George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas, Lord Fairfax, October–November 1749

To Thomas, Lord Fairfax

[October–November 1749]

My Lord

I went Last Tuesday not knowing your Lordship had that very Day set out for Neavils1 to see whether you had any further Commands or directions to give concerning the Surveying of Cacapehon2 and as your Lordship was not at Home I was inform by Colo. G. Fairfax3 that you had not any Directions in Particular more than were given to the other Surveyors as your Lordship had mentioned ⟨ ⟩ therefore have made bold to Proceed on General Directions from him as the Missing this Oppertunity of Good Weather may be of considerable Hindrance I shall Wait on your Lordship at Frederick Court in November4 to obey your further Pleasure and am my Lord &c.

ADf, DLC:GW. For background to this letter, see the editorial note to GW to Ann Washington, Sept.–Nov. 1749.

Thomas Fairfax, sixth Baron Fairfax of Cameron (1693–1781), was born at Leeds Castle, Kent, England, and educated at Oriel College, Oxford. Through the inheritance of his mother he came into control of the Northern Neck Proprietary in Virginia, originally given as a grant by King Charles II to a syndicate of his supporters in 1649. Upon his father’s death in 1710 Thomas Fairfax became sixth Lord Fairfax, and at his mother’s death in 1719 he became sole proprietor of the Northern Neck Proprietary, which encompassed all of the land in Virginia between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers, the western line of which, running through the mountains just west of the Shenandoah Valley, was not determined until 1746. Until 1747, when Lord Fairfax settled permanently in Virginia, he was active in the affairs of the proprietary both through his own visits to the colony and through the use of agents. In 1734 he appointed as his agent in Virginia his cousin William Fairfax (1691–1757), who in the early 1740s took up permanent residence at his newly built home, Belvoir, located just a few miles down the Potomac River from Mount Vernon. When Lord Fairfax came to Virginia in 1747 he made his home at Belvoir. In the fall of 1749 he took up residence in Frederick County in the Shenandoah Valley and soon established his permanent home at Greenway Court, about 4 miles west of the point where Berry’s ferry crossed the Shenandoah River in what later became Clarke County. He was active in the affairs of the many counties located in the proprietary (in all of which he held the rank of justice of the peace) until the Revolution, when he retired from public affairs. Despite his probable Tory sympathies he suffered no harassment by the patriots. GW’s first official surveys, in 1749, were made for Lord Fairfax in counties included in the boundaries of the proprietary. Following Fairfax’s death in Dec. 1781 GW wrote to his friend and neighbor Bryan Fairfax: “altho’ the good old Lord had lived to an advanced age, I feel a concern at his death” (22 April 1782, PHi).

1George Neville (d. 1774) kept an ordinary at his home near the junction of the Carolina Road and a branch of the Dumfries Road near Cedar Run, then in Prince William County.

3GW established a close relationship to the Fairfax family through the marriage of his half brother Lawrence Washington to William Fairfax’s daughter Ann and through his friendship with George William Fairfax (1724–1787), one of William Fairfax’s sons by his first wife. After acquiring his education in England, George William returned to Virginia in 1746 and resided at Belvoir, where he assisted his father as agent of the proprietary. In Dec. 1748 he married Sarah (“Sally”) Cary (c.1730–1811), a daughter of Wilson Cary (1703–1772) of Richneck, Warwick County.

4The Frederick County court convened on 14 Nov., and on 16 Nov. Thomas, Lord Fairfax, presented himself to be sworn as a justice of the peace and as county lieutenant of Frederick County (Frederick County Order Book 3, 1748–51, p. 179). Also in the 1748 diary appears a memorandum which reads: “M: Delivered Mrs Humphreys this 30th Day of October 2 Shirts the one marked GW the other not marked 1 pr of Hoes & one Band to be Washed against November Court in Frederick.”

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