One of the famous pre-Revolutionary gathering places of Northern Virginia was the Rising Sun Tavern on Caroline Street, known more familiarly to the men of that day as Weedon’s, after its proprietor William Weedon-friend of George Washington-who became a general in the Continental army, was wounded at Brandywine and later led the Virginia troops at the Battle of Yorktown.
Around the broad, open fireplace in the old tap room the leaders of thought and action met to discuss the political destinies of the colonies. Of the place an English traveller wrote, “I put up at the Tavern of one Weedon who was ever zealous in fanning the flames of sedition.” Five of those wont to gather there became generals in the Revolutionary army. There were Weedon himself, Washington, Hugh Mercer, Gustavius B. Wallace of Stafford, and William Woodford of Caroline, while young James Monroe rose to the rank of captain.
In this tavern was born religious freedom in America and the public school system, for there, on January 13, 1777, a committee composed of Thomas Jefferson, George Mason of Gunston Hall, George Wythe, Edmund Pendleton and Thomas Ludwell Lee met and drew up bills for religious freedom and the public school system which afterwards were en-acted by the Virginia General Assembly.
The tavern is presumed to have been built by Charles Washington, and it is said that he and Weedon were partners in the enterprise.
In 1739 Augustine Washington, father of George, bought “the place where Mr. William Strother lately lived” which was described as “about two miles below the falls of the Rappahannock, close,. on the river side and with a ferry belonging to it. This place, opposite the lower end of Fredericksburg, was for thirty-seven years afterward the home of the Washington family. It was there, if anywhere, that the youthful George cut down the famous cherry tree, broke the neck of his mother’s favorite colt, and tossed the Spanish dollar across the river. It was from there that the future “Father of His Country” crossed on the ferry to attend Parson Marye’s school in Fredericksburg.
Mildred Washington, one of George’s sisters, was not born until the family reached the farm, and in less than two years she died there. Thus the farm was the only place on which the entire Washington family lived. George Washington’s father also died on this farm, bequeathing it to young George.
In so much as the family hearthstone always remains “home” until the ties are distinctly severed, the place remained George Washington’s home until 1754 when, at the age of twenty-two, he acquired Mount Vernon. After that he continued to own Pine Grove, and his mother continued to live there until 1772, when Mrs. Washington moved to Fredericksburg, and General George Washington sold the place to General Hugh Mercer, his personal friend. Until his mother left there Washington was a frequent visitor to the place, as his diaries will show.
This farm is now the property of the George Washington Foundation, which intends to recreate there a typical Virginia farm of the period of Washington’s boyhood and dedicate it to the youth of America.
Before General Washington prevailed on his mother to leave the farm and move to Fredericksburg, he had provided her with a cottage not far from Kenmore, the home of her daughter. It was in this simple cottage, at the corner of Lewis and Charles Streets, that Washington tenderly kissed his mother good-bye and rode away to become the first president of the United States; and it was in the garden to the rear that Mrs. Washington was standing when the Marquis de Lafayette called to see her on his way to Yorktown. It was here also that while working among her flowers she greeted a dusty horseman, who dismounted and gave her a message telling of the surrender of Cornwallis.
Some of the boxwood planted by Mrs. Washington along a walkway that is said once to have extended all the way to Ken-more, is still standing, and other plants that knew her care are still to be seen. The interior and exterior of the house has been restored. It was here that Mrs. Washington died in 1799.