Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Harvie, Jr., 11 January 1790

To John Harvie, Jr.

Monticello Jan. 11. 1790.

Dear Sir

In the year 1773. I obtained an order of council in these words. ‘At a council held March 11. 1773. On the petition of Thomas Jefferson, leave is given him to survey and sue out a patent for 1000. as. of land on the Southwest mountains in Albemarle between the lines of Thomas Mann Randolph, James Hickman, the said Petitioner, Martin Key, and William Watson. Copy. John Blair Cl. Conc.’ Immediately on Mr. Bryan’s coming into office, which was in June 1773. I notified this order to him and desired him to survey it. This notification being made, the law required nothing more of me than to await the summons of the surveyor when he should declare himself ready to proceed to the survey. But I valued the order too much to be quiet under it. I pressed Mr. Bryan to survey as soon as possible, and for fear that in the change of the land law which Mr. Mason was bringing forward, and in which he seemed disposed to respect very little the orders of council, I reinforced mine by two entries with the surveyor in these words. ‘Oct. 24.1 1774. Thomas Jefferson esq. enters for 800. acres of land to be included by two entries of 400. acres each to adjoin the lands of Thomas Mann Randolph on the South West mountains. Copy p. Anderson Bryan S.A.C.’ Mr. Bryan from that time till I left Virginia, at such times as suited him, endeavored to investigate the old lines by which my survey was to be bounded, in which the principal difficulty was to find the back line of Colo. Randolph. In some of these essays I accompanied him: sometimes he went alone; sometimes I went alone. When I left this country in Octob. 1783. I left him the strongest injunction to finish the survey, and a written request to Messrs. Lewis and Eppes, my attornies, to urge him incessantly to it. He had told me before that Mr. James Marks had insisted on entering in the same place, and that he had made the entry on the possibility of there being lands to spare. Mr. Marks had also spoken to me and asked me to let him share the vacant lands, which I expressly refused. As soon as I was gone however he induced William Hay assistant surveyor to run out for him 490. acres, before my prior title was satisfied, and leaving, as appeared when Walter Leak the succeeding assistant came to finish mine, only 485. acres. I am informed that Mr. Marks has conveyed to you his right to the 490. acres. You will be able to judge by the premises what that right could be. Between you and me I am sure there can be no difficulty. You desire nothing which is not just; nor do I. The order of council, as an appendage to my lands, to which they are contiguous, is too important to me to be neglected. If we differ in opinion about our right, let mutual friends be named to decide it, either in Albemarle or Richmond. In either case the deposition of Anderson Bryan is most material, and therefore I will be obliged to you to name somebody here who may attend on your behalf to take his deposition. The state of his health is such that he cannot come from home: therefore we shall be obliged to go to his house which I understand is about 20. miles from hence. This done, it may immediately be finished here or in Richmond, as you chuse; only let it be done before I leave the state. Be so good as to write me your pleasure by return of post.

I have not yet heard what success attended the opening of the locks of the canal on the 18th. of December. If you will be so good as to add a word on that subject in your letter you will oblige me.2—I state on the back hereof the two surveys in question, and am with sincere esteem Dear Sir Your friend & servt,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (MHi); some illegible words are supplied from Tr (MHi), in TJ’s hand, which was evidently made at a later date. The two surveys, drawn on p. [4] of the missing RC, are reproduced herewith from the PrC (ViU).

TJ sent this letter under cover of one to Nicholas Lewis, 11 Jan. 1790, reading: “I take the liberty of asking your perusal of the inclosed letter, and when done, that you will be so good as to stick a wafer in it, and advise the bearer how he may get it into the hands of the post. If at Charlottesville, he will do it now: but if the rider can be found only at his own house, he must put off going there till tomorrow” (PrC in MHi).—TJ’s repeated messages to Bryan in 1773 and later, if put in writing, have not been found, nor has the written request made in 1783 of Lewis and Eppes.—Two copies of the order of council of 11 Mch. 1773 are in MHi: the first, in TJ’s hand, has at foot of text: “See original, which, being torn, is carefully wrapped up” the second, or original, in Blair’s hand, is mutilated at the folds and is protected by a wrapper, being an address leaf of an unidentified letter to TJ (both order and wrapper are endorsed by TJ).—A copy of the two entries, in the hand of Anderson Bryan, “S[urveyor] A[lbemarle] C[ounty],” is in MHi: the first, dated 12 Mch. 1774, is TJ’s entry for 100 acres adjoining his lands at Shadwell on the north and south sides of the Rivanna river, together with “25 entries of 400 acres each, between the South West mountains, the Rivanna River, and Buck Island creek” (noted by TJ in margin: “See act Ass. <1779> 1780. c. [1]2”—referring undoubtedly to the Act “for settling Titles to Unpatented Lands,” Vol. 2: 155–62, adopted at the May 1779 session; TJ also noted in margin of the first entry: “these have no relation to the lands in dispute between J[ohn] H[arvie] and Th: J”); the second, dated 21 Oct. 1774, is the entry quoted in the above letter.—The following plats of the land in question exist: (1) Copy of the plat of survey for 490 acres made on 29 Nov. 1783 for James Marks by William Hay, in the hand of Anderson Bryan and signed by him (MHi). (2) Copy of the plat of survey for 485 acres “Surveyed for Colo: Thos Jefferson by virtue of an Order of Council March the 27th 1788” by Walter Leak, signed by Bryan, who also interlined the words “by virtue of an Order of Council” (MHi). (3) Copy of the two foregoing plats of survey, entirely in TJ’s hand (ViU). (4) Another copy of the same, but lacking courses, entirely in TJ’s hand (PrC in ViU). (5) Another copy of the same, also lacking courses, entirely in TJ’s hand, and with some variations: the dates of the two surveys are lacking; a creek appears on the boundary between Marks’ tract and Randolph’s land that is not shown in copy No. 4; on the southwest part of TJ’s tract of 485 acres appears the description “T. Jefferson’s antient lines” instead of the mere designation “Thos. Jefferson” (the latter is one of the extremely rare instances of TJ’s use of this form for his name; the designation for the tract in both No. 4 and No. 5 is “Thomas Jefferson”); and the description “James Hickman’s lines now T. Jefferson’s” (another variation in name) is employed instead of the mere “Jas. Hickman” in No. 4 (PrC in ViU; a 19th century copy of No. 5, being a part of a transcript of the above letter, also in ViU, contains an offset impression of the PrC of TJ to Randolph, 4 Feb. 1790).

On the question of these disputed lands, see Harvie to TJ, 25 Jan. 1791 and TJ’s state of the case, July 1795. The lands in question formed a part of the Belmont tract, and a compromise agreement was not arrived at until 17 Feb. 1810 (see also TJ to Harvie, 10 Feb. 1810).

1Thus in MS, an error by TJ for 21 Oct. 1774.

2Preceding two sentences are not in Tr.

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