George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 22 September 1784]

22d. After giving instructions to Major Thomas Freeman respecting his conduct in my business,1 and disposing of my Baggage which was left under the care of Mr. Gilbert Simpson—consisting of two leather & one linnen Valeses with my Marquee & horseman’s Tent Tent Poles & Pins—all my bedding except Sheets (which I take home with me)—the equipage Trunk containing all that was put into it except the Silver Cups and Spoons—Canteens—two Kegs of Spirits—Horse Shoes &ca.2 I set out for Beason Town,3 in order to meet with & engage Mr. Thos. Smith to bring Ejectments, & to prosecute my Suit for the Land in Washington County, on which those, whose names are herein inserted, are settled.4 Reached Beason Town about dusk about (the way I came) 18 Miles.

Note. In my equipage Trunk and the Canteens—were Madeira and Port Wine—Cherry bounce5—Oyl, Mustard—Vinegar and Spices of all sorts—Tea, and Sugar in the Camp Kettles (a whole loaf of white sugar broke up, about 7 lbs. weight). The Camp Kettles are under a lock, as the Canteens & Trunk also are. My fishing lines are in the Canteens.

At Beason Town I met with Captn. Hardin6 who informed me, as I had before been informed by others, that the West fork of Monongahela communicates very nearly with the waters of the little Kanhawa—that the Portage does not exceed Nine Miles and that a very good Waggon Road may be had between—That from the Mouth of the River Cheat to that of the West Fork, is computed to be about 30 Miles, & the Navigation good—as it also is up the West fork—that the South or Main branch of the Monogahela [Tygart Valley River] has considerable impediments in the way, and were it otherwise would not answer the purpose of a communication with the North or South branch of Potomack from the westerly direction in which it runs—That the Cheat River, tho’ rapid and bad, has been navigated to the Dunkard bottom about 25 Miles from its Mouth7 and that he has understood a good way may be had from thence to the North branch, which he thinks must be about 30 Miles distant. He also adds, that from the Settlemts. on the East of the Alligany [Mountains] to Monongahela Court House8 on the West, it is reported a very good road may be opened, and is already marked; from whence to the Navigable Water of the little Kanhawa is abt. [ ] Miles.

From this information I resolved to return home that way; & My baggage under the care of Doctr. Craik and Son, having, from Simpsons, taken the rout by the New (or Turkey foot) road as it is called (which is said to be 20 Miles near than Braddocks) with a view to make a more minute enquiry into the Navigation of the Yohiggany Waters—my Nephew and I set out about Noon, with one Colo. Philips for Cheat River;9 after I had engaged Mr. Smith to undertake my business, & had given him such information As I was able to do.

Note, It is adjudged proper to ascertain the date of the Warrt. to Captn. Posey and the identity of his hand writing to his Bond to me; the latter so as to give it authenticity—as also the date of Lewis’s return, on which my Patent Issued—because if this is antecedent to the settlement of the occupiers of my Land, it will put the matter out of all kind of dispute; as the claim of those people rests upon their possessing the Land before I had any legal Survey of it; not viewing Crawfords as authentic. ’Tis advisable also, to know whether any location of it was ever made in the Land, or Surveyors Office, and the date of such Entry. And likewise, what Ordainance it is Captn. Crawford speaks of in his Letter of the 20th. of Septr. 1776 which passed he says at the last Convention, for saving equitable claims on the Western Waters.10

1GW’s written instructions to Freeman are dated 23 Sept. in his letter book (DLC:GW). One of the two main tasks he assigned Freeman was securing tenants for his lands on the Ohio and Kanawha rivers, for the Great Meadows tract, and for the mill and other still vacant lands at Washington’s Bottom. As compensation Freeman would be allowed 20s. Pennsylvania currency for each tenant obtained and two dollars for every farm laid off for those tenants, together “with such reasonable expences as may be incurred thereby.” Freeman’s other main task was to collect rents from the western tenants and debts from the purchasers at the recent partnership sale. Bonds and notes totaling £183 13s. 3½d. Pennsylvania currency, or £146 18s. 7¾d. Virginia currency, were today put in Freeman’s hands (General Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , folio 233). His commission was to be 5 percent of all money collected. GW also authorized Freeman “to act and do (where no particular instruction is given) in the same manner as you would for yourself under like circumstances; endeavouring in all cases by fair and lawful means to promote my interest in this Country” (GW’s instructions to Freeman, 23 Sept. 1784, DLC:GW). Nevertheless, GW would demand detailed and fairly frequent reports in the coming months (GW to Freeman, 11 April 1785, DLC:GW).

2GW obviously anticipated returning to this area at some future date, possibly as early as the next spring (Thomas Freeman to GW, 9 June 1785, DLC:GW). He could not know that he would never again come so far west.

The two kegs each contained eight gallons “of West India rum, one of them of the first quality” (GW to Thomas Freeman, 16 Oct. 1785, DLC:GW).

3Beeson’s Town was laid out on the upper reaches of Red Stone Creek in 1776 by the Quaker settler Henry Beeson (b. 1743). When Fayette County was formed in September 1783, the town was designated the county seat under its present-day name, Uniontown (WALKINSHAW description begins Lewis Clark Walkinshaw. Annals of Southwestern Pennsylvania. 4 vols. New York, 1939. description ends , 2:181–83). In early 1784 the town, according to newly arrived Ephraim Douglass, consisted of “a court-house and school-house in one, a mill . . . four taverns, three smith-shops, five retail shops, two Tanyards, one of them only occupied, one saddler’s shop, two hatter’s shops, one mason, one cake woman, we had two but one of them having committed a petit larceny is upon banishment, two widows and some reputed maids. To which may be added a distillery” (DOUGLASS description begins “Pittsburg and Uniontown, Pennsylvania: Letters from Ephraim Douglass to Gen. James Irvine.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 1 (1877): 44–54. description ends , 50).

4Thomas Smith, whom GW had known in Philadelphia before the war, had recently established a law practice in Carlisle, Pa., from whence he made regular circuits of the western courts. At Uniontown he and GW agreed on a basic strategy for prosecuting the people on Millers Run: the cases would be removed as soon as possible from the relatively hostile Washington County court to the friendlier Pennsylvania Supreme Court, members of which periodically traveled across the mountains from Philadelphia to hold sessions in the western counties. Although the cases in either court would be tried before a jury of western Pennsylvanians, the Supreme Court justices could be expected to make out a less hostile jury list and to rule much more favorably on points of law. GW’s suits were tried before Supreme Court justices in Washington County 24–26 Oct. 1786. In each instance the jury returned a verdict for GW, and the settlers vacated his land soon afterwards (Thomas Smith to GW, 9 Feb. 1785, 17–26 Nov. 1785, and 7 Nov. 1786, DLC:GW).

5A drink “made by steeping cherries in brandy with sugar” (GREEN description begins Bennett Wood Green. Word-Book of Virginia Folk-Speech. Richmond, 1912. description ends , 111).

6John Hardin (1753–1792), a miller and experienced Indian fighter, lived on George’s Creek in southwestern Fayette County. Born in Fauquier County, Va., he came to Pennsylvania with his parents about the age of 12. He served as an ensign in Dunmore’s War of 1774 and during the War of Independence was a lieutenant in the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment 1776–79. Like Van Swearingen, he was detached to Daniel Morgan’s riflemen in 1777, fighting with them at the Battle of Saratoga where he was wounded. He resigned from the Continental Army in Dec. 1779, but in the spring of 1782 served as a captain on William Crawford’s disastrous volunteer expedition against the Indians on the Upper Sandusky. Hardin moved his wife and children to Kentucky in 1786 and participated in several more Indian campaigns before his death at the hands of Indians while acting as an emissary (ROSENTHAL description begins Baron George Pilar von Pilchau. “Journal of a Volunteer Expedition to Sandusky, from May 24 to June 13, 1782.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 18 (1894): 129–57, 293–328. description ends , 156, 308).

7Dunkard’s Bottom, located on the east bank of the Cheat River near present-day Kingwood, W.Va., was first settled in the 1750s by members of the Church of the Brethren, a German Baptist sect whose adherents were known as Dunkers or Dunkards (DURNBAUGH description begins Donald F. Durnbaugh, ed. The Brethren in Colonial America: A Source Book on the Transplantation and Development of the Church of the Brethren in the Eighteenth Century. Elgin, Ill., 1967. description ends , 160–62, 165–67).

8Final settlement of the Virginia-Pennsylvania boundary having put the first courthouse of Monongalia County, Va., into Pennsylvania, the Virginia General Assembly in May 1783 designated Col. Zackquill Morgan’s home at the confluence of the Monongahela River and Decker’s Creek as the temporary courthouse (HENING description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends , 11:255–56). In late 1783 and early 1784 Col. Morgan laid off Morgantown, Va. (now W.Va.), on his property, where a permanent courthouse was built, but Morgantown was not officially established by the General Assembly until Oct. 1785 (CALLAHAN [2] description begins James Morton Callahan. History of the Making of Morgantown, West Virginia: A Type Study in Trans-Appalachian Local History. Morgantown, W.Va., 1926. description ends , 30–33, 51–52; HENING description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends , 12:212–14).

9GW and Bushrod Washington were to meet the Craiks at Warner Washington’s house in Frederick County, Va. (see entry for 29 Sept. 1784). The Craiks took that part of GW’s baggage which had not been left with Gilbert Simpson and which GW would not need on his journey home.

Theophilus Phillips (died c.1789), of Fayette County, lived about 2½ miles north of the mouth of the Cheat River near present-day New Geneva, Pa. He came to this area in 1767, apparently from New Jersey, accompanied by his brother-in-law James Dunlap, a Presbyterian minister. The first courthouse of Monongalia County, Va., was Phillips’s converted blacksmith shop, and he was probably both clerk and one of the justices of that court. When the 1780 boundary settlement between Virginia and Pennsylvania put his property a few miles inside Pennsylvania, he seems to have had little difficulty in transferring his allegiance to the Pennsylvania government. In 1782 he appears as a lieutenant colonel in the Westmoreland County militia, and in 1783 he was one of the men directed by the Pennsylvania legislature to purchase land for the courthouse of newly formed Fayette County. He was elected to the legislature in 1789, but before he could serve he died at sea while returning from a business trip to New Orleans by way of New York (WALKINSHAW description begins Lewis Clark Walkinshaw. Annals of Southwestern Pennsylvania. 4 vols. New York, 1939. description ends , 2:83–84, 181; MULKEARN AND PUGH description begins Lois Mulkearn and Edwin V. Pugh. A Traveler’s Guide to Historic Western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh, 1954. description ends , 245–46; WESTMORELAND MILITIA description begins “Muster Rolls Relating to the Associators and Militia of the County of Westmoreland.” Pennsylvania Archives, 6th ser., 2 (1906): 259–410. description ends , 295).

10This information was requested today by Thomas Smith for use in the suits against the settlers on Millers Run.

GW’s patent for his Millers Run land was based on a military warrant for 3,000 acres which John Posey had obtained under the Proclamation of 1763 for service in the French and Indian War and had sold to GW in 1770 (GW to John Harvie, 19 Mar. 1785, DLC:GW). The date of this warrant proved to be of little use in prosecuting the settlers, because although Posey’s bond assigning the warrant to GW was dated 14 Oct. 1770, the warrant itself, for some reason unknown to GW, was dated 25 Nov. 1773, later than the Oct. 1773 date which his opponents claimed for their settlement (GW to Smith, 14 July 1785 and 28 July 1786, DLC:GW).

Also of little use was the date on which William Crawford’s survey of the Millers Run land was sent by Thomas Lewis, surveyor of Augusta County, Va., to the secretary of the colony in Williamsburg for issuance of GW’s patent. Crawford made his survey in 1771, but it was the spring of 1774 before he entered it with Lewis, because not until Nov. 1773 did the Virginia council exempt holders of the 1763 military warrants from the general ban on patents west of the Appalachians (Crawford to GW, 8 May 1774, DLC:GW; VA. EXEC. JLS. description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia. 6 vols. Richmond, 1925–66. description ends , 6:549). The survey had to be taken to Lewis, because in 1774 the Millers Run area was considered by Virginia to be part of Augusta County.

If GW’s prior right to the land could not be established by the date of entry for the survey, it might be established by the date of entry for the proposed location of the survey, provided such an entry had been made. Standard patenting procedure apparently stipulated that a precise location of the area that one intended to survey be officially recorded before proceeding to do it in order to avoid overlapping surveys by warrantees (HENING description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends , 10:54). However, in the case of the Millers Run land no previous location was found in the records of either the county surveyor or the state land office in Richmond (GW to Smith, 28 July 1786, DLC:GW).

William Crawford’s letter to GW 20 Sept. 1776 (DLC:GW) apparently refers to a resolution passed by the Virginia Convention 24 June 1776, which stated in part “that all persons who are now actually settled on any unlocated or unappropriated land in Virginia, to which there is no other claim, shall have the pre-emption, or preference, in the grants of such lands” (Va. Gaz., P, 28 June 1776).

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