Thomas Jefferson Papers

Samuel Scott’s Bill of Complaint in Scott v. Jefferson and Harrison, [before 27 April 1812]

Samuel Scott’s Bill of Complaint in Scott v. Jefferson and Harrison

[before 27 Apr. 1812]

To the honble Creed Taylor, judge of the Superior court of Chancery for the Richmond district. Humbly complaining sheweth unto your honor your orator Samuel Scott

That on the 15th day of April in the year 1789 he entered with the Surveyor of Campbell county, by virtue of a land office treasury warant No 20278. assigned to him by Edmund Tait, for 50. as of vacant land lying in the county of Campbell, which entry is in the words and figures following. ‘April 15. 1789. Samuel Scott, by virtue of a verbal assignment of Edmund Tait for 50. as part of the aforesaid warrant No 20278. enters for the vacant land adjoining his own, Wilkenson’s, and Timberlake’s lines at Trent’s road.’ ‘also all the vacant land between Wayles’s 99. acres Christopher Anthony’s and Wilkenson’s in virtue of the same 50. as.’ copies of which entries subscribed by Wm P. Martin the present surveyor for Campbell county are hereunto annexed and prayed to be taken as a part of this bill. your orator avers that from the time of making the aforesaid entries he was always ready to have surveyed the same, and in fact frequently sollicited the surveyor to appoint a time for so doing, which however the sd Surveyor from time to time neglected, telling your Orator that as he resided in the county of Campbell he would appoint some time convenient to himself, of which your orator should have timely notice, but your orator in fact avers that no notice was ever given him to survey. in this situation the entry remained until the 26th day of April 1803. when your orator being anxious to compleat his title to the sd land, applied to the Surveyor to survey the entry, and on examination it was found that the warrant under which the entry had been made, under which warrant many other entries & surveys had been made, some previous to and others subsequent to the entry of your orator had been returned to the land office; your orator therefore recieved from the Register an exchange warrant for the 50. as which remained of the original warrant for your orator’s entry aforesaid, & under this exchange warrant he made another entry, on the same land on the 26th day of April 1803 and surveyed the same on the 26th day of December 1803 and obtained a patent from the Governor bearing date 15. Octob. 1804 which is hereunto annexed and prayed to be taken as a part of this bill. by virtue of which patent your orator was seised and possessed of the sd land, & proceeded to clear & prepare the same for cultivation. That Thomas Jefferson, herein after called a defendant, by some means, unknown to your orator, obtained a patent for the same land bearing date the  day of  under which patent the said defendant set up a claim to the land, & actually1 sued out on the  day of  a writ of forcible entry & detainer against your orator, and at a time when he was confined to his bed by extreme indisposition & unable to attend to his business, the jury actually dispossessed him, & delivered possession thereof to the sd Jefferson, who shortly thereafter sold the same to Samuel J. Harrison, whom your orator charges to have had full notice of his claim, & whom he prays to make a defendant to this bill. how or by what means the sd Jefferson obtained a patent for the aforesd land, your Orator is utterly unable to conjecture, as no entry for the same is to be found either on the Surveyor’s books, or the clerk’s office of the county, and your orator verily believes that there never was an entry, neither in the name of the sd Jefferson, nor in the name of any person under whom he claims, for the land or any part thereof, nor was there in point of fact any actual2 survey: yet so it is, may it please your honor that the said Jefferson with others combining & confederating, hath by some means, and, as your orator expressly charges, not by the regular steps pointed out by law, obtained a patent for the sd land, which patent being of an older date than that of your orator hath preference to his in law, & your orator is wholly remediless concerning the premisses except in this worshipful court of chancery where he is advised matters of this sort are properly cognisable. Your orator humbly concieves that his title to the land in question is founded on the entry made on the 15th April 1789. because that entry was made under a warrant regularly obtained for that purpose, & as no notice was ever given him by the surveyor to survey the same, as by law, & under the custom of the country he ought to have done, he humbly concieves that he hath not lost the benefit of the entry, that the second entry was made under the same warrant, or on an exchange warrant which issued on the same, your orator humbly concieves therefore that his title ought to relate back, & bear inception from the date of the first entry. it is true that your orator’s patent issued upon the last survey, & hath reference only to the date of that survey, yet as your orator hath done no act which can amount to an abandonment of his first entry, he trusts that his patent in equity will bear relation to the date of that entry. your orator hath been at much pains to ascertain the steps taken by mr Jefferson in obtaining his patent to the aforesd land without success; that the only entry to be found on the surveyor’s books in relation to vacant lands now in the possession of mr Jefferson is one in the words & figures following, to wit, ‘March 20. 1770. John Wayles esq. all the vacant lands adjoining to his Poplar forest tract, in one or more surveys’ which entry doth not appear to have been made by virtue of any warrant, & is moreover as your orator is advised in terms so vague & general as to be void in law. but what is conclusive as to the present question is that the land now in dispute doth not nor ever did adjoin the Poplar forest tract, in any part of it, but on the contrary lies at the distance of many miles from it. your orator hath been informed that mr Jefferson’s patent issued upon a survey purported to have been made by Richard Smith Surveyor of Campbell county. your orator verily believes that there never was a Surveyor for the county of Campbell of that name. he knows of a certainty that since his residence in the county which is about 28. years, there hath been no surveyor of the name of Smith. your orator hath some reason to believe that the defendant’s title is derived from Richard Stith, late surveyor of Campbell county, to whom as your orator hath been informed, John Wayles esq. under whom mr Jefferson claims paid a trifling consideration for a pretended entry and survey. your orator hath diligently searched the surveyor’s office and the clerk’s office & can find no entry except his own herein before referred to; & your orator is firmly persuaded that there never was an actual survey made by mr Jefferson or the person under whom he claims. if therefore the sd Richard Stith, who was the same surveyor with whom your orator made his entry did afterwards enter for the same land, & sell the entry or pretended survey to mr Wayles or mr Jefferson, your orator humbly concieves that the same, so far as concerns the sd Stith, was a fraud upon him, & that a title founded upon the fraudulent conduct of the surveyor ought not in equity to prevail against the title of your orator. In tender consideration whereof, & to the end that your orator may recieve that justice to which he humbly concieves himself entitled, he prays that Thomas Jefferson & Samuel J. Harrison may be made defendants to this bill: that they true & perfect answer make to all the matters and things herein set forth: that the first named def. be required to set forth the several steps taken by himself, or those under whom he claims in obtaining title to the land aforesd; that he say whether he claims under John Wayles esq. & if he does that he set3 forth the steps taken by the sd Wayles in relation to the sd land, particularly that he be required to produce an authenticated copy of the entry, & the warrant or a copy of the warrant under which the entry was made: that he say whether he doth not believe that mr Wayles purchased the entry of Richard Stith the Surveyor of Campbell, & if he did, at what time & what was the consideration paid? if he claims the sd land by virtue of an entry & survey made in his own name let him say at what time, and with what surveyor the sd entry was made? and that he produce a copy of the entry together with the warrant or a copy thereof under which the same was made: and that the last named def. say whether he had notice of your orator’s claim before he purchased the land, or if not before the purchase, at least before paiment was made? and that your honor will be pleased to decree that the said Thomas Jefferson & Samuel J. Harrison may execute to your orator proper conveyance for the said land, deliver the same into his possession and account to him for the rents & profits, and that your honor will grant to him such other relief as according equity & good conscience may seem meet Etc and will ever pray Etc

Tr (ViU: TJP); entirely in TJ’s hand; undated, but seen by Samuel J. Harrison before he wrote TJ on 27 Apr. 1812; endorsed by TJ: “Scott v. Jefferson & Harrison } Bill in Canc. Copy.” Enclosure: Land Grant to Samuel Scott, Richmond, 15 Oct. 1804, signed by Governor John Page, by virtue of exchanged treasury warrant no. 1415, issued 23 Apr. 1803 to Scott as assignee of Edmund Tate, and based on a 26 Dec. 1803 survey describing the land as containing 54¾ acres in Campbell County on the south branch of Ivy Creek and “bounded as followeth, to wit: Beginning at pointers, corner to Wilkerson and Johnson (now Couch) thence north forty degrees East one hundred and forty four poles along said Couches line to a hickory his corner, East eighty four poles to a white oak corner to Tiltis, north sixty two degrees east sixty two poles to a white oak corner to Tiltis and Samuel Scott, South thirty eight degrees west thirty poles, south seventy degrees West One hundred and eighty four poles to a hickory corner to said Scott and thence South Seventy six Degrees east fifty eight poles to the beginning, with its appurtenances” (FC in Vi: RG 4, Virginia Land Office Grant Book, 52:316–7). Enclosed in TJ to George Hay, 13 July 1812.

Samuel Scott (1754–1822), a native of Caroline County, rose to the rank of major in the milita during the Revolutionary War and afterward moved to Campbell County. There he purchased land and by 1790 built a house he called Locust Thicket. Scott developed a reputation both for industriousness and intemperance. He bought land in Bedford County and property in Lynchburg, including a tavern, store, smokehouse, and lumber warehouse. He served as a justice of the peace, and about 1812 he was appointed sheriff of Campbell County, but he delegated these duties. In April 1810 Scott suffered a stroke, after which his family assumed direction of his plantation and business affairs. At the time of his death he owned twenty-nine slaves, but he had already conveyed most of his land to his two sons (National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, DAR Patriot Index [2003], 3:2382; Chambers, Poplar Forest description begins S. Allen Chambers, Poplar Forest & Thomas Jefferson, 1993 description ends , 61–2; Samuel McGregor Scott file, ViLJML: Family File 3796; S. Allen Chambers Jr., Lynchburg: An Architectural History [1981], 16–8; Campbell Co. Will Book, 4:421–5, 5:193–5; Patrick P. Burton et al. v. Beverly R. Scott and Samuel M. Scott [1823] court record [Campbell Co. Common Law Order Book, 3:532–85, 4:1–76, typescript in ViLJML: Family File 2437]; Scott’s gravestone inscription, Locust Thicket, Lynchburg).

land office treasury warrant no 20278, dated 3 Nov. 1783, in part authorized a survey of fifty-four acres of land in Bedford County for Jesse Tate. A survey was accordingly made on 10 Mar. 1798, and on 3 Mar. 1801 Governor James Monroe issued a grant to Tate for this land (Vi: RG 4, Virginia Land Office: Registry of Treasury Warrants; same, Grant Book, 47:469).

1TJ here canceled “succeeded.”

2Manuscript: “actually.”

3Manuscript: “that the set.”

Index Entries

  • Anthony, Christopher; and Campbell Co. land search
  • Campbell County, Va.; surveyor search
  • Couch, Lewis; Campbell Co. landholder search
  • Harrison, Samuel Jordan; and TJ’s land dispute with S. Scott search
  • Harrison, Samuel Jordan; buys land from TJ search
  • Ivy Creek (Campbell Co.); S. Scott claims TJ’s land on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; dispute with S. Scott search
  • Johnson, Benjamin; lands of search
  • Martin, William Peters; Campbell Co. surveyor search
  • Monroe, James; as governor of Va. search
  • Page, John; as governor of Va. search
  • Scott, Samuel; Bill of Complaint in Scott v. Jefferson and Harrison search
  • Scott, Samuel; identified search
  • Scott, Samuel; TJ’s land dispute with search
  • Scott v. Jefferson and Harrison; S. Scott’s bill of complaint in search
  • Stith, Richard; and Ivy Creek tract search
  • Tate, Edmund; and TJ’s Campbell Co. land search
  • Tate, Jesse; Bedford Co. land of search
  • Taylor, Creed; chancery court judge search
  • Timberlake, Mr.; Campbell Co. landholder search
  • Tullos, Richard; Campbell Co. landholder search
  • Wayles, John (TJ’s father-in-law); and Campbell Co. land search
  • Wilkinson (Wilkerson), John; Campbell Co. landholder search