By Stephen Yoch
Many know that George Washington’s first job was as a county surveyor in Virginia; in fact, at 17, he was one of Virginia’s youngest in the profession. But few know who instructed him how to master the complicated task of 18th-century surveying. The journal of George Hume supports a claim that he was the man who taught young Washington the trade of surveying.
In 1715, the first Jacobite Rebellion sought to restore James II and the ancient Stewart line to the Crown. Hume’s father, the Tenth Baron of Wedderburn, led his 17-year old son and other Scottsmen at the Battle of Sheriffmuir where they were defeated, captured, and then sent to Marshalsea Prison in London. Later, awaiting his fate. Lord Hume chose to forfeit all of his lands and titles to avoid the English axe, and his son was banished to the colonies.
Upon arrival in the New World, the highly educated young Hume, with the assistance of other Scottish expatriates, became a surveyor for Spotsylvania, Orange, and Frederick counties in Virginia. Sometime in 1747 or 1748, this failed revolutionary trained the young and impressionable Washington. A number of surveys in the Virginia Tidewater are signed: “George Hume, Surveyor: George Washington, Assistant Surveyor.” These surveys and the journals of George Hume support Hume acting as Washington’s instructor and mentor. Hume later recommended Washington as a surveyor of the newly formed Culpepper County in 1749.
We know that Hume and Washington greatly respected each other. Hume’s son, Captain Francis Hume, served under Washington during the Revolution and was an original member of the Society of Cincinnati. It is a remarkable coincidence that the greatest leader in American Revolution was taught by a failed and exiled Scottish rebel. It is certainly possible that, along with the knowledge of surveying, the early seeds of revolution were planted in young Washington by Hume.
Stephen Yoch’s book Becoming George Washington, traces the early and largely unknown life of America’s leading founding father through the French & Indian War. This meticulously researched historical fiction follows Washington’s rise from a fatherless insecure boy to the Revolution’s indispensible man.