Thomas Jefferson Papers

Morgan Neville to Thomas Jefferson, 10 December 1819

From Morgan Neville

Pittsburg. Decr 10th 1819


The Motive for my present communication, must plead my Excuse for intruding upon you, & the history of your Life, is a pledge to every American, that the humblest request will be attended to.

I am the Representative of the late General D. Morgan of Virginia, to whom Congress presented a gold Medal for the battle of the Cowpens. This descended to me as the eldest male Grandchild1 of this officer. Unfortunately, a Bank, in which the Medal was deposited, was last year robbed, & this with many other valuable articles belonging to me, was taken. I have lost all hopes of recovering it, as I have reason to believe that one of the Robbers threw it into the St Lawrence: I leave it to you, sir, to judge of my mortification since this event.

I have determined to petition Congress, through my friend, the honorable Henry Baldwin, to pass a Resolution authorizing me to have one struck at my Expense; as my situation however, at present would not permit me to take advantage of such a resolution, without having the original Die, I have written on the subject to Mr Gallatin, & to the Marquis de la Fayette, whose Aid de Camp, my father the late General Presley Neville was, in “77. Since writing to these gentlemen it has occurred to me that, as the Medals voted by Congress were executed under your direction, you might be able to assist me with your advice; if I be not mistaken you employed on that occasion three artists; Duvivier, Dupré, & Cateau. My Grandfather’s was executed by Dupré. Any information which you may have the goodness to give me as to where these dies were deposited; whose property you consider them; the possibility of my procuring the one I want, & what course I ought to pursue, will be most gratefully acknowledged by me. By gratifying me with a reply to this communication, you will lay me under a most serious obligation.

With sincere wishes that your life may be long spared, permit me to offer to you the homag[e] of sincere respect & profound veneration

Morgan Neville.

RC (DLC); edge trimmed; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 16 Dec. 1819 and so recorded in SJL.

Morgan Neville (1783–1839), attorney and author, was born in Pittsburgh and educated at the Pittsburgh Academy. When the school became the Western University of Pennsylvania (later the University of Pittsburgh), he was one of its first trustees. With other young men Neville ventured to Blennerhassett Island in 1806 to join Aaron Burr’s expedition, but they were captured and detained by a Virginia militia unit. He was admitted in 1808 to the bar in Pittsburgh, where he was cashier of the Farmers’ and Mechanics’ Bank in 1818, editor and part owner of the Pittsburgh Gazette, 1818–21, and sheriff of Allegheny County, 1819–22. Neville relocated to Cincinnati in 1824 and became the secretary of an insurance company and the founder and editor of the short-lived Cincinnati Commercial Register, the first daily paper published west of Philadelphia. His literary career began in Pittsburgh, initially with poetry published in the Pittsburgh Gazette. Neville’s sketches of frontier life gained him renown, particularly “The Last of the Boatmen,” a description of the legendary boatman Mike Fink. He died in Cincinnati (William Henry Venable, Beginnings of Literary Culture in the Ohio Valley: Historical and Biographical Sketches [1891], 373–5; John T. Flanagan, “Morgan Neville: Early Western Chronicler,” Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine 21 [1938]: 255–66; Agnes Lynch Starrett, Through One Hundred and Fifty Years: The University of Pittsburgh [1937], esp. 62–3, 552; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 2:965; Neville, “The Last of the Boatmen,” in James Hall, ed., The Western Souvenir, A Christmas and New Year’s Gift for 1829 [(1828)], 107–22; Columbus Ohio State Journal and Register, 12 Mar. 1839).

The Farmers’ and Mechanics’ bank of Pittsburgh was robbed on 6 Apr. 1818. Joseph L. Pluymart and Herman Emmons, the perpetrators, were apprehended, and after Pluymart escaped he was eventually recaptured. However, the medal presented to Daniel Morgan was never recovered (Erasmus Wilson, ed., Standard History of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania [1898], 334, 337). On 2 July 1836 Congress voted to have a replacement medal struck. The original dies having been lost, a new set was created based on a surviving silver specimen. By the time the new gold medal was ready Neville had died, and it was presented to his eldest son (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 5:66; James Graham, The Life of General Daniel Morgan [1856], 414; R. W. Julian, Medals of the United States Mint: The First Century, 1792–1892, ed. N. Neil Harris [1977], 120).

cateau: Nicolas Marie Gatteaux.

1Word interlined in place of “descendant.”

Index Entries

  • Baldwin, Henry; as U.S. representative from Pa. search
  • banks; robbery of search
  • Congress, U.S.; petitions to search
  • Continental Congress, U.S.; and medals for Revolutionary War service search
  • Cowpens, Battle of (1781) search
  • Dupré, Augustin; and medals for Revolutionary War service search
  • Duvivier, Pierre Simon Benjamin; and medals for Revolutionary War service search
  • Emmons, Hernan; robs bank search
  • Gallatin, Albert; as minister plenipotentiary to France search
  • Gatteaux, Nicolas Marie; and medals for Revolutionary War service search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; and medals commemorating Revolutionary War search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; and American Revolution search
  • medals; commemorating Revolutionary War service search
  • Morgan, Daniel; medal commemorating Revolutionary War service of search
  • Neville, Morgan; and medals commemorating Revolutionary War search
  • Neville, Morgan; identified search
  • Neville, Morgan; letter from search
  • Neville, Presley; family of search
  • Pittsburgh, Pa.; banks in search
  • Pluymart, Joseph L.; robs bank search
  • Revolutionary War; battles of search
  • Revolutionary War; medals for service in search