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Review: Washington’s links to Virginia detailed in book

George Washington’s name practically becomes synonymous with Virginia. The Father of Our Country was born in the state’s Tidewater region. He grew up near Fredericksburg, and he later took up residence at Mount Vernon along the Potomac River.

Virginians loved him, even in his own lifetime. Why, in 1776, long before Washington became the first president of the United States, he was honored in the name of Washington County, Virginia. And Abingdon?

Well, one theory says the name of Washington County’s courthouse town comes from the name of Washington’s wife Martha Washington’s ancestral parish in England. And, hey — just look at the biggest building in town: The Martha Washington Inn was earlier a women’s college, from 1858 to 1931, and took its name from The First Lady. As a young surveyor, George Washington worked in Virginia’s backcountry — including the Great Dismal Swamp, along what is now U.S.

Highway 58 in Suffolk and Chesapeake. Washington began his military career as a Virginia militia officer on the colony’s frontier. In later years, the majority of his widespread landholdings remained in his native Virginia, where his business interests ranged from the swamplands to the upper Potomac River Valley.

In “George Washington’s Virginia” (The History Press, £21.99, 2017), author John Maass explores various sites across Virginia that are associated with Washington, while also demonstrating their historical importance. Maass follows largely in Washington’s footsteps. In doing so, he does not make mention of Abingdon and Washington County.

But the author does make it to the ruins of the Abingdon Plantation, which belonged to Washington’s stepson Jacky, but which burned to the ground during 1930 in Arlington County, Virginia. Maass also ventures to Martha Washington’s home parish church, St. Peter’s in New Kent County, and the mountains of Bath County near the site of Fort Dinwiddie along the Jackson River.

“George Washington was a man of the American continent, at least as it was geographically defined in the eighteenth century,” Maass writes. “Born and raised in Virginia, his early frontier surveying career took him to the rugged mountains and swift rivers of what is now West Virginia.” This 219-page volume contains contemporary and historic photographs, maps, drawings and illustrations. And Maass writes with an engaging flair that stays true to history while remaining entertaining.

“The book is structured to present the story of George Washington in Virginia both chronologically and thematically,” writes Maass, who earned a degree in history from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. “George Washington’s associations with Virginia are extensive and lasted all his life,” the author writes. “The land of his ancestors for three previous generations, he was born and died on the banks of the Potomac, and is buried in his native state. He fought in his first war and won his second one there as well.

His magnificent home, Mount Vernon, was his favorite place to be, along with the spouse to whom he was devoted — also a Virginian.”

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