Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Christopher Clark, 1 April 1810

To Christopher Clark

Poplar Forest Apr. 1. 10.


I am engaged in the prosecution of a writ of forcible entry and detainer against mr Samuel Scott for proceeding to seat a plantation on a piece of lands I hold on Ivy creek, where he has cleared about 20. as of land & fixed a negro cabbin. the lands are in Campbell county about 4. miles from Lynchburg. I yesterday obtained a warrant for a jury, which is to meet on the lands on Saturday next, the 7th inst. the object of this letter is to ask your assistance in conjunction with mr Mclellan who met me yesterday from Lynchburg & directed the proceedings. I shall be gratified if you can attend with him on Saturday. my antagonist I believe has employed three attornies. I shall very shortly state the facts which will be relied on on both sides.

about 1772. Richd Stith Surveyor entered these lands, to wit 100. acres, and from him my title is derived by purchase.

in 1797. I obtained the patent in my own name. this delay was occasioned by my absence in Europe & at the seat of government.

after this, I do not know exactly when, Colo Tate entered & surveyed1 for 54¾2 acres within my hundred acres. but finding his error as is believed he sold his right to Scott for a cow or some such consideration.

they pretend to have a patent dated in 1804. but I entirely doubt it.

in 1805.3 mr Callaway surveyed the 100. as for me to ascertain the lines.

in the autumn of 1809. having heard of Scott’s claim, I went on the lands with the Surveyor, Scott attending. I shewed him my patent, the Surveyor run round the lines, found them marked, agreeing with the patent and inclosing Scott’s survey. it was understood by those present that Scott yielded to this evidence & expressed his conviction of my superior right, & I thought it settled, and sold the land. in the winter however Scott carried his people there (it adjoins him) settled some of them on it, and has cleared about 20 as coultered & tilled a part & inclosed it. I came up as soon after hearing it as the season, my age & habits would permit me to undertake such a journey. on my requiring Scott yesterday to remove his people he peremptorily refused. I ordered the people off, but his overseer, his son & his lawyer (mr Devany) ordered them not to go, and as I could not have removed them without force, which, had I had it, it would have been unlawful to use, I considered their remaining in the house in defiance, & their occupying and labouring the ground as a forcible detainer, and took the oath necessary to entitle me to a warrant.

None of them doubt my superior right, but they say I must recover it by action, & in the mean time Scott will cut down & exhaust all the land. the lawyer said that Scott’s survey was an eviction of my possession under the patent. then my survey by Callaway, & again by Martin in 1809. must have evicted the possession gained by his survey or by his patent if he had one. both his possession and mine were possessions in law only, not in fact, for neither occupied the lands actually till he entered with his people the last winter. they will chiefly insist that both their entry & detainer was without force; but setting aside the overseer coming with a pair of pistols yesterday, & the young lad foolishly vapouring with them, it was evident I could not remove them but by force, & both the lawyer & the lad declared that no man should remove them by force. for the details of the facts which passed, I must refer you to mr Mclellan, and the considerations they will suggest will occur to yourself. as delay & chicanery is their only reliance they will doubtless traverse some of the proceedings on Saturday so as to require another jury & another day which I should wish to be the Monday following. it is impossible for me to entertain a moment’s doubt4 on the result of this proceeding, but having sold the land & engaged to deliver it, I cannot but feel anxiety, & especially to finish it while I am here, which cannot be for many days. I pray therefore from you the benefit of your good services, which, in conjunction with those of mr Mclellan, will ensure to me the protection of the law in this: and I add the assurances of my esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

SC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr Clarke”; endorsed by TJ.

Christopher Henderson Clark (ca. 1768–1828) acted from 1794 as TJ’s Bedford County attorney. He represented that county in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1790 and served part of two terms in the United States House of Representatives as a Republican, 1804–06. On his visits to Poplar Forest TJ regularly exchanged hospitality with Clark, at whose home, Mount Prospect, TJ based himself when he measured the Peaks of Otter in 1815 (DVB description begins John T. Kneebone and others, eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography, 1998– , 3 vols. description ends ; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 31 vols. description ends , 28:108–9; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1255–6, 1313–4, 1316; Lynchburg Virginian, 20 Nov. 1828).

The new survey prepared in the autumn of 1809 reads as follows: “Nov. 15. 1809. Surveyed for Thomas Jefferson esquire 97. acres of land lying in Campbell county on the waters of Ivy creek beginning at B. corner to Wilkerson & Couch then Couch’s line N. 30. E. 100. poles to red oak corner in Couch’s line at C. near Ivy creek by the mouth of a branch, East 86. pole (crossing the main road) to white oak corner to said Jefferson being the land he bought of Tullis at D. S. 60. E. 60. pole to white oak corner to the same at E. S. 40. W. 130. poles to F. corner to Saml Scott, S. 76. W. 26. poles to G corner to said Scott, N. 52. W. 94. poles to A. corner to said Scott and then S. 65. W. 14. poles to B. the first station. William P. Martin Sr C. Cy” (Tr in ViU: TJP; entirely in TJ’s hand and attested by him; one of a set of exhibits submitted by TJ with his 11 July 1812 answer to Scott’s bill of complaint in Scott v. Jefferson).

1Preceding two words interlined, with marginal note (edge trimmed): “survey dated [Dec.] 26. 1803.” Changes made after SC was created.

2Reworked from “50” after SC was created.

3Last digit added after SC was created.

4Manuscript: “down.”

Index Entries

  • Callaway, William search
  • Campbell County, Va.; TJ sells Ivy Creek tract in search
  • Clark, Christopher Henderson; and TJ’s land dispute with S. Scott search
  • Clark, Christopher Henderson; identified search
  • Clark, Christopher Henderson; letters to search
  • Couch, Lewis; Campbell Co. landholder search
  • Devany, Mr. search
  • Harrison, Samuel Jordan; buys land from TJ search
  • Ivy Creek (Campbell Co.); S. Scott claims TJ’s land on search
  • Ivy Creek (Campbell Co.); TJ sells lands on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; dispute with S. Scott search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; sells land on Ivy Creek search
  • Martin, William Peters; Campbell Co. surveyor search
  • McCleland, Thomas Stanhope; and TJ’s land dispute with S. Scott search
  • Scott, Mr. (Samuel Scott’s son) search
  • Scott, Samuel; TJ’s land dispute with search
  • Stith, Richard; and Ivy Creek tract search
  • Tate, Edmund; and TJ’s Campbell Co. land search
  • Tullos, Richard; and Campbell Co. land search
  • Wilkinson (Wilkerson), John; Campbell Co. landholder search