George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 26 October 1785]

Wednesday 26th. Thermometer at 50 in the Morng. 56 at Noon and 56 at Night.

A large white frost this morning. Wind brisk and cold from the No. West all the day, after 9 O’clock.

Took the cover off my dry Well, to see if I could not fix it better for the purpose of an Ice House, by Arching the Top, and planking the sides.

Having received by the last Northern Mail advice of the arrival at Boston, of one of the Jack Asses presented to me by His Catholic Majesty, I sent my Overseer John Fairfax, to conduct him, and his Keeper, a Spaniard, home safe; addressing him to Lieutt. Governor Cushing, from whom I received the information.

Sent to Morris (Overseer of my Dogue run Plantation) a Bushel of clover seed (reserving Six pounds) to sow as fast as he could get the ground which is intended for the reception of it, in order.

Yesterday I transplanted a Cornation Cherry tree, and Apricot tree, which were within the Lawn before the door into the North Garden—little expecting that either will live—the first being 33 Inches in circumference and the latter 21 inches and a good deal decayed.

Finished the Shingling on the West front of the House.

GW had decided not to build a new icehouse but to remodel the old one extensively along lines suggested in Robert Morris’s letter of 15 June 1784 (DLC:GW). The rebuilt icehouse had an inner well within the first, which was lined with wood for better insulation. Over the well was an arch, covered with soil and sodded. There was a tunnel in the face of the hill through which the ice could be carried from the river (MVAR description begins Annual Report of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union. Mount Vernon, Va., 1854—. description ends , 1939, 30–31).

one of the jack asses: Knowing that Spain produced excellent jackasses, GW made some inquiries about how he might obtain one for breeding purposes. Upon learning of this, Charles III, king of Spain, sent word that two Spanish jacks were being shipped to him as a gift (Thomas Jefferson to GW, 10 Dec. 1784, DLC:GW). Early in October, GW was notified by Lt. Gov. Thomas Cushing, of Massachusetts, that one of the jacks had arrived at Beverly in the care of Pedro Tellez, and that another animal was expected soon (Cushing to GW, 7 Oct. 1785, GW to Francisco Rendon, 19 Dec. 1785, DLC:GW). GW dispatched John Fairfax to Boston with instructions to escort the Spaniard and the two jacks (26 Oct. 1785, DLC:GW). It later developed that the second jack had died at sea (GW to Tench Tilghman, 30 Nov. 1785, DLC:GW). Setting out from Boston on 10 Nov., Fairfax and Tellez reached Mount Vernon on 5 Dec. (Cushing to GW, 16 Nov. 1785, DLC:GW; see entry for 5 Dec. 1785). It soon appeared that while the jack itself was a gift, GW was expected to pay all charges except Tellez’s wages (GW to Cushing, 26 Oct. 1785, GW to William Hartshorne, 20 Feb. 1786, DLC:GW). The jack, to be named Royal Gift, seemed a disappointment at first. GW wrote Lafayette 10 May 1786 that although the animal was handsome, “his late royal master, ’tho past his grand climacteric, cannot be less moved by female allurements than he is” (DLC:GW). “I have my hopes that when he becomes a little better acquainted with republican enjoyments, he will amend his manners & fall into our custom of doing business; if the case should be otherwise, I shall have no disinclination to present his Catholic Majesty with as valuable a present as I received from him” (GW to William Fitzhugh, 15 May 1786, DLC:GW). Subsequent letters indicate that Royal Gift did amend his manners. GW wrote to Richard Sprigg: “It is, I believe, beyond a doubt that your Jenny is with foal by my Spaniard” (1 April 1787, owned by Mr. Sol Feinstone, Washington Crossing, Pa.).

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