George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Walker, 10 April 1784

To Thomas Walker

Mount Vernon 10th of Aprl 1784

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 24th of Jan: only came to my hands by the Post on thursday last—if this letter is as long on its passage to you, the May Session will have ended before it reaches you.

The favorable sentiments you have been pleased to express for me, deserve my particular acknowledgements; and I thank you for your kind invitation to Castle hill; which I certainly shall avail myself of, if ever I should come into that part of the Country. In return, I hope it is unnecessary to give you assurances of the pleasure I should feel in seeing you, and my cousin at this retreat from all my public employments.

I much approve the proposal for a meeting of the Swamp Company, but I pray you to issue the summons, and to name the time and place for holding it. Richmond appears to me to be the most convenient place, but any other, or any time, shall have my attendance when it may be in my power. The first of May I am called to Philadelphia on business of different kind1—how long I shall be absent is uncertain, for it is probable I may make a more extended tour, which would take much time to perform. I beg therefore that the meeting may not be delayed on my acct—Whatever resolutions the Company may come to, shall meet my concurrence.

Enclosed I send you the Copy of a letter from Doctr Williamson of North Carolina, who is a delegate in Congress, and member of a Company who holds that part of the Dismal swamp which lyes South of the Virginia line. I send it, that the proposition may appear before the next meeting of our Company, and be considered by it.2

With respect to the private purchase made conjointly by yourself, our deceased friend, and me, I can only say that I gave my consent to the Sale because Colo. Lewis desired his part to be sold; and indeed, because my own circumstances made it necessary for me to raise money by some such means; but I accompanied that consent with an opinion, that a Sale at this time would be premature, inasmuch as that the value of the Lands were not sufficiently known, nor had the spirit of emigration taken place in that extensive degree which was, and is, expected.3

In February last at Fredericksburgh, I had an oppertunity of seeing and conversing with Mr John Lewis on this subject, when it was our joint opinion, that it would be imprudent to precipitate the Sale, before a just value could be obtained—but that it might be proper to advertise the Land under just descriptions, in the several Gazettes, to see if offers equal to our expectations, would be made for them. If you approve of this measure for the Tracts in which you are concerned, it may be carried into effect along with that of Norfleets, which his father and I had between us in equal Moieties. Mrs Washington unites in best wishes for you and Mrs Walker with Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. As it is now nine years since I have heard a tittle from the company, or how the affairs of it have been managed, if you would devote an hour for the purpose of giving this information I should receive it very kindly. I should be glad also to receive a copy of Mr Andrews Survey of the Company’s Lands—or, if that would be troublesome, I should be very glad to know what quantity there is of it.4

Since writing the above, I find (as I mean to send this letter by Post to Fredericksburgh), that I have not time to Copy Doctr Williamson’s letter to me, and therefore I give you the original.

Go: W——n.

ALS (photocopy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1GW is referring to the upcoming first general meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati.

3On 24 Mar. 1782 John Lewis wrote that his father, Fielding Lewis who died at the very end of 1781 or the beginning of 1782, directed in his will that in addition to his share in the Dismal Swamp Company, both the land that he and GW had bought from Marmaduke Norfleet and the land that he, Thomas Walker, and GW had bought from “Doctr Wright & Jones” be sold. On 17 April 1782 GW wrote to Lewis reluctantly agreeing to sell the two tracts that he owned jointly with his late brother-in-law, and added: “I have not a sufficient recollection of them (especially the Tracts in which Doctr Walker holds a share) to describe any of them accurately. With respect to Norfleets, it is in No. Carolina, near the line, and upon the great road leading from Suffolk [Va.] to Edenton [N.C.]—abt 16 Miles from the former. . . . The Lands purchased of Jones & Doctr Wright lye betwn Norfolk & Suffolk, 6 or 8 M. from the latter and on or near Nansemond River.” GW’s account with Marmaduke Norfleet “of N. Carolina” (General Ledger A description begins General Ledger A, 1750–1772. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , folio 239) shows that in October and November 1766, GW and Fielding Lewis paid Norfleet £90.10. It also shows that on 22 Nov. 1766 they agreed to pay Norfleet a total of £1,290.10 “for 1093½ Acres of Land lying in Pequemen County No. Carolina,” in installments of £200 every October beginning in 1768 and running through 1773.

On 25 May 1788 GW consented to sell his half of the North Carolina land to John Cowper, subject to John Lewis’s approval; and in May 1791 Lewis sold the Norfleet tract to Cowper (see John Lewis to GW, 7 Dec. 1788, n.1).

GW sold his own share in the Dismal Swamp Company in 1795 to Gen. Henry Lee, but when Lee could not make the payments, the share reverted to GW’s estate in 1809.

The Nansemond tract was not sold. On 10 Oct. 1797 GW wrote Francis Walker that he had heard nothing about this property since telling John Lewis that he “would abide by” whatever “bargain for it” that he and Doctor Walker might make. GW in 1797 still held the title papers showing that he, Fielding Lewis, and Thomas Walker had bought, in the 1760s, a total of 1,210 acres in the county: 872 from Joseph Jones, 50 from Dr. James Wright, 100 from Stephen Wright, and 188 “King’s Patent.” In the schedule of his property attached to his will that he made in 1799 shortly before his death, GW made a notation on the entry relating to his Nansemond property: “These 373 acres are the third part of undivided purchases made by the deceased Fielding Lewis Thomas Walker and myself. . . . The land lyes on the Road from Suffolk to Norfolk touches (if I am not mistaken) some part of the Navigable water of Nansemond River. . . . the rich Dismal Swamp; is capable of great improvement; and from its situation must become extremely valuable” (ViFfCh).

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