George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Israel Shreve, 22 June 1785

From Israel Shreve

Burlington State of New Jersey 22nd June 1785

Dear Sir

I have been told you hold large tracts of Land upon the Waters of the Ohio Either upon the great Kanhawa or Licking Creek or both, since the Peace I with several others have an Inclination to become Adventureers to the back Country some where in that Quarter—have long Wated to hear the Determination of Congress respecting the Sale of the Lands in the New States, but had no Idea of such a plan as they have Fixed, the Land no Less than a Dollar per Acre, and then take it by guess and how long before this plan is carried into Execution cannot be known, I am no Speculator hold no Cirtifecates but for my own Services which I have kept with a vew of Purchaceing Land. Whether it would not be your Advantage to sell about ten Thousand acres at a Moderate price to be paid for in final Settle Notes Includeing Interest due thereon, to be Immediately Setled with good farmers from New Jersey, which I will engage to do, If you should Incline to Oblige me with such a purchace Adjoining the Ohio River where the Land is good well Watered and one or more good Mill Scites thereon please to Send me a Draft of the Tract So that I can find it—I have the Maps of the Country and should chuse to see it and Call upon you on my return and Confirm the Bargain. I was Bred a farmer and am Determined If life and health Permits to go some where Back to settle and have thought If you could oblige me it would be an Advantage to you in Selling or Improveing your Adjoining Land, however this I Leave for you to Determine.1 I am Sir with Great respect your Excellencys Most Obedient Servent

Israel Shreve

P.S. My son that was in the Army with me is a good Surveyor and will go with me to settle in that Country.2 I. Shreve.

If you incline to Sell please to send me the price and Quantity you will part with. I.S.


Israel Shreve (1739–1799) was lieutenant colonel of the 2d New Jersey Regiment from November 1775 to November 1776 and was thereafter, until 1 Jan. 1781, its colonel. Shreve first attempted in 1787 to buy Washington’s Bottom on the Youghiogheny River in Fayette County, Pa., but he succeeded only in leasing the 600–acre portion of the tract with the mill on which Gilbert Simpson, Jr., had lived until September 1785 (Shreve to GW, 5, 12 Mar., 7 April 1787, 29 June 1794; see also GW to Simpson, 13 Feb. 1784, source note and nn.1 and 2, and GW to Thomas Freeman, 23 Sept. 1784). After Shreve approached GW on 29 June 1794 about buying the 600–acre tract at Washington’s Bottom where he was living, GW on 14 Jan. 1795 agreed to sell to Shreve all 1,644 acres of the Washington’s Bottom tract for £4,000 Pennsylvania currency. The sale was completed on 31 July 1795, and the extensive correspondence for the following three and one-half years between GW and Shreve and between GW and James Ross, GW’s Pennsylvania agent, relates to Shreve’s failure to make prompt and regular payments. In his last letter to Shreve, dated 10 Jan. 1799, GW reluctantly agreed once more to delay foreclosing on Shreve’s bond.

1See GW’s response of 15 July in which he declares his Ohio and Great Kanawha lands not for sale.

2Shreve’s son John served in the 2d New Jersey Regiment from 25 July 1776 to May 1780, reaching the rank of lieutenant.

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