George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Grayson, 23 September 1770

From William Grayson

Sniggers1 Sepr 23rd 1770.


I have met here to day, & so have your Evidences, agreable to appointment, but only two Commissioners have appear’d which is not sufficient; Mr Scott2 is sent for, and on his arrival we shall proceed to business; when you may depend I shall do every thing necessary, on your behalf.

Mr Thomas Hite has this day acknowledg’d, he has Thomas’s bond for the money the land was sold for, and offered to relinquish his claim to the land provided I would undertake to pay the amount of the bond, which is abt £12 & Interest; this I did not incline to do, as I had no instructions from you relative to such a proposal; and my own opinion was agt it, as I conciev’d Thomas & his heirs were liable for it, & that the land was not subject to it in the hands of an assignee.3 I am Sir Yr Mo: Obedt servt

Willm Grayson

N.B. They have survey’d the land, but as Marshall4 is not here I have not seen the survey. W. ⟨G.⟩

ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection; Sprague transcript, DLC:GW.

1This is Edward Snickers’s ordinary near Buck Marsh Run in Frederick County.

2Mr. Scott may be James Scott, Jr. (1742–1799), son of Rev. James Scott (d. 1782) of Dettingen Parish. He was a burgess from Fauquier County.

3Years later, in 1786, GW wrote at length and in detail to Sarah McCarty Johnston Darrell, wife of Augustus Darrell and widow of George Johnston, about this land dispute: “A tract of land which I bought of Captn Johnston (your deceas’d husband) lying on Bullskin in Frederick (now Berkeley) county, is, as well as a great many others, comprehended in the judgment lately obtained in the General Court in favor of the Hites; but may, it is said, be relieved from the consequences if it shall appear that this land was originally purchased from Hite.

“That the fact is so there can be no doubt, but the difficulty lies in proving it. It would seem by some papers in my hands that Captn Johnston bought this land, wch he sold me from one Lewis Thomas; & that Lewis Thomas bought it of old Jois Hite, father of the present complainants; who passed his Bond for the conveyance; which bond it further appears was assigned to Captn Johnston. Now, if this bond is to be found among the papers of Captn Johnston, for I have it not, it will render null & void the claim of the Hites; unless it may be for the original purchase money (which was very trifling) if it cannot be proven that it has been paid.

“But if this bond is not in being, it is highly probable the Land will be lost . . . But all these difficulties . . . may be avoided if you fortunately should find among Captain Johnston’s papers, the original bond from Hite to Thomas for conveyance of the land” (18 June 1786, DLC:GW).

The land under dispute was the “Tract of Land situate . . . on the South fork of a Branch of Shannondoah River called Bull-skin . . . which was granted by Jost Hite in the Year 1738/9 to Lewis Thomas of who the said Johnston purchased of and is bounded as by a Survey thereof made by Mr George Washington . . . Containing Five hundred and Fifty two Acres” (Northern Neck Grants, Book G, 458) which GW bought from Johnston in 1752 (Deeds of lease and release, 16–17 Mar. 1752, Frederick County Deed Book 2 [1749–52], 476–81, ViWnFreCh).

The land dispute between the Hite family and the proprietors of the Northern Neck was part of a dispute that had been ongoing between the colony of Virginia and the proprietors of the Northern Neck for generations (see Freeman, Washington description begins Douglas Southall Freeman. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York, 1948–57. description ends , 1:447–513). Jost Hite had in 1731 bought the rights from Isaac and John Van Meter for some 40,000 acres beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains granted to the Van Meters by orders in council of the colony of Virginia in 1730. Later the same year Hite, in partnership with Robert McKay, obtained an additional order for 100,000 acres; all this land was granted with stipulations that it was to be seated by a certain number of families within a specified time. Much of this land was located in the area of Lord Fairfax’s proprietary. In 1745 a decision favorable to Lord Fairfax was reached by the Privy Council in London, but Fairfax agreed to confirm all royal grants within the disputed area, including the Hite grants. Fairfax, however, later refused to issue grants confirming the Hite lands because of Hite’s practice of gerrymandering his grants to include all the best bottom lands. Fairfax demanded that the Hite grants be resurveyed. The Hites then sued to make the proprietor abide by the 1745 decree. The General Court of Virginia made decisions in both 1769 and 1771 in favor of the Hites, but Fairfax appealed to the Privy Council. In 1786 the Hites secured an affirmation by the Court of Appeals of Virginia of the General Court’s decisions. For a history of the Hite-Fairfax dispute, see Harrison, Va. Land Grants description begins Fairfax Harrison. Virginia Land Grants: A Study of Conveyancing in Relation to Colonial Politics. Richmond, 1925. description ends , 165–66; Dickinson, Fairfax Proprietary description begins Josiah Look Dickinson. The Fairfax Proprietary: The Northern Neck, the Fairfax Manors and Beginnings of Warren County in Virginia. Front Royal, Va., 1959. description ends , I-LVII.

4Marshall is probably Thomas Marshall (1730–1802), a burgess for Fauquier County who lived in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Marshall was surveyor of Fauquier County and had done considerable surveying on the frontier.

Index Entries