Thomas Jefferson Papers

Curtis Carter and William B. Phillips to [Nelson Barksdale], 24 March 1819

Curtis Carter and William B. Phillips to [Nelson Barksdale]

Richmond. 24th March 1819


we will contract with you to make & lay from seven to ten hundred Thousand Brick for the Virginia University and compleate it by the first day of November next for the following prices to wit

For all walls faced1 with oil stock Brick $18/M
For all walls faced with sand Stock Brick $13 do
all walls such as partitions brest of chimneys and
Seller walls below the surfice
$12 do

The Bricks to be all harde the sand & lime to be the best the nabourhood affords and the worke to be exeucuted in a nice and workman like manner

Curtis Carter
W B, Phillips

RC (ViU: TJP); unaddressed, but presumably written to University of Virginia proctor Nelson Barksdale; in Carter’s hand, signed by Carter and Phillips; endorsed by TJ: “Bricklayers. Carter & Philips.”

Curtis Carter (1778–1850), brickmason and farmer, worked as a bricklayer in Richmond from at least 1801 until 1819. He was elected to the city’s common council in 1812 and served as a private in the militia under Thomas Mann Randolph during the War of 1812. Carter owned sixteen slaves in 1810, twenty-eight a decade later, and ten in 1850. During his work at the University of Virginia he helped to build Pavilions I, VI, and IX, Hotel A, and some dormitory rooms. Carter subsequently returned to the Richmond area and took up farming. Late in life he turned to silkworm culture. Carter died at his Henrico County home owning real estate worth an estimated $12,000 and total assets appraised at just under $24,000 (Joseph Lyon Miller, The Descendants of Capt. Thomas Carter [1912], 290–1; 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 , 9:232, 10:69, 76; DNA: RG 29, CS, Richmond, 1810, Henrico Co., 1820–50, 1850 slave schedules; Richmond Virginia Patriot, 7 Apr. 1812; Virginia Militia in the War of 1812 [2001], 1:262; The Richmond Directory, Register and Almanac, for the Year 1819 [Richmond, 1819], 41; Lay, Architecture description begins K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country: Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia, 2000 description ends , 92; Richmond Enquirer, 10 Sept. 1839, 6 Aug. 1850; Henrico Co. Will Book, 13:309–14).

William B. Phillips (ca. 1790–1861), brickmason and farmer, learned how to lay bricks in Richmond while serving a seven-year apprenticeship under Benjamin Tanner, immediately followed by an additional seven years as Tanner’s foreman. After his arrival at the University of Virginia in 1819, he labored in partnership with Carter on Pavilions I and IX and then served as principal brickmason on Anatomical Hall, Hotel C, Pavilion X, and a number of dormitory rooms. Phillips also oversaw the construction of homes for the proctor and overseer. When his tenure ended in 1823, TJ wrote that Phillips had “executed much of the bricklaying at the University, and of the best work done there.” Phillips was later employed in a host of other public and private building projects in the state, including Thomas Jefferson Randolph’s home at Edgehill. In 1833 he purchased a sizable portion of Philip Mazzei’s old Colle estate near Monticello and settled there. Phillips owned thirteen slaves in 1820, twenty-three in 1840, and thirty-seven in 1850. His real-estate holdings in the latter year were valued at $25,000 (Tanner’s Recommendation of Phillips, 31 Aug. 1818, described below; Woods, Albemarle description begins Edgar Woods, Albemarle County in Virginia, 1901, repr. 1991 description ends , 296, 405; Lay, Architecture description begins K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country: Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia, 2000 description ends , 92, 101–2; DNA: RG 29, CS, Albemarle Co., 1820–50, 1850 slave schedules; TJ’s Recommendation of Phillips, 16 Dec. 1823; gravestone inscription in Maplewood Cemetery, Charlottesville).

Carter and Phillips both came to the University of Virginia with recommendations from associates in Richmond. Jaquiline B. Harvie wrote on 13 Mar. 1819 that Carter had “had work done for me to a considerable amount & that I have been entirely satisfied with him.” Robert Johnston stated on the same day that, based on work done for him “to a considerable amount, to my entire Satisfaction,” he had “no hesitation” in saying that Carter “may be depended on executing with fidelity, any contract he may enter into.” On 15 Mar. 1819 John Brockenbrough commented that “Carter has been, for several years past, one of the most respectable undertakers of brick work in this city. He had made & laid one half of the bricks in the walls of the new banking houses, & also had built the walls of my dwelling house. In both cases he faithfully complied with his contracts, & I have no question of his executing strictly any work he may undertake at the Central College.” Thomas Ritchie, also on 15 Mar., expressed his opinion that “Carter is entitled to confidence for his integrity as a man and his Skill in the line of his business” (MSS in ViU: LRW; each in the individual author’s hand).

Benjamin Tanner, on 31 Aug. 1818, certified that Phillips was trustworthy, “an excellent workman; of good Morals and industrous and attentive to business.” He added that “I do not know a better workman in that line.—He has carried on Brickmaking and laying in this City for two Years, much to the satisfaction of those who employed him.” Christopher Tompkins on 1 Sept. 1818 indicated that Phillips was “an Excellent workman” who could be relied on. Benjamin Tate, writing on 15 Mar. 1819, declared that Phillips had done “Several Jobs of Brick work for me” and that he esteemed him as “One of the best workmen & most faithfull in the execution of Work confided to him that I have been acquainted with in this City & believe Also that his Moral character is of the best” (MSS in ViU: TJP; all written on the same sheet, each in the individual author’s hand; endorsed by TJ: “Bricklayer. Philips Wm”).

1Manuscript: “faised,” here and below.

Index Entries

  • banks; in Va. search
  • Barksdale, Nelson; as University of Virginia proctor search
  • Barksdale, Nelson; letter to, from C. Carter and W. B. Phillips search
  • brickmaking; for University of Virginia search
  • Brockenbrough, John; recommends C. Carter search
  • Brockenbrough, John; Richmond home of search
  • building materials; bricks search
  • building materials; lime (mineral) search
  • building materials; sand search
  • Carter, Curtis; as brick-mason for University of Virginia search
  • Carter, Curtis; identified search
  • Carter, Curtis; letter from, to N. Barksdale search
  • Carter, Curtis; recommendations of search
  • Harvie, Jaquiline Burwell; recommends C. Carter search
  • Johnson, Robert (of Richmond); recommends C. Carter search
  • lime (mineral); as building material search
  • Phillips, William B.; as brick-mason for University of Virginia search
  • Phillips, William B.; identified search
  • Phillips, William B.; letter from, to N. Barksdale search
  • Phillips, William B.; recommendations of search
  • Richmond, Va.; banks in search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; recommends C. Carter search
  • sand search
  • Tanner, Benjamin (of Richmond); recommends W. B. Phillips search
  • Tate, Benjamin; recommends W. B. Phillips search
  • Tompkins, Christopher; recommends W. B. Phillips search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; brickmakers and brick-masons for search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; wages for workmen search
  • Virginia; banks in search