Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to William H. Fitzhugh, 31 May 1818

To William H. Fitzhugh

Monticello May 31. 18.


In answer to the enquiries of your letter of the 18th as to the communications between Georgetown ferry & this quarter, I must observe there are three general routes practised, the lower one by Fredericksburg, the upper one by Fauquier C.H. and a middle one by Stephensbg. this last is many miles shortest, much the levellest, and being the particular one enquired after in your letter, I shall confine myself to it. according to Triplett’s survey

from Georgetown ferry by the way of Centerville to Gaines’s1 tavern are 31¾ miles;
but by Lane’s, Ravensworth, Yates’s ford & Songster’s are but 19410 miles
as measured by myself by an accurate machine to my carriage; making a difference 12⅓ miles.
from Gaines’s2 tavern to Stephensburg, by Triplett’s survey 38⅓  miles
from Stephensburg to Orange C.H. as measured by myself 2144100
from Orange C.H. to Charlottesville, nearly all measured by myself 30.

the mail stage road from Washington thro’ the great trading towns is necessary for commerce, but another thro’ the middle of the state below & parallel with the mountains is wanting for the body of the country, and the route I have noted is precisely that wanted, which continued on to N. Orleans would place that within 1000. miles of Washington, thro’ a level country, and always clear of the mountains. but these are objects for the rising generation, and not for that going off the stage. Accept the assurances of my great respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover to TJ; at foot of text: “W. H. Fitzhugh. esq.”; endorsed by TJ. Tr (DNA: RG 77, CNR); filed with Alexander Macomb to Board of Engineers, 24 Dec. 1824.

For triplett’s survey (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 233:41695), see TJ to Richard Fitzhugh, 26 Mar. 1805 (MHi). The accurate machine with which TJ measured mileage using his carriage was his odometer (Stein, Worlds description begins Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, 1993 description ends , 362–3).

1Tr: “Baines’s.”

2Tr: “Baines’s.”

Index Entries

  • Fitzhugh, William Henry; and road planning search
  • Fitzhugh, William Henry; letter to search
  • Georgetown, D.C.; ferry of J. Mason search
  • odometers search
  • Post Office, U.S.; and post roads search
  • roads; in Va. search
  • roads; in Washington, D.C. search
  • Triplett, John; survey of search
  • Virginia; roads in search
  • Virginia; roads proposed in search
  • Washington, D.C.; roads in search