Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to William Jenkings, 1 July 1809

To William Jenkings

Monticello July 1. 09.


When you spoke with me at Washington, on the sale of my lands at the Natural bridge, the proposition was new, & I wished to consider of it. on reflection I find that it is a dead capital in my hands, that in other hands it may be useful to the owner & the public. I am therefore willing to sell it. with respect to price, you said you supposed it worth as much as the adjacent tract which had sold two or three times at 10.D. & some of it at £4. the acre. within these limits therefore we may probably agree, altho in considering it merely as land we omit what gives it distinguished value, it’s including the Natural bridge, undoubtedly one of the sublimest curiosities in nature. I had always believed that if there were accomodations there, the healthy part of the company which frequents the various springs, would pass the same season at the bridge of preference, as their object is merely to be absent from the lower country at that season & the climate & curiosity of the bridge would render a stay there much more eligible. I shall be glad to hear from you on this subject and tender you the assurances of my respect.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. I inclose the courses Etc taken from the patent.

PoC (ViCMRL, on deposit ViU); at foot of text: “Mr Wm Jenkings. Rockbridge”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosures not found.

William Jenkings lived four or five miles from the Natural Bridge. In a visit to TJ in Washington he had proposed to purchase this property and build a public house there. Jenkings regarded the land as poor agriculturally, but TJ thought that it had potential both as a tourist attraction and for production of metal shot using the site’s vertical drop (TJ’s notes on Jenkings’s visit and on possible rental terms, both 20 Oct. 1808 [MHi]). TJ retained ownership of the Natural Bridge until his death.

Index Entries

  • Jenkings, William; and Natural Bridge land search
  • Jenkings, William; identified search
  • Jenkings, William; letters to search
  • manufacturing, household; shot towers search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; and shot manufactory search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; proposed sale of TJ’s lands at search