George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Presley Nevill, 16 June 1794

To Presley Nevill

Philadelphia June 16. 1794


I should have written to you at an earlier period but for the extreme hurry into which I was thrown at the close of the Session of Congress (wch did not terminate before monday last)—and from my not having adverted, in time, to the Pittsburgh Post day of last week. This letter (as I shall set out for Virginia tomorrow) is left to go by next Saturdays mail.1

Enclosed is a blank power authorising Mr Charles Morgan, or any other with whose name you shall fill it to collect the rents arising from my land in Fayette & Washington Counties in this State; together with such arrearages as may be due for the preceding years if any there be. Another blank is also left which I pray you to fill up with the pr centage to be allowed as a compensation for the trouble & expence of collection.2 The inducements to this are <1s>t because I do not recollect what Colo. Ca<nnon> has been allowed for his services—and 2dly because there is no invariable allowance established. Places & circumstances varying it.

A Letter for Colo. Cannon is also enclosed requesting him to give the necessary information to his Successor, and to desire that he would discontinue all further agency in my business.3 This letter is left open for your insertion of the name of his successor. The emolument, arising from this collection, is too trifling to become an object worthy of your acceptance, or I should never have enquired for another before I had offered it to you.

From the experience of many years I have found distant property in land, more pregnant of perplexit<ies> than profit; I have therefore resolved to sell all I hold on the western wate<rs,> if I can obtain the prices which I conceive their quality—their situation—& other advantages would authorise me <to> expect. Conversing with Mr Ross [(]one of your Senators) on this subject a day or two before he left the City—he gave it to me, as his opinion that the present Juncture was favorable for the sale of my land in this State, and was so obliging as to offer his services to effect it. He thought the quality of my land in Fayette County, together with the improvements, & show of Iron Ore within less than 30 yards of the Mill door ought, on credit, to command six dollars. The other I have always held at four dollars. The first tract contains 1644 acres besides the usual allowance of Six pr Ct<—the> latter 2813 acs. by the patent, but measures more than 3000 acs. by a sub<sequ>ent Survey.4

If, Sir, as you live in Pittsburgh (the probable mart of enquiry after land in that country) you should find it convenient, and not militating with any plans of your own to make mention of mine & to aid Mr Ross in the sale of these tracts it would oblige me.

If a fourth of the purchase money is paid at the time of conveyance, <a> credit of four, five or six years mig<ht> be allowed for the remainder; provided it is fully secured; and the interest thereon regularly paid at one of the Banks in this State, Baltimore, George-Town, or Alexandria. To receive this without trouble, & with punctuality as it becomes due, will be insisted upon.

My Land on the Ohio & Great Kanhawa Rivers, amounting to 32,373 a. was once sold for Sixty five thousand French crowns, to a French Gentleman, who was very competent to the payment, at the time the contract was made; but getting a little embarrassed in his finances by the Revolution in his Country, by mutual agreement the bargain was cancelled.5 Lately, I have been in treaty for the same land, at three dollars and a third pr acre, for the whole quan<tity;> but it being connected with other m<atters> is not likely to result in a bargain as I once expected and therefore I am at liberty to seek another market.6

To give a further description of these lands than to say they are the cream of the Country in which they are: that they were the first choice of it; and that the whole is on the margin of the Rivers and bounded thereby for 58 miles would be unnecessary to you who must have a pretty accurate idea of them & their value. But it may not be amiss to add for the information of others that the quantity before mentioned is contained in seven Surveys—to wit—three on the Ohio East <s>ide between the mouths of the little and <grea>t Kanhawa. The first, is the first <large> bottom below the mouth of the little Ka<nha>wa containing 2314 acs. & is bounded by the river 5¼ miles. The 2d is the <4th> large bottom on the same side of the River, about 16 miles lower down, containing 2448 acs. bounded by the river 3<¼> miles. The 3d is the next large bottom, 3½ miles below, & opposite, nearly, to the great bend containing 4395 acs. with a margin on the river of 5 miles. The other four tracts are on the Great Kanhawa. the first of them contains 10,990 acrs. on the west side & begins within two or three miles of the mouth of it & bounded thereby for more than 17 miles. The 2d is on the East side of the River a little higher up containing 7276 acs. & bounded by the River 13 miles—The other two are at the mouth of Cole River on both sides and in the fork thereof containing together 4950 acs.—and like the others are all interval land, having a front upon the water of twelve miles.

Besides these, I have the round bottom, opposite to Pipe Creek, about 15 miles below Wheeling, which contains 587 Acs. with 2½ miles front on the river, & of quality inferior to none thereon. and 234½ acs. at the Great Meadows on Braddocks Road with the allowances.7

For the whole of these tracts taken together, I would allow seven years credit, without requiring a fourth of the purchase money to be paid down provided the principal is amply secured and the interest also, in the manner before mentioned, for to have no disappointment or trouble in the receipt of this must be a Sine qua non. If the tracts are sold separately, I should expect a fourth of the purchase to be paid down and more than 3¼ dollars pr acre for the round bottom & the t<ra>ct of 10990 Acs. on the Great Kanh<awa, knowing> from my own view the extraordinary value of these tracts. With very great esteem I am Dear Sir Your Obedt Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LS (duplicate), NN: Myers Collection; LB, DLC:GW. Where the letterpress is unreadable, the characters in angle brackets have been supplied from the LS (duplicate). Presley Nevill (Neville; 1756-1818), a son of Gen. John Nevill and son-in-law of Gen. Daniel Morgan, was himself a Revolutionary War officer who rose to the rank of brevet lieutenant colonel. He lived on Chartiers Creek southwest of Pittsburgh and was at this time brigade inspector for the Allegheny County militia.

1The previous Monday was 9 June; the next Saturday was 21 June.

2This form, dated 16 June, reads: "I do by these presents constitute and appoint [ ] of the County of [ ] to be Collector of my Rents in the Counties of Fayette and Washington, in the State of Pennsylvania; and that he may be enabled to act effectually, I authorise him to employ all the means that are lawful, & consonant with usage & custom, in such cases.

"For his trouble & expences in so doing I agree to allow him [ ] on all the rents he shall collect on my behalf, after the same (if received in specific articles) shall have been converted into cash.

"And I do hereby further give the said [ ] full power and authority to call upon Colo. John Cannon (my present collector) for a statement of the arrearages up to the present date, and do request that he will collect the same in like manner as those which will become due. And for all sums collected by him, he is to account with me, or such person as I shall appoint, before the first day of May in every year" (ALS [letterpress copy], ViMtvL; LB, DLC:GW).

Nevill evidently appointed Charles Morgan, as suggested, to collect the rents (see Morgan to GW, 26 Nov.). Morgan (c.1743-1808) was an early settler in what became Findlay township in Allegheny County. He served as a private in the 13th (later redesignated 9th and 7th) Virginia Regiment during the Revolutionary War and probably was the Charles Morgan who had accompanied GW on a portion of his trip to the Ohio country in 1770 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 2:294).

3GW’s letter to John Canon of this date reads: "The continual disappointment I meet with in the receipt of my Rents under your Collection in the Counties of Fayette & Washington, lays me under the painful necessity of placing this business in other hands.

"Accordingly it is entrusted to [ ]; to whom I request you will give a List of the tenants on both tracts; the amount of their respective rents; <and> what is due from each Farm; in so <doing> you will oblige Sir Your very Hble Servant" (ALS [letterpress copy], ViMtvL; LB, DLC:GW).

4GW was referring to his Washington’s Bottom tract on the west bank of the Youghiogheny River at present Perryopolis, Pa., and to his tract on Millers Run, a branch of Chartiers Creek. The latter was first surveyed in March 1771 and the patent was issued in July 1774, but the original survey was lost during the Revolutionary War (see John Harvie to GW, 13 May 1785, Papers, Confederation Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends , 2:555-56). When GW sold the land to Matthew Ritchie in June 1796, he deeded 2,813 acres, as per the patent (Washington County Court Deed Book 1, V, p. 324). For more on GW’s dealings with this tract, see the editorial note in Thomas Smith to GW, 9 Feb. 1785 (Papers, Confederation Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends , 2:338-56).

5On GW’s contract for the sale of his lands on the Kanawha and Ohio rivers to Jean Joseph de Barth, see GW to George Clendinen, 21 March 1791, n.2. For the cancellation of that contract, see Tobias Lear to GW, 1 April 1793, and n.4 to that document, and GW to de Barth, 30 April 1793.

6GW probably was referring to the offer made in his letter to Robert Morris of 26 May, which Morris declined on 9 June.

7Pipe Creek enters the Ohio River from the west (Ohio) side, near Moundsville, W.Va. A plat of GW’s "Round Bottom" tract, drawn by William Crawford and dated 20 June 1771, is in DLC:GW.

Great Meadows in Pennsylvania, the site of GW’s Fort Necessity in 1754, was about forty-five miles north and west of Fort Cumberland. For descriptions of GW’s Great Meadows tract on Braddock’s Road between Fort Cumberland and Pittsburgh, see GW’s advertisement of 15 July 1784; GW to Thomas Freeman, 23 Sept. 1784; and the schedule of property with GW’s will (Papers, Confederation Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends , 1:486, 2:78; Papers, Retirement Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series. 4 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1998–99. description ends , 4:515-16).

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