George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 3 February 1785]

Thursday 3d. Mercury this morning at 22 at Noon [ ] and at Night 28.

Wind at No. West all day but it did not blow hard—clear & cold.

Mr. Benja. Dulany came here to Dinner & returned afterwards.

We concluded a bargain which has been long in agitation for the Exchange of his Land in this Neck which he & his wife have the reversion of for the tract I bought of Messrs. Adam Dow & McIver on Hunting Creek. The Exchange is simply Tract for Tract—but as he cannot put me in possession of his, Mrs. French his wife’s mother having her life in it he is to pay me, during that period—or until she shall relinquish her right therein, and the full & absolute possession is vested in me—the same annual rent I now receive from Mr. Dow—viz. One hundd. and twenty pounds Virga. Curry.

Writings & conveyances to this effect to be drawn by Mr. Charles Lee—Who from both is to be furnished with the necessary Papers.

his land in this neck: a tract of 543 acres on Dogue Creek, part of the 5,000 acres granted by Lord Culpeper to Nicholas Spencer and John Washington in 1674. With the exception of a small tract still held by the heirs of Harrison Manley, GW, by this exchange, now would control the entire neck of land lying between Little Hunting Creek and Dogue Creek, which had composed the original grant. To own the whole grant had long been one of GW’s ambitions, and he made every effort over a period of years to purchase the French-Dulany land. In 1782 GW had bought the 376–acre Dow tract, located on Hunting Creek and up the Long Branch of Hunting Creek, for the express purpose of trading it for the French-Dulany land. However, despite Mrs. Penelope French’s earlier approval of a trade for land nearer her home, a change of heart had led to a stubborn refusal on her part to relinquish her lifetime rights to the land (Benjamin Dulany to GW, 28 Feb. 1782, and GW to Lund Washington, 21 Nov. 1782, two letters, DLC:GW; Lund Washington to GW, 20 Nov., 4 and 11 Dec. 1782 and 8 Jan. 1783, ViMtvL). It was not until 1786 that the Dulanys and GW finally prevailed upon Mrs. French to sign a deed giving up her rights. Peter Dow, one of the former owners of the Hunting Creek Tract, was then living on that land (agreement between Dulany and GW, 4 Feb. 1785, PHi: Gratz Collection).

Charles Lee (1758–1815), the brother of Col. Henry (Light Horse Harry) Lee, was naval officer of the South Potomac District. In 1789 he was appointed collector of customs at Alexandria and from 1793 to 1795 was a member of the Virginia General Assembly from Fairfax County. He also practiced law in Alexandria and after the Revolution handled much of GW’s legal work. In 1795 GW appointed him attorney general of the United States.

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