The Washington plantation was located at one of the main river crossings. A ferry was established in 1726 a few hundred yards downstream from here. This ferry was the setting for one of the most enduring stories about Washington's childhood. In his Life of Washington, first published in 1800, Mason Locke Weems reported that "Col. Lewis Willis, his playmate and kinsman, has been heard to say, that he has often seen him throw a stone across Rappahannock, at the lower ferry of Fredericksburg. It would be no easy matter to find a man, nowadays, who could do it." A later writer changed the stone to a silver dollar.
A second ferry was established in 1734 a short distance upstream from here. Both could be reached by the ferry road cutting through the Washington plantation. The Washingtons never owned or operated either ferry. They seem to have regarded them as nuisances, especially after 1745, when Spotsylvania County made the lower ferry a free crossing. "I think we suffer enough with the Free Ferry," seventeen-year old George Washington complained in 1749.
The ferry landing was moved to the foot of this hill in 1763. The landing was still in use in 1833 when artist John Gadsby Chapman visited the farm. Note the ferryman's house near the bank, the rubble of what may have been one of the Washington-era buildings (right foreground), and the ferry being poled toward Fredericksburg. As the painting suggests, the river was once much wider. It was narrowed by dredging and channelizing after the Civil War.