Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Richard Duke, 24 January 1819

To Richard Duke

Monticello Jan. 24. 19.


The duties of a Proctor for the Central college are of two characters so distinct, that it is difficult to find them associated in the same person. the one part of these duties is to make contracts with workmen, superintend their execution, see that they are according to the plan, performed faithfully and in a workman like manner, settle their accounts, and pay them off. the other part is to hire common laborers, overlook them, provide subsistence, and do whatever else is necessary for the institution. for this latter part mr Barksdale is fully qualified: but the other part we have thought would be better done by a person more accustomed to that sort of business, and mr Garrett has given me a hope you would undertake this part. if you could devote two days in the week to it, it would be quite sufficient, but if this is incompatible with your other business, one day in the week would do. whatever agreement as to these particulars, or as to compensation, shall be arranged between mr Garrett and yourself, will be confirmed, and we should wish your entrance on your branch of the office as soon as we learn that the bill for the establishment of the University at the site of the Central College has passed both houses of legislature. I salute you with esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (ViU: TJP); addressed: “Mr Duke near Lindsey’s store”; franked; postmarked Charlottesville, 26 Jan. PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of George Washington Jeffreys to TJ, 3 Nov. 1818; endorsed by TJ.

Richard Duke (1778–1849), artisan, came to Albemarle County in 1806 and in 1821 bought a milling complex known as the Rivanna Mills, which he ran with his brother James Duke. Both men also worked as carpenters. Duke subscribed $200 toward the establishment of Central College, but in 1819 he evidently declined TJ’s offer to contract with and superintend the efforts of workmen at the University of Virginia and thus divide the duties of proctor with Nelson Barksdale. That same year he did become an Albemarle County magistrate. Duke was a director of the Rivanna Navigation Company in 1829 and served as county sheriff in 1847. He was in possession of twenty-eight slaves in 1820. Named a potential appraiser of TJ’s estate in 1826, Duke did not serve. After his own death his personal property was valued at $228.77 (Duke family Bible records [ViU]; Woods, Albemarle description begins Edgar Woods, Albemarle County in Virginia, 1901, repr. 1991 description ends , 181–2; Elizabeth F. Archer, “Paper Memories: Recalling the Dukes of Albemarle,” MACH description begins Magazine of Albemarle County History, 1940–  (title varies; issued until 1951 as Papers of the Albemarle County Historical Society) description ends 59 [2001]: 87–9; DNA: RG 29, CS, Albemarle Co., 1810–40; James Duke and Richard Duke to John H. Cocke, 20 Apr. 1814 [ViU: JHC]; Master List of Subscribers to Central College, [after 7 May 1817], document 5 in a group of documents on The Founding of the University of Virginia: Central College, 1816–1819, printed above at 5 May 1817; K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country: Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia [2000], 213, 318; Admission of TJ’s Will to Probate and Appointment of Appraisers, 7 Aug. 1826, Albemarle Co. Order Book [1826], 247; Richmond Enquirer, 24 Apr. 1829, 12 Jan. 1837, 9 Aug. 1839; Albemarle Co. Will Book, 21:133–4).

Index Entries

  • Barksdale, Nelson; as Central College proctor search
  • Duke, Richard; as potential proctor for University of Virginia search
  • Duke, Richard; identified search
  • Duke, Richard; letter to search
  • Garrett, Alexander; as Central College treasurer search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Bill to Establish a University search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; proctor of search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; Bill to Establish a University search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search