Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Michael Bowyer, 3 November 1802

To Michael Bowyer

Washington Nov. 3. 1802.

Dear Sir

I have been just informed that about 9. miles from the Sweet springs in Greenbriar county, a few months past, was found in a saltpetre cave, some large bones, one of which, a claw, measured 9. inches in length: and that the person who was digging out the bones, intended them for mr Peale. if this has been done, or shall be done, it is all that is desired. but if this destination of them has not been pursued, then the favor I have to ask of you is to endeavor to get them, to have them packed in a box securely against breaking, and forwarded by water to Richmond to the care of Messrs. Gibson & Jefferson merchts. there, who will be instructed to pay all expence attending them, & forward them to mr Peale in Philadelphia. I understand that my friend Genl. John Bowyer lives not far from the head navigation of James river, and am sure he will do me the favor to see them safely forwarded. I presume these bones are of the same species of animal with some formerly sent me by Colo. Stewart of Green briar, and which till then had been utterly unknown, being entirely different from the big bones on the Ohio. it is interesting therefore to procure all the remains of it we can, in order to ascertain what it was, & to learn if it still exists in any part of the Continent. the favor I am asking of you on this occasion is asked with the less reluctance as it gives me an opportunity of recalling myself to your recollection, and of tendering you assurances of my constant esteem and most friendly wishes for your happiness.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Michael Bowyer esq.”

Michael Bowyer (d. 1808) owned the Sulphur Springs, later known as White Sulphur Springs, in Greenbrier County. In the late 1760s and early 1770s, he was a deputy sheriff of Augusta County and employed TJ as his attorney in lawsuits. Bowyer was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates in the mid-1780s. He did not receive the letter printed above until mid-May 1803, and replied on 28 June (Thomas A. Chambers, Drinking the Waters: Creating an American Leisure Class at Nineteenth-Century Mineral Springs [Washington, D.C., 2002], 8; John W. Jengo, “‘Mineral Productions of Every Kind’: Geological Observations in the Lewis and Clark Journals and the Role of Thomas Jefferson and the American Philosophical Society in the Geological Mentoring of Meriwether Lewis,” APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Transactions, new ser., 94 [2004], 184–5; 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, Richmond, 1978 description ends , 153, 156; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 1:14n, 15, 48, 56, 62, 98, 105, 109, 165, 170, 183, 224, 231, 274, 303).

JUST INFORMED: see Charles Willson Peale to TJ, 28 Oct.

Bowyer’s brother, JOHN BOWYER, and TJ had been acquainted since 1769 or earlier. John Bowyer, who was a brigadier general of the Virginia militia, represented Rockbridge County for a number of terms in the House of Delegates. In 1796, he arranged for the exchange of saltpeter from a cave owned by TJ for blasting powder manufactured in western Virginia (DVB description begins John T. Kneebone and others, eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Richmond, 1998–, 3 vols. description ends , 2:163–4; WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892– description ends , 1st ser., 5 [1896], 109; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 1:90; Vol. 29:44).

SENT ME BY COLO. STEWART: in 1796, John Stuart sent TJ the bones that became the source for TJ’s Memoir on the Megalonyx (Vol. 29:64–5, 152–3).

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