George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Bedinger and William Good, 1 December 1790

From Henry Bedinger and William Good

Sharpsburgh [Md.] 1st December 1790.

Sir,

Unavoidable Accidents have prevented us from Transmitting to you Such a Plat of the Lands between Sharpsburgh and the Patowmack River as we wished to make out for your information.1 Agreeable to your request to Colo. William Dark & Captain Joseph Chapline2—If you can with propriety postpone the Decission of fixing the permanent Residence of Congress a few days, it will enable us to compleat this plat, so as to Shew at one View the Situation and Donations in Lands & we flatter ourselves that it will prove Satisfactory—The Donations on the Virginia Side of the River Amount at this Period to Twenty Thousand Six Hundred Sixty Two ⅔ Dollars and on the Maryland side to four thousand Eight Hundred and thirty Nine Dollars, also Four Hundred and Seventy five Acres of Land Lying Directly in a line between Sharpsburgh and the River—Subscriptions are continued Open and a probability that they will be considerably augmented, the price per Acre of the adjacent Lands will also be sent—General Mathews has Honoured us with his promise to Deliver this, who is informed of Some of the Obstacles that have caused this delay, and If recquired will explain them.3 We have the Honour to be your Excellency’s most Obedient Servants

Henry Bedinger

Wm Good

LS, DLC:GW.

Henry Bedinger (b. 1753) was born in Pennsylvania and moved with his parents, Henry and Magdalen von Schlegal Bedinger, to Virginia in 1762. He enlisted in Stephenson’s Company of Virginia Riflemen in 1775 and was serving as a lieutenant in the 11th Virginia Regiment when he was captured in 1776. He was exchanged in 1780 and served to the close of the war, rising to the rank of captain. After the war he lived in or near Shepherdstown, Va., and in 1794 was elected one of the first trustees of the town, then formally known as Mecklenburg (Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown, description begins Danske Dandridge. Historic Shepherdstown. Charlottesville, Va., 1910. description ends 55, 58, 88; Norris, History of the Lower Shenandoah Valley, description begins J. E. Norris, ed. History of the Lower Shenandoah Valley. 1890. Reprint. Berryville, Va., 1972. description ends 372). Bedinger was known to GW, having supplied the Potowmack Company with gunpowder in 1788.

William Good was a prominent resident of Sharpsburg, Md., where he was one of the founders of the German Reformed Church (Scharf, History of Western Maryland, description begins J. Thomas Scharf. History of Western Maryland. Being a History of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties from the Earliest Period to the Present Day; Including Biographical Sketches of Their Representative Men. 2 vols. 1882. Reprint. Baltimore, 1968. description ends 2:1209).

1On 15 Oct. 1790 GW set out from Mount Vernon on a trip up the Potomac for the ostensible purpose of selecting a site for the federal district. He probably had already settled in his own mind on the site between Georgetown, Md., and the Eastern Branch but needed to maintain the appearance of considering alternate sites to keep the proprietors from inflating the price of their land. He traveled along the Potomac above Little Falls to the mouth of the Monocacy River in Frederick County, Md., urged on him by landowners as an ideal site. When he arrived in Shepherdstown, Va., GW met with some of the principal landowners from both sides of the Potomac to discuss the possibility of locating the federal district between Sharpsburg, Md., and the Potomac River along Antietam Creek (Bowling, Creation of Washington, D.C., description begins Kenneth R. Bowling. The Creation of Washington, D.C.: The Idea and Location of the American Capital. Fairfax, Va., 1991. description ends 210–11). Among those present were apparently Henry Bedinger and William Darke from Virginia and Joseph Chapline and William Good of Maryland. At this meeting GW asked Darke and Chapline to have a plat drawn of the land between Sharpsburg and the Potomac and encouraged the landowners to donate land and money to defray the costs of establishing the Federal City on the site. Subscription forms were circulated, and notices of the subscription effort were published in newspapers. On 27 Nov. 1790 an appeal for support from one of the Shepherdstown promoters was published in the Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia): “The late visit of our illustrious President, encourages a hope that the permanent seat of the Federal Government will be fixed opposite to this town, on the Maryland shore, and that one half of the ten miles square will be located in Virginia. This event, will, however, depend much on donations from the inhabitants, to defray the expences of the Public Buildings, especially as the President himself has informed us, large offers have been made at other places on the Patowmac. When we take into our view the amazing advantages held up to the owners of lands and other permanent property in this valley, the very sudden and unexpected increase in its value, we flatter ourselves that generous subscriptions will be offered; especially as only a small part will be shortly wanted. Our friends in Maryland are making every possible exertion to effect this important purpose; and as the inhabitants in the Virginia part of this valley will be equally benefited, they request our cordial concurrence and aid, Subscriptions are taken in Shepherd’s-Town, by Col. John Morrow, John Keasley, Esq. Capt. Charles Morrow, a[n]d Abraham Shepherd, Esq. In Martinburg, by Mr. Joseph Riddel. In Charlestown by Mr. William Cooke, and Mr. John Henderson. On Shenandoah river, by Mr. Humphrey Keyes. In Bulskin settlement by Mr. John Marke. Very liberal subscriptions have, within a few days past, been obtained in this town and its vicinity, to be appropriated towards erecting the Federal Buildings, provided the seat of government be located so as to include Shepherd’s-Town within the district.” Within a few weeks of GW’s visit, donations of 475 acres of land between Antietam Creek and the Potomac had been pledged, along with $4,839 payable in eight annual installments. On 5 Dec. 1790 Chapline and Good, rather than Darke, forwarded the Sharpsburg plat to GW (see Chapline and Good to GW, 4–5 Dec. 1790).

2William Darke (1736–1801) was born in Bucks County, Pa., and settled with his family near the site of Shepherdstown in 1741. He joined the Continental army as an officer of Virginia troops in 1776, was captured at Germantown, and exchanged in 1780. He returned to the army in 1781 as a lieutenant colonel and served until 1782. After the war he was prominent in local affairs. He commanded Virginia troops in St. Clair’s campaign and was subsequently promoted to the rank of brigadier general (Norris, History of the Lower Shenandoah Valley, description begins J. E. Norris, ed. History of the Lower Shenandoah Valley. 1890. Reprint. Berryville, Va., 1972. description ends 251–52, 335, 355; Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown, description begins Danske Dandridge. Historic Shepherdstown. Charlottesville, Va., 1910. description ends 254–61).

Joseph Chapline (1746–1821) was born in Frederick County, Md., and lived at Mount Pleasant near Sharpsburg, Maryland. His father, also Joseph Chapline, founded Sharpsburg in 1763 and left his son a considerable estate in the lower Antietam Valley. The younger Chapline held several local offices, represented Frederick County in the second, third, and fifth Maryland conventions and Washington County (created out of Frederick County in 1776) in the Maryland general assembly in 1780–81. He was also a member of the Potowmack Company (Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, description begins Edward C. Papenfuse et al., eds. A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635–1789. 2 vols. Baltimore, 1979–85. description ends 1:211; Scharf, History of Western Maryland, description begins J. Thomas Scharf. History of Western Maryland. Being a History of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties from the Earliest Period to the Present Day; Including Biographical Sketches of Their Representative Men. 2 vols. 1882. Reprint. Baltimore, 1968. description ends 2:1204).

3Probably George Mathews (1739–1812), a congressman from Georgia. Mathews was born in Virginia and served as lieutenant colonel and colonel of the 9th Virginia Regiment during the Revolution. He was taken prisoner at Germantown and exchanged in 1781. Mathews moved to Georgia in 1785, where he became a brigadier general of the state militia and, in 1787, governor. He was elected to the First Congress and was instrumental in forging the congressional agreement to locate the federal district on the Potomac (Bowling, Creation of Washington, D.C., description begins Kenneth R. Bowling. The Creation of Washington, D.C.: The Idea and Location of the American Capital. Fairfax, Va., 1991. description ends 183).

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