George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Pearce, 9 February 1794

To William Pearce

Philadelphia Feby 9th 1794

Mr Pearce,

since writing you a few lines on the 3d instant, I have received your letter of the 28th of last month, and that of the third of the present.1

If you are satisfied with Mr Butlers conduct and exertions, I shall be so. He has always appeared to me as a well disposed man, obliging and sober one who has seen better days: and must have had a good deal of practical knowledge in husbandry. If you can make him active, & will support his authority, I do not see why he may not be more useful to you than a young man, who might have a greater propensity to be running about.2

With respect to the French furse, I shall leave it altogether to you and him, to manage it as you shall think best; for in truth I know nothing of the nature of the Plant. In the disposal of the Seed, howr, (where it is ultimately to remain) you cannot go amiss. The best guide perhaps is to sow it in Soil which is most congenial to it—and if this could be found around the enclosures at the Mansion house, I should give it a preference; but in this also, do as shall appear best.3

I am of opinion the Post & rail fence which runs from the Mill up to the tumbling dam, & so on, is too low and unsubstantial for an outr fence, against such neighbours as I have in that quarter; it was for this reason I proposed a more substantial one; especially, as the good posts & Rails in that fence would do very well for the inner & cross fences. I conceive also, that the out side ditch ought to be widened, & deepned. In a word, to make the whole of the exterior fence so formidable, & the Rails so close together, as to prevent trespass even from pigs; without this I shall never enjoy the sole benefit of my Inclosures, nor keep the meadows along the mill swamp from injury.

The out fence at the Mansion house I am sensible stands in great need of repair, and I shall be much pleased by your repairing it, & well; as soon as circumstances will permit. The idea of getting rails out of the dead, & decaying timber, I much approve; for the waste which has been committed on my timber & wood hitherto, has really been shameful. I have no doubt, if the trees which have been fallen in all parts of my land, & only a small part of them used, were corded for fire wood instead of lying to rot on the ground that they would sell for many hundreds of pounds. You will find it necessary, I presume, whenever you undertake the Mansion house (out) fence, to get the rails tolerably convenient, on acct of the Cartage. It has always been my intention to clear, in the same manner the ground now is, in front of the house, from the white gates as the road goes towards Alexandria, up to the little old field; & to extend the fence out to it; whenever a convenient moment should be found for the purpose. If there be, therefore, any stuff fit for Rails within that space, two purposes will be answered by using it; namely, fencing; and clearing the ground of its growth; but I fear there are but few trees that will answer for the first, that is for rails.

If you will examine the little sketch of the lots at Union farm, which was enclosed in one of my former letters, you can be at no loss in laying them off—a slipe of No. 2, from the fence of No. 1 to the fence of No. 3, of the breadth mentioned in that sketch, gives you the four lots; and dividing this slipe into four equal parts gives you the size of each lot. The two next to field No. 1, are those which are to be sown with Clover on the wheat, because they have been cowpenned. The other two must remain to succeed, in order, as have been mentioned in former letters.4

If I do not confine myself as nearly as circumstances will permit to my rotation system, this year, I never shall get into it at all; for which reason, although I might find ground better adapted to Corn than what was intended for Buck Wheat (for a Crop) It is my desire that you will attend to, & pursue the course wch has been mentioned in my letter of the 26th of last Month; or in the Oat grd, if you shd want Seed Oats.

Let me know every now and then how the growing Wheat & Barley looks, as a week or two may change the appearance of them materially.

What, or how much is done to the new race of the Mill? and at which end did they begin? Is it got to its depth? and carried on a level, what has been done?

I have no chance to get honey locust seed this year; and as it is thought improper to sow the french furze for the purpose of transplanting, the ground prepared by the Gardener for these things will be useless; But as I have got about a quart, or a little more of what is called White bent Seed, which is given to me as a very valuable grass, I wish you would prepare about a quarter of an Acre of grd for it (I would not chuse to have the seed in more than that) in one of the New meadows at Dogue run or Union farm, and sow it at the time mentioned in the enclosed letter. If no opportunity offers of sending it by water with the Clover Seed &ca I will send it by Post.5

Let the Gardener know that the Seeds he wrote for6 shall also be sent at the same time, with some others which will require his particular skill & attention. You have never informed me how much St foin and India Hemp seed he has saved.

If my Cattle & Sheep receive all the attention & care that is necessary, I can require no more, if they should die; but it shews how essenscial it is to pick, cull, & sell off before it is too late, & to provide well for the rest, & this I hope will be the case another year; and especially in attending to the breeding of them; both as it respects the choice of the Males (particularly) and the seasons proper for their going to the females.

In a letter which has just been received from Mrs Fanny Washington, she requests me, to desire you, to rent her fishing Landing at Taylers on the best terms you can obtain & make it a condition that the person so renting it, shall furnish for her own use two Barrels of Shad, and four of Herrings—and as many of the latter as hath usually been put up for the use of the negros under his (Taylers) care, of which he can inform you—It is my wish you should do this.7

Colo. Ball must have the three shoats he applies for—a boar & two sows.8 I was in hopes the last spell of freezing weather wd have enabled you to fill the Ice house. It is very desirable it should be so, as the convenience on acct of fresh meat &ca in the summer is inconceivably great in the Country.

It appears by Mr Lewis’s accounts that Mr Stuart has only recd £15.12. The difference between that Sum and his wages, is yet due to him; unless he has received money from Mr Whiting of which, if the fact is so, he unquestionably knows, and will tell.9 Crows & McKoys wages are also due, & must be paid. If you have not money, nor a prospect of raising it from the midlings & Ship stuff in time for these purposes, let me know it, and I will send it from hence.10

I have nothing to add at present but to beg you will make my people (about the Mansion house) be careful of the fire, for it is no uncommon thing for them to be running from one house to another in cold windy nights with sparks of fire flying, & dropping as they go along, without paying the least attention to the consequences.

You will remember in time that my house in Alexandria is got in order for Mrs Fanny Washington; as I have promised to do this by the time mentioned to you in former letters.11 If my Carpenters could be prevailed upon to go on with their work as they ought to do, I intended to build Daries both at Union and Dogue run farm; to see if the Milk at each could not be turned to some account; but the lower part I should build of Brick like that in the Neck, where Stuart lives.12 I remain Your friend &ca

Go: Washington

P.S.13 If upon tryal, the Clover Seed you have is found to be good, it would be well to sow what you have upon the first Snow that covers the ground after this letter reaches you. What I have here shall go by the first Vessel, for Alexandria; but when this may happen is impossible to say, as the Navigation of the Delaware is interrupted by Ice. Yrs &ca


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

1The letter from Pearce to GW of 28 Jan. has not been found. GW also is replying to Pearce’s letter dated 4 Feb., not “the third.”

2On GW’s previous assumption that James Butler would be replaced as the overseer of the Mansion House farm, see his letter to Pearce of 12 Jan. 1794.

3For the shipment to Mount Vernon of French furze seed, from which GW hoped to produce hedgerows, see GW to Pearce, 16–17 March.

4The sketch of Union farm that GW enclosed in his letter to Pearce of 23 Dec. 1793 has not been identified. For a map of the various farms and fields on the Mount Vernon estate, see “Washington’s drawing of his farms at Mount Vernon, 1793,” Papers, Presidential Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series. 19 vols. to date. Charlottesville, Va., 1987–. description ends , 14:564–65.

5The enclosed letter has not been identified. The white bent grass seed (Agrostis stolonifera) was sent by post along with GW’s letter to Pearce of 16 February. On the shipment of clover seed to Mount Vernon, see GW to Pearce, 16–17 and 23 March.

6The letter from head gardener John Christian Ehlers to GW has not been found.

7The letter from Frances “Fanny” Bassett Washington probably was that of 26 Jan. to Martha Washington, which has not been found (Martha Washington to Frances Bassett Washington, 10 Feb. 1794, Fields, Papers of Martha Washington description begins Joseph E. Fields, ed. “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington. Westport, Conn., and London, 1994. description ends , 256). The fishing landing was part of Fanny’s estate on Clifton’s Neck, which adjoined Mount Vernon and was under the care of Mr. Tayler, her farm manager.

8The letter from Burgess Ball to Pearce asking for three young hogs has not been identified (Pearce to GW, 4 Feb. 1794).

9The accounts kept by GW’s nephew Howell Lewis, who served as temporary manager of Mount Vernon from July 1793 until the arrival of Pearce in early January, have not been found. Former estate manager Anthony Whitting evidently had not paid William Stuart, the overseer of River farm, because, on 7 March, Stuart received £23.18.00 for “part of his wages Due for the year 93” (Mount Vernon Accounts, 1794–1797 description begins Manuscript Mount Vernon Accounts, 6 Jan. 1794-19 Jan. 1797. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers. description ends ).

10Hiland Crow and Henry McCoy were the respective overseers of Union and Dogue Run farms. On 3 April, Pearce paid £12 to Crow for “part of his wages” and £3 to McCoy. On 1 March, Pearce recorded receiving £9 in cash “in Part payment for midlings & Ship Stuff,” leaving a cash balance on 1 March of £40.07.06 (Mount Vernon Accounts, 1794–1797 description begins Manuscript Mount Vernon Accounts, 6 Jan. 1794-19 Jan. 1797. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers. description ends ).

11For Fanny’s plan to live in GW’s house in Alexandria, Va., see her letter to GW of 22 Nov. 1793. For GW’s instructions on preparing the house for her arrival “before the first of May,” see GW to Pearce, 23 Dec. 1793, and 12 Jan. 1794.

12The River farm was located on Clifton’s Neck. The dairies, or cow sheds, at Union and Dogue Run farms were not completed until late 1795 or early 1796 (Farm Reports, 6–12 Dec. 1795, DLC:GW; “Terms on which the Farms at Mount Vernon may be obtained,” 1 Feb. 1796, ADS, NIC; see also GW’s advertisement, Columbian Mirror and Alexandria Gazette [Alexandria, Va.], 20 Feb. 1796).

13Another hand wrote “No. 5” above the postscript on the ALS at ViMtvL.

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