George Washington and Virginia’s Natural Bridge

In 1750, George Washington was 18 years old and looking for direction in his life. His family was well off but not exactly wealthy, and his desired vocation, a position in the British Navy, was dismissed by his mother as too hazardous.  Through a series of family connections, he eventually was given the rather cushy position as official surveryor of Culpeper County, Virginia.

It was in this capacity that Washington made his first visit to Virginia’s “Natural Bridge.”  Here, legend has it, the physically imposing Washington, who towered in his day at 6’2″, threw a rock from the creek running underneath the bridge to its top, a distance of 215 feet.

Stories of Washington’s physical prowess were well-known during his lifetime and his legend only grew after his death, sometimes blurring the line between fact and hearsay.  However, in 1927, a large stone was found in the brush on top of the bridge carved with an official surveyor’s cross and the initials “G.W.,” which historians have accepted as likely proof of first president’s impressive upper body strength.

6 replies
  1. LM Fancher says:

    George Washington and Hans Carlock were related by marriage on the Lewis side, and that is why they were together at the bridge. Right below George’s GW are the initials HC for Hans, and those initials are still there today.

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    • Glenda says:

      Hanschrist (anglicized version: John Christian) was my ancestor on my mother’s side. His parents were David Gerlach/Carlock and Anna Lisemus, both born Heidelberg, Palatine, Germany. I have pics somewhere of G.W. and Hans’ initials from my 1978 visit to the bridge. Between 1750 and 1775, G.W., a civil engineer in Colonial Virginia, while surveying a road from the mouth of the Potomanc to the Natural Bridge, enlisted the services of Hanchrist as foreman. Hans and Washington became close friends and not only worked but socialized together. At the Natural Bridge, both chiseled their initials on the west wall. (See History of the Carlock Family, Marion Pomeroy Carlock, 1929, and newspaper article.)
      Hanchrist was an itinerant preacher; came to America between 1725-27; found in Augusta Co., VA, 1748, 1750 (added to county tax rolls on Aug 28, 1750, p. 419), 1752, 1753; road commissioner in 1752; farm of 126 acres surveyed on Lick Run, branch of Carlock Creek, Middle Fork Holston River, Jun 8, 1774, Fincastle Co (actual settlement made in 1773 per Washington Co., VA, Survey Records Abstracts 1781-1797, USGenWeb—glk); served as private in American Revolution, enlisting between Jul 1 and Aug 1, 1776; served under Col. William Christian and Major Evan Shelby (another of our family lines), 1st Bn, Washington Co., VA, fighting Indian allies of Great Britain (Ref: Summer’s “Annals of Southwest Virginia,” 1929); served in armies under General Washington 7 years; tax records, Bath Co., VA, 1782; mentioned in Bishop Asbury’s Journals in 1800.
      The Library of Virginia, to which I’ve been twice, has a wonderful genealogy collection.

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