George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 1 October 1784]

October 1st. Dined at Mr. Gabriel Jones’s,1 not half a mile from Mr. Lewis’s, but seperated by the South fork of Shannondoah; which is between 80 and a hundred yards wide, & makes a respectable appearance altho’ little short of 150 Miles from its confluence with Potomack River; and only impeded in its navigation by the rapid water & rocks which are between the old bloomery2 and Keys’s ferry; and a few other ripples; all of which might be easily removed and the navigation according to Mr. Lewis’s account, extended at least 30 Miles higher than where he lives.

I had a good deal of conversation with this Gentleman on the Waters, and trade of the Western Country; and particularly with respect to the navigation of the Great Kanhawa and it’s communication with James, & Roanoke Rivers.

His opinion is, that the easiest & best communication between the Eastern & Western Waters is from the North branch of Potomack to Yohiogany or Cheat River; and ultimately that the Trade between the two Countries will settle in this Channel. That altho James River has an easy & short communication from the Mouth of Carpenters or Dunlaps Creek to the Greenbriar which in distance & kind of Country is exactly as Logston described them, yet, that the passage of the New River, abe.

Kanhawa, thro’ the gauly Mountain from every acct. he has had of it, now is, and ever will be attended with considerable difficulty, if it should not prove impracticable. The Fall he has understood, altho it may be short of a Cateract, or perpendicular tumble, runs with the velocity of a stream discending a Mountain, and is besides very Rocky & closely confined between rugged hills. He adds, that from all appearance, a considerable part of the Water with which the River above abounds, sinks at, or above this rapid or fall, as the quantity he says, from report, is greatly diminished. However, as it is not to his own observations, but report these accts. are had, the real difficulty in surmounting the obstructions here described may be much less than are apprehended; wch. supposition is well warranted by the ascention of the Fish.

Mr. Lewis is of opinion that if the obstructions in this River can be removed, that the easiest communication of all, would be by the Roanoke, as the New River and it are within 12 Miles, and an excellent Waggon road between them and no difficulty that ever he heard of, in the former, to hurt the inland Navigation of it.

1Gabriel Jones (1724–1806), an able but hot-tempered lawyer given to outbursts of profanity, had long been prominent in Shenandoah Valley affairs. He studied law in England and returned to Virginia in the 1740s. He was appointed king’s attorney for Frederick County in 1744 and for Augusta County in 1746, making him thereby responsible for prosecuting public suits in much of western Virginia during the next three decades. To his contemporaries he became known as “the Valley Lawyer” (GRIGSBY description begins Hugh Blair Grigsby. The History of the Virginia Federal Convention of 1788, with Some Account of the Eminent Virginians of That Era Who Were Members of the Body. 2 vols. Richmond, 1890–91. description ends , 2:16–19; BLUE COAT BOYS description begins “The Blue Coat Boys.” Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine 1 (1919-20): 43–45. description ends , 44–45; BARTON description begins R. T. Barton. “Gabriel Jones ‘The Lawyer.’” West Virginia Historical Magazine Quarterly 2, no. 2 (1902): 19–30. description ends , 19–22). He also served the Shenandoah counties as a burgess at various times, representing Frederick 1748–54, Hampshire 1754–55 and 1758–61, and Augusta 1756–58 and 1769–71. It was due in part to Jones’s influence and activity that GW was first elected to the House of Burgesses from Frederick County in 1758 (Jones to GW, 6 July 1758; DLC:GW; GW to Jones, 29 July 1758, PHi). Jones lived in Frederick County near present-day Kernstown, Va., from 1747 to about 1753, when he moved to Augusta County, taking up residence at the place where GW visited him today, about 2½ miles down the South Fork of the Shenandoah from present-day Port Republic. His move may have been prompted by the fact that Thomas Lewis and another neighbor, John Madison, were both married to sisters of Jones’s wife, Margaret Strother Morton Jones (d. 1822). After 1777, when Jones’s home passed into Rockingham County, he became prosecuting attorney for the new county, serving until 1795 (WAYLAND [4] description begins John W. Wayland. A History of Rockingham County, Virginia. Dayton, Va., 1912. description ends , 350–51; WAYLAND [2] description begins John W. Wayland. Historic Homes of Northern Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Staunton, Va., 1937. description ends , 220–23, 226).

At Gabriel Jones’s home today GW met Jones’s son-in-law, John Harvie (1743–1807), register of the Virginia land office 1780–91 (HESTER description begins Mary Foy Hester. “The Public Career of John Harvie.” Master’s thesis, University of Virginia, 1938. description ends , 4, 32). GW had corresponded frequently with Harvie earlier this year about warrants and surveys on the Ohio and on Millers Run (GW to Harvie, 10, 29 Feb., and 18 Mar. 1784 and 19 Mar. 1785, and Harvie to GW, 21 Feb., 12 and 14 April 1784, DLC:GW).

2Bloomery, W.Va. See entry for 9 May 1760.

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