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To George Washington from Fielding Lewis, 23 April 1775

From Fielding Lewis

April 2⟨3d⟩ 1775

Dear Sir

I this Day received a Survey of 578 Acres Land for you, from Mr Thos Lewis, on the Ohio for several Assignments made to you by B. Dandrige & others which I shall keep ’till I receive your Orders about it, as I expect it must go to the Office;1 There is Two other Letters which I have put into the Post office to come next post; as I shall go to Hanover this Day & shall not return ’till Wednesday next; I find my Plaisterer will not finish my passage before the 12th of May therefore think it will be best to keep him ’till that time as I shall by that means have all ready for your Painter except the great Room which must remain ’till your work is done. I dont care how soon your painter comes as he may go on with the rooms that are ready for him.2

We have no Ships that bring later Accts than we had in the last papers, by which it seems we must submitt or dispute the matter Sword in hand, every person I think that has any regard for Liberty must prefer the latter; we have sent an express to Baltamore to procure powder, if we do not succeed, we shall send the money we have to you to procure it for us at Philadelphia if you will undertake the matter for us, otherways I fear we shall not get any.3 I am Dr Sr your most Affectionate Hume Servt

Fielding Lewis

ALS, Vi: Land Office Papers. There is some doubt about the date. Lewis appears to have first written “24th,” and then amended it to “23d.” The letter is postmarked “Fredericksburg Apr:26.”

1This is GW’s Round Bottom tract.

2Fielding Lewis’s plantation just outside Fredericksburg is now within the city and has long been known as Kenmore, a name given to it after it passed out of the Lewis family in 1797. The 861—acre tract in Spotsylvania County was purchased by Lewis on 9 Mar. 1752, a little over a week after GW surveyed it (release from Richard Wiatt Royston and Ann Royston to Lewis, printed in Duke, Kenmore description begins Jane Taylor Duke. Kenmore and the Lewises. Garden City, N.Y., 1949. description ends , 28–30). The large handsome mansion was probably begun shortly after Lewis purchased the property. The work being done at the house at this time was the addition of the elaborate decorative plasterwork in several of the downstairs rooms. The name of Fielding Lewis’s plasterer, or stucco man, who did the work is unknown. He decorated the ceilings and chimneypieces in three rooms at the Lewis home, using variations of designs in Batty Langley’s The City and Country Builder’s, and Workman’s Treasury of Designs: or, The Art of Drawing, and Working the Ornamental Parts of Architecture, first published in London in 1740. He then came to Mount Vernon to decorate the dining room ceiling and chimneypiece there, using for that room a slightly modified version of plate 62 in William Pain’s The Practical Builder, or, Workman’s General Assistant: Shewing the Most Approved and Easy Methods for Drawing and Working the Whole or Separate Part of Any Building, published in London in 1774.

GW’s painter was Joseph Smith, an indentured servant purchased in 1774 (see James Cleveland to GW, 21 May, n.3). When Smith ran away in August, the following advertisement was inserted in Purdie’s Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg), 25 Aug.: “RUN away from Fredericksburg, on the 7th instant (August) Joseph Smith, a Scotchman, by trade a painter, appears to be about 33 years of age, 5 feet 9 or 10 inches high, very fleshy, much marked by the smallpox, has light brown hair, which he commonly wears plaited behind, curled at the sides, and fastened with pins. He took with him two coats, one of them a dark brown pretty much wore, the other a light brown, very short, with buttons at the sleeves, a nankeen and a gray cloth waistcoat, two pair of brown linen and a pair of black silk stocking breeches, three check and two white shirts (he commonly worked in his check shirts, therefore it is probable they may have some paint on them) two pair of stockings, one of them mixed yarn, the other ribbed thread, two pair of shoes, one of them old, the other almost new, country made. Whoever takes up the said servant, and secures him in any jail, so that he may be had again, or delivers him to col. Fielding Lewis in Fredericksburg, or mr. Lund Washington at Mount Vernon, in Fairfax county, will be, by either of those gentlemen, paid the above reward, exclusive of what is allowed by law.” For further information on Smith, who used the alias Joseph Wilson, see James Cleveland to GW, 21 May, Fielding Lewis to GW, 14 Nov., and Lund Washington to GW, 29 Sept., 5 Nov., 3 Dec. 1775, and 17 Jan. 1776.

3The news that “we had in the last papers” is probably that of the clandestine removal of the powder from the Williamsburg magazine. See Edmund Pendleton to GW, 21 April, n.2. The first notice of the removal of the powder was printed in the supplement to Purdie’s Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg), on 21 April.

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