George Washington: A Biography - Vol. 1

By Douglas Southall Freeman | Go to book overview

APPENDIX 1-7
MYTHS AND TRADITIONS OF WASHlNGTON

Schooling Under Hobby

THE FIRST place of education to which George was ever sent, was a little "old field school," kept by one of his father's tenants, named Hobby; an honest, poor old man, who acted in the double character of sexton and school- master. On his skill as a grave-digger, tradition is silent; but for a teacher of youth, his qualifications were certainly of the humbler sort; making what is generally called an A. B. C. schoolmaster. Such was the preceptor who first taught Washington the knowledge of letters! Hobby lived to see his young pupil in all his glory, and rejoiced exceedingly. In his cups--for though a sexton, he would sometimes drink, particularly on the General's birth days--he used to boast that "'twas he, who, between his knees, had laid the foundation of George Washington's greatness."-- M. L. Weems, Life of George Washington, edition of 1860, p. 12.


The Cherry Tree

The following anecdote is a case in point. It is too valuable to be lost, and too true to be doubted; for it was communicated to me by the same excellent lady to whom I am indebted for the last.

"When George," said she, "was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet! of which, like most little boys, he was immoderately fond, and was constantly going about chopping every thing that came in his way. One day, in the garden, where he often amused himself hacking, his mother's pea-sticks, he unluckilly tried the edge of his hatchet on the body of a beautiful young English cherry-tree, which he barked so terribly, that I don't believe the tree ever got the better of it. The next morning the old gentleman, finding out what had befallen his tree, which, by the by, was a great favorite, came into the house; and with much Nvarmth asked for the mischievous author, declaring, at the same time, that he would not have taken five guineas for his tree. Nobody could tell him any thing about it. Presently George and his hatchet made their appearance. "George," said his father, "do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden?" This was a tough question; and George staggered under it for a

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