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Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Thweatt, 18 December 1809

To Archibald Thweatt

Monticello Dec. 18. 09.

Dear Sir

According to promise I wrote to the clerk of Goochland for a copy1 of Reuben Skelton’s will. his answer is that there is no such will recorded there, that no administration was granted there, & therefore it is presumed that he was not a resident of that county. I know however that he was a resident of the county at the time of his death. his mansion house was at Elkhill on the Goochland side of the river, & he was buried there; and the lands there as well as on the Cumberland side were devised by his will to his wife. I have a copy of the will taken by myself from the original which was among mr Wayles’s papers, on which I made this endorsement at the time. ‘Note, the original is in possession of mr Wayles. there is no certificate of probat in court thereon. so that it seems never to have been recorded.’ yet that so careful a man as mr Wayles should have omitted to have a will proved, on which so much depended, is inconceivable. as the law then stood a will might be proved either in the county of residence, or in the General court. the latter was more convenient to mr Wayles, & to one of the witnesses (J. Power) if not to the other (James Pride) whose residence I know not. after being recorded mr Wayles may have taken out the original to save the expence of a copy. but why is not the probat endorsed? I cannot conjecture. I have been afraid to write to the clerk of the Genl court to enquire, because, being under the nose of Warden Etc it might give them notice of the doubt. I have presumed that in your visits to Richmd you could have an opportunity of making the enquiry when none but the subordinate writers of the office should be in place. if this will were to be disallowed 1. the title to the lands on both sides of James river opposite Elkisland fails. they were devised to the widow, from whom they descended on Lunsford Lomax, her brother, who sold them to mr Wayles &2 died insolvent. 2. we should have to settle the account of mr Wayles’s administration of R. Skelton’s estate3 and pay over the surplus, if any. mr Wayles thought he had paid the full amount of the negroes & personal estate. but this was conjecture. the negro estate was very great. mr Wayles left the papers for this settlement in good order, as he told me. I never looked into them; & from the present condition of the papers generally I should fear a derangement of them undecypherable to us. on the subject of the papers of mr Wayles in general their present condition is very dangerous to his representatives. it is very essential that they should again be compleatly assorted and arranged. I would not decline the time or trouble of this. I think it could be done in a week. but I think it would be better that it should be done by yourself during some of your visits to Eppington, because in all important searches for a paper or papers your opportunities would be better & more frequent. my distance & age render it impossible I should go down to seek a paper. the vestiges of the old arrangement are still so plain that it will be easy to restore it by placing the straggling papers in their proper bundles. I hope therefore you will undertake it. the will of Reuben Skelton purports to have been written all in his own hand. not only the original will therefore is to be sought among mr Wayles’s papers, but all papers which may be among them of R.S’s handwriting. I must pray you to drop me a line of information as soon as you have made the search for the will at Eppington, & for the probat in the General court. I am very uneasy till I know the result. present me affectionately to mrs Thweat, and accept the assurances of my friendship and respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Mr Archibald Thweat”; endorsed by TJ.

Archibald Thweatt (1772–1844) married Lucy Eppes in 1802 and purchased Eppington from her brother, TJ’s nephew and son-in-law John Wayles Eppes, and other Eppes relatives in October 1810. Thweatt served on the Republican committee of Prince George County in 1800 and represented Chesterfield County in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1813–15 and 1816–18. As a representative of the interests of the Wayles executors, he corresponded frequently with TJ during the latter’s retirement (Martha W. McCartney, “A Documentary History of Eppington, Chesterfield County, Virginia” [ViCMRL: unpublished research report, 1994], 71–84; CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers . . . Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , 9:80; John Wayles Eppes to TJ, 1 Nov. 1810; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends , 273, 277, 285, 289; Chesterfield Co. Will Book, 16:270–1, 273; gravestone inscription in Eppington graveyard, Chesterfield County).

Reuben Skelton’s wife was Elizabeth Lomax Skelton. John warden was a well-known Richmond attorney.

1Manuscript: “copy-py.”

2Preceding six words interlined.

3Preceding four words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Elk Hill (TJ’s Goochland Co. estate) search
  • Elk Island search
  • Eppington (Eppes’s Chesterfield Co. estate); J. Wayles’s papers at search
  • Gilliam v. Fleming; and R. Skelton’s will search
  • Goochland County, Va.; clerk of search
  • Goochland County, Va.; Elk Hill search
  • Lomax, Lunsford search
  • Miller, William; as clerk of Goochland Co. search
  • Power, J. search
  • Pride, James search
  • Skelton, Elizabeth Lomax (Reuben Skelton’s wife) search
  • Skelton, Reuben; and Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Thweatt, Archibald; and Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Thweatt, Archibald; identified search
  • Thweatt, Archibald; letters to search
  • Thweatt, Lucy Eppes (Archibald Thweatt’s wife); TJ sends greetings to search
  • Virginia; General Court search
  • Warden, John search
  • Wayles, John (TJ’s father-in-law); and Gilliam v. Fleming search