George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Tubeuf, 10 September 1791

From Tubeuf

Richmond [Va.] 10th September 1791.


One of the advantages which I expected from a letter which M. the Marqs de la Fayette has remitted to me, in which he has recommended me to you, was to present it with my own hands, and to lay before you the plan of an enterprize which I am just about to undertake on the bordes of Clinch. A passage of 85 days from Havre de Grace to this place, longer by half than what I had calculated upon, does not leave me a moment to dispose of, and presses me to hasten to my distination, which is distant from hence more than 300 miles, in order that I may arrive there in season, to prepare a shelter against the severity of winter for 35 persons, whom I have engaged to proceed with me to form the establishment. With this view, I have purchased, upon the borders of Clinch, in the County of Russell 55,000 Acres of land, at the rate of nine livres Tournois per Acre, of which I am at this moment going to settle 5000 Acres, by eight families of my relations & friends, consisting of 13 masters & 22 domesticks & workmen. If my first establishment succeeds, in proportion to the facility & encouragement which the government of Virginia gives us, the honor which we shall gain will induce many other french Emigrants, more considerable than those here, to follow, who propose to join us in the ensuing spring, and I am just now going to dispose them to it. Deign, I beseech you, Sir, to favor my enterprize, guide me with your lights, and aid me with your Councils, by which I may render it useful & agreeable to the State. We carry with us all the means necessary to form our settlement.

I beg permission, Sir, to come myself to render you an account of it, and to put into your hands the letter of M. the Marqs de la Fayette, as soon as it is possible for me to leave, for a few days, my little Colony without inquietude & without inconvenience.1 I am, with the most profound Respect Sir, Your very humble & Obed. Serv.

de Tubeuf.

At Colo. Tatham’s-near the Capitol in Richmond.

Translation, DLC:GW; ALS, in French, DLC:GW. The text is taken from a translation in the hand of Tobias Lear; the receiver’s copy, in French, appears in CD-ROM:GW.

Pierre-François, le sieur de Tubeuf (Tuboeuf, Thubeuf; d. 1795), purchased in 1790 from Richard Smith, a British speculator, a large tract of land on the Clinch River in southwestern Virginia with the intention of establishing a French setdement. The following year he made indentures with tradesmen and farmers and their families, who agreed to live on the land for four years to pay off their passage, and Tubeuf left his wife in Normandy and sailed from Le Havre on La Petite Nanette, Captain Pitalugo, on 30 May 1791 with his eldest son, Alexander (born c.1774), a niece, and four servants. They arrived in Richmond about 22 Aug., and Tubeuf apparently spent some time there lobbying the state for assistance before he departed for the frontier with his people. On 20 Dec. the legislature ordered a road to be constructed from the courthouse of Russell County to the French settlement, later called Sainte Marie, and granted the French settlers a loan of £600 (13 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 317). Tubeuf, Louisa Duchesne, Charles de Speda, Cesare Lefebre, Eusebe Delaplanche, and Simon Perchet signed a bond in Russell County on 31 Jan. 1792 promising repayment of the loan by 1 Jan. 1799 (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 5:432–33, 435, 452, 453–54). The only other child of Tubeuf, Peter Francis (born c.1779), joined the settlement in early 1793 and acted as interpreter for his father, but both sons left Russell County for Petersburg and Norfolk, Va., after the murder of their father and returned to France after 1803. The bond of Tubeuf was forfeited, his settlement abandoned, and the “French Lands,” later discovered to contain rich coal deposits, were subjected to numerous lawsuits (ibid., 8:364–65; Elihu Jasper Sutherland, Some Sandy Basin Characters [Clintwood, Va., 1962], 186–224).

1No letter of Lafayette’s recommending Tubeuf to GW has been found. Tubeuf also wrote to Thomas Jefferson this day and mentioned another letter of introduction from Lafayette (Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 22:141–42). The one for GW had not been forwarded in mid–1793, when Tubeuf indicated he would deliver it by his son Alexander, who was personally to solicit a military commission from GW that September (Tubeuf to GW, 26 June 1793).

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