Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to David Copeland, 25 June 1809

To David Copeland

Monticello June 25. 09.

Dear Sir

I recieved yesterday by your son a copy of a summons in the suit of Gilliam v. Fleming Et al. and have given him a proper acknolegement of it. altho’ not interested one cent in the issue of this suit (because whichever party is debtor to the other I pay a third & recieve a third) yet no one living is more anxious to have a final settlement of it than myself. having been the depository of the papers for 30. odd years, more intimate with the transactions probably than any other person living, I wish to settle it myself, & not leave it to my family who are utterly ignorant of it. for the reason that I wish a real meeting & am too old to take useless journies I shall this day write to mr Ladd & mr Jones on the appointment of the 1st of Aug. at which I fear no sufficient meeting can be expected. indeed I know that at that time one if not more of the persons who must be present, will be absent for his health at the springs; and it is a season when every one who can, leaves the tidewater country. I shall request them therefore to appoint some other day as early as the return of the healthy season will permit, in October for instance1 at which I will attend myself, and strongly urge mr Skipwith & mr Eppes (the only defendants having any interest in the result,) & judge Fleming also to attend, who like myself has no interest in it but is intimate with the transactions, & was present at the settlement with Meriwether Skelton about 34. or 35. years ago, when the whole of the charges against B. Skelton’s estate were examined & passed except a few inconsiderable ones which laid over for vouchers. his presence will be necessary. I learn with great pleasure that you enjoy good health, & with my compliments to mrs Copeland I pray you to be assured of my constant esteem & respect

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “D. Copeland Esq.”; endorsed by TJ.

Copeland’s letter of 23 June 1809, not found but recorded in SJL as received from Springfield on 24 June 1809, probably enclosed a copy of a summons in the case of gilliam v. fleming, the suit that arose over the settlement of Bathurst Skelton’s estate. Martha Wayles married Skelton in 1766 and TJ in 1772, four years after Skelton died. Martha’s dower right to her first husband’s estate transferred to TJ upon the death of her son John Skelton in 1771 and her own death in 1782. In addition to TJ, Bathurst Skelton’s estate was distributed among his siblings and their heirs, including Meriwether Skelton; Reuben Skelton, who married Elizabeth Lomax (her second marriage was to Martha’s father John Wayles); Sally Skelton, who married Thomas Jones and was the mother of Skelton Jones; and Lucy Skelton, who married Robert Gilliam. Gilliam, representing the estate of Bathurst Skelton, initiated this chancery suit against the executors of John Wayles’s estate. William Fleming was named as defendant because his father John Fleming had been executor of the estate of James Skelton, Bathurst’s father, to which the Fleming estate still owed money. As an executor of his father-in-law John Wayles’s estate, TJ was involved on both sides of this suit, which primarily involved land in Goochland and Fluvanna counties named Elk Hill and Elk Island on the James River. The suit was not settled until at least 1813 (Richard D. Gilliam, “Skelton and Shelton: Two Distinct Virginia Families,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892– description ends , 2d ser., 9 [1929]: 209–16; “Woodhouse-Meriwether-Bathurst-Skelton-Gilliam,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892– description ends , 1st ser., 12 [1903]: 60–4; TJ to Farrell & Jones, 9 July 1773, PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 31 vols. description ends , 15:657–71; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 1:349, 2:1051, 1248).

1Preceding four words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Copeland, David; and Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Copeland, David; letters from accounted for search
  • Copeland, David; letters to search
  • Copeland, Susan Skelton (David Copeland’s wife) search
  • Elk Hill (TJ’s Goochland Co. estate) search
  • Elk Island search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); and Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Fleming, William; and Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Fluvanna County, Va.; and Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Gilliam, Lucy Skelton search
  • Gilliam, Robert search
  • Gilliam v. Fleming; and settlement of accounts search
  • Goochland County, Va.; Elk Hill search
  • James River; land on, in Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Jefferson, Martha Wayles Skelton (TJ’s wife); dower right of search
  • Jones, Skelton; and Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Jones, Thomas (father of Skelton Jones) search
  • Ladd, Thomas; and Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Lomax, Elizabeth search
  • Skelton, Bathurst; and Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Skelton, John search
  • Skelton, Reuben; and Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Skelton, Sally search
  • Skelton family search
  • Skipwith, Henry (TJ’s brother-in-law); and Gilliam v. Fleming search
  • Wayles, John (TJ’s father-in-law); and Gilliam v. Fleming search