Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John H. Peyton, 8 February 1817

To John H. Peyton

M[o]nticello Feb. 8. 17.

Dear Sir

I have built, [as] you perhaps know, very expensive manufacturing and grist mills on the Rivanna river, near this place, the canal to which alone has cost me 20,000. Dollars. the Rivanna company claim a right to use this canal for navigation, independently of my permission, and of the regulations necessary to prevent obstruction to the operation of my mills. this obliges me to bring a suit in Chancery against them to quiet my title in which I ask the benefit of your aid, as I have done that of mr Johnson. at present I must request you to inclose me by return of mail a subpoena in Chancery against George Divers, William D. Meriwether, Nimrod Bramham, Dabney Minor and John Kelly of Albemarle1 subscribers, members, and Directors of the Rivanna company. be so good as to send this by return of mail, as I learn that three of these gentlemen are about to resign, and I would rather make them parties than any new hands. Accept the assurance of my great esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover of James Maury to TJ, 7 Nov. 1816; damaged at seal; at foot of text: “Howe Peyton esq.”; endorsed by TJ.

John Howe Peyton (1778–1847), attorney and public official, graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1797, studied law, and entered into practice by 1800. He represented Prince William County in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1808–10, after which he moved to Staunton and accepted appointment as commonwealth’s attorney for the district comprising Albemarle, Augusta, and Rockbridge counties. Peyton was the brother of TJ’s Richmond agent Bernard Peyton and a leader of the local bar who acted as one of TJ’s attorneys in his dispute with the Rivanna Company. He returned to politics in 1839 as a state senator for the Augusta and Rockbridge district and held the position for nearly two terms before resigning in 1845 due to poor health. A great proponent of education in Virginia, Peyton was a trustee of Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) and the Staunton Academy, a founder of the Virginia Female Institute (later Stuart Hall School) at Staunton, and a visitor of the United States Military Academy. He also helped establish the Virginia Military Institute. Peyton died near Staunton at his estate, Montgomery Hall, leaving property valued in excess of $30,000, including at least eighty-six slaves (J. Lewis Peyton, Memoir of John Howe Peyton, in sketches by his Contemporaries [1894]; John T. L. Preston, “Sketch of the Hon. John Howe Peyton,” New-England Historical and Genealogical Register 35 [1881]: 9–20; General Catalogue of Princeton University 1746–1906 [1908], 111; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends ; 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 , 2:1373; Augusta Co. Will Book, 27:398–400, 28:415–30, 30:326–7, 488–96; Staunton Spectator, and General Advertiser, 8 Apr. 1847; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 3 May 1847).

1Preceding two words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Bramham, Nimrod; and Rivanna Company search
  • Divers, George; and Rivanna Company search
  • Jefferson v. Rivanna Company; TJ’s counsel in search
  • Kelly, John; and Rivanna Company search
  • Meriwether, William Douglas; and Rivanna Company search
  • Peyton, John Howe; andJefferson v. Rivanna Company search
  • Peyton, John Howe; identified search
  • Peyton, John Howe; letters to search
  • Rivanna Company; directors of search
  • Rivanna River; milling on search
  • Shadwell mills; and Rivanna Company search