George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Mercer, 12 December 1774

To James Mercer

Mount Vernon 12th Decr 1774

Dear Sir

Your letter without a date came to hand last post;1 & inclosed you have my Bond to Messrs McCoul & Blair for £450 for your Brothers moiety of the four mile run Land; as also receipts for £40.11.11 the balance due from him on account of the ohio Lands, under the Proclamation of 1754. Fifty four pounds (being the amount of £40 Sterling at 35 ⅌Ct exchange) which he assumed the payment of for Van braams on the same Account—and £351.8.1 on accot of your own bond given for the interest due on your Fathers Estate, making (the three sums) together Four hundred & forty six pounds which you say is right. I have passed receipts in this manner because you desired it; not because it made no difference to me; for in fact it does, in asmuch as I must account with the Surveyor (whom, & myself, are the only persons in advance; he for his labour, & I for my money) for his proportion of these sums. As I have now complied with every requisite of your Letter, respecting this Land, I am persuaded you will make a full & ample conveyance of it, & send it by next post; executed before such Witnesses as will certainly attend, either the General Court, or the Court of this County.

In examining the papers which I got from Colo. Mason, I do not meet with one scrap of information respecting that part of the Land which you hold under Gabriel Adams’s Deed of the 19th of September 1730 for Seven hundred & ninety acres then in Stafford County, there being no paper relative to it, except an unattested copy of the Courses of the Deed: how you derive your Title therefore, I am ignorant; but do not doubt its being good. I confide in you for making it so, and am sure you will not deceive me. As you have made no mention of the want of the other papers, I presume you can do without them; but in case it was an omission, I shall add, that Stephen Gray obtained a warrant from the proprietors office for the Land (according to Mr Pendletons state of the case) in December 1723: by Will, dated the 26th of January following, he devised his whole real & personal Estate to Ann Gray his wife. Mr Pendleton says in May 1724 the Deed issued in the name of Stephen Gray; but he is mistaken, for it appears that the Patent for 378 acres, then in Stafford County, bears date the 17th of July in that year. On the 20th & 21st days of March 1732, the Land was conveyed by Deeds of Lease & release, to Jno. Mercer Esqr.; what followed after that period you know better than I can relate. Thus much I have thought proper to communicate, that you may be enabled to recite the title, if need be. If you have yet come across John Hough’s report of the Survey of these two tracts, made in 17762 I should be glad if you would forward it to me, as it will assist me greatly in surveying of it.3

I am very thoroughly convinced of Mr Dawson’s being a consummate rascal, & intended to have acquainted you with my suspicions, when I wrote to you, in order that you might be upon your guard at a settlement with him. Mr Snickers told me, the day I parted with you (as we crossed the Mountain together) that it was three Hundred Pines Dawson sold Shepherd, & that to his knowledge he had also sold a dozen or more horses; one in particular to Benjn Berry for twelve or fourteen pounds, which Barry immediately sold for twenty six. These things may, & do, readily account for the deficiency we found in the Articles of Horses & Stock; and I think from Snickerss account, good part of the crop of wheat has gone off in the same way. Only 713½ bushels have been brought to my Mill, by the Miller’s Books, & from your Accot of the remainder only 640 bushels are to come. Your Accot of the quantity of Corn sold, at the different Plantations, is right, except as to that at Carters & Buck Marsh; at those places Snickers had ninety four barrels & Noble twenty six; whereas you set down only an hundred, & all to Snickers. The Surplus, be it more or less, after the wheat is brought away, should be sold; but who is to be entrusted with this, unless you can confide in your New Overseer, I know not.4

If you still incline to dispose of Cattle from Marlborough, at the rates those sold at in Frederick, as you proposed, please to let me know the number you can part with, & the exact kinds, as soon as you can be Advised from your Manager there. The inclosed is a true Account of the Sales in Frederick, taking out the fatting Steers at Collins’s & Carters, and the yoke of oxen at the last mentioned place—If among the Steers at Dawsons any were fatted, I did not know it, & have ranked them in the common herd.5

If Mr Brent is to depend upon me for his rent let me know when it is to be paid, & the sum. he has always refused Gold & Silver otherwise than by weight, & Virginia Paper we scarcely see a bill of in the space of twelve months, in this part of the Country.6 I left the Plat of the Land at Leesburg for Mr Craven Peyton to make others by, so that it is not in my power to measure the Contents of your Low Ground on Shenandoa, but I should not suppose that there is more than 170 or 80 acres of it.7 I thank you for your Kind offer of assisting me in collecting, & remitting the proceeds of your brothers Estate, & doubt not but I shall have occasion for your assistance. I am, D. Sir Your most Obedt Servt

G: Washington


1The letter from James Mercer has not been found.

2This should be 1766. See note 3.

3In an indenture of 12 Dec. 1774 signed before witnesses by GW and by Neil McCoull and Alexander Blair of Alexandria acting as attorneys for George Mercer and two of his creditors, John Henry Cazenove and Elias Lindo, both of London, and by James Mercer, GW agrees to pay each brother £450 for the Four Mile Run tract about four miles north of Hunting Creek and just north of Alexandria. The document describes the property: “Whereas John Mercer Esqr. late of Marlbrough in the County of Stafford some time in the year 1759 being seised and possessed of two certain Tracts of Land lying and being in the said County of Fairfax formerly Prince William on the Waters of Four mile Run & Holmes’s Run adjoining each other & supposed to contain together eleven hundred and Sixty eight Acres which he purchased of Ann Midleton widow & sole Divisee of Stephen Gray deceased, and Gabriel Adams as may appear by their Respective Deeds of Conveyance to the said John Mercer recorded in the County Court of Prince William aforesaid on [22 Mar. 1732 and 16 May 1733]. By his Deed . . . in the year of our Lord 1759 and now of record in the General Court of this Colony did among other things convey the whole of these two Tracts of Lands aforesaid according to their supposed quantity more or less & with special warranty unto the said George Mercer & James Mercer as Tenants in Common in Fee simple—who entered in the same & being seised thereof. . . .And also whereas upon a Survey of the said Two Tracts of Land aforementioned made by Mr John Hough of the County of Loudoun in the presence & at the Instance of the aforenamed James Mercer in the month of November 1766 there was found to be twelve hundred and twenty four acres within the known, natural & artificial boundaries expressed in the Deeds from the Proprietor to the said Stephen Gray & Gabriel Adams exclusive of part of Stephen Gray’s which is supposed to be included within [ ] Strutfield an elder Title & now in the possession of Collo. John Carlyle” (DLC:GW). In 1791 GW’s clerk wrote for him below his account with the estate of John Mercer: “Note⟨,⟩ This Acct having connection with the acct of Colo. George Mercer Folio 129 It is proper to state, that the sd Colo. Geo. Mercer then residing in London did in the year 1772 morgage certain Lands lying in Fairfax County, Virginia to John Henry Cazenove and Elias Lindo of London & that the Sd Cazenove and Lindo did constitute and appoint Neill McCoal & Alexr Blair of Fredericksburg in Virginia their attorneys; which attorneys by virtue of their powers proceeded to sell the sd George Mercer’s moity of a Tract of Land in Fairfax County in Virginia near four mile Run which the Sd Geo. Mercer held in common with his brother James Mercer and that George Washington did purchase from the attornies aforesaid the moity of Land aforesaid in the Conveyance of which the said James Mercer also joined with the sd attorneys, and the sd George Washington gave his Bond therefor, payable to sd attorneys or their assigns for £450 Va Cy but the Sd George Mercer dying in London in 1784 without having returned to this Country, the sd James Mercer became heir and manager of the property of Sd George Mercer decd and he the Sd James Mercer doubting the validity of the power under which sd moity of Land ⟨,⟩ near four mile Run, was sold, Conveyed by a Deed dated 22d of May 1787 to the Sd George Washington the whole of Sd tract of Land, including the moity of George Mercer & his own; the sd George Washington having also then purchased the moity of sd James Mercer and on the same day of May 1787 the sd James Mercer & John Francis Mercer did give unto the sd George Washington a Bond of indemnification to relieve the Sd George Washington from the payment of the Bond of £450 given as aforesaid to Niell and McCoal & Alexr Blair attorneys of Jno. Henry Cazenove & Elias Lindo, on condition of the Sd Geo. Washington giving credit therefor to the Estate of Jno. Mercer decd which was accordingly done; all which will appear by refering to the Deed & Bond of indemnification aforementioned” (Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 221). GW did not have a chance to survey the Four Mile Run land until after the Revolution. At PPRF are his surveys dated 3–4 and 29–30 April 1799; at ViMtvL are GW’s undated “Rough-field-Notes taken by George Washington in running the courses of the Land bot from George & Jas Mercer”; and in ViHi: Custis Papers is an undated survey in GW’s hand of the Four Mile Run land with the notation at the top of the page: “Allow—4 Variation for Adams’s Patent in 1730—and [allow] 4½ Ditto for Grays Patent in 1724.” These two undated surveys may have been the ones GW made in the spring of 1785 (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:124–25, 324). For a later question about title to the land, see GW to James Mercer, 19 Nov. 1786, and note 1 of that document. For John Mercer’s indebtedness to the estate of Daniel Parke Custis which in 1774 stood at £2,100 principal and £1109.11.6 in interest, see doc. III-B, n.29, in Settlement of the Daniel Parke Custis Estate, 20 April 1759–5 Nov. 1761.

4William Dawson had been manager of George Mercer’s plantations on the Shenandoah for three years. For Dawson’s answer to these charges, see Dawson to GW, 5 Oct. 1789. For Dawson’s sale of pine planking to a millowner, see James Mercer to GW, 15 Oct. 1789, n.2. For a description of Mercer’s Shenandoah property, see the advertisement printed in note 3 of Statement concerning George Mercer’s Estate, 1 Feb. 1789. For GW’s future dealings with Edward Snickers regarding George Mercer’s wheat, see GW to Snickers, 10 Mar. 1775, Snickers to GW, 6 April 1775. Benjamin Berry bought at the sale one of the twenty-two tracts into which George Mercer’s land along the Shenandoah was divided before the sale (see Cash Accounts, December 1774, n.1).

5The account of the sale has not been found.

7At the sale of his brother’s Shenandoah lands in November, James Mercer bought lots 18, 20, and 22 on the river and three contiguous lots, numbers 16, 17, and 19 (Jones, “Snickers,” description begins Ingrid Jewell Jones. Edward Snickers, Yeoman. In Proceedings of the Clarke County Historical Association 17 (1971–75). description ends chapter 5).

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