George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 1 September 1784]

Having found it indispensably necessary to visit my Landed property west of the Apalacheon Mountains, and more especially that part of it which I held in Co-partnership with Mr. Gilbert Simpson1—Having determined upon a tour into that Country, and having made the necessary preparations for it, I did, on the first day of this month (September) set out on my journey.

Having dispatched my equipage about 9 Oclock A.M., consisting of 3 Servants & 6 horses, three of which carried my Baggage, I set out myself in company with Docter James Craik;2 and after dining at Mr. Sampson Trammells (abt. 2 Miles above the Falls Church) 3 we proceeded to Difficult Bridge, and lodged at one Shepherds Tavern 25 Miles.4

1Gilbert Simpson, Jr., son of the Gilbert Simpson who for many years leased part of Clifton’s Neck from GW, had since 1773 been manager of Washington’s Bottom, a 1,644–acre tract that GW owned on the west bank of the Youghiogheny River about 35 miles southeast of Fort Pitt. This land, now site of Perryopolis, Pa., was the first claimed by GW west of the Appalachians, having been surveyed for him in 1768 (William Crawford to GW, 7 Jan. 1769, DLC:GW; see “Remarks” entry for 15 Oct. 1770). In need of a settler to hold the tract against squatters and to begin clearing it for profitable cultivation, GW must have been pleased in the fall of 1772 to receive a letter from the younger Simpson, then living in Loudoun County, proposing a partnership to develop Washington’s Bottom. GW, of course, would provide the land; Simpson his personal services as manager; and both an equal amount of slaves, livestock, and supplies. “I Should think it my greatest duty” Simpson told GW, to act in this business “with the utmost Care and onnesty and as the land is so good, for indion Corn and meadows I make no dowt but it would in a five years add Sumthing wo[r]th[while] to your Fortune and a Reasonable Compency of good liveing to my Self” (Gilbert Simpson, Jr., to GW, 5 Oct. 1772, DLC:GW).

Articles of agreement between the two men were promptly signed. However, GW soon had reason to regret it, for the partnership almost from the start proved to be more troublesome than profitable to him. Simpson did clear some land, build a cabin and outbuildings, plant crops, and eventually secure several tenants for various parts of the tract. Nevertheless, he sent to Mount Vernon not profits, but a flood of excuses, a remarkable self-pitying litany of troubles: bad weather, bad health, bad times, and a shrewish wife. Simpson was, in truth, a fickle and careless manager who knew only one art well, that of ingratiating himself with a studied humility and professions of good intentions while feathering his own nest.

Simpson’s art, his remoteness from Mount Vernon, and the unavoidable neglect of GW’s personal affairs during the War of Independence all combined to stay the day of reckoning for the partnership. However, on 13 Feb. 1784, a few weeks after returning home from the war, GW dispatched a letter to Simpson demanding by 15 April “a full & complete settlement of our Partnership accounts, wherein every article of debit is to be properly supported by vouchers. . . . The world does not scruple to say that you have been much more attentive to your own interest than to mine. But I hope your Accots. will give the lie to these reports, by shewing that something more than your own emolument was intended by the partnership” (DLC:GW). Simpson was not able to give lie to the world’s opinion, and arrangements were soon made to dissolve the partnership. On 24 June 1784 GW wrote an advertisement announcing that on 15 Sept. at Washington’s Bottom, Simpson’s farm would be leased to the highest bidder and GW’s part of the partnership effects, including livestock, would be sold. Simpson was allowed to do as he wished with his share of the effects (Va. Journal, 15 July 1784; GW to Simpson, 10 July 1784, DLC:GW).

Besides settling the partnership with Simpson, GW was going west to inspect his vacant bounty lands on the Ohio and Kanawha rivers (see entries for 10 Sept. and 4 Oct. 1784). A third main purpose of the trip was to learn about the possibilities for convenient water transportation between the Ohio Valley and the eastern seaboard, especially via the Potomac River (see entry for 3 Sept. 1784).

2Besides Dr. Craik and servants, GW was accompanied on this trip only by his nephew Bushrod Washington and Craik’s son William, both of whom joined the party at Berkeley Springs (see entry for 8 Sept. 1784). Others wished to go, but GW declined to invite them. “It can be no amusement,” he wrote Craik 10 July 1784, “. . . to follow me in a tour of business, and from one of my tracts of Land to another; . . . nor wou’d it suit me to be embarrassed by the plans, movements or whims of others” (DLC:GW). Craik was invited not just because he was an old friend but also because he had lands near GW’s to which he needed to attend after his long service as a senior physician and surgeon in the Continental Army.

GW’s baggage included “a Marquee, some Camp utensils, & a few Stores.” Each and to another; . . . nor wou’d it suit me to be embarrassed by the plans, movements or whims of others” (DLC:GW). Craik was invited not just because he was an old friend but also because he had lands near GW’s to which he needed to attend after his long service as a senior physician and surgeon in the Continental Army.

GW’s baggage included “a Marquee, some Camp utensils, & a few Stores.” Each man was to bring his own bedding, a servant to look after his horses, and a gun if he wished to hunt (GW to Craik, 10 July 1784, and GW to John A. Washington, 30 June 1784, DLC:GW; see also entry for 22 Sept. 1784).

3Although GW today paid Sampson Trammell £1 6d. for expenses, Trammell’s place was not a licensed public ordinary (Cash Memoranda, DLC:GW). Rather, it must have been one of the many “Private houses” that the German traveler Johann David Schoepf found in Virginia about this time. “The distinction between Private and Public Entertainment,” Schoepf noted, “is to the advantage of the people who keep the so-called Private houses, they avoiding in this way the tax for permission to dispense rum and other drinks and not being plagued with noisy drinking-parties” (SCHOEPF description begins Johann David Schoepf. Travels in the Confederation [1783–1784]. Translated and edited by Alfred J. Morrison. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1911. description ends , 2:35). GW had stopped at Trammell’s house several times on the way to and from Leesburg 1763–64 (LEDGER A description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 1, 1750-72, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 166, 184).

4“Difficult run,” GW informed John Gill 12 Nov. 1799, “is mirey, inconvenient and troublesome to cross at most seasons of the year, and in winter generally impassable, except at the bridge” (DLC:GW). Shepherd’s (Shepperd’s) tavern, apparently run by local resident John Shepherd (Shepperd), stood on the south, or Fairfax County, side of Difficult Run bridge. On the north, or Loudoun County, side lay a tract of about 275 acres of land that GW had bought from Bryan Fairfax in 1763 as a way station for wagons going between Mount Vernon and his Bullskin plantation. Because Bullskin had since that time been leased to tenants, this tract on Difficult Run was not now being used for any purpose, but GW had been disturbed during the previous year when someone, probably Shepherd, threatened to preempt a good mill site on his land through condemnation proceedings in the county court (Bryan Fairfax to GW, 4 Aug. 1783, Robert T. Hooe to GW, 23 May 1793, and GW to Bryan Fairfax, 26 Nov. 1799, DLC:GW).

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