Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Todd, 15 April 1781

From John Todd

Lexington 15th April 1781

May it please your Excellency

The Inhabitants of Fayette County have been so harrassed this Spring by the Indians that I was for some time apprehensive that the whole County would be evacuated as Panicks of that Kind have proved very catching and the fate of the Neighbouring Garrisons at Licking last year was fresh in their Minds. The only plan I could devise to prevent it and sufficiently secure the provisions laid up at Bryants and this place was to build a new Fort upon a very advantageous Situation at this place and make it proof against Swivels and small Artilery which so terrify our people. I laid off the Fort upon the simplest plan of a Quadrangle and divided the Work equally among four of the most pushing men with a Bastion to each authorizing them to employ Workers from this and the neighbouring Stations and assuring them of their pay myself. On the Faith of such Assurances considerable Sums of Money have been lent and advanced to the Workmen so that the Work in about 20 Days has been nearly completed in a workman like Manner. The Gate is nearly finished and the Magazine contracted for. The whole Expence amounts to £11,341.10 as will appear by the Account herewith sent. It is in vain for me to assure your Excellency that Diligence and Oeconomy has been used in this Business as the Work so abuntly proves it. I believe four times the Expence never before made for the publick a Work equal to this. An Emulation among the Overseers and Rewards in Liquor to the Men proved powerful Incentives to Industry. Being a Charge of an uncommon Nature I thought proper to present it to your Excellency and the Council being better Judges of the Necessity and Expediency of the Work than the Auditors, who are probably unacquainted with The Circumstances of this Country.

By either of our Delegates your Excellency May have an Opportunity of transmitting the Money.

I have the Honor to be with the greatest respect your Excellency’s Mo. obedient and humble Servant,

John Todd, jr.

RC (Vi); addressed: “His Excellency Tho. Jefferson Esq; Governour of Virginia. per Fav. the Fayette Delagates”; endorsed in part: “Not answered. 15th Apl. 1782.” The date in the endorsement was probably made late in the 19th century when this document was prepared for publication; that it is an error is proved both by the substance of the letter and by the address. Enclosures missing, though both were in the Virginia Archives in 1883 when Volume III of the Calendar of Virginia State Papers was published. A note in that publication shows that the fort was an interesting example of the use of rammed-earth construction: “Accompanying this letter is a well drawn plan of the Fort, and account current of cost of building—with description thereof as follows: ‘Laid down from a Scale of 20 feet to the Inch—80 feet in the clearwalls 7 feet thick of Rammed Dirt, inclosed with good Timbers 9 feet high only, from 4 feet upwards 5 feet thick—the Top of the Wall is neatly picketed 6 feet High, proof against Small Arms—Ditch 8 feet wide and between 4 & 5 feet deep’ ” (CVSP description begins Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond description ends , iii, 130). If, as is conjectured by Mr. William J. Van Schreeven, State Archivist, this is an “archival estray,” that fact is much to be regretted (communication to the editors, 11 Oct. 1951).

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