George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Spotswood, 23 June 1797

From Alexander Spotswood

Lexington State of Kentucky June 23d 1797

Dr Sir

Haveing already wrote you respecting your lands purchased of general Lee, Laying on Rough Creek—shall now only observe, that I arrived on them with the gentlemen, mutually chosen by Lee and myself, to Vallue the Same; on the 25 of may after traceing the lines so as to Keep us within the bounds of the two tracks; we proceeded to Traverse the Same, and found the two tracts to consist of as follows—1st Rolling land—2d—Very Hilly land runing up into points—3d—Ridges Runing out from the creek—4th—much flat land grown up with Cane—5. very high land with much Hurtleberry land[.] The first described land lays well for the plow. & very rich, but I beleive no great quantity. the 2d d[itt]o poor—here the Setlers Say is much iron ore, and very rich but of this I am no Judge—3d (Ridges) the whole of them do not contain more than 60 acrees—very rich & lays well for the plow—and Surrounded with the flat Caney land which is immensly rich, but every year flooded with the back water from 18 Inches to 2½ feet deep which is of great advantage to the land by leaveing every year a rich coat of Manure—& no disadvantage to the farmer, as the water comeing on gradually and going of as gradual will never Take away fences—and returning to the creek from whence it comes by the 20 of March, gives the farmer full time to prepare for his crop—the last described land—has very Steep hill Sides, on arriveing at the Top, it becomes ridgey—the Valleys between each ridge is Narrow—on the Top of the ridges, fields may be got from 40 to 50 acrees of good farming land—the assents & decents from ridge to ridge is gradual, (as far as I saw & examined) this land was Vallued at one dollar pr Acree—it is thought here to be of no great Vallue; but with us would be deemed champion land.1

had woodrows Survey been in the sale from Lee to me—I beleive the land would have been Vallued to 10/ pr Acree; it is a most Valluable situation for a mill, and (if yours) will render your lands Valluable—but not until the Country about it is Settled; which I am inclined to think will not be the case shortly, as the Country around is held in very large Surveys—belonging cheifly to Such as will not (I am Told) Sell immediatly.

This Mill Seat is claimed, by a Mr Hite in this Country, who Says, Andrew woodrow—Sold the warrant to his father 12 yrs ago. One ⟨Stevens⟩ near Bairds Town Tells me, that he Claims 2600 acrees out of yr two tracts Bought of Lee—he Says the warrants that first obtained these lands, was early laid in 1783—(before his)—but afterwards, the entry was withdrawn, and the warrant laid over again on the land—which then made his the oldest Entry—but for this, I only have his word—however, on examining the auditors Books in Virginia, this bussiness will be explained 2—The land is well Timbered—The assembly here in there last Session, released all the condemned lands—Colo. Marshall informs me he has pd yr Taxes to 1796 3—please to present me affectionately to Mrs Washington & beleive me dr sr to be with much Esteem & affectionate regard yrs Sincerely

A. Spotswood


Spotswood wrote and sent to GW three other versions of this letter during the summer, one dated earlier and two dated later. The earlier one, dated 16 June from “State of Kentucky,” begins: “The incessant Rain; high waters & Wind, from the time of my leaveing home until I arrived in Kentucky, with the difficulty which I had to get the gentlemen to gather, appointed, & mutually chosen by G[enera]l Lee & myself—so retarded my progress, that I did not arrive at the lands on Ruff creek until the 25th of May,” and then repeats the material printed here in the first paragraph down to the words “a rich coat of manure,” at which point it becomes illegible. The first of the later letters, written on 4 July from “Washington County State of Virginia,” begins: “I wrote you twice from the State of Kentucky respecting your lands on Rough creek—and now repeat again ...” and ends: “I shall be at home about the 18 Inst. when I shall send you a fourth letter”; in between it repeats the material in the first paragraph of the letter of 23 June. The fourth letter, written by Spotswood on 22 July after his return to his plantation on the Rappahannock River, contains additional information. The letters of 16 June and 4 July are both in DLC:GW and were transcribed for CD-ROM:GW.

1For Spotswood’s involvement in GW’s handling of matters relating to the two tracts of land on Rough Creek in Kentucky which GW bought in 1789 from Henry Lee, see Spotswood to GW, 22 Mar. 1797, n.1.

2For the correspondence regarding GW’s attempts to buy from Abraham Hite this 300–acre tract on Rough Creek, see Spotswood to GW, 31 Mar., n.1.

3See GW to Thomas Marshall, 25 Mar. 1795, and Thomas Marshall, Jr., to GW, 4 Aug. 1798. Thomas Marshall (1730–1802) moved to Kentucky from Fauquier County with his wife and a number of their fifteen children after being made surveyor of Fayette County in Kentucky. There he became a large landowner and a leading political figure during the period when Kentucky assumed the status of a separate state.

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