Thomas Jefferson Papers

Arthur S. Brockenbrough to Thomas Jefferson, 4 September 1819

From Arthur S. Brockenbrough

Char: Sept 4h 1819.

Dear Sir,

I have this moment recd your two favors of the 29t & 1st as I was disappointed in geting a pump borer, I set our overseer & hands at and have actually gotten some hundred feet bored. but a new difficulty has arisen the spring that was said to be so good has almost entirely dried up, we must therefore get water before we employ Mr Wade—I have had Mr Perrys improvements valued he now states he must have a deed of Trust on the property for the other payment, as the contract does not call for it I conceive I have no right to give it, the inconvenience and expence is too great to be born by me—I know not what to [. . .]—I can’t pay that attention to the business in [t]he present unsettled state of my affairs that I wish being obliged to continue at Laportes, you have no money in Richmond, I therefore can’t make the remittance you request untill your return—I beg you to write to Mr Perry on the subject of keeping possession of the houses so much to the disadvantage of the institution I am Sir with the highest respect your Obt sert

A. S. Brockenbrough

RC (CSmH: JF); mutilated at seal; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Poplar Forest near Lynchburg”; franked; postmarked Charlottesville, 5 Sept.; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Sept. 1819 and so recorded in SJL.

A pump borer “bores tree trunks to make the cylinders of pumps” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

John M. Perry’s November 1818 agreement to sell 48.75 acres bordering the 43.75 acres he initially sold to Central College stipulated that “three disinterested judges” were to assign a value to his improvements on this property and that this sum would be added to the $40-per-acre price of the land itself. Shortly after Central College turned over its assets to the University of Virginia, in April 1819 the new institution honored the agreement with a $3,000 down payment to Perry (Agreement by Perry to Sell Lands to Central College, 7 Nov. 1818; Perry to TJ, 10 Apr. 1819, and note).

On this date the three referees, William D. Meriwether, Reuben Lindsay, and John Jordan, completed a valuation according to which Perry’s improvements consisted of a west pavilion worth $1,529.42, an east pavilion with portico worth $1,554.42, a new addition worth $662.42, and “Kitchen Out Houses & Impts” worth $1,535.54, for a total of $5,281.80 (MS in ViU: PP; in Meriwether’s hand, signed by Meriwether, Lindsay, and Jordan; endorsed by Brockenbrough: “Valuation of the improvements on the land purchased of John M Perry,” with his additional calculation on verso that, the land being worth $1,950, the total value of the land plus improvements was $7,231.80).

Presumably reacting to the completion of the valuation, also on 4 Sept. 1819 Perry wrote to Brockenbrough with two propositions under which he would give immediate possession of this land to the university: “for you to give me a deed in trust to secure the payment of the money at the time it was to be paid according to Contract—otherwise I will give possesion upon your promis that you will give me back the possesion in Case the money is not paid at the time stipulated—again if you will say to me that you will see the money paid as aforesaid—Either of the above arrangements will be satisfactory to me or any other mode that will answer your purpose better will answer mine,” so long as the purchase price was secured to him when it became due (RC in ViU: PP; addressed: “Mr A. S. Brockenbrough Proctor u v”; endorsed by Brockenbrough). In a second letter written around this time, Perry asked Brockenbrough for “a Coppy of the agreement spoken of,” commented that “with respect to making a right to the property I have been allways ready & willing which I have told you before. and have urged the Necessaty of Closeing the Contract ever Since it was in existance,” expressed a willingness to refer either of his two propositions to arbitration, “and if thought unreasonable to abandon the Idie [i.e., Idea],” and concluded that “my arrangement in mony matters forbids my doing less than to make the payment Certain” (RC in ViU: PP; undated; endorsed by Brockenbrough as a letter of 4 Sept. 1819; addressed: “Mr A. S. Brockenbrough P. u. v—Present”).

With the purchase price finally established, on 23 Sept. 1819 Perry signed a receipt confirming that he had “Recd of A. S. Brockenbrough a Dft on Alex: Garrett for Six hundred & fifteen Dolls 90 cents being the balance of the first payment of the forty eight & 34 acres of land sold to the Central College & one half the value of the improvements thereon” (MS in ViU: PP; in Brockenbrough’s hand, signed by Perry; endorsed in an unidentified hand, in part, as “pd 23rd Septr 1819 $615.90”).

Index Entries

  • Brockenbrough, Arthur Spicer; as University of Virginia proctor search
  • Brockenbrough, Arthur Spicer; letters from search
  • Central College; land purchased for search
  • Garrett, Alexander; as Central College treasurer search
  • Jordan, John (brickmason); and University of Virginia search
  • Laporte’s boardinghouse (Charlottesville); boarders at search
  • Lindsay, Reuben; and University of Virginia search
  • Meriwether, William Douglas; and Central College–University of Virginia search
  • Perry, John M.; sells land to Central College–University of Virginia search
  • pipes, water; for University of Virginia search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; land for search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; water pipes for search
  • Wade, James; seeks employment at University of Virginia search
  • water; pipes search