George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Battaile Muse, 28 July 1785

To Battaile Muse

Mount Vernon 28th July 1785.


A few days ago by a Mr Hickman, who either is, or wants to be a tenant of mine in Frederick County—I sent you a dozen blank Leases. The tract on which he says he is fixed, is part of two Lots which I purchased at the sale of Colo. George Mercer’s Estate, in the year 1774; a plat of which I send you, that the whole may be arranged into four tenements—as conveniently disposed as water &c. will admit.1

In September last, whilst I was at my brothers in Berkeley, many persons applied for this Land; but from causes which then existed I came to no positive agreement with any; refering them to Mr Snickers, who was so kind as to promise that he would fix matters for me (as I was in a hurry & could not go upon the Land myself) on the terms which, if I recollect right, I gave him in a letter. Some time after, two men of the name of Winzer & Beaven, with the letter enclosed from Mr Snickers, came here, & were told that I would comply with whatever agreement was made with them by him. Among other things they said Mr Snickers had promised them Leases for fourteen years; this I observed could not, in my opinion, be the case, because I had expressly named ten years (the term for which Mr Burwell let his Lands adjoining)—but notwithstanding if the case was so, & Mr Snickers would declare it, the Leases should be filled up accordingly: this I repeat—& as far as the matter respects Winzer, for it seems Beaven has changed his mind, the other conditions endorsed on the back of Mr Snickers’s letter to me, are to be granted him; he paying all the taxes wch may be laid on the Land he holds. However, as filling up one Lease may be a guide with respect to the others, I enclose one in the name of Winzer, with the blanks as completely filled as I can do it under my uncertainty with respect to the term of years for which he is to have it, and which is to be determined by Mr Snickers; & for want of the quantity of acres in, & a description of the Lot which he is to have.

There are already three Tenants on this tract, to whom you may fill up Leases on the same terms which I have done for Winzer; & whenever they will bring evidences to prove them, I will sign them. As Beaven has declined taking the Lot which he agreed for first with Mr Snickers & afterwards with me, you may let it to any good tenant who offers, upon the terms on which the others are held. The three now engaged will have rents to pay thereon the first of next January.2 It will be necessary to take an Assignment of Mr Whitings Lease, before one can be made to Mr Airess; or some instrument of writing by which it will be cancelled, in order to render the new one valid; and I hope payment of the money due on the replevy Bonds of the former, will not be delayed longer than the time mentioned in your last letter—viz.—September.3

Having got a Gentleman to assist me in my business, I hope shortly to have my Accots so arranged as to be able to send you a rental of what is due to me in Loudoun, Fauquier & Berkeley Counties.4 I have a Lot in the town & common of Winchester, of which, when you have occasion to go thither, I beg you to enquire into the state & condition, & give me information of what can be made of them: the one in the Town, I believe a Doctr McKay has something to do with.5

I would be obliged to you for enquiring of Mr Wormley’s manager, if he has any good red clover seed for sale—what quantity & the price thereof—& let me know the result by the first conveyance to Alexandria.6 I am &c.

G: Washington

LB, DLC:GW. The ALS was listed for sale by Parke-Bernet in its catalog, in part one of the John Gribbel collection, item 775, 30–31 Oct. and 1 Nov. 1940.

1For GW’s involvement in the sale of George Mercer’s Frederick County land in 1774, see GW to John Tayloe, 30 Nov. 1774, n.2, and GW to Francis Lightfoot Lee and Ralph Wormeley, Jr., 20 June 1784, particularly the source note and the references therein. See also note 1 in Edward Snickers to GW, 17 May 1784. At the end of the Mercer sale in November 1774, GW bought two of the lots in the 6,500–acre Mercer tract lying along the Shenandoah River in Frederick County. The two lots, which GW wished to rent out in four parcels, totaled about 560 acres. GW indicates in this letter that there were already three tenants living on this tract in Frederick County. He names two of them, Joseph Windsor (Winsor, Winzor) and a Mr. Beaven, both of whom held leases from Edward Snickers (see note 2). The third may have been Joseph Hickman. In any case, GW confirmed Snickers’s lease with Windsor for 172 acres at an annual rent of £17.4 for fourteen years from 1 Jan. 1785, and in December 1785 he signed agreements with William Kercheval (Kerchevell), whose lease for 172 acres at £17.6 per annum ran for thirteen years from 1 Jan. 1786, and with Joseph Hickman and John Williams, both of whose leases ran for fourteen years from 1 Jan. 1785. Hickman rented 116 acres for an annual rent of £11.12, and Williams rented 100 acres for £10. On behalf of GW, Muse sued all four tenants—Kercheval, Windsor, Hickman, and Williams—for back rent (J. Milton’s receipt, 28 Feb. 1790, NcD: Battaile Muse Papers). For the record of Muse’s dealings with the four tenants from 1786 to 1790, see Muse’s Rental Rolls for GW, 1788–90 (ViMtvL) and Muse’s accounts as rental agent, 1 July, 3 Mar. 1786, 8 May, 28 Nov. 1788, 5 Mar., 17 April, 29 May, 30 June, 23 July 1789, 20 June 1790 (Battaile Muse’s Accounts as Rental Agent, 1785–90, NjMoHP: Smith Collection).

2On 4 Sept. 1784 GW accepted the offer made by Edward Snickers to secure tenants for his 570 acres of the tract. Snickers lived near the Mercer tract on the Shenandoah and after the sale in 1774 had bought a number of lots in the tract (see Snickers to GW, 17 May 1784, and notes). A week later, on 12 Sept. 1784, Muse wrote GW offering to collect rents for him in Berkeley, Frederick, and Fauquier counties, and on 3 Nov. 1784 GW accepted Muse’s offer, with a promise to supply Muse with a “Rental of the Sums . . . which are due.” Up until this time, GW seems only to have entrusted Muse with handling the collection of the rent due from Henry Whiting (see note 3 in GW to Muse, 3 Nov. 1784), and it was not until 18 Sept. 1785 that GW was able to supply Muse with a tentative list of tenants and of rents due. By November Muse was actively collecting rents for GW in Berkeley, Frederick, Fauquier, and Loudoun, the counties above Fairfax where GW owned land (Muse’s Accounts as Rental Agent, 1785–1790, NjMoHP: Smith Collection and Muse’s Rental Rolls for GW, 1788–90, ViMtvL).

3For the rental by John Ariss of the 600–acre tract of GW’s Bullskin land in Berkeley County originally leased to Francis Whiting and occupied since his death by his son Henry Whiting, see Ariss to GW, 5 Aug. 1784, nn.1 and 2.

5Muse wrote to GW in some detail on 6 and 14 Sept. about Dr. Robert Mackey’s rental of GW’s two lots, one in and one near Winchester.

6For Muse’s response with regard to Ralph Wormeley, Jr.’s clover seed, see Muse to GW, 16 August. See also GW to Muse, 22 Aug., and Muse to GW, 6 September. The two had further correspondence about the clover seed in early 1786 (GW to Muse, 5 Jan., 4 Feb. 1786, Muse to GW, 17 Jan. 1786).

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