George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Price, 7 November 1799

To William Price

Fairfax County near Difficult Bridge
November 7th 1799


I came from Mount Vernon to this place in order to run out some land which I hold in this County, near this place.

In doing which, I have discovered—or think I have discovered—some vacant land between my lines, the lines of the late Thomas Lord Fairfax, and those commonly called Tankervilles; now in the occupation of others; to whom they were sold by his Agent.1

Having been but little in this State since the Revolution, I am unacquainted with the legal ⟨steps⟩ necessary & proper to be taken, to make an Entry thereof; which must be my excuse if the present application to you is wrong, or informal.

If it be proper, I pray you to make such Entry as the case requires. and the cost, so soon as it is made known to me, shall be immediatley paid by Sir Your most Obedt Hble Serv⟨t⟩

Go: Washington

P.S. I do not conceive that the Waste land herein described (if there be any) can exceed a hundred Acres.

ALS, Vi.

1When GW resurveyed at this time the tract of land on Difficult Run that he had acquired in 1763 from Bryan Fairfax (see GW to John Gill, 19 Oct. 1799, nn. 1 and 2), not only did he believe that he had discovered unclaimed land between his land and the Tankerville tract immediately above, but, as he later explained to Charles Little on 20 Nov., he also discovered that he was in fact unable to fix with any certainty the boundaries of his own tract. After receiving Price’s response dated 15 Nov., which is missing, GW wrote Price again on 20 Nov. to inform him that William Shepherd, who rented land from Bryan Fairfax at the Difficult Run Bridge where he had kept until recently the tavern in which GW was staying, had come to the same conclusion about the wedge of unclaimed land and had put in his claim to it. GW asked Price to enter at the land office GW’s caveat against the issuance of a grant of the land to Shepherd.

In addition to his letter to Price, GW wrote on 20 Nov. letters about this matter to Charles Little and to Fairfax County surveyor William Payne, as well as to Payne’s deputy Samuel Sommers. Charles Little had been somehow involved in the sale of the Tankerville Virginia property during the years following the Revolution, and in 1791 Little had himself been the purchaser of part of it (see GW to Tankerville, 20 Jan. 1784, in 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 , 1:64–66). GW sought and received information from Little about the relevant boundary lines of the neighboring Tankerville property at Difficult Run (see GW to Little, 28 November). GW enclosed in his letter to deputy surveyor Sommers of 20 Nov. the (missing) warrant of survey for the hypothetical unclaimed land, which he had secured from Price in Richmond, and asked that the warrant be entered in the county surveyor’s office in Alexandria. GW then wrote Bryan Fairfax, on 26 Nov., to seek his aid in fixing the boundaries of the tract on Difficult Run that Fairfax had long ago carved out of the 12,000–acre Fairfax holdings, so that GW might be able to determine whether there in fact was vacant land between his property and the Tankerville tract. On 30 Nov. GW acknowledged the receipt of Fairfax’s missing reply of 28 Nov. enclosing “the courses of so much of your land on Difficult, as had any relation to my small tract at the Bridge.” GW now saw that his tract of 275 acres (not 300 acres as he had come to believe) was bounded on all sides by land belonging to the Fairfaxes. There was no unclaimed land. GW let the matter drop.

For the precise location of and further information about the tracts of land on or near Difficult Run referred to here, see Mitchell, Fairfax County Patents and Grants, description begins Beth Mitchell. Beginning at a White Oak . . . Patents and Northern Neck Grants of Fairfax County Virginia. Fairfax, Va., 1977. description ends particularly tracts 285 and 295B, tract 403, and tract 268, on pages 149, 165, and 181. Tract 268 is what GW refers to here as the Tankerville tract.

The sixteen letters that GW wrote in October and November 1799 about his Difficult Run property included those to John Gill, 13, 19, 22 Oct., 12, 26 Nov., to William Price, 7, 8, 20 Nov., 2 Dec., to Charles Little, 20, 28 Nov., to Samuel Sommers, 20, 28 Nov., to Bryan Fairfax, 26, 30 Nov., and to William Payne, 20 November. It should be noted that not a single letter written in response, and acknowledged by GW, has been found. For reference to the missing incoming letters of the last three months of GW’s life, see note 7 to Tobias Lear’s Narrative Accounts of the Death of George Washington, printed at the end of this volume.

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