George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 15 September 1784]

15th. This being the day appointed for the Sale of my moiety of the Co-partnership stock—Many People were gathered (more out of curiosity I believe than from other motives) but no great Sale made. My Mill I could obtain no bid for, altho I offered an exemption from the payment of Rent 15 Months. The Plantation on which Mr. Simpson lives rented well—Viz. for 500 Bushels of Wheat payable at any place with in the County that I, or my Agent should direct. The little chance of getting a good offer in money, for Rent, induced me to set it up to be bid for in Wheat.1

Not meeting with any person who could give me a satisfactory acct. of the Navigation of the Cheat River (tho’ they generally agreed it was difficult where it passed thro’ the Laurel Hill) nor any acct. of the distance & kind of Country between that, or the Main branch of the Monongahela and the Waters of Potomack—nor of the Country between the little Kanhawa and the Waters of Monongahela tho’ all agreed none of the former came near ten Miles Creek as had been confidently asserted; I gave up the intention of returning home that way—resolving after settling matters with those Persons who had seated my Lands on Millers run, to return by the way I came; or by what is commonly called the Turkey foot Road.2

1The general shortage of hard currency was evident in the bidding for GW’s livestock and other effects on Simpson’s place. The crier whom GW hired to conduct the sale could elicit only £3 6s. 8d. Virginia currency in cash from the crowd, but bonds and notes received may have totaled as much as £146 18s. 7¾d. Virginia currency (Cash Memoranda, DLC:GW; LEDGER B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 233).

Wheat about this time cost GW 5s. 6d. to 6s. Virginia currency a bushel in the Mount Vernon area (LEDGER B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 182). Thus, he had good reason to be pleased with the rent set for Simpson’s plantation. However, the deal had one major drawback; the tenant was to be Gilbert Simpson. Simpson was reluctant to commit himself to more than a one-year lease and acquiesed to the advertised ten-year term only at GW’s insistence. “I told him explicitly,” GW later remembered, that “he must take it for the period on which it was offered, or not at all; as I did not intend to go thro’ the same trouble every year by making an annual bargain for it.” In consideration of Simpson’s leasing the plantation, he was allowed to hire GW’s slaves there, now about eight in number, at a rate that GW considered “cheap” (GW to Thomas Freeman, 16 Oct. 1785, DLC:GW). Nevertheless, by the following spring Simpson was threatening to quit his lease, “the seasons being difficult and the Rent so high” (Thomas Freeman to GW, 9 June 1785, DLC:GW). He apparently left Washington’s Bottom by the end of the year (Thomas Freeman to GW, 27 July 1785, DLC:GW).

2Turkey Foot Road, a relatively new alternative to much of Braddock’s Road, offered travelers a more direct route between Fort Cumberland and Fort Pitt than had previously been available. However, it failed to become popular, and most of it was later abandoned. The western end of Turkey Foot Road connected with Braddock’s Road near present-day Mount Pleasant, Pa., about 12 miles northeast of Washington’s Bottom. From that junction the road ran southeast to the Turkey Foot settlement on the Youghiogheny River (now Confluence, Pa.) and then turned more to the east, crossing the Alleghenies to Wills Creek, through the Narrows of which it passed to Fort Cumberland (WELLFORD description begins “A Diary Kept by Dr. Robert Wellford, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, during the March of the Virginia Troops to Fort Pitt (Pittsburg) to Suppress the Whiskey Insurrection in 1794.” William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., 11 (1902–3): 1–19. description ends , 16–17; VEECH description begins James Veech. The Monongahela of Old; or, Historical Sketches of South-Western Pennsylvania to the Year 1800. 1892. Reprint. Pittsburgh, 1910. description ends , 34; see also entries for 22 Sept. and 4 Oct. 1784).

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