Thomas Jefferson Papers

Alexander Quarrier to Thomas Jefferson, 24 May 1812

From Alexander Quarrier

Apollo Vale Kenawha May 24. 1812.

Dr Sir

A length of time has elapsed since I had the honor of seeing you, yet the impression of your polite and friendly manner is still engraved so warmly on my memory that I hesitate not in applying to you in my present case of emergency.—

A twelvemonth ago I received a letter from Philadelphia stating that there was considerable property left me by a relative in Scotland;—it seems that there is some contention about this estate and it is deemed requisite by the Judges of the Court, that I should procure certificates from gentlemen of respectability who knew me in Philadelphia—You I belive Sir recollect me in the year 1775—You were then in Congress and I was Alex Quarrier1 Coach-maker.—Will you then my dear Sir have the goodness to write to Mr William Burns in Richmond who is my agent in this business and certify that you knew me in Philadelphia and Virginia, and you will be so obliging as to transmit me a copy of the letter. It will be a favor that I shall acknowledge with gratitude.

I have the hor to be your Obt St

Alex Quarrier

NB. I have commenced the makeing of Salt and if possible—to make it with coal. Your opinion on this subject—(as you have made so many valuable and ingenious discoveries) would enable me to do it with more facility—at all events it will be a source of infinite pleasure & gratification to see your remarks—

RC (MHi); idiosyncratic dashes editorially omitted; endorsed by TJ as received 3 June 1812 and so recorded in SJL.

Alexander Quarrier (1747–1827) served an apprenticeship in coachmaking in his native Scotland. In 1774 he immigrated to Philadelphia and there worked for coachmaker William Tod. During the Revolutionary War, Quarrier served in the Pennsylvania militia. By 1778 he established his own carriage shop, with his stepson William Hunter as a journeyman. Two years later the firm became Quarrier & Hunter, a successful enterprise with a reputation for fine work. TJ was a customer in 1783 and engaged Quarrier the following year to transport his baggage from Philadelphia to New York. Later in the decade Quarrier moved to Richmond and opened a coachmaking shop that TJ patronized in 1789–90. By 1788 Quarrier served as a captain in the Henrico County militia, early the following decade he was captain of the public guard, and in 1798 he became an artillery lieutenant colonel. His responsibilities eventually included making, storing, and inspecting armament, and by 1803 he helped to oversee the city’s arsenal and military stores. By 1805 Quarrier was keeper of the keys at the Capitol. He had several business partnerships in Petersburg and Richmond, including coachmaking and gunsmithing firms. In 1811 Quarrier moved to Kanawha County (now West Virginia), where he was a justice of the peace (Alexander Thomas Laidley, A Genealogical Table and History of the Quarrier Family, in America [1890], esp. memoir and autobiographical notes, 5–7; Richard E. Powell Jr., “Coachmaking in Philadelphia: George and William Hunter’s Factory of the Early Federal Period,” Winterthur Portfolio 28 [1993]: 250–3; 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 , 1:526–7, 550, 749, 752; Philadelphia Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser, 17 Oct. 1778; CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends ; Henrico Co. Order Book, 3:431, 8:274, 11:123; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 34 vols. description ends , 31:268, 376–7; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends , 1804–05 sess., 80, and 1808–09 sess., 86–7 [12 Jan. 1805, 26 Jan. 1809]; Virginia Gazette, and Petersburg Intelligencer, 16 June 1791, 24 June 1796; Richmond Enquirer, 10 Oct. 1809, 20 Aug. 1811; TJ to William Burns, 7 June 1812, and enclosure).

Quarrier inherited considerable property near Edinburgh from his mother (Laidley, Quarrier Family, 5). salt wells, known as the Kanawha Salines, had been dug in the county where Quarrier lived, and bituminous coal (for the boiling, purifying, and evaporating process) was plentiful in that area (John Edmund Stealey III, “Kanawhan Prelude to Nineteenth-Century Monopoly in the United States: The Virginia Salt Combinations,” VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1893–  description ends 107 [1999]: 353; E. Meriam, “Burning Wells of Kanawha,” Southern Planter 7 [1847]: 290–2).

1Preceding two words interlined in place of “a.”

Index Entries

  • Burns, William; and certificate for A. Quarrier search
  • coal; for salt production search
  • Kanawha (now W.Va.); salt wells at search
  • Quarrier, Alexander; identified search
  • Quarrier, Alexander; letters from search
  • Quarrier, Alexander; seeks certificate of acquaintance search
  • salt; manufacturing search