George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Lewis, 1 February 1784

To Thomas Lewis

Mount Vernon 1st Feby 1784


After an absence of almost nine years, & nearly a total suspension of all my private concerns, I am at length set down at home, & am endeavouring to recover my business from the confusion into which it has run during that period.

Among other matters which require my attention, indeed in which I need information, is the state of the Lands which I am entitled to in my own right, & by purchase under the Royal Proclamation in 1763, (west of the mountains). My papers are so mixed, & in such disorder at this time, occasioned by frequent hasty removals of them out of the way of the Enemy, that I cannot, (it being likely too, that some of them are lost) by the assistance of my memory, come at a thorough knowledge of that business. In a Letter which I have come across, from Capt. William Crawford, who appears to have acted as your Deputy, dated the 8th of May 1774, I find these words—“Inclosed you have the Drafts of the round Bottom & your Shurtees Land, done agreeably to Mr Lewis’s direction.”1 For the latter, I have found a patent signed by Lord Dunmore the 5th day of July 1774, for 2813 acres. but the other is yet in my possession 2—& I am unable from any recollection I have of the matter to account for it, unless it should have been arrested there by some very ungenerous, & unjustifiable attempts of different people, at different times, to disturb me in my right to it—a right, I will venture to say, which is founded upon the first discovery of the Land—the first improvement of it; the first survey, & for ought I know the only report by authority that ever was made of it; which will be found in the words of the enclosed copy; the recital of which, if I mistake not, is in your own hand writing, & the whole with your signature.3

I have an imperfect recollection that in the year 1774 I sent a young man (of the name of Young, who at that time lived with me) to you on the business of these Lands; but not having as yet met with any letter from you, or report from him on the subject, I am unable with precision, to recollect the particular matters with which he was charged, or the result of his journey.4 This then is one of the points on which I want information, & it is one of the inducements to my giving you the trouble of this letter. Another is, to know if I have any warrants in your hands unexecuted—it appearing from two Bonds in my possession, one from a Capt. Roots for 3000 acres;5 the other from Lieut: (now, or lately the Revd Mr) Thruston for 2000 more;6 that I ought (if I have not been neglectful in taking them out) to have warrts somewhere for 5000 acres under the proclamation of 1763—of which no locations, that have come to my knowledge, have yet been made.

Another thing of which I wish to be informed is, whether there are any surveys or locations in your Office, for the Land immediately at the point of fork between the little Kanhawa (upper side) & the Ohio; & in that case, in whose names they are made. The reason for the latter enquiry is, that Capt. Crawford in a letter of the 12th of Novr 1773, (an extract from which I herewith enclose, as I also do a copy of the survey, which he actually made at that place) proposed to locate this spot for his own benefit & mine. And I am the more sollicitous in this enquiry, as it appears by a subsequent Letter of his to me, that there was some difficulty in the way of his obtaining a warrant from Lord Dunmore for the part he expected to get himself 7—If this difficulty continued to exist until his death, so as to prevent his location; & provided there are no better pretensions than mine; I should be glad to lay the two warrants before mentioned (to wit, Roots’s and Thruston’s) on this spot.8 I would be understood however, explicitly to mean, that it is not my wish, in the smallest degree to injure my much regretted friend Crawford, or any person claiming under him by this application; but if the road is open, to learn only from you, by what mode I am to obtain it; having the above rights for 5000 acres, which were in whole or part designed for this very spot, yet to locate.

It might seem proper, before I conclude to make an apology for the trouble the compliance with these several requests will give you, but persuading myself you will consider the situation I have been in for many years, as a reasonable excuse, I conceive it is altogether unnecessary My good Sir to offer one. I shall only request the favor therefore, of an answer, & your care of the inclosed letter to your nephew, (who I find has made one survey for me in Bottetourt) or to the Surveyor of that County.

On the Death of your Brother, Genl Lewis, I most sincerely condole with you, as I had, while he was living a sincere friendship and regard for him. I am Sir Your very humble Servt

G: Washington

P.S. An answer under cover to some acquaintance of yours in Fredericksg or Richmond, with a request to put the Letter into the Post office, will be certain of getting to hand—otherwise, unless an opportunity shou’d offer directly to Alexandria, the chances are against my ever receiving it.


Thomas Lewis (1718–1790), the older brother of Andrew Lewis, was the first surveyor of Augusta County, Va., serving from 1745 to 1777.

1On 17 Feb. 1774 GW wrote Thomas Lewis about two tracts of land that he had had William Crawford survey for him, one at Round Bottom on the Ohio River about fifteen miles from present Wheeling, W.Va., and the other on Millers Run at Chartiers (Shurtees) Creek. Both tracts were considered to be in Augusta County, Va., before the fixing of Pennsylvania’s boundary placed them in that state. GW asked in his letter that Lewis make Crawford his deputy “to survey in the District between the Monongahela & Ohio, from Fort Pitt downwards, as far as you might choose to extend it.” He also requested that Lewis certify for patenting the “Tract of 2,913 [2,813] acres” at Chartiers Creek. Lewis’s response of 31 Mar. 1774 enclosing a letter to William Crawford has not been found, but when Lewis’s letter arrived GW immediately wrote a letter (also missing) to William Crawford enclosing Lewis’s letter to Crawford and “pointing out the necessity of his [Crawford’s] attempting to qualify as your [Lewis’s] Deputy, at your [Lewis’s] Court for April” (GW to Thomas Lewis, 5 May 1774). See notes 2 and 3 below. See also William Crawford to GW, 8 May 1774, and Thomas Lewis to GW, 24 Feb.1784.

2The “Shurtees Land” was the tract of 2,813 acres on Chartiers Creek which GW secured on John Posey’s warrant for 3,000 acres. GW’s grant of the land from Lord Dunmore dated 5 July 1774 is printed in “Washington’s Grants in West Virginia,” description begins Edgar B. Sims. Making a State: Formation of West Virginia, Including Maps, Illustrations, Plats, Grants and the Acts of the Virginia Assembly and the Legislature of West Virginia Creating the Counties. Charleston, W.Va., 1956. description ends 135–36. See GW to Samuel Lewis, 1 Feb. 1784, source note. GW was to have a great deal of trouble with settlers on his tract. See, in particular, GW’s diary entries for 18–20 Sept. 1784, and the editors’notes (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:25–31). See also GW’s correspondence in 1785 and 1786 with the Pennsylvania lawyer Thomas Smith who represented GW in his prolonged efforts to evict the settlers from his Millers Run land, and especially the editorial note in Smith’s letter to GW, 9 Feb. 1785.

3In his letter of 5 May 1774, GW wrote Thomas Lewis: “In the fall of the year 1770, when I went to view the Lands which have been since surveyed under the Proclamation of 1754 I made choice of this spot of Land (called the Round bottom) marked Trees, & directed Captn Crawford, when he went down the Spring following to survey it, which he accordingly did, as may appear by his certificate inclosed you by Mr [George] Young. Sometime after this, hearing that Doctor [John] Brisco had taken possession of it, & actually had, or was going to fix Negroes on it, I wrote him a letter [3 Dec. 1772], of which No. 1. is a copy, upon which I was informed he had quit it. Sometime after this again, I learned that Mr Michael Cresap had taken possession of it, built houses, & was working hands thereon, upon which I also wrote him a letter [7 Feb. 1775], of which No. 2 is the copy . . . receiving at the same time a message, by Capt. [William] Crawford, from Mr Michael Cresap, that if I would let him have the Land he would pay me what I thought the worth of it, to which, I returned for answer; that as it was the only piece of Land I had upon the Ohio, between Fort Pitt, & the Kanhawas, & found it very necessary as a Stage or Lodgment, in coming up the river, I could not agree to part with it, but again offered to pay for any labour or improvement, which he had made.” GW had written Lewis earlier, on 17 Feb. 1774, about Crawford’s survey of the 575–acre Round Bottom tract: “I am at a loss what to do about it; the quantity is too small to locate 1000 acres upon, and yet, rather than lose it, I must do so. Permit me to ask then, if the matter can be so managed upon your Entry book, as to secure this tract against the attempts of any other, upon condition of my surrendering one thousand acres of my claim for it, in case of any other application; but yet for me to have the privilege, of redeeming it as it were, by purchasing up sundry small claims to the amount of the Tract, & locating of them upon that spot.” The Virginia council had decided on 16 Dec. 1773 that an officer claiming land under the Proclamation of 1763 (see GW to Samuel Lewis, 1 Feb. 1784, source note) “be allowed a distinct Survey for every thousand Acres” (Va. Exec. Jls., description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia. 6 vols. Richmond, 1925–66. description ends 6:553–54). On 22 April 1775 Fielding Lewis wrote GW that he had received for GW Thomas Lewis’s survey of the 587–acre (mistakenly given as 578) tract on the Ohio.

In his response, dated 24 Feb. 1784, to GW’s letter of 1 Feb., Thomas Lewis assured GW “that on Shertee & that at the round bottom on the Ohio, the Warrants with the assignments on which you right to both those are founded I have in Safe keeping, and they were all recited or Taken notice off in the Certificate of Location transmitted you by Colo. Crawford.” Before getting Lewis’s reply GW wrote a letter on 10 Feb. 1784 to the register of the Virginia land office, John Harvie, in which he described the location of the Round Bottom tract, complaining that Cresap had “arrested my survey of it for 587 acres.” On 14 April 1784 John Harvie sent to GW the Chartiers Creek and Round Bottom grants, both dated 12 April 1784. The Round Bottom grant was made on a survey of 587 acres dated 14 July 1773. GW laid claim to it under several warrants he had bought: 187 acres of the 3,000–acre warrant that he got from John Posey, dated 25 Nov. 1773; a 200–acre warrant issued to Goodrich Crump on 14 Dec. 1773; and 50–acre warrants issued to Jesse Scott on 7 May 1774, to Marshall Pratt on 14 April 1774, to Robert Scott on 7 May 1774, and to John Poe on 10 May 1774. GW secured his grant to the Round Bottom tract in October 1784 (see Vi: Va. Land Grants and Surveys, 1779–1800, Book M, pp. 487–89; Book 4, pp. 417–18). On 31 May 1785, however, GW entered a caveat to block the issuing of a grant for the Round Bottom lands to the heirs of Michael Cresap, in which he gave the history of his own claims and of his troubles with Cresap. For a discussion of the claims of the young Michael Cresap, who was killed in 1775, and of his heirs to the Round Bottom tract, see GW to John Marshall, 17 Mar. 1789, n.2.

4GW hired George Young in January 1774 for a year at an annual salary of £25 to make the improvements on his western landholdings required by law (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:226). Young moved to Mount Vernon from Bladensburg, Md., on 13 Jan. 1774, and shortly thereafter he went to the frontier to inspect GW’s bounty lands and to deliver GW’s warrants of survey to the surveyors in the western counties of Virginia (see Andrew Lewis to GW, 9 Mar. 1774).

5As a captain in Col. William Byrd’s 2d Virginia Regiment in 1758, John Rootes was entitled to a warrant of survey for 3,000 acres of bounty land under the Proclamation of 1763. On 14 Feb. 1774 John Page wrote GW that he had purchased from Rootes his warrant for 3,000 acres. It was undoubtedly this warrant to which GW was referring on 27 Mar. 1775 when he wrote William Preston, surveyor of Fincastle County, that he had a warrant for surveying 3,000 acres which had been mistakenly directed to Fincastle County rather than to Augusta County as it should have been. GW inquired about land in Fincastle County, and on 9 April 1775 Preston wrote him that John Floyd was sending GW a description of a 3,000–acre tract in Fincastle which Floyd had recently surveyed. It was not until 1790 that GW secured under the Rootes warrant a grant of three tracts of land on the Little Miami: a survey of 839 acres dated 28 Dec. 1787, another of 977 acres dated 26 May 1788, and a third of 1,235 acres dated 27 May 1788 (Vi: Va. Land Grants and Surveys,1799–1800, Book 23, pp. 89, 846–48).

6GW in 1773 bought a warrant of survey for 2,000 acres which Charles Mynn Thruston was entitled to under the Royal Proclamation of 1763 for his service in 1758 as lieutenant in the 2d Virginia Regiment. The tract on the Great Kanawha that GW claimed with the Thruston warrant was across the river from the 2,950–acre tract that he claimed at the same time on his own warrant (see GW to Samuel Lewis, 1 Feb., n.1). These two tracts on the Great Kanawha were surveys that William Crawford made in 1771 but were not a part of the bounty lands assigned in 1772 and 1773 under the Proclamation of 1754 (see GW to Samuel Lewis, 1 Feb. 1784, source note). GW did not receive grants for these two tracts until 12 April 1784. See John Harvie to GW,21 Feb., and 12 and 14 April 1784.

7Neither the extract of William Crawford’s letter nor the copy of his survey has been found. The tract of land at the forks of the Little Kanawha and Ohio rivers, the present site of Parkersburg, W.Va., contained more acreage than Crawford could claim under the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Crawford asked GW to “Joyn as much of your Officers Claim as will tak the hole survay . . . [and] you may Depend I will make any Equil Devesion you shall propose” (Crawford to GW, 12 Nov. 1773). This was not accomplished, however (see Crawford to GW, 10 Jan. 1774 and 6 Mar. 1775; see also John Harvie to GW, 21 Feb. 1784, particularly note 4).

8For the military warrants GW secured from John Rootes and Charles Mynn Thruston, see notes 5 and 6.

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