Rare hand-drawn land survey conducted by Washington, signed with his initials within the text, “GW,” one page, 5.25 x 9, no date but circa 1785. Washington draws the plat of land on the western edge of his Four Mile Run property in Alexandria, Virginia, about 12 miles north of his famous Mount Vernon estate. At the bottom of the survey, Washington sketches the stream his property was named for, labeling it “Four Mile Run” and “Course laid down by guess.” Perpendicular to the stream he writes, “Where GW comes to the run,” presumably marking the end of his land at the edge of the stream. On a dotted line extending from the center of the river, lengthily describing it: “Course of this line is no. 43½ E[as]t & the reverse So 43½ W[es]t. This dotted line from the hiccory to the run gives and takes about 5½ acres of land." A solid jagged line drawn through the middle labels various landmarks, including “fallen & rotten hiccory,” “stump within the inclosure,” “red oak,” and “no tree marked.” Intersecting folds and mild overall staining, otherwise fine condition. The 1932 ‘George Washington Atlas’ reproduces Washington’s much broader survey of the entire property he prepared in 1799, the last year of his life, and includes the section detailed in this plat.
Washington's diary notes that the property described by this survey consisted of two patents of 378 and 790 acres, and was deeded to him by James and George Mercer on December 12, 1774; he did not, however, begin surveying the area until April 22, 1785. Taking along his personal 'servant' William Lee—the only slave freed outright in Washington's will—Washington's trip was cut short when 'after having run one course & part of another, My Servant William (one of the Chain Carriers) fell, and broke the pan of his knee wch. put a stop to my Surveying; & with much difficulty I was able to get him to Abingdon, being obliged to get a sled to carry him on, as he could neither Walk, stand, or ride.' This parcel of land is again referenced in his diaries a year later, in entires of May 4–5, 1786, where he writes: 'I set out for Abingdon in Order (tomorrow) to Survey my 4 Miles run Tract…beginning at the upper corner of my Land (in 4 Miles run) a little below an old Mill; I ran the Tract agreeably to the courses & distances of a Plat made thereof…I did not attempt to look for lines…I run the courses and distances only; & was unable for want of time, to do more than run the lines that brot. me to the run again; the Meanders of wch. must be run at some other time in order to ascertain with precision the quantity of Land which is contained." As Washington notes that the course of Four Mile Run was simply "laid down by guess" on this particular plat, it is certainly from an earlier preliminary survey such as those described in his diary. During one such outing, Washington made a cut in the trunk of an oak to mark the corner of the property; a portion of the tree trunk remains reserved in a local library. Surveys by Washington generally date to his time as a surveyor during the 1750s—those dating to this post-Revolution period are particularly rare, especially those that delineate his own property in the vicinity of Mount Vernon. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.