From Francis Willis
February the 7 1774
Mr Alexanders Deed being not recorded caused some anxiety & uneasiness both to Mr Alexander & myself, Colenel George Fairfax hearing it, in order to be a means of bringing matters to a proper light, gave me the inclosed paper with an injunction not to forget sending it to You, a riddle I cannot comprehend, however here it is:1 I heartily & sincerely wish your good Lady to whom pray tender my best respects every happiness upon the approaching occasion which by common Fame (& frequently that is not over & above charitable) She has from her Son & Miss Calvert a very promising Aspect in their Union. I promised my Landlord who was with me for my Rent within a few Days of its becoming due to be with him this Month, & as I intended myself the Pleasure of waiting on You, I will postpone it till after the hurry of Mr Custis’s wedding is over,2 for I am too old to Dance, & very well know, when Old People act out of Character, by desiring to appear Young, Men of Sense justly despise them, & Young People laugh at them. I am told my Ward formerly & near Relation Lewis Willis made much such a trip on Mrs Frenches account as Your Humble Servant, but of the two, rather worse, for he even never see her, a Scheme I have given over, for it often happens better to go to bed Master & rise Mistress, which under the Rose, is, not always the case when a Man is hampered.3 I Am, Sir Your Most Obedient Ser. to Command
There were several Francis Willises living at this time, but this seems to be Francis Willis (c.1718–1782) of Gloucester County. Willis was an executor of the will of his uncle Henry Willis and probably acted as guardian of Henry Willis’s youngest child, Lewis Willis, who was very young when his father died. This Francis Willis was the uncle of Francis Willis, Jr., George William Fairfax’s agent.
1. The “inclosed paper” has not been identified. Mr. Alexander’s deed mentioned here may have been related to Francis Willis’s executorship of the will of Henry Willis, whose first wife was Anne Alexander Smith Willis, a daughter of Charles Alexander and widow of John Smith, both of Gloucester County. At her death Anne Willis left by her first husband one child, John Smith, who died at a young age. By his will young Smith left to the heirs of his stepfather Henry Willis a complicated legacy which continued for a number of years to produce both court actions and legislation. See WMQ description begins The William and Mary Quarterly: A Magazine of Early American History. Williamsburg, Va. description ends , ser. 1, 6:206–8, 5 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 397–400, and 8 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 663–65.
2. Whether Willis visited Mount Vernon later in the year is unknown. The “Mr Willis” who visited Mount Vernon in August and December 1774 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:269, 296) was Francis Willis, Jr., George William Fairfax’s agent.
3. Willis’s wife Elizabeth Carter Willis was dead before 1773, and he and his first cousin Lewis Willis, it would seem, courted Daniel French’s widow, Penelope Manley French of Rose Hill in Fairfax County. Lewis Willis’s late first wife was Mary Champe Willis, and he took his sister-in-law Anne Carter Champe as his second wife in 1773.