Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to James Rawlings, 31 July 1817

To James Rawlings

Monticello July 31. 17.


Your favor of July 9. was recieved on the 15th. with respect to Henderson’s mill the case is thus. Henderson the father, while I was absent in Europe, without any application to the court, or any jury, built the mill and overflowed a millseat of mine 3. feet. he died leaving ten children his heirs.1 after my return, to wit, in 1795. I brought a bill in Chancery to oblige them to take away their dam. in 1799 Oct. 1. I obtained a decree for it’s demolition, and took it down soon after. from that time it ceased to be a mill. in May 1804. I bought their millstones, and then successively purchased from the parceners their respective portions of the estate; but as they still thought their millhouse worth something & capable of reestablishment, & consequently asked something considerable for it, I, who knew it to be worth nothing, refused to give any thing for it, & there was a reservation in every deed to themselves of the mill and site, so that it was excepted out of the conveyances to me. becoming afterwards sensible that their expectations of the revival of their mill were desperate, they sold all the materials, even to the stones of the walls, which were taken down & carried away in 1808. or 1809.   it has ceased therefore to be a mill about 17. years, and been out of existence entirely about 8. or 9. years. if any body can be answerable under these circumstances, it cannot be myself, being expressly excepted out of the conveyances to me; and if it is the family, they are dispersed over the Western states, and nearly all of them, I believe, bankrupt. mr David Higgenbotham of Richmond was living on the spot, and in sight of the mill; he is well acquainted with all these transactions, & remembers some, I dare say, better than I do. I will ask the favor of you therefore to enquire of him as I should be glad to have corrected any mistake I may have made & he is very capable of correcting it. Accept the assurances of my respect

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover of Joseph C. Cabell to TJ, 23 Apr. 1817; at foot of text: “Mr James Rawlins”; endorsed by TJ, with his additional notation above endorsement: “Fire-insurance.”

For the 1 Oct. 1799 decree in chancery ordering the destruction of the Hendersons’ milldam, see PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 40 vols. description ends , 31:208. TJ agreed on 1 May 1804 to purchase John Henderson’s pair of five-foot burr millstones (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 , 2:1125).

1Sentence interlined.

Index Entries

  • Henderson, Bennett; mill of search
  • Henderson, John; and Milton mill search
  • Higginbotham, David; and TJ’s mill search
  • mills; Henderson family’s search
  • mills; stones for search
  • Milton, Va.; Henderson mill at search
  • Mutual Assurance Society; and TJ’s insurance search
  • Rawlings, James; and Mutual Assurance Society search
  • Rawlings, James; letter to search