George Washington: The Forge of Experience, 1732-1775

By James Thomas Flexner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
4
Surveyor's Wages

AS WASHINGTON grew to young manhood, Virginia A civilization existed in stages, a four-step geographic stair. The long-settled plantations, the greatest houses, were in the Tidewater, where the land, going back some seventy-five miles from the ocean, was so flat that the rivers which ran through it pulsed with the rhythm of the sea. Up these lengthy estuaries, ocean-going boats sailed, mobile bits of London that drew up at the planters' wharves, loading tobacco, and unloading goods brought from England in return for the previous year's crop.

Where the land began to rise steeply, there appeared in each river falls that stopped the tide and put an end to navigation by the British traders' ships. Although Tidewater planters might own land beyond the falls, it was usually cultivated by recent immigrants, German or Scotch-Irish. These often still lived in the log cabins built when their farms were first cleared, but the region was no longer frontier. A passing Indian would be an object of curiosity, not terror.

Virginia's frontier was over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Into the Shenandoah Valley settlement was beginning to press. But settlement stopped with the great wall that stood at the far side of the valley: the forbidding heights of the Alleghenies. Over these heights was the great central plain of North America,

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