George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George William Fairfax, 11 March 1778

To George William Fairfax

Head Qrs [Valley Forge] Pensa Mar. 11th 1778.

Dear Sir,

Immediately on my appointment to the command of the American Army and arrival at Cambridge (near Boston) in the year 1775, I informed you of the impracticability of my longer continuing to perform the duties of a friend by having an eye to the conduct of your Collector & Steward, as my absence from Virginia would not only withdraw every little attention I otherwise might have given to your business, but involve my own in the same neglected predicamt—What use you may have made of the information I know not, having heard nothing from you these four years, nor been in Virga the last three.1

I have heard and fear it is true, that your Seat (Belvoir) is verging fast to destruction—In what condition, & under what managemt your estate in Berkeley is, I know not—and equally ignorant am I respecting the Conduct of Peyton—but earnestly advise you to impower some person to attend to these matters, or the consequence is obvious.2

Lord Fairfax (as I have been told) after having bowed down to the grave, & in a manner shaken hands with death, is perfectly restored, & enjoys his usual good health, and as much vigour as falls to the lot of Ninety. Your Sister Washington goes on teeming, but can not produce a boy3—Miss Fairfax was upon the point of Marriage in decemr last with a Relation of mine, a Mr Whiting, but her ill health delayed it at that time, & what hath happend since I know not.4 Your Nieces in Alexand[ri]a are both married—the elder to Mr Herbert—the younger to Mr Harry Whiting, Son of Frank in Berkeley5—Mrs Cary, her Son Colo. Cary, Mr Nicholas, Mrs Ambler, & their respective families were all well about two Months ago. Miss Ca⟨ry⟩ is married to Tom Nelson, second Son to the Sec⟨retary⟩.6

Mrs Washington who is now in Qrs w⟨ith⟩ me joins in most affecte Complimts to Mrs Fairf⟨ax⟩ & yourself, with Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt Sert

Go: Washington

ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW noted in the internal address that the letter was “sent by Lt Genl Burgoyne” (see John Burgoyne to GW, 4 April, and Fairfax to GW, 3 Aug. 1778).

1Fairfax’s collector was Craven Peyton, and his steward was Francis Willis, Jr. GW, who had been given a power of attorney to deal with Fairfax’s affairs in Virginia on 8 July 1773, wrote Fairfax on 26 July 1775 that he could no longer continue that oversight. Fairfax apparently replied that GW should appoint Robert Carter Nicholas or some other person to manage Fairfax’s affairs, but that letter miscarried (see Fairfax to GW, 3 Aug. 1778).

2Fairfax’s Berkeley County land was located in the area that later became Jefferson County, West Virginia. On 20 Dec. 1779 Fairfax appointed George Nicholas as his attorney in place of GW.

3Fairfax’s half sister, Hannah Fairfax, had married GW’s first cousin Warner Washington, Sr. Their first six children were girls, but a son, Fairfax Washington (1778–1861), was born in June of this year. Thomas Fairfax (1693–1781), sixth Baron Fairfax of Cameron, proprietor of the Northern Neck Proprietary in Virginia, resided at Greenway Court in Frederick (now Clarke) County.

5Fairfax’s sister Sarah Fairfax (1730–1761) had married John Carlyle (1720–1780), an Alexandria merchant, in 1747. Their daughter Sarah (“Sally”) Carlyle (1757–1827) married Alexandria merchant William Herbert, and her sister Ann (“Nancy”) Francis Carlyle (1761–1778) married Henry (“Harry”) Whiting (1748–1786), son of Francis (“Frank”) Whiting (d. 1775) of Berkeley County, Va., in 1777. Frank Whiting had rented 700 acres on Bullskin Run from GW in 1773, and Harry Whiting continued the rental until 1785 (Ledger B, 113).

6“Mrs. Cary” was Fairfax’s mother-in-law, Sarah Cary (1705–1780), widow of Wilson Cary (c.1703–1772). Her children included Col. Wilson Miles Cary; Anne Cary Nicholas, wife of Robert Carter Nicholas; and Mary Cary Ambler (1733–1781), widow of Edward Ambler (1732–1768) of Jamestown. Wilson Miles Cary’s daughter Sally had married Thomas Nelson, Jr., in September 1777.

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