Perhaps the most interesting facet of William Crawford’s life was his long relationship with George Washington. Crawford first met Washington in 1750 when the future president made his first surveying trip to the lower Shenandoah Valley. Crawford, who was 10 years senior to Washington at that time, had an established surveying business in the region around Winchester and numerous personal and business relationships in the area. Therefore, it was logical that 18-year old Washington would hire Crawford to help him with his surveys of Lord Fairfax’s land.
Despite Crawford being the older of the two men, his relationship to Washington was always that of a subordinate. He would serve under Washington in both the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War, and work for him as Washington’s agent and surveyor for the new lands Washington sought to acquire in the Ohio Valley. One might also describe them as friends, but this was likely not an intimate friendship given the differences in social rank and position.
It seems clear that Washington had a deep regard for Crawford and made use of his talents whenever they were needed. However, the two men drifted apart as the war with Britain occupied Washington’s attentions. Eventually, Crawford would find that his business partner did not have the time to look out for his interests, which led to his languishing on the western frontier with no real command position.
But at the same time, Crawford’s death in 1782 seems to have had a impact on Washington and he mourned his loss. More importantly, Washington made it his business to help Crawford’s widow, Hannah, when she needed assistance. He aided her in obtaining pensions from both Pennsylvania and Virginia, and even paid her debts when it appeared she might lose the farm at Spring Garden.