Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Paxton to Thomas Jefferson, 4 August 1820

From William Paxton

Lexington. August 4th 1820.


Not long since when passing the Natural Bridge, I was solicited by Patrick Henry to write you on the subject of some tresspasses he Alledges are committing on your premises there, such as cutting timber &C. He is desireous to know If you purpose a visit to the Bridge this season, or If ’tis your wish that he should in your Absence endeavour to Asscertain the bounderies of your Original Grant, some difference of Opinion as to the lines of Adjoining lands appear to exist.   I went to the Bridge I think in April last for that purpose at Patrick’s request, where I understood you expected to be, but nothing was done, the bad weather as we Supposed, or some Other cause prevented your crossing the mountain.

It is certainly to be regretted that the timber, no matter to whome belonging should have been destroyed so near the top of the Bridge.

Accept my Sincere regard

Wm Paxton

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 10 Aug. 1820 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Bernard Peyton, 3 Nov. 1821, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson esq. Monticello”; franked; postmarked Lexington, Va., 6 Aug.

William Paxton (ca. 1777–1853), farmer and public official, served Rockbridge County as a justice of the peace, 1807–27. He was county surveyor for many years prior to his resignation in 1831 and sheriff during the latter half of the 1830s. Paxton also represented Rockbridge County for two terms in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1816–18. He surveyed TJ’s property at Natural Bridge in November 1821, sat for a time on the Virginia Board of Public Works, and superintended a great deal of local canal and road construction. Paxton owned seven slaves in 1830 and eleven a decade later, with the value of his real estate estimated at $10,000 in 1850 (William M. Paxton, The Paxtons [1903], 263; Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine 48 [1916]: 439; Oren F. Morton, A History of Rockbridge County Virginia [1920], 564–6; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends , 287, 291; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, 2 vols., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1380, 1381; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1820–21 sess.], 164 [6 Feb. 1821]; DNA: RG 29, CS, Rockbridge Co., 1830, 1850, Lexington, 1840; gravestone inscription in Paxton Family Cemetery, Mechanicsville, Rockbridge Co.).

The original grant from the Crown to TJ for the 157-acre Natural Bridge tract is dated 5 July 1774 (Vi: RG 4, Virginia Land Office Patent Book, 42:657–8).

Index Entries

  • Henry, Patrick (of Rockbridge Co.); as tenant at Natural Bridge search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; logging at search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; survey of search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; TJ’s patent for search
  • Paxton, William; and survey of Natural Bridge search
  • Paxton, William; identified search
  • Paxton, William; letters from search
  • surveying; and Natural Bridge search
  • trees; at Natural Bridge search