George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Nicholas DuBey, 27 September 1788

To Nicholas DuBey

Mount Vernon September 27th 88


The letter which you were pleased to write to me from Philadelphia the 11th of this instt came duly to hand.1 I wish it was in my power to answer your queries satisfactorily but the little connection I have of late had with the affairs of the western Country does not enable me to give in detail an account of the settlements in the vicinity of your Lands (between the Great & little Kanhawa)—or to point out the best mode by whch you could seat2 and improve them.

In general I have understood that a capitol establishment of very respectable people is now making with great rapidity under uncommonly favourable auspices at the mouth of the Muskingham (west of the Ohio) about 10 Miles above the little Kanhawa—and that at the Mouth of the great Kanhawa a town is laid off and Settlements forming, but to what extent, or under what circumstances it is not in my power to inform you3—The lands between the two Kanhawas (East side) on the River Ohio are (though exceedingly fine) almost entirely unimproved being the property of Officers who do not incline to live on them themselves and who have taken no pains to obtain others to do it, This hitherto, has been the case with my own. My wish, if my price could be obtained is to sell and knowing that to encumber the Land with Leases might be a bar to it, and without giving them I could not expect reputaable characters would improve them are the causes of their laying dormant so long. I have lately however empowered a Gentleman who lives at the mouth of the Great Kanhawa (Colo. Thomas Lewis) to Lease them to such as may apply, being informed that many were desirous of settling on them with this security4—With respect to the mode which would be best for you, and your associates to adopt to effect the settlement of your Land, which you say adjoins mine—I know not—the hazard and the cost of importing Emigrants—and the terms on which they are to be engaged—depend upon calculation, and other circumstances with which I am not acquainted, and which falls more within the reach of your own investigation than mine and however easy and expedient it may be for Foreigners to accomplish this with their country men by their attentions, personal influence &c.—it might prove a precarious and expensive mode for me to pursue—and is such an one as I have had no inclination to adopt. The only advice I would presume to give you on this occasion, is, if settlers are brought from Switzerland or any foreign Country to make your contracts with them certain before the expence of Transportation is incurred—If the question respecting “The kind of Lands” is confined to your own purchase, I can make no answer because I never saw them—The interval lands on the River, is equal to any in the world.

I do not conceive that any danger is to be apprehended from the Savages by Settlers on these Lands—1st because they are on the East side of the Ohio to which they have no pretensions—2d because very formidable settlements will soon be made on the west side of it above, below, and opposite to them which will form a barrier—and 3dly because a general treaty with the several tribes of Indians in that country is now about to be holden, by which it is to be presumed matters will be so fixed as to prevent hostilities in future.5 I am Sir Yr Most Obedt Hble Servant.

Go: Washington


1DuBey’s letter of 11 Sept. was forwarded to GW by Clement Biddle of Philadelphia, who described DuBey as “a Swiss gentleman of respect” (Biddle to GW, 17 Sept. 1788). DuBey informed GW that in 1786 he had purchased from Albert Gallatin of Pennsylvania and Jean Savary de Valcoulon of Richmond a tract of land located between the Great Kanawha and the Little Kanawha rivers some two miles from the Ohio River. DuBey and several Swiss partners contemplated bringing a number of families from Switzerland to settle the land. For DuBey’s negotiations with Gallatin and Savary de Valcoulon, see their agreement, 24 Nov. 1786, with the attested copy of the deed to DuBey for the Ohio lands in Prince and Fineman, “Gallatin Papers,” description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene H. Fineman, eds. “The Papers of Albert Gallatin.” Philadelphia, 1969. Microfilm. description ends reel 1. Since DuBey’s land adjoined GW’s holdings on the Ohio, he requested GW’s opinion on the quality of the land and the feasibility of his plans.

2In MS this word reads “seal.”

3The town at the mouth of the Muskingum was Marietta, founded in 1788 on the west side of the Ohio by Manasseh Cutler and Rufus Putnam under the auspices of the Ohio Company. Point Pleasant, at the mouth of the Great Kanawha on the Virginia side of the river, was founded in the early 1770s around the nucleus of Fort Blair.

4Thomas Lewis (1754–1824) was the second son of GW’s old comrade-in-arms Andrew Lewis. In addition to lands on the Ohio and Great Kanawha acquired by GW under the terms of Robert Dinwiddie’s proclamation of February 1754 (see GW to Samuel Milford, 29 Sept. 1788), he had by this time also acquired through purchase and grant additional thousands of acres made available as a result of George III’s proclamation of 7 Oct. 1763 which granted land to veterans of the French and Indian War (7 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 663–69). He also purchased a number of Revolutionary War grants in the area. By his own computation GW had acquired by January 1788 32,373 acres on the Ohio and Great Kanawha rivers (GW to David Stuart, 15 Jan. 1788). Late in 1787 he proposed to lease the land in small parcels for a period of years, offering liberal inducements to settlers. Learning that Lewis had settled at the mouth of the Great Kanawha, GW wrote to him, 25 Dec. 1787, requesting that he act as agent for the lease or sale of the lands. Lewis replied on 27 Aug. 1788, refusing the agency since, as he said, he had been unable to induce settlers to occupy his own lands in the area. GW did not receive Lewis’s reply until the late fall of 1788 (GW to Lewis, 1 Dec. 1788), and because he continued to write to Lewis concerning his lands from time to time during the 1790s, it appears that in spite of his refusal Lewis retained some agency in the matter.

5GW’s estimate of the safety of prospective settlers on his western lands was perhaps too optimistic: in his letter to GW of 27 Aug. Lewis noted that he had repeatedly offered his own land in the same area, of equal quality with GW’s, “for ten Years, Rent free, In Order to form A Settlement and have not been able thereby to procure One Settler, which I presume has proceeded from no other cause, than from the Repeated depredation of the Savage enemy, totally preventing any persons from emigrating to So dangerous a place.”

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