George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Lewis & Sons, 1 February 1785

To Robert Lewis & Sons

Mount Vernon 1st Feby 1785


You may think me very troublesome—and the reason I assign for being so (that I am of opinion you can serve me better than any other) no good apology for the liberty I take.

My Miller (William Roberts) is now become such an intolerable sot, and when drunk so great a madman, that however unwilling I am to part with an old Servant (for he has been with me 15 years) I cannot with propriety or common justice to myself bear with him any longer.

I pray you once more, therefore, to engage & forward for me, a Miller as soon as you may have it in your power; and whatever engagement you shall enter into on my behalf I will religeously fulfil. I do not stipulate for the Wages altho my Mill (being on an indifferent stream & not constant at work) can illy afford high wages.1

My wish is to procure a person who understands the manufacturing business perfectly—and who is sober and honest, that I may even at the expence of paying for it, have as little trouble as possible with him. If he understood the business of a Millwright and was obliged by his articles to keep the Mill works in repair, so much the better—Whatever agreement you may enter into on my behalf, I pray you to have it reduced to writing, & specifically declared, that there may be no misconception or disputes thereafter.

The House in which such Miller will live, is a very comfortable one, and within 30 yards of the Mill (which works two pair of Stones, one pair of them french Burrs)—it has a small Kitchen convenient thereto and a good garden properly paled in—There is a Coopers shop within 50 yards of the Mill, with three Negro Coopers which will also be under the direction of the Miller. whose allowance of Meat, Flour, & priviledges of every kind, I would have ascertained, to prevent after claims. I do not object to the Mans having a family (a wife I could wish him to have) but if it was a small one, it would be preferable.2

At any rate be so good as to let me hear from you, that I may know on what to depend, as it is no longer safe for me to entrust my business to the care of Willm Roberts. It only remains now for me to ask your forgiveness for this trouble, & to assure you of the esteem with which I am Gentn Yr friend & very Hble Se⟨rvt⟩

Go: Washington

ALS (photocopy), ViMtvL; LB, DLC:GW.

1For a summary of William Roberts’s tenure as GW’s miller and for references to GW’s correspondence with Lewis in 1783 regarding Roberts, see Roberts to GW, 25 Nov. 1784, n.1. GW first wrote Lewis about replacing Roberts on 6 Sept. 1783.

2The reply from Robert Lewis & Sons of 6 Mar. 1785 has not been found, but on 5 April the company wrote GW recommending that he hire Joseph Davenport, which he did. See GW to Robert Lewis & Sons, 12 April 1785. In its letter of 6 Mar., Lewis & Sons probably enclosed a copy of the following advertisement, dated 10 Mar., which appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette(Philadelphia) on 30 Mar.: “Employment for an honest, sober, industrious man, who understands manufacturing wheat in the best manner, and is capable in every respect of the management of a mill, consisting of two pair of stones, one of which are French burrs, situate near Potowmack River, in Virginia, a fine healthy country—also, to superintend the business of a cooper’s shop, wherein three hands are employed, near the mill.

“If his knowledge extends to the mill-wright business, so as to keep the running geers in repair, it would add to the convenience; and his having a small family would be preferable to none. He will be furnished with a comfortable dwelling-house contiguous to the mill, a good garden properly pailed in, and perhaps some other conveniences, as may be stipulated and agreed on. He must produce unquestionable recommendations of his honesty, sobriety, and industry, to his Excellency General Washington, Mount Vernon, in Virginia, or to the subscribers in Philadelphia, who will contract with such person on generous terms.”

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