her two years later. Her father gave them 700 acres of land, and the sea knew John no more. Eventually he became a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. But for that providential storm, America might not have had George Washington, for John was his great-grandfather. Upon the long-buried ashes of George Wash ington's birthplace, accidentally burned during the Revolution, public-spirited citizens of the Wakefield National Memorial Association have built a memorial mansion in early 18th century colonial style. The neat new bricks were handmade from clay dug in an adjoining field. This house and the grounds of Wakefield plantation form George Washington Birth place National Monument, on the broad tide water Potomac about 60 river miles below Mount Vernon. Born at Wakefield in 1732, the future first President lived there until he was a three-year-old toddler. Overlooking the Potomac and Popes Creek, this simply but beautifully landscaped site where Washington learned to walk and talk is full of inspiration. "This," said one visitor, "is the third time in my life I've had a spiritual feeling-among the olive trees on the Mount of Olives, among the sequoias in California, and among the cedars here at Wakefield." "One of the busiest men in Washington," the superintendent told me, "has come here for seven Sundays straight, to sit on Burnt House Point and just relax." At "Popes Creek," as General Washington called Wakefield, digging has revealed thou sands of relics, including iron keys, pothooks, stirrups, a pistol barrel, bits of sword blade, buckles, thimbles, clay pipes, and chamber pots (one baby blue). Glass "bottle buttons" to show ownership of wine are numerous; several bear the monogram of the General's father, Augustine. Behind the birthplace is a reconstructed cookhouse. Said a student of colonial times: "Building the kitchen away from the main house was partly fire insurance. The people in the 'big house' used to figure the servants would burn down the kitchen about once every three years." In the family burial grounds lie several of George Washington's ancestors, including the seagoing John. But the General rests at his loved Mount Vernon (page 67). Though not officially a national monument, that shrine is reached from Washington by the Govern ment's Mount Vernon Memorial Highway.t Washington Lost His First Battle Young George grew up in an atmosphere enlivened by back-country clashes with the French. Both sides wooed the Indians. Ackia Battleground National Monument in Missis sippi recalls how British troops and Chicka saws beat off attacking Frenchmen and their Choctaw allies when the future President was a boy of four in Virginia. As a 22-year-old lieutenant colonel, Wash ington commanded colonial forces in the first battle of the French and Indian War. The scene was a fort he built in a swamp, now Fort Necessity National Battlefield Site on busy U. S. Route 40, 10 miles southeast of Uniontown, Pennsylvania-and Washington didn't win. After nine hours of fighting, young Wash ington surrendered; but the terms permitted him and his colonials to march away with the honors of war. George had to sign a humili ating paper binding Virginia to build no more forts hereabouts for a year. This was hardly a good beginning for a military career. But the youthful George was learning; in those days there was no West Point! And eventually the French were beaten in this fight for a continent. * See "Land of the Pilgrims' Pride," by George W. Long, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, August, 1947. t See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Home of the First Farmer of America," by Worth E. Shoults, May, 1928; and "Travels of George Wash ington," by William Joseph Showalter, January, 1932.