Thomas Jefferson Papers

Valuation of Henderson Property for Dower, [before 1 October 1801]

Valuation of Henderson Property for Dower

[before 1 Oct. 1801]

Valuation of the property of Bennet Henderson in which dower was assigned.

1. house occupied at present by mr John Henderson 325. 0.0
1. do. by mrs Henderson 120. 0.0
1. still house & lot 120. 0.0
1. field lying on the upper part of the land 69. as. @ 30/ 103.10.0
1. do of Low grounds below Milton 37½ as. @ £ 3. 112.10.0
1. do of high do. to the right of the Low grounds 16. acres @ 17/6 14. 8.6
the lands lying below the mill supposed to be 3. acres @ £4.3.4 12.10.0
Store house & lot occupied by mr Snelson 350.   
15. acres to run in a direct line from mr Sheffield’s
shop to the river & above the mill so as to give it
above the mill
  33. 9.6
1191. 8. 
Mrs. Henderson’s dower ⅓ to wit £   
the 2 story house 325  
the 15 acres  33.9.6 358. 9.6
⅓ of the profits of the mill
⅓ of the rents of the ware house
⅓ of the back lands valued @ 8/ per acre.

MS (ViU); entirely in TJ’s hand, including diagram, which is on verso of “Valuation”; undated, but see below.

Bennett Henderson’s children inherited his estate, but by dower, a principle that came from English common law, their mother received the use of one third of the land during her lifetime (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, 162–5; William F. Fratcher, “Protection of the Family against Disinheritance in American Law,” International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 14 [1965], 294).

Mrs Henderson: Henderson’s widow, Elizabeth Lewis Henderson, was TJ’s cousin. The dwelling house and 15 acres of land allotted to her as part of her dower were not included in the 1 Oct. partition of the estate among the heirs. The Hendersons’ Mill stood on that parcel of land. In 1801, she moved with her younger children to Kentucky, where her husband had also acquired property (Craven Peyton, amended bill in chancery, 2 June 1804, in Tr of TJ v. Michie, ViU: Carr Papers; Vol. 28:474n).

TJ made this valuation and diagram before 1 Oct. 1801, when the commissioners partitioned the estate. The sizes and designations of the tracts of land in the valuation do not match the results of the partition that Craven Peyton sent on 3 Oct., and when TJ made his diagram he thought the Henderson property would be allocated in eleven rather than ten shares. Moreover, when TJ made his diagram, he thought that the Hendersons’ unimproved woodlands (which in the diagram are to the left of the rectangular grid of the town of Milton) contained a total of 786 acres, with one-third of that, 262 acres, allotted to the widow’s dower. The 786-acre figure used for the county court’s assignment of the dower was probably only an estimate of the tract’s size. A survey made in conjunction with the partition revealed that the estate’s back lands actually included 1,020 acres, as TJ learned when Peyton sent him information about the partition. For his diagram, TJ also supposed that the dower portion would be excluded from the partitioning of the back lands, whereas the commissioners divided that entire tract into ten parcels for allocation to the heirs (Craven Peyton, amended bill in chancery, cited above; Vol. 28:520; plat enclosed by Peyton to TJ, 6 Nov.).

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