George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Black, 16 November 1773

From William Black

Blacks Grove1 November 16th 1773


Being somewhat unwilling to run the Risque of Captain Parker’s offer, which perhaps might be the Case, Shoud his Messenger have return’d without a determined Answer, I therefore sent yesterday over to the Boat Man who had a few Oats to deliver at Urbanna, That if he wou’d wait till wednesday morning, I wou’d pay him 20/ which he having Consented to, I have now sent my Son over with this other proposal2 vizt Six Thousand Pounds for both places, this and Woromonkoke to be paid in 12 Months and 5 P:Cent discount for whatever I might want within that time, which woud be 300£ shou’d I want the whole; I will put Doors to all the Out Houses and repaire the Weatherboarding; I now can have Considerably more on giving time but that interferes with and wou’d postpone my Scheme of going Home longer than I wou’d willingly wish.3

With Submission to whatever may be the opinion of others, I humbly Conceive, That the same Money coud not be laid out to better, or indeed so good Advantage for the Benefit of the Young Gentlemans Estate than this Purchase; I believe it has been Experimentily found by many Gentlemen in the Country, That midling Land lying Contiguous to the bulk of their Estates, are by much more profitable than the very best lying at any Considerable distance. This Purchase wou’d give your Ward a very Valuable Estate in King William and a Genteel and Ellegant Seat in K: & Queen all Conveniencys, and Ready to Receive his Furniture, So Situate, that any day he may take a ride and View his whole Estate on both sides of Pomunky and Return before night, with this very great Advantage, that by means of the two Mills, All the Corn made in King William & here, woud be for Markett; There are Several Considerable Fixtures which wou’d go with the House and a very small Expence wou’d give this place a very different Appearance to the Rude State it now Shews and make it be thought worth double what it is now offered at. The offers I have made me is 660£ more than mine to you, and if the discount mentioned were to take place it would be near a Thousand4 Your Answer Signify’d by this Opportunity will Determine Sir Your very humble Servant

William Black


William Black (c.1720–1782), a well-to-do Scottish merchant, came to Virginia probably in the 1740s. In 1744 he served as secretary to the Virginia commission appointed to negotiate the Treaty of Lancaster with the Six Nations and left a journal of the early part of the proceedings. See “Black’s Journal” description begins R. Alonzo Brock, ed., “Journal of William Black, 1744.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 1 (1877): 117–32, 233–49, 404–19; 2 (1878): 40–49. description ends in Pa. Mag., 1:117–32, 233–49, 404–19; 2:40–49. Black seems to have had a store in Westmoreland County and later at Manchester in Chesterfield County. Before buying Pleasant Hill from Robinson’s executors in 1771 Black had lived in Prince George County, south of the James River.

Black’s first wife, a Miss Dent, died sometime before this, leaving him with two children, William Black, Jr. (d. 1784), and Anne Dent Black. Black had recently married a young woman who bore him one child, Frances Taylor Black. A number of years after Black’s death, his widow Frances and her second husband, William Claiborne, were involved in a lengthy lawsuit with Black’s children by his first wife over the Falls plantation which Black had bought from William Byrd (Leigh’s Reports description begins Benjamin Watkins Leigh. Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Appeals and in the General Court of Virginia. 12 vols. Richmond, 1830–44. description ends , 7:452–500). Black’s will, dated 23 Jan. 1782, is in Chesterfield County Will Book 3 (1774–85) 294–99, ViChCH.

1Black was living at John Robinson’s Pleasant Hill, to which apparently he gave the name Blacks Grove. See GW to Robert Cary & Co., 10 Nov., nn.3, 4, and 6.

2Captain Parker was probably the very successful Scottish merchant James Parker, whose house in Norfolk was among the first in the town to be burned by the Patriot mob in 1776. It undoubtedly was Parker’s “offer” to which Black refers at the end of the letter. Black’s hope for an immediate reply by his son William Black, Jr., was not fulfilled, for GW did not respond until Thursday, 18 November. A likely explanation for Black’s reluctance to await a response from Parker is the fact that GW was offering better terms of payment than Black was asking in his advertisement (see Memorandum of Agreement with Black, 25 Nov., Bond to William Black, 30 Nov., and Black’s advertisement in Rind’s Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg], 21 Oct. 1773).

3For descriptions of Pleasant Hill and Romancoke plantations, see GW to Robert Cary & Co., 10 Nov., and notes 3, 4, and 6. For an account of GW’s negotiations with Black for this property, see notes 3 and 4 of that document.

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