George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George William Fairfax, 12 March 1770

From George William Fairfax

Belvoir March 12th 1770

Dear sir

I think you are extreamly right in not submitting to Mr Barrys terms; and I wish it was in my Power to give you a more Satisfactory Accot of what you desire, not only to oblige you, but to flusterat Barrys intentions for I dispise such.1 All I know about Mr Russells claims to the Chaple Lands is from a Will now in my Posession of Mr Johnstons, wherein he devises all his real & Personal Estate to Mr Russell, who particularly desired me to litigate the matter with the present Posessor, and to take Posession of the Place on Bull Skin where Patrick Mathews lived, the latter I did, but did not choose to take up a dispute of that sort with a neighbour, and since I have heard that Mr Waller or some of the Gentn below are employ’d to Prossecute it.2

When Doctor Cockburn wanted to purchase the Land, I remember the bar to it was from Mr Johnstons not being willing to join in the conveyance unless they would pay him a hundred pounds, and the Doctor shew’d me old Mr Mercers opinion, which was clear in Johnstons favor, and since it has been corroborated by that of the Attorney Genl in England, but how just I cant pretend to say, I suppose you know that Jonston Administred on Browns Estate, and had paid several Sums of Money, not only for the Principal, but to his Widow in lieu of Dower, &ca, and that the Act of Limitation will not run against Mr Russell in this Case. Tho. I must confess I wish it was determined one way or another, if in Mr Russell favor I am to have the refusal, and in that case you should be soon accomidated, and I Questio⟨n⟩ whether you cannot do it now, for you must know your and the Chaple Corner Tree near the Road, which is also mine and I believe yours, for upon running my Line, it takes in a slipe of Land joining along the Creek. However Sir, I will look over some Papers, and perhaps may give you a better insight to this affair, shortly.

Colo. & Mrs Fairfax joins in their Compts to you Mrs Washington and Miss Custis, with Dear sir Your Most Obedt humble Servt

Go: Wm Fairfax


1GW was negotiating the purchase of the Wade tract on Dogue Run at Mount Vernon. Young William Barry had inherited the share of this property belonging to his mother, Eleanor Wade Barry, the late wife of John Barry. John Barry was dealing with GW on behalf of his son William, and it was his terms to which Fairfax was objecting. See Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 2:331. GW was particularly eager to buy the Wade-Barry land because he needed to divert water from Dogue Run into the millrace for a new mill that he was about to build (see Robert Hanson Harrison to GW, 5 April 1770).

2Mr. Russell is James Russell of London and Mr. Johnston is Robert Johnston. Johnston’s will has not been found. For the dispute over these “Chaple Lands” of Charles West’s which GW wanted to buy, see West to GW, 6 June 1769, nn.2 and 3, and William Carr to GW, 17 Dec. 1770. Robert Johnston’s plantation where Patrick Matthews lived was in Frederick County. GW had rented the land from Johnston for eight years, from 1753 to 1760 (Ledger A description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 1, 1750-72, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 48). Benjamin Waller was an attorney in Williamsburg.

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