George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Preston, 7 March 1774

From William Preston

Fincastle March 7th 1774


I recd your Letter Inclosing a Warrant for 2000 Acres, & a Certifate of Mr Crawfords for 2050 Acres in the Fork of the great Kanhawa and Cole River, by favour of Mr Young.1

Be assured Sir that nothing could have given me greater Pleasure than to have complied with your Request had it been in my Power; and the rather as I see nothing in it that is unreasonable or unprecedented. When I was last at Wmsburg his Lordship presented me with two Platts of 2000 Acres each one for Doctr Connilly & the other for one Warrenstaff and requested, nay even urged me to sign them; as they had been Accurately Surveyed by Mr Douglas, an Assistant to Capt. Bullet who had been regularly appointed by the College, I with some Reluctance Signed the Certificates by which those Gentlemen immediately obtained Patents.2 This Transaction has made a great deal of Noise; & indeed it is the Opinion of many good Judges that the Patents are altogether illegal. This alone is my Reason for not complying with your Request, and the promise I then made to Colo. Lewis on your Behalf; for at that Time I could not forsee any ill Consequence that could attend such a Step.

I have Advertized the Officers who obtained Warrants from Lord Dunmore to meet my Assistants at the Mouth of New River the 14th of April.3 Two of the Assistants will go from hence down the River, and not far from the mouth of Cole River they intend to provide Canoes to proceed down the Ohio. I can think of no better Method than what Colo. Lewis has proposed; which is, that one of them on his way down shall Survey the Land and by the first Opportunity send me the Plan to be recorded.4 Colo. Lewis says he will endeavour to perswade his Son to go, or send a Surveyor, to lay off the Tract you have in Botetourt, & that he will return from thence imediately:5 Should the Colo. Succeed in this, then my Assistant could send up the Plan & by that Means & Mr Lewis & myself might have it in our Power to send you the Certificates before the rising of the next Session of Assembly. If Mr Lewis can neither go, or send down the River at that Time, I shall leave no method in my Power unattempted to have your Survey made and returned to you before the Assembly rises, or to Colo. Bassett afterwards, who I suppose will transact the Business for you. In the mean time I shall Enter the Land on my Book & send you a Copy this I suppose will secure it to you untill it can be legally Surveyed.

The 2000 Acres on Salt River which Capt. Bullet mentioned to you & which he laid off last year, has been Entered some Time ago by Capt. Christian.6 Mr Young has a Copy of the Entry. I beleive all the Salt Springs discovered in that Country have been Entered.

I am sorry it was not in my Power to comply with your Request, but for the Reasons I have given I hope you will excuse me, and the more so as I shall do all I can to have your Land Surveyed early in the Season, for which purpose I have kept Mr Crawfords Certificate that it may be laid off accordingly.7 I am with great Regard Sir Your most Obedt hble Servt

Wm Preston


2These were the only grants that Governor Dunmore made on the land warrants secured under the terms of the royal Proclamation of 1763. James Douglas (d. 1793) led an exploring party into Kentucky in 1773 and in April 1774 he became a member of John Floyd’s surveying party, which was sent out by Preston to survey lands for the soldiers under the Proclamation of 1763.

3Preston’s advertisement appeared in both Virginia Gazettes as well as in the Maryland Gazette (Annapolis): “NOTICE is hereby given to the Gentlemen, Officers, and Soldiers, who claim Land under his Majesty’s Proclamation of the 7th of October, 1763, having obtained Warrants from His Excellency the Right Honourable the Earl of Dunmore, directed to the Surveyor of Fincastle County, and intending to locate their Lands on or near the Ohio, below the Great Kanhawa, that several Assistant Surveyors will attend at the Mouth of the New River, or Great Kanhawa, on Thursday the 14th of April, to survey for such only as have or may obtain his Lordship’s Warrants for so doing. I would therefore request that the Claimants, or their Agents, will be very punctual in meeting at the Time and Place above mentioned, properly provided with Chain Carriers and other Necessaries to proceed on the Business without Delay. As several Gentlemen, who are acquainted with that Part of the Country, are of Opinion, that, to prevent Insults from strolling Parties of Indians, there ought to be at least fifty Men on the River, below the Mouth of the Kanhawa, to attend the Business in such a Manner as the Gentlemen present judge most proper until it is finished, or the Season prevent them from surveying any more, should the Gentlemen concerned be of the same Opinion, they will doubtless furnish that or any less Number of Men they believe necessary. It is hoped the Officers, or their Agents, who may have Land surveyed, particularly such as do not reside in the Colony, will be careful to send the Surveyor’s Fees when the Certificates are demanded. WILLIAM PRESTON, Surveyor of Fincastle” (Purdie and Dixon; Williamsburg), 24 Feb. 1774. Fincastle County was created in 1772 from Botetourt County.

4For the Coal River tract on the Great Kanawha, see GW to Preston, 28 Feb., n.2. The new survey was dated 18 April. See Preston to GW, 27 May and 15 August. The surveying expedition led by John Floyd (1750–1783), formerly a schoolteacher in Preston’s family and now an assistant surveyor of Fincastle County, consisted of Floyd, James Douglas, Thomas Hanson, Alexander Spotswood Dandridge, Isaac Hite, James Knox, Roderick McCrea, and Mordecai Batson. Thomas Hanson left a journal of the expedition (see Thwaites, Dunmore’s War description begins Reuben Gold Thwaites and Louise Phelps Kellogg, eds. Documentary History of Dunmore’s War, 1774. Madison, Wis., 1905. description ends , 110–33).

5Preston is referring to the tract of 2,950 acres in Botetourt County, across the Great Kanawha from the Coal River, which GW was seeking to claim. See GW to Preston, 28 Feb., n.5. Andrew Lewis’s son Samuel (d. 1810), surveyor of Botetourt County, was unable to lay off the tract at this time (see Andrew Lewis to GW, 9 Mar.).

6Captain Christian probably was William Christian, sheriff of Fincastle County and Patrick Henry’s brother-in-law.

7On this date Preston as surveyor of Fincastle County wrote and signed this entry: “Colo. George Washington (by Virtue of the Governors Warrent) Enters 2000 Acres of Land in the Fork of the great Kanhawa & Cole River to extend up each River for Quantity, as marked out by Mr William Crawford” (PHi: Gratz Collection).

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