The first President of these United States of America, George Washington, started surveying at such a young age that he was once known as the “boy surveyor”.
Starting his career as a youthful surveyor for a Lord Fairfax, one of George’s early jobs was to survey the Bull Run Mountains.
Just North of Thoroughfare Gap is a peak called Old Mother Leathercoat, a name given to it by Washington in honor of the woman who provided him with room and board during his early survey work here. The woman’s real identity remains a bit of a mystery, but the lore is that a free Black woman lived at the base of this mountain and made her life here by providing food and respite to weary travelers passing through the gap.
The tough mountaineer that she was, she always was said to be wearing a leather coat. This characteristic coat must have been something (and a sight it surely must have been during the heat of Virginia summer, as she reportedly always wore it), as it became entangled permanently with her identity. George Washington was so taken with this strong independent matriarch of the Bull Run Mtns that he named the peak in her honor.
For this President’s day we think George Washington would appreciate us all thinking of Old Mother Leathercoat and all of the sanctuary and adventures that our beloved Bull Run Mountains has provided ALL of its people over the centuries – including our very first President.