George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Ariss, 5 August 1784

From John Ariss

Berkeley County [Va.] 5th Augst 1784


Permit me to Address your Excellency for a place to live at during Mrs Ariss and my Own Life. I am under the Necessity of Giving Up the place I now live at at the End of this Year, and have not as yet provided my Self with a place, nor do I know of any to be had in these parts, my Infirm Crazy Indisposition puts it Out of my Power to go any Great distance[.] Your Excellency may possibly Assist me with a place to live at. Mr Henry Whiting who is a Tenant on your Land on Bullskin Intends to make an offer of his Lease to your Excellency this Fall.1 This place would Suit me provided it is to be Let out again. Indeed One half would be Sufficient but Rather than be Obliged to move to any Great Distance I would take the Whole I shall always make it a point to pay my Rent when it becomes due.2 if This place is not to be had perhaps you may have Some other to let that may Suit me.3 I am Sir Your Excellencys Most Obliged and Most Humble Servt

Jno. Ariss


John Ariss (d. 1799), originally of Westmoreland County, Va., moved in 1769 to the part of Frederick County that was soon to become Berkeley County. Ariss was perhaps the leading housebuilder in Virginia in the quarter of a century before the Revolution. Although literary evidence is almost entirely lacking, architectural historians have identified Ariss with such houses as John Carlyle’s in Alexandria, Fielding Lewis’s Kenmore in Fredericksburg, Samuel Washington’s Harewood in Berkeley County, John Tayloe’s Mount Airy in Richmond County, and Mann Page’s Mannsfield in Spotsylvania County. It has also been said that he had some hand in the redesigning of Mount Vernon in the 1770s. See Waterman, Mansions of Virginia, description begins Thomas Tileston Waterman. The Mansions of Virginia, 1706–1776. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1946. description ends 243 et seq.

1Henry Whiting (1748–1786), the son of Francis Whiting and briefly, until her death in 1778, the husband of John Carlyle’s daughter Anne, lived on the tract of GW’s Bullskin lands in Berkeley County that GW first leased to the father, Francis Whiting, in 1773 at £50 per annum. For Henry Whiting’s decision to give up his lease and his final settlement with GW in the fall of 1784, see Warner Washington to GW, 7 Aug. 1784, n.1. See also GW to Battaile Muse, 3 Nov. 1784, n.3.

2On 20 April 1786 Ariss leased from GW the tract on Bullskin that had been leased to the Whitings and agreed to pay £60 a year for the rent of 700 acres. The deed is in ViMtvL. See also entry dated 17 Jan. 1786 in Battaile Muse’s Account Book, NcD: Battaile Muse Papers.

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