Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Rolfe Eldridge, 14 February 1803

From Rolfe Eldridge

Subpœna Buckingham
14th. February 1803

Dear Sir

I have lately seen two Gentlemen from the State of North Carolina who informed me that the Heirs of Lord Granville had commenced a Suit in the Grand Federal Court against that State to recover a large body of Land there, which Suit will come on Tryal at the next Court which will be held in the Fedral City. My Wife and her Sisters, claim a right to five thousand acres of Land in that State called the Han or Sasapahan fields Tract a Moiety of ten thousand acres granted by Lord Granville to Sir Richard Everard who was father to Susanna Meade their Grand Mother under whom she claims and who devised the above Land to them by her last Will and Testament, they informed me that my Wife and her Sisters Title depended on Lord Granvilles and advised me not to Sue the Tenants on their Lands until that Suit was determined, as the State of North Carolina had granted Patents for their Lands to the People who were tenants of Mrs. Meade on rent. Patrick Henry Esqr. was employed by me to commence Suits against the Tenants in possession who had all the Title papers and informed me that the Title was very good but as he was groing old & had lost his Son Edward who he depended on to assist him declined the prosecution and nothing done since. If it will not be too much trouble for you to have an enquiry made at the Clerks Office of the Federal Court respecting that Suit and inform me what you think would be the best way my Wife and her Sisters shou’d proceed in order to recover their Land shall esteem it a singular favour and hope you’ll excuse my freedom

I am your real friend & obedt. servt.

Rolfe Eldridge

P.S. all the Title papers I expect are at Mrs. Henrys if Mr. Henry did not send them to Andrew Meades except the Grant from the Crown of England to Lord Granville under whom Sir Richard Everard claims which I expect is in the Clerks Office of the Federal Court & which I expect will be necessary to support my Wife & her Sisters claim.


RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 26 Feb. and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “to enquire if the suit of Ld Granville v. Davie be on the docquet of the Supreme court, & when it will be tried.”

Rolfe Eldridge (b. 1744) had served as clerk of Buckingham County, Virginia, since 1770. He married Susanna Everard Walker in 1773. His wife was the granddaughter of Susanna Everard Meade and the great-granddaughter of Sir Richard Everard, who served as the last proprietary governor of North Carolina from 1725 to 1731 (VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1893- description ends , 46 [1938], 176; WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892- description ends , 1st ser., 18 [1910], 290–1; 20 [1912], 206; William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 vols. [Chapel Hill, 1979–96], 2:171–2).

heirs of lord granville had commenced a suit: John Carteret, first earl of Granville, was a descendant and heir of the original Lords Proprietors of Carolina created by Charles II of England in the 1660s. When the remaining Proprietors sold their shares in Carolina back to the crown in the late 1720s, Granville refused and instead received one-eighth of the land, consisting of much of the northern half of North Carolina. Granville administered this estate, the Granville District, from England through agents, who granted lands to new immigrants and collected modest quitrents from existing settlers. The American Revolution brought title to the land into dispute and the state of North Carolina began making grants in the district by its own authority after the war. In 1801, devisees of Lord Granville brought ejectment actions against Nathaniel Allen, Josiah Collins, and William R. Davie, each of whom had received grants in the Granville District from the state in the 1780s. News of the suit against Davie began appearing in newspapers in June 1802 and the case of Granville’s Devisee v. Allen came before the federal circuit court in North Carolina in 1805, where the jury found in favor of the defendants. The case was then appealed to the United States Supreme Court and lingered on its docket until 1817, when it was dismissed with the consent of both parties (A. Roger Ekirch, “Poor Carolina”: Politics and Society in Colonial North Carolina, 1729–1776 [Chapel Hill, 1981], 127–33; Henry G. Conner, “The Granville Estate and North Carolina,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review and American Law Register, 62 [1914], 671–97; Marshall, Papers description begins Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, Charles F. Hobson, and others, eds., The Papers of John Marshall, Chapel Hill, 1974-2006, 12 vols. description ends , 6:400–1; William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina [Chapel Hill, 2006], 524–5; Philadelphia Gazette, 19 June 1802; National Intelligencer, 22 Oct. 1802).

Patrick Henry’s son edward died in 1793 (Charles P. Blunt, IV, Patrick Henry: The Henry County Years, 1779–1784 [Danville, Va., 1976], 11).

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