George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Turberville, 22 March 1797

From John Turberville

Hiccary Hill 22nd March 1797


Sometime between the years 1740 & 1758, a Richard Magraw, of Fairfax County, Sold a Tract of Land, Containing 296 Acres, to Major Lawrance Washington of Mount Vernon, Which land, the Said Magraw, took up as waste land, in the year 1740 as by the proprietors Deed Specifies. The Land was adjoining to the Land taken up by Colo. Wm Fairfax, of Belvoir in the name of Anne Fairfax his Daughter Who intermarried with Major Lawrance Washington. at his death, by his Will his Executors were directed to Sell that 296 Acres, to be applied to the payment of his Debts. Colo. George Lee Who intermarried with Mrs Ann Washington Widow to Major Washington Purchased the Said land from the Executors; You Sir (as the Only one living). At the death of Colo. George Lee, his Eldest Son George Fairfax Lee inherit’d the Land, and I purchased it of him. We have been in Peaceable and Quiet possession of the land untill the year 1794 when I then Sold the Land to a Peirce Bailey of Loudoun, but upon Examination There’s no Deed from Magraw to Maj. Washington in any Records in this State. Tho’ the Original propriators Deed was amongst Majr Washingtons papers, (as I Suppose) for it was amongst Colo. George Lees; When I bought the Land, but no Deed from Magraw; and by some means the Executors Deed to Colo. George Lee had never been proven, all the Witnesses to that Deed are Dead except, Mrs Hannah Washington of Bushfield[,] Mr Bryan Fairfax and Mrs Mary Lee Widow of Mr Thomas Ludwell Lee[.] The Deed is now at Dumfries District Office proven by Mrs Washington and Mr Bryan Fairfax, and Mrs Lee has attended but would not Swear that her name on the Deed was her hand Writing and so it Stands for farther prooff. Mr Peirce Bailey not finding any Deed from Magaw to Washington nor the Executors Deed fully proven to George Lee He sued my Bond, and has got a Judgment vs me for double the Sum I Sold him the land for. My Lawyers tell me that as the Deed has not been Recorded from Magraw to Majr Washington if any person Can Prove that there ever was Such a Deed Which there Surely was, That, That proof Will be Sufficient to give a good Title, As I am inform’d you lived with Majr Washington about the time the Purchase was made expect you Can recollect Something about it, if So I Shou’d be Particularly Obliged by your leting me hear from You before the (may) District Court As I have appeal’d from Fairfax Court to the District Court and [it] will Come on in May.1

I hope you will excuse my Freedom in troubleing you with this Letter.2 nothing but the Probability of my loosing £600 Would have urged me to give you any trouble on my Account and am yr Most Obt Humle Sert

John Turberville


John Turberville (1737–1799) lived at Hickory Hill in the Nomini neighborhood of Westmoreland County. The Turberville family was closely connected with the Lees in every generation, and John Turberville was named one of the executors of George Lee’s will and a guardian of his children.

1The tract of land in question was granted to Richard McGraw of Hanover Parish in King George County by the Northern Neck proprietor, Lord Fairfax, on 10 June 1741. The land was in Prince William County at that time and adjoined a large 1,400–acre tract on branches of Bull Run which was granted to Ann Fairfax six days later (Northern Neck Grants, Book E, 263, 277). McGraw sold the land in question on 18–19 Mar. 1744 not to Lawrence Washington but to John Walters of Lancaster County, who in turn twenty-one months later, on 9–10 Dec., sold it to Lawrence Washington (Fairfax County Deed Book A–1 [1742–46], deeds of lease and release from McGraw to Walters, 18 and 19 Mar. 1744, pp. 325–28, and deeds of lease and release from Walters to Washington, 9 and 10 Dec. 1745, pp. 533–37)- The tract was by this time located in newly formed Fairfax County and was described in the December sale as being on Walnut Cabin Branch of Bull Run. By the time Turberville purchased the land, it was located in Loudoun County.

William Fairfax (1691–1757) was Lord Fairfax’s cousin and his agent in Virginia. He lived at Belvoir on the Potomac, only a short distance downriver from Mount Vernon. His daughter Ann Fairfax (d. 1761) was married first to GW’s elder half brother Lawrence (c.1718–1752) and, after Lawrence’s death, to George Lee (1714–1761) of Mount Pleasant in Westmoreland County. The Lees’ elder son, George Fairfax Lee (1754–1804), inherited Mount Pleasant after his father’s death. Pierce Bayly (1742-1800) of Loudoun County, formerly of Colchester, acted as sheriff of that county in 1769. Hannah Bushrod Washington of Bushfield in Westmoreland County was the widow of GW’s favorite brother John Augustine Washington (1736–1787). Bryan Fairfax (1736–180 2), the younger half brother of Ann Fairfax Washington, was at this time living at Mount Eagle in Fairfax County. Mary Aylett Lee was the widow of Thomas Ludwell Lee (1730–1778) of Belleview in Stafford County.

2GW replied on 31 Mar.: “Sir, Your letter of the 22d instt was handed to me this day. Was it in my power, I would with pleasure, give you the information required therein; but I have no knowledge of the transaction to which you allude. I was left, it is true, one of the Executors of my deceased brother Lawrence’s Will, but I never qualified or took any share in the Administration of his affairs.

“The whole, or much the greater part of the business appertaining to that estate, was transacted by Colo. [John] Carlyle of Alexandria; my brother Augustine having little, & Mr [Nathaniel] Chapman another of the Executors, no agency therein. I am Sir Your Obedt Hble Servt Go: Washington” (ALS, PNoHIM).

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