George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Ross, 28 November 1789

From David Ross

Virginia Richmond 28th Novr 1789.

The Petition of David Ross of the State of Virginia

Humbly Sheweth,

That your Petitioner, being proprieter of certain Salt Springs in the Western Country, at the place known by the name of the Great-Bone Lick1 is solicited by many of the most respectable inhabitants of Kentucky to establish salt-works at the said springs—That your petitioner would willingly comply with the pressing desire of the people but the situation is at present so much exposed to the depredations of the Indians as to render it too hazardous and expensive for an individual without the assistance of a guard from the public for a short time.2

Your Petitioner is well informed that the establishment of salt works at the Great Bone Lick, would not only ensure a plentiful supply of salt so essentially necessary to the inhabitants; but that a guard could perhaps be no where more advantageously placed for the protection of a very valuable part of that Country, and would certainly encourage the settlement of the adjacent lands; so that the public aid would not be long required—From these considerations—your Petitioner presumes to pray, that you may be pleased to grant such public aid as may be necessary, for the protection of the Salt-Works, to be erected at the Great Bone Lick, in the district of Kentucky—and your Petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray.3

David Ross.

LB, DLC:GW; copy, DLC:GW.

David Ross (c.1736–1817) of Petersburg, Va., was a proprietor of an iron mine at Petersburg and owned large plantations in Bedford and Goochland counties. In 1781 Gov. Thomas Jefferson appointed him commercial agent for the state, a post he held until May 1782. In 1786 he represented Virginia at the Annapolis Convention. By the mid-i78os Ross was the absentee owner of 211,417 acres of land in Kentucky (Journals of the Council of State of Virginia, description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends 2:184, 278, 3:70, 97; Burnett, Letters, description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed. Letters of Members of the Continental Congress. 8 vols. 1921–36. Reprint. Gloucester, Mass., 1963. description ends 8:390; Watlington, Partisan Spirit, description begins Patricia Watlington. The Partisan Spirit: Kentucky Politics, 1779–1792. New York, 1972. description ends 95).

1The Great or Big Bone Licks were salt licks or springs located in Boone County, Ky., on either side of Big Bone Creek which emptied into the Ohio River about twenty miles below the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville.

2A petition on the saltworks, addressed to the president of the United States and signed by Charles Scott, Henry Pawlin, Mathew Walton, John Miller, John Hawkins, Charles Smith, Jr., Samuel Taylor, B. Thruston, and Notley Conn, was sent to GW from Richmond on 28 Nov.:

“The memorial of divers persons inhabitants of and delegates from the district of Kentucky

“Humbly Sheweth—

“That the establishment of salt works, at the place called the great bone Lick, would be of public utility in the district of Kentucky, and the new settlements making on the other side of the Ohio—and is most anxiously desired by the people in general of that Country.

“That the situation is at present too dangerous for an individual to attempt to settle without some assistance—That a guard will for some time be necessary, and that from the particular situation of the place, a small post established there would serve in a great measure to cover and secure a considerable part of the settled Country, whilst it afforded protection to the Salt works.

“Your memorialists also beg leave to represent, that the people of that country, convinced of the propriety of the measure here recommended, will chearfully grant the necessary protection, whenever called under legal authority” (DLC:GW).

3On 9 Feb. 1790 GW submitted this letter and the petition to Henry Knox with a request for his opinion (Tobias Lear to Knox, 9 Feb. 1790, DLC:GW).

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