Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Craven Peyton, 2 May 1803

To Craven Peyton

Washington May 2. 1803.

Dear Sir

Your favor of Apr. 29. came to hand last night. having left at Monticello the plat of the partition of Henderson’s land, I do not from memory recollect the position of John & Charles Henderson’s 4. acres very accurately;1 but think I recollect enough to say it is impossible for him to build a mill on them, and bring water to it without drawing his canal through lands not his, and which no court can give him authority to do. besides, if he is opposed, by an application for an order of court to build a mill, by the proprietor of the residue of the tract, it is impossible the rights of the general2 proprietor should not prevail against him. surely the right of building a mill cannot belong to the owner of 4. acres rather than to the owner of the whole tract. on this ground, and in this way I think he should be opposed. and as it is impossible we should not obtain the right in preference to him, his 4. acres will then be reduced to be of no more value than so much of any other lands, & he may be bought out on reasonable terms. I would therefore wish you to employ mr Carr to petition for leave to build a mill on the scite which fell to me. it had still better be in your name. should they propose to avail themselves of the canal of the old mill, I will give orders for the immediate removal of every stone in the dam, so as to put an end to that expectation. otherwise I do not wish to disturb the dam till my own mill needs the water. I should be glad you could prevent mr Meriwether & mr Millar from getting themselves into a matter which will certainly be a losing one to them; and which I presume they would not meddle with if they were apprised that there is no chance of their using the water in the old dam, nor of drawing a canal through the lands above or below. I will thank you to keep me advised of what is done in this business. Accept my friendly salutations & respects.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NHi: Gilder Lehrman Collection at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History); addressed: “Mr. Craven Peyton near Milton”; franked and postmarked. PrC (ViU); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

For the plat of the partition of land originally owned by Bennett Henderson and detailed in the apportionment of 1 Oct. 1801, see Vol. 35:xlvi-viii, 382 (illus.). charles henderson’s lot No. 1 in the upper field partition, which Peyton had previously purchased for TJ, consisted of 4½ acres and was adjacent to Elizabeth Henderson’s lands that contained the Henderson mill and dam. In the narrow strip of land below the town of Milton and between the Rivanna River that had been divided into two-acre partitions, Charles had drawn lot No. 8 and John lot No. 10, the latter of which abutted his mother’s dower lands. John began building a 380-foot-long canal from the Rivanna to his mill seat, and claimed that his mother had granted him this permission in November 1801, ten months before the sale of her Albermarle County lands to Peyton. He suggested that nothing in his mother’s contract of 18 Sep. 1802 could be construed as interfering with his right to run a canal to the present Henderson mill (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], 9–11; Boynton Merrill, Jr., Jefferson’s Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy [Princeton, 1976], 66–7; Vol. 38:578–9).

1Preceding two words interlined.

2Word interlined.

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