George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Pearce, 19 January 1794

To William Pearce

Philadelphia 19th Jany 1794

Mr. Pearce,

Your letter of the 14th instt came to my hands to day, when the Post ought to have been in yesterday.1

Having been very full in my late letters to you, I shall have less to say in this—The condition you describe my stock to be in at Union farm, and at Dogue run, & want of shelter for them at those places, is a fresh instance of the misconduct of Crow & McKoy; and of the neccessity of watching their ways well. As you have taken Butler again, you must make the most you can of him.2 The man means well, but he wants activity & Spirit to fit him for the Overlooker of Negroes. You will find him useful though in raising hedges, &ca—& particularly so in cultivating the French furze. It was he that induced me to send for the seed of it, wch will be sent to you by the first Vessel to Alexandria—about 40 lbs. of it.3

Let the most that can, be made of the pint of Oats which the Gardener raised last year, and of the Hemp seed; but more especially of the St foin seed which I desired him to be particularly choice of; as I wish much to get into a stock of it. The latter must not be sown where Hares can get to it, or they will cut it down as fast as it springs.4

When McKoy is getting out the Oats at Dogue run, have a strict eye to him. He told me he expected 150 Bushls from the stack, & if all the Oats which grew in what was called the New ground, went into it, there ought to be 200 at least—but what by waste, mismanagement, or something worse, I have, of late, got very little from any of my Overseers; what becomes of it is more difficult to determine.

If you should have another freezing spell, do not by any means omit to fill the Ice house with Ice, as the advantage of it for keeping fresh meat &ca is indiscribable; but before you begin to put a weight on the floor let both it & the Joice (or Sleepers) be well examined, lest, by being rotten they may give way & destroy those who may be below pounding the Ice as it is thrown in. If the floor is found unsafe take it away altogether—I do not know but that the Ice will keep as well without, as with it.

If on account of the springiness of the ground you cannot proceed in digging the Mill race, which is a thing to be regretted, you might employ the Ditchers on the fence from the Millers, leading upwards, for the purpose of securing the meadow lots if nothing more pressing calls for their labour.5 Opening the Visto is not a work of neccessity; & it never was intended to be extended beyond Muddy hole swamp; to which I think it ought to have got before this time.

You may keep Isaac and the boy Joe, constantly employed about the Carts, Plows, Harrows &ca until they are in order.6 Let stuff, however, be always in the Barn that the other Carpenters may work upon, when the weather will not permit them to be out. What are Mrs Fanny Washington’s Carpenters employed about, that they should (altho’ hired by me) be withdrawn from mine so long. All I know they had to do, was, out of the materials of an old Tobacco house, to make a shed for her plow horses—Ask Tayler what more than this they have done, and by whose authority?7

The Midlings and ship stuff may be sold whenever you find the market good; & the money applied to such uses as are proper. If twine (for the Seins) is to be had in Alexandria, it will be better to get it there than to depend upon having it sent from thence.8 And you have my full consent to give the Cattle as much Salt as you judge necessary, preventing waste.

I perceive by the Report from River farm that Stuart is plowing in No. 7 (a field that was in Wheat last year, & by the rotation which I have transmitted to you, was intended to remain in pasture this year)—What is the meaning of this? No. 1 by the copy I have by me is intended for Buck Wheat as a manure, and No. 3 for Corn, but I do not recollect that any direction has ever been given for plowing No. 7.9 If the case be otherwise I have forgot it; and the design must be for Oats & Buck wheat for Crops; & of course, if accomplished, will require 120 bushls of the first, and 60 of the latter more than I had calculated to seed the field; the contents being 120 acres. Let me know how this matter really stands.10 How much of the field is already plowed. and whether you will be able to prepare the residue of it; and at the sametime execute your other plowing well, & in season, with your present force of horses, aided by Oxen; which, in the Eastern states is almost the only teams they plow with. I am your friend

Go: Washington

ALS, ViMtvL; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW.

1Pearce’s letter to GW of 14 Jan. has not been found. According to the postal schedule, a letter sent to the postmaster at Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday, 15 Jan., should have arrived at Philadelphia on Saturday, 18 Jan. (GW to Anthony Whitting, 2 Dec. 1792).

2Hiland Crow and Henry McCoy were the respective overseers of Union and Dogue Run farms. On GW’s previous assumption that Pearce would find a replacement for James Butler, the overseer of the Mansion House farm, see his letter to Pearce of 12 Jan. 1794.

3For the shipment of the French furze seed, see GW to Pearce, 16–17 March.

4John Christian Ehlers was the head gardener at Mount Vernon. Sainfoin, Onobrychis viciaefolia, is a Eurasian perennial leguminous herb that is grown for forage.

5For GW’s previous instructions regarding the construction of a race for the gristmill and a fence leading from Joseph Davenport’s house on Dogue Run farm, see GW to Pearce, 23 Dec. 1793, and n.13.

6The boy Joe is probably the same dower slave identified in 1799 as a carpenter who was married to Dolshy, a spinner and dower slave also assigned to the Mansion House farm. For the names of slaves listed in 1786 and 1799 as carpenters at Mount Vernon, including Isaac, see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:278, and Washington’s Slave List, June 1799, in Papers, Retirement Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series. 4 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1998–99. description ends , 4:527–37. For the names of current slaves employed as carpenters, see the Farm Reports of 27 Jan.–2 Feb. 1794.

7GW leased the services of carpenters Reuben and Gabriel, slaves belonging to Frances Bassett Washington (GW to Whitting, 3 March 1793, and n.5 to that document). Tayler was the overseer of her estate, which was on Clifton’s Neck and adjoining Mount Vernon.

8On 3 Feb., Pearce paid £22.15.00 to Robert Hamilton, a merchant in Alexandria, Va., for 182 lbs. of “Seine Twine @ 2/6 ⅌ lb.,” and on 1 April he paid Lawrence McGinnis £13.09.04 for “kniting A new Seine & puting a piece in the Old Shad Seine” (Mount Vernon Accounts, 1794–97).

9For GW’s plan of rotation, which GW expected William Stuart to follow, see GW to Pearce, 18 Dec. 1793, and enclosure.

10Pearce’s immediate reply to this question has not been found, but he returned to this topic in a letter to GW of 4 Feb. 1794.

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