Thomas Jefferson Papers

Declaration of Trust with Craven Peyton, 25 September 1801

Declaration of Trust with
Craven Peyton

This indenture made between Thomas Jefferson of Monticello in Albemarle and Craven Peyton of the same county witnesseth that whereas the said Craven hath purchased from John R. Kerr & Sarah his wife, James L. Henderson, Isham Henderson & Charles Henderson (which said Sarah, James L. Isham and Charles are children & co-heirs with six others to Bennet Henderson late of Albemarle aforesd) their undivided portions of the lands in the same county which descended on them from their said father, and now holds their several obligations to convey to him a title in fee simple, with certain exceptions in the said obligations specified, Now the said Craven doth declare that he holds the said obligations in trust only for the said Thomas & his heirs, that one hundred & eighty pounds already paid for the purchase of the said lands was of the proper monies of the said Thomas, and that three hundred and thirty four pounds the residue of the said purchase money is to be paid by him with interest thereon from the 14th. day of July last past, of which sums making £494. one hundred and fifty pounds were for the portion of the sd John R. Kerr & Sarah his wife £140. for that of the said James L. £102. for that of the sd Isham, and £102. for that of the sd Charles: and that the conveyances which are to be made to the said Craven will be in trust for the said Thomas & his heirs and are so to ensure without any claims or pretensions of title of him the sd Craven or any person claiming under him as absolutely to all intents & purposes as if the legal estate in fee simple were conveyed directly from the said vendors to the said Thomas: & the said Craven for himself & his heirs covenants with the said Thomas & his heirs that he will convey the said title in fee simple to the sd Thomas, whensoever, after the same shall have been conveyed to him the sd Craven, a demand shall be made by the sd Thomas or his heirs, in witness whereof he has hereto set his hand and seal this 25th day of September 1801. Signed sealed & delivered in presence of

Craven Peyton

MS (ViU); entirely in TJ’s hand except for signatures and day of month, which Peyton inserted in blank left by TJ; signed by Peyton and by David Anderson and M. Camder as witnesses; indented and sealed; endorsed by TJ: “Peyton to Jefferson.” PrC (same); lacks date and signatures. Probably enclosed in Peyton to TJ, 3 Oct. 1801.

Bennett Henderson died in 1793, leaving a widow and 11 children, most of whom were minors. Henderson had set out to acquire and develop property around the town of Milton, at the falls of the Rivanna River in Albemarle County. That project, particularly the development of a water mill, was incomplete when Henderson died. The family was left with debts and was, by TJ’s description, “absolutely pennyless” in terms of liquid capital, although they did hold title to the land surrounding Milton. In 1795, TJ filed suit against Henderson’s estate in the Virginia High Court of Chancery, arguing that the Henderson milldam on the Rivanna had not been authorized by the county court and raised the water level upstream enough to interfere with the mill TJ wanted to develop at Shadwell. TJ won the lawsuit, but delayed tearing down the Hendersons’ dam while work proceeded on the excavation of the mill canal at Shadwell (Vol. 28:471–4, 479–85, 520; Vol. 30:621–2; Vol. 31:165–6, 176, 190, 193, 205–8, 217).

Holds their Several Obligations: Bennett Henderson left no will. Under Virginia law, his estate would go to his children, distributed among them by partition “per capita” with each of the heirs receiving an equal share. In January 1801, TJ arranged for Craven Peyton, the husband of one of his nieces, to begin buying Henderson family members’ portions of the estate. By that time there were ten Henderson children, one of the older brothers, William, having died. The transactions were to be in Peyton’s name and TJ’s role kept secret. Peyton first acquired the shares of Sarah (Sally) Henderson Kerr and her brothers James, Charles, and Isham. Apart from the oldest of the offspring, a son named John who continued his father’s business activities, Sarah, James, Charles, and Isham were, in that order, the oldest of the heirs (William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, 13 vols. [Richmond, 1809–23], 12:138, 139, 146; Craven Peyton, amended bill in chancery, 2 June 1804, in Tr of TJ v. Michie, ViU: Carr Papers; Robert Haggard, “Thomas Jefferson v. The Heirs of Bennett Henderson, 1795–1818: A Case Study in Caveat Emptor,” Magazine of Albemarle County History, 63 [2005], 1–29; Vol. 31:199; Vol. 32:469–70, 558–9).

One Hundred & Eighty Pounds already Paid: see Peyton to TJ, 10 July 1801, and TJ to Peyton, 14 July, for TJ’s first payment for land from the Hendersons. That remittance, $600 in gold and bills carried by Thomas Walker, was the first entry in a statement that TJ later drew up of his account with Peyton for the Henderson purchases. In that statement TJ also included, under the general date of 1801, £140 (or $500) for Sarah Henderson Kerr’s share of the estate, £140 ($466.67) for James L. Henderson’s part, and £128.18.6 ($429.75) each for Isham and Charles. By the rate of conversion TJ used in recording those transactions, his initial payment of $600, which he recorded in the account statement only in dollars, equaled £180 (statement of account with Peyton “for Henderson’s lands,” 1801–1809, in DLC, enclosed in TJ to Peyton, 28 Oct. 1812).

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