George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Walker, 24 January 1784

From Thomas Walker

Castle Hill albemarle [Va.] Jany 24th 1784

Dear Sir,

The language I am acquainted with being in my opinion too poor to do justice to your merrit I shall be silent on that head.

The present business is respecting the Dismal, the Company having Shewed the value of those Lands, many are so mean as to wish for what is most undoubtedly their property.1

During Mr John Washintons mannaging for us he applyed to Mr Cooper the then surveyor to survey the Companys Lands which as I am informd he said was out of his power, this was sometime before the late grorius contest began, after that commenced it is well known that part of the Country was generally in the enemys possession of course no surveying could be done, since the return of Peace Mr Robert Andrews has by appointment made the survey,2 the Company wish to have a meeting and have requested me as an old member & mannager to appoint one, your being as old a member & mannager and your character being the first at present in the world an appointment from you would in my opinion produce a full meeting,3 the place & time I submit to your better judgment and convenience, the inclosed list will shew you the place of Residence of the different members.4

Possibly you may desire my opinion with regard to the time & place of meeting as you have been long employed gloriously in distant parts of the United states, I would not wish you to pay any regard to what is mention on this head unless it coinsides with your own Opinion.

Richmond espetially during the May assembly will be most convenient to a majority.

Fredericksburg the next most convenient, that will suit your self, Mr Page, Mr Lewis & Thomas Walker. Mr John Lewis of Fredericksburg informed me that he was impower by your Excellency & his Fathers Will to sell the Lands we held in partership in the dismal to which he wished my concurrence, I am willing to sell & have enquired of some gentlemen from that part of the state into the value, which they suppose fifteen Shillings Per Acre, far short in my opinion of the real value, that I submit to you and am willing to take any price for my part that is agreable to the other Par[t]ners.5

Your relation is very well and desires her best compliments [to] Your Lady and self, to which pleas ad mine to your Lady, Betsy & self should be extreemly happy to see you both any where but more particularly at this place.6 I am Dear Sir with the greatest esteem your Excellencys Most Hble Servant

Thomas Walker


Thomas Walker (1715–1794) had been associated with GW since the 1750s at the time when GW was colonel of the Virginia Regiment and Walker was a commissary for the Virginia troops. By 1784 Walker had retired from public life and was living at his estate, called Castle Hill, near Charlottesville, Virginia.

1In renewing the petition of 25 May 1763, William Nelson presented a petition to the Virginia council on behalf of himself and more than one hundred and fifty other men to take up and improve “a large Tract of waste Land lying in the Counties of Norfolk and Nansemond and commonly known by the name of Dismal Swamp.” The council read the petition on 1 Nov. 1763 and granted Nelson and his associates each 1,000 acres of land on 2 November. On 3 Nov. 1763 the trustees, or managers, signed articles of agreement forming a company “for the purpose of taking up and draining a large Body of Land called the Dismal Swamp.” The articles included a provision that the assets of the company could be divided only by a majority vote of the members in a general meeting. For details of the early history of the Dismal Swamp Company and the source of these quotations, see Articles of Agreement, 3 Nov. 1763, and notes in Papers, Colonial Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends , 7:269–74.

2John Washington (1740–1777) of Suffolk, Va., was the younger brother of Lund Washington, GW’s wartime plantation manager. David Jameson wrote Walker on 25 Oct. 1784 that he was sending letters he had “recd in 1781 from Col. Henry Riddick who had been employed to superintend the Companys affairs after Mr Washington went away” (NcD: Dismal Swamp Land Company Papers). Apparently John Washington was a captain in the Virginia forces in 1775 and 1776. The Rev. Robert Andrews, professor of moral philosophy in the College of William and Mary, obtained a survey by county surveyors of 40,000 acres in Dismal Swamp (David Jameson to David Meade, April 1784, NcD: Dismal Swamp Land Company Papers). In 1785 Andrews was chosen to fix the route of an Elizabeth River canal, and he later became president of the Dismal Swamp Company.

3David Jameson wrote to David Meade in April 1784: “After we had failed in a meeting [in November 1783] I wrote to Dr Walker as the oldest manager [of the Dismal Swamp Company], to appoint another, but he has not answered my letter. I imagine at the next setting of the assembly a meeting may be had of members sufficient to do business. And I hope Gen. Washington may be prevailed on to be there” (NcD: Dismal Swamp Land Company Papers). At the first meeting of the company more than twenty years before, on 3 Nov. 1763, GW, Thomas Walker, and Fielding Lewis volunteered “to attend the Surveying the Land” and to check the land grants in Nansemond and Norfolk counties and were appointed “Managers” of the company.

4See enclosure.

5John Lewis (1747–1825) was the oldest son of Fielding Lewis of Fredericksburg, Va., GW’s brother-in-law and one of the original members of the Dismal Swamp Company. He was the son of Lewis’s first wife.

6Thomas Walker was married in 1741 to Mildred Thornton Meriwether, widow of Nicholas Meriwether. After the death of his first wife in 1778, Walker married Elizabeth Gregory Thornton, the widow of Reuben Thornton. As GW once explained, three daughters of his aunt Mildred Washington Lewis Gregory Willis named Frances, Elizabeth, and Mildred Gregory married three Thornton brothers, Francis, Reuben, and John Thornton, respectively. Francis Thornton’s daughter Mildred in turn married GW’s brother Charles, and John Thornton’s daughter Mildred was the second wife of GW’s brother Samuel. Walker’s first wife, the Widow Meriwether, was a sister of the Thornton brothers; his second, the Widow Thornton, was GW’s first cousin.

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