Washington – Father of Tree Farming?

Spring 2005


Recently, I finished reading an interesting book on the life of George Washington, titled
His Excellency, by Joseph Ellis. One facet of the book I found particularly interesting involved the last few days of President Washington’s life.

As you may know, Washington spent retirement at his beloved Mount Vernon estate along the Potomac River. One of his most enjoyed daily activities involved taking a long horseback ride throughout the estate to inspect his various endeavors, including timbering.

One day, Washington spent over five hours in the saddle in very stormy, miserable weather. Upon returning home he elected not to change out of his sopping wet clothes because dinner guests were waiting.

The next morning, Washington awoke very sick and quite weak. However, he felt compelled to take his daily ride in the still inclement weather because he wanted to “mark trees for cutting.” When he returned later in the day from his tree farm work, he was exhausted and feeling even worse.

Due to his grave condition, doctors were called in to render care. After a multitude of treatments were given in an attempt to save his life, including the letting of more than five pints of blood, George Washington passed away.

After securing our country’s independence at Yorktown and leading America through the fragile formative years, it appears Washington’s last productive activity involved tree farming. Now, as a friend of mine said, “I suppose you could take this as being inspirational, or a bad omen.” Personally, I think that if the father of our country felt tree farming was important enough to risk his life, it sure must be worthwhile!

— M. Wolcott

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