Thomas Jefferson Papers

Charles L. Lewis to Thomas Jefferson, [ca. 17 September 1810]

From Charles L. Lewis

[ca. 17 Sept. 1810]

Dear Sir

my daughters recital of their situation and mine with them is enteirly correct hope all friends will sempathise for us. we injoi good helth this season we have fine water tho not generally so. my fealings has not as Yet discovered any deferenc in the climate here & Virg. except cooler nights both winter & summer. You would be delited with the rivers in this Countra par[   ] the Ohio I am all life when vewing it quite the reverse on leaving [   ]tured Viewing it You would be astonish at the number size and deferent kinds of fish1 in the Western waters have seen a fish since coming here that I never herd of till geting to this place they are Very large which is called the shovell they have a shovel that projects from the Nose several feet2 in length which is composed of a hard guset enteirly strate immoveable but with the hole body they are not a fish of pray they have a very larg mouth in shape of that of shad they are from six to Eight feet in length including the Snout or shovel have no scales the skin and Colour nearly the same of a cat have no bones instead of a bone in the back it is a hard guset not any appearance of a3 rib they are very fine fish I am told her they feed on there back with the mouth wide open runing the shovel in thick moddy bottoms or bancks the buffalow and Carp can be caught in any season in abundence the weight from Six to thirty pounds with the double hook I have caught 200lb in the day there can be no doubt the Western contra the fineest in the world.

I am Dear Sir Yrs Affectely

Chas L Lewis

NB I think the richness combind with the immence Quantaty of firtele lands in the western countra will be a means of astablising a great deal of indolance I find here the blacks and whites are very much so of the mail, the labour of the Woman to precure clothing is much the hardest labour done they are constantly employd of both colours were I in the same situation as a number of the pore are in Virginia I should prefer to be a Slave in Kentuckey then a freeman in Virginia & to labour on their pore land as hard as they4 do the situation of the slave here is fare parferable the males of every descripton her dont work more then one fourth of their time notwithstanding every man has more corn then they know what to do with as will as meat


RC (on deposit ViU: TJP); undated; mutilated at seal; subjoined to preceding letter; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr late Presidint US Albemarle County Virginia Montecello near Charlotteville” and “Mail”; stamped; postmarked Smithland, Ky., 19 Sept. 1810; endorsed by TJ (with the names of the four signatories to the two letters) as received 12 Nov. 1810 and so recorded (as an undated letter from Lewis and a dated letter from his daughters) in SJL.

Charles Lilburne Lewis (1747–1831) was born at Buck Island in Albemarle County and married TJ’s sister Lucy in 1769. He served in the Albemarle County militia during the Revolution, eventually rising to the rank of county lieutenant (equivalent to colonel), and later helped his brother-in-law Bennett Henderson found the town of Milton. In 1806 Lewis moved his wife and youngest children to Kentucky to escape financial distress in Virginia. Increasingly desperate financial circumstances there, however, eventually led Lewis to initiate an unsuccessful scheme to take the Buck Island property away from the man to whom he had sold it, his son-in-law Craven Peyton (Merrow Egerton Sorley, Lewis of Warner Hall: The History of a Family [1935; repr. 1991], 349–50; Merrill, Jefferson’s Nephews description begins Boynton Merrill Jr., Jefferson’s Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy, 1976 description ends , esp. 23–4, 58, 313–6, 339; CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers . . . Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , 3:262; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 32 vols. description ends , 5:430–1, 469, 554–5, 14:427–8; Lewis to TJ, 5 Aug. 1813; Peyton to TJ, 26, 28 June, 16 July 1817; TJ to Peyton, 28 June, 8, 16, 17 July 1817).

The fish described by Lewis may be the American paddlefish.

1Lewis here canceled “abounds with.”

2Word interlined.

3Word interlined.

4Word interlined in place of “to.”

Index Entries

  • fish; American paddlefish search
  • fish; shad search
  • Henderson, Bennett; lands of search
  • Kentucky; slaves in search
  • Lewis, Charles Lilburne (TJ’s brother-in-law); identified search
  • Lewis, Charles Lilburne (TJ’s brother-in-law); letters from search
  • Lewis, Charles Lilburne (TJ’s brother-in-law); on Ky. life search
  • Ohio River search
  • Peyton, Craven; and Lewis family search
  • shad; compared to paddlefish search
  • slaves; in Ky. search