George Washington Papers

Memorandum for James Anderson and William Pearce, 5 November 1796

Memorandum for James Anderson and William Pearce

Philadelphia 5th November 1796.

I shall communicate such directions as have occurred to me since I left Mount Vernon,1 and are necessary to be followed, in this way; that such of them as may not be executed, or executed in part only, by Mr Pearce, may be consigned over & compleated, or attempted to be completed by his Successor, Mr Anderson.2

The Plan for the Crops of next year (as handed to me by Mr Pearce) may be adopted:3 or if he should have a meeting with Mr Anderson in time, and alterations should be proposed & agreed upon between them, I shall yield my consent thereto excepting as to the rotation at Dogue run, at which farm I am inclined to pursue the system mentioned in the plan for that place and hitherto, to wit.

The Plans of the several farms. The rotations which had been designed for each farm. And the Book of Reports, are all to be transferred to Mr Anderson when he takes Possession together with the Book of Accts for his information & genl guidence.

All accounts, of every kind & nature whatsoever, are to be settled; and all balances against me paid off before Mr Pearce surrenders his trust: and if those which are in my favor are not received, they are to be reduced to specialties, and promissary notes taken for the payment thereof, at a time to be agreed upon, to be inserted therein. These are to be given to Mr Anderson & a list of them sent to me. Unless this is done, and receipts taken in full. He or myself, will be plagued with old claims for this, or that thing whi[c]h would never have appear’d if Mr Pearce was present to confront them.4

All The Overseers & the Gardeners as well as others must therefore be finally settled with, up to the commencement of their new term, and charged with every thing they have had, over and above what they are entitled to by their several contracts, which express what that is, and which must be the guide in the settlements; as I am under no verbal engagements to any of them & consequently want nothing referred to me for decision.

Mr Alexr Smith must be called upon, pointedly, for payment of his note, when due: and the money lodged in the Bank of Alexandria. It is on thi⟨s⟩ fund you will, I presume, be obliged to draw to enable you to complete your payments; and it is from this source also, I must derive the means of providing necessaries for the house & family use; and for the various expences I shall be plunged into previous to, and on my re-settlement (almost as a new beginner) when I arrive at Mount Vernon for my permanent residence. But admitting that I could afford to lay out of the money (which is not the case) it might not be prudent to avoid calling for it when due, as the endorser, if Smith’s circumstances are ineligable, might attempt to avail himself of the neglect to exonerate himself from the payment.5

It is my earnest wish that the Mill race may be completed This Autumn or Winter, not only because it is highly essential it should happen before the droughts of next Summer, come on, but that I may have the Ditchers for other jobs, which I have in contemplation, as soon as possible after I get home.6

For these reasons, & because there will be a good deal of work in preparing for, and tilling the ground at Mansion house, in Indian Corn next year together with other jobs at, and about that place, it is my desire that Sinah & Grace both may join the house gang as soon as your family quit their present abode, & you yourself shall remove to Mount Vernon. Mr Anderson may chuse other girls, who will come within the description of his Agreement.7

I should be glad to have as much of the New road (which I laid out) done before you go as circumstances will admit,8 as you understand my views in this business better than I could explain them to another without being on the spot. Let the line last staked out by Will receive double Stakes, to prevent mistakes;9 and let the stakes be extended backwards, exactly on the Same straight line till it strikes the River; & inform me whereabouts it does so. have your logs for the floor of the Causey (in the low parts thereof) each be at least eight inches in Diameter & smaller poles between them to level the Surface.10 let the Logs & the Poles both be cut 16 & 8 feet in length for the purpose of breaking the joints. I would also have the line that was staked out by Allison11 (as the Cornfield fence runs) continued up to the road (at the double stakes) and all within cleared this winter in the manner the other part of the ground was cleared last year. I do not expect this can be done in time for Corn planting; and I know too, that it cannot be enclosed until the New Road is completed and in use; but if this should be accomplished by Midsummer it might be put in turnips, or any thing else that would clean the ground against the next year, when it would be my wish to lay the whole down in small grain and grass.

Having given you my sentiments with respect to the mode of thinning the Trees in the ground intended for Corn at the Mansion house, it would be unnecessary to say any thing further to you on the subject, if the execution could take place before your removal;12 but as this is not likely to happen, I must, for the government of Mr Anderson, repeat that no trees standing between the Visto’s are to be cut down, or trimmed up;13 but that those on the right hand going from the house (on the left hand, if I recollect rightly, they are sufficiently thin already for the purpose of ornament, which is my first object) may be a good deal thinned, by taking them up—invariably—by the Roots. Where the trees stand very thick, leave circular clumps (of from 30 to 50 yards across) without trimming the Trees. But all single trees should be trimmed to one regular height, & as high as can be reached by a Chissel on a long staff; that the Corn may be less shaded in its growth. In leaving the clumps, if it can be done consistent with the thick growth of the Trees pay attention to the look of them, in going to, or returning from the house.

There are so many things I wish to have done soon, and so many others that are essential to do, that I scarcely know what direction to give concerning them—but if the thinning of these trees in the manner here described could take place before you quit the concern it would please me, because you have had my ideas more fully explained to you on this subject than I should be able to give in writing, to Mr Anderson. Another advantage would result from thinning, as soon as possible, this ground of the trees, and that is, that it may be immediately broke up by a number of strong Plows, and deep plowing, to enable it to produce better Corn next year.

All the ground within the inclosure adjoining to this (at Mansion house) that was not in Wheat this year (and which was proposed to have been sown in Rye but not done so) I would also have put in Corn next Season; The part that was in Wheat, may be sowed with Oats and grass-seeds in the Spring; or, if judged better, might lye uncultivated; or be fallowed, so as to come into Rye in the Autumn with all the Corn ground in other parts ⟨illegible⟩; or the Spring following may be wholly sown with Oats. My object being, to lay the whole, of those two inclosures (which may both of them be thrown into one, & the Rails which now divide them applied to strengthen the outer fencing) into grass & Pasture, after all the under growth, sprouts from the Stumps, &ca &ca, are quite destroyed.

As the lot which was in Oats & Clover at Mansion house last year, is badly taken with the latter crop—and the other lot in front of the house is pretty well set with that Article I leave it to you, from their present appearance, to decide wch of the two should come into Potatoes or Oats & Clover next year that it may be broke up this autumn accordingly.

When the Angle of Wood, adjoining the present Corn field at Mansion house is cleared let all the Poles which are of a proper Size for a watled fence either whole, or by being split in two, be preserved; as my intention is, when I come home, to have a neat fence of that kind, on a ditch from the White gates along the road, to the turn of it, as Allisons stakes will run to the present fence.

When that lot by the Mill is cultivated, according to your plan, the ensuing year in Corn, let that part of it which lyes below the race in the lower meadow of the Mill Swamp, down to the ditch, or to the old bed of the run, be cultivated in Corn also, in order to cleanse & prepare it for grass. That part has been twice cleared & grubbed but for want of cultivation may be worse now than ever; wch shews the bad policy of undertaking, at any time, more of anything than can be compleatly executed under almost any circumstances. It is very desirable also, if it were practicable, to do the same in the next meadow above, between the Race and present good mowing ground, quite up to the next partition fence. Having these foul spots in fields, whether they are intended for cultivation, or for grass, is not only a great eye sore, but in truth they are a real disadvantage; for they are constantly encroaching; spreading their Seeds; affording harbour for Vermin—and at length get so thick with briers, & other trash, as to make the clearing more difficult the longer it is delayed. Besides, in the present case, I think peculiar advantages to the Mill would be derived from clearing them up as the earth along side the race, by taking the growth of Shrubs &ca from it & by tillage—would become more consolidated, and not so liable subject to those leaks which are a great diminution of the water at the Mill.

I would also have that part of the Mill Swamp, which by your plan is destined as additional Corn ground for Dogue run; perfectly cleared & tilled, where it has been cleared before;14 for my object with that Swamp is, to make it perfect as I move on, towards the head of it, at the Tumbling dam. If one lot or inclosure after another was completely cleared & cleaned, with trees left here & there for shade, it would have a beautiful appearance from the Mill Road; & whether for Hay or grazing it would be highly advantages, to let the lots succeed each other in Rotation.

Get the greatest quantities you can of Cedar Berries, before they are destroyed by Birds as I shall want them in profusion next year. If delayed too long you may be puzzled to do this, and next year the Trees may produce few, or none; which would throw me back two years.

Let the Lane from the Barn at Union Farm be completed on both Sides with cedar plants as far as you have them—and then with the Berries afterwards (sowed sufficiently thick) after being prepared in the way formerly mentioned to you—that is, by rubbing, or getting off in some way or other all the pulp, or glutinous matter which encompasses the Seed.15 The Plants, I am persuaded, in order to ensure their living, ought to be taken up in winter with a block of frozen earth around the Roots; and if the Seed is sown, it ought to be in a bed of well prepared earth, in the line they are ultimately to remain, in the hedge-rows.

I request that a lane may be made by Post & Rail fences from the outer gate going into Dogue Run farm, across the Meadow to the next gate of the wedth, and in a line with the fences from the last mentioned gate to the Barn. The outer gate may remain where it is, but the inner one may be removed to any place, where most wanted, this will not only divide the meadows but secure them better from trespassers.

All the hedges which were planted last Spring, or Autumn, should be made good at the proper Season; otherwise the labour & materials which have been applied that way, will have stood for nothing; as an imperfect hedge forms no inclosure, & would be little better than a nuisance. The ground should be well prepared for this purpose—In truth, it is idle to put either plants or Seeds in to it without; for there is no better chance of their succeeding without cultivation, (until they arrive to a certain strength to protect themselves) than there is to expect a crop of Corn from merely putting the Seed in the ground and giving it no attendance thereafter.

I would have the Corn gathered as soon as it can be with safety—1st to rescue it from the depredations of Squirrels & other animals that are devouring it; Secondly, to avoid the injury which the Wheat Sustains by Carts running over it after the ground begins to freeze, & get slippery on the top; and thirdly, because they will take heavier loads, & make more frequent trips before, than after the earth becomes soft & the Wheels sink into it either from Rain or frost.

Some years ago, I had brought from Point Comfort, or some other place on the Bay of Chesapeak, a quantity of fine white Sand for the purpose of Sanding my houses anew when circumstances would enable me to give them a fresh coat of Paint.16 As it is my intention to do this the ensuing Summer,17 I request you would inform me if the sand is there still, & what quantity there is of it. To the best of my recollection it was put into the Salt house, or into the Cellar at the North end of the Mansion house. Whether it is to be found now, or not, I wish you would have a little of the whitest finest & softest of the free stone at the Wharf (not that which is rotten) pounded fine & run through a meal Sifter of middling finess, to see if it would not answer as well, or better than sand—If it would, a preference should be given to it on acct of its being on the spot and easily reduced to a powder; whereas the white Sand from below is not always to be obtained, and one is imposed upon in the price. To ascertain the difference with certainty between the Sand & pounded Stone take two pieces of Plank (plained, a foot square each will be Sufficient) and paint them in the usual manner with white lead gr[oun]d in oil and after the first coat is dry give them a second (the paint a little thicker) and while it is fresh throw (the board standing perpendicular on one edge) sand against one, & pounded stone against the other, as long as they will stick, & till every part of the paint is well covered. You will then, when they are dry, be able to decide which will look best and most resemble Stone; which, together with the preservation of the Wood, are the ends to be answered by this operation. Let me know the Result of the experiment as soon as it is made. that I may know what measures to take.

If it is not already done, delay no time in digging your Potatoes; when they are suffered to remain so long in the ground they rarely get sufficiently dry to keep well in bulk[.] Keep an exact account of what comes out of each lot, and the field at Dogue run—that the quantity of the latter, may be compared with the quantity of Corn from the same field.

Besides reserving an ample store of Potatoes for Seed (at all the Farms) next year, let there be a sufficiency of them, and Turnips also, laid by for the use of our Table, after we come home, in March next.18

Take particular care that a great number of (what you conceive to be) the best kind of Turnips, is set out for Seed—among these let there be many of the Sweedish, as that sort is in very high estimation on many accts.19

Let particular care be taken of the India Hempseed, and as much good grd allotted for its reception next year as it is competant to Sow.

As I am persuaded not a moment will be lost in grinding up my Wheat, I shall only add, on this head, that I would have the flour sold as fast as it is manufactured.

In a particular manner I request that the Ice house may be filled from the first Ice that forms, & be replenished afterwards as fast as it sinks, and there is Ice to do it with. Let the house be examined before hand repaired (if repairs are wanting) and every thing had in the most perfect readiness to embrace the first opportunity without depending upon a second. The disadvantage of not being able to keep fresh meat, last summer (though generally a cool one20) ought to stimulate to the greatest exertions to provide against the next when we shall have more, & longer occasion for this mode of preserving it.

If it shall be found, on experiment, that the pounded Stone answers as well, as sand for coating the houses, Frank, Herculas and Cyrus may get a good deal of it pounded.21 They may get up a large quantity of gravel at the place I shewed you. They may, when Davis & Muclas have done the Brick work at River farm assist them in throwing up Brick earth at the place I pointed out for at least One hundred thousand Bricks.22 They may assist the Gardener in making good the Hedges about the Mansion house, getting Dung into the Garden, or in any thing else. In short let them be employed in any manner at, or near the M. House that will Keep them out of idleness & mischief.

The old white horse & the Iron Grey I would have kept in good order without being highly fed and this may happen as it is my desire they should not be used.23 The black and horse called Smoaker, it is also my desire should be kept in order for the use of Mr Anderson and not suffered to be hackneyed about. The four Mules set apart for my particular use—together with the two mule colts from the Coach mares and that one from the Augusta mare I desire Peter may be particularly charged to keep them in good order.24

Such Sashes as are wanting in the Cupulo ought to be put in without a moments delay otherwise the weather driving in may do great damage to the house and occasion the Sealing of the rooms below to fall.

In order that your Porkers may be made fat, & killed before you leave Mount Vernon (both of which I desire may happen) let them be got up immediately and well fed (inform me of the number). Our call for this article will, I expect, be pretty heavy after we get home.

Before you quit the Concern, have an exact Inventory taken of all the Horses, Asses, Mules, Cattle Sheep and Hogs (if the latter can be ascertained)—together with the Carts, Plows, Harrows, Axes, Hoes Mattocks & every other impliment on the farms, and deliver one copy thereof to Mr Anderson and send another to me.25 He, of course will note down what each farm has that he may know when any are missing. He will provide himself, from the Booksellers in Alexandria, with a New Ledger to enter all these things in and to commence his Accounts anew.

Endeavor to procure all the Oyster shells you can for me as I shall have occasion for a good deal of Lime next year.

Go: Washington

ADfS, DLC:GW. GW enclosed a version of this memorandum with his letter to Pearce of 6 Nov., which has not been found. The ADfS has frequent interlineations and strikeouts, and several paragraphs are marked by symbols to indicate their proper order. Many of the directives in the present document were part of the large-scale renovations that GW planned for Mount Vernon in preparation for his retirement there in March 1797. See Pearce to GW, 13 Nov.; see also GW to Pearce, 20 November.

1GW left Mount Vernon for Philadelphia on 25 Oct. (see GW to Pearce, 26 Oct., n.1).

2For Anderson’s replacement of Pearce as Mount Vernon estate manager, see Agreement with James Anderson, 5 Oct., and the source note to that document.

3The plan has not been found.

4GW made similar requests in his letters to Pearce of 14 Nov. and 11 December. Pearce’s account book shows that he owed GW £8.19.9½ as of 23 Oct. 1796. Beneath that amount, GW wrote: “… presuming (for I have not time to compare them) that the debits & credits contained therein have been regularly carried to the respective accounts of Individuals, it appears to be a satisfactorily exhibition of all the monied transaction of the said William Pearce on my behalf” (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 , p.77). For the settlement of Pearce’s account with GW, see Anderson to GW, 11 Jan. 1797, and n.18 to that document.

5For Alexandria merchant Alexander Smith’s debt to GW for flour he had purchased from Mount Vernon, see his letter to GW, 4 Oct., and n.1 to that document; see also Smith to GW, 9 Nov., and GW to Smith, 14 Nov.; see also Pearce to GW, 17 November.

6For GW’s instructions to alter the millrace for the Mount Vernon gristmill, see GW to Pearce, 23 Dec. 1793, and n.13 to that document; see also GW to Pearce, 19 Jan. 1794. Work continued on the millrace in April 1797, but GW anticipated its completion the following fall (see Farm Reports, 2–8 and 9–15 April 1797, and GW to Anderson, 18 June, 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 1:60–66, 84–89, 191–95).

7For a similar directive, see GW to Pearce, 26 October.

8A state law prohibiting fence gates on public roads had prompted GW in 1788 to replace the public roads on his plantation with a new, single road. According to GW’s initial plans, this new road was to run from Posey’s ferry south of the mansion to GW’s mill, and bend to the east at the northern boundary of Mount Vernon, where it would meet an old road between Cameron and Gum Spring. An expectation of less frequent use of the public roads, due to the closure of GW’s ferry in 1790, led GW to suspend work on the road. In late 1795 and February 1796 GW gave new orders to open a road, whose course was to run “from the White gates [in front of the mansion] towards the Gum spring,” located on the south branch of Little Hunting Creek near the eastern boundary of Muddy Hole farm (GW to Pearce, 28 Feb. 1796, and n.4 to that document; see also References & Observations, 15 Dec. 1788, and the source note to that document; GW to Pearce, 28 Sept. 1794 [first letter]; and GW to Anthony Whitting, 13–14 Jan. 1793). The farm reports for 13–19 Nov. 1796 mention construction work on the road (DLC:GW).

9Will served as overseer of French’s plantation prior to its incorporation into Union farm. For French’s farm, see GW to James Bloxham, 1 Jan. 1789, source note.

10The farm reports for 6–12 Nov. indicate that work was being done on both the “causway” at Mansion House farm and the “Causway on the New roads” at Muddy Hole farm. The term causeway conveys a similar meaning to “causey,” defined as a “raised way formed on a mound, across a hollow, esp. … a bog, marsh, lake” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray et al., eds. The Oxford English Dictionary: Being a Corrected Re-Issue with an Introduction, Supplement, and Bibliography of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. 12 vols. 1933. Reprint. Oxford, England, 1970. description ends ).

11John Allison was the overseer at Mansion House farm.

12For GW’s most recent directives to trim trees in the cornfields, see his letter to Pearce of 13 March 1796. For GW’s earlier instructions on “the thinning of the trees” for a successful corn crop, see his letter to Pearce, 11 Jan. 1795; see also GW to Pearce, 14 Dec. 1794.

13GW had given instructions concerning the vistas at the Mount Vernon mansion. The vistas had been opened from the west (inland) side of the mansion and from the doors on the river side of the house (see Whitting to GW, 15–16 Jan. 1792; see also GW to Whitting, 18 Nov. 1792).

14For GW’s directives in 1793 to have corn planted in his mill swamp lots, and for further orders to convert those lots to meadow, see n.4 to Crop Rotations for Mount Vernon Farms, 1793, enclosed in GW to Pearce, 18 Dec. 1793; see also GW to Pearce, 11 May 1794 and 13 July 1794.

15For earlier instructions about cedar trees at the Union farm barn, see GW to Pearce, 15 Feb., 1 March, 22 Nov. and 6 Dec. 1795.

16In early 1793, GW recalled having procured sand “many years ago” from Point Comfort (present-day Old Point Comfort), a cape between Norfolk and Hampton, Va., and requested then-farm manager Whitting to purchase an additional 20–25 bushels of fine, white sand from that or another place. The requested purchase was for paint work (GW to Whitting, 27 Jan. 1793). No record of a sand purchase from Point Comfort has been identified, but GW in 1775 had engaged Norfolk merchant Thomas Newton, Jr., to procure sand for his use (see Newton to GW, 12 April 1775, in Papers, Colonial Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends 10:336–37; see also General Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 142).

17For the paint work at Mount Vernon in spring and summer 1797, see GW to Tobias Lear, 25 March 1797, and Saunders A. Read to GW, 25 April, 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 1:50–51, 120.

18On 9 March 1797 GW left Philadelphia for Mount Vernon, where he arrived on the 15th (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:236, 239).

19Swedish turnip is another term for rutabaga (OED description begins James A. H. Murray et al., eds. The Oxford English Dictionary: Being a Corrected Re-Issue with an Introduction, Supplement, and Bibliography of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. 12 vols. 1933. Reprint. Oxford, England, 1970. description ends ).

20In his letter to GW of 7 Aug. 1796, Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., noted that he considered that summer “one of the coolest ever known” in Philadelphia.

21GW refers to his butler Frank (Francis) Lee. Herculas served as GW’s cook in the presidential household but returned to Mount Vernon by November (see GW to Pearce, 14 Nov.).

22Dower slave Tom Davis and GW’s slave Muclus, both of Mansion House farm, worked primarily as bricklayers. The farm reports for 16–22 Oct. record “Tom Davis Diging of Durt for to Make Bricks” (DLC:GW).

23GW listed a 3-year-old “Iron grey” horse among his horses at Dogue Run farm in 1785 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:228). Anderson mentioned the presence of an “old Grey” horse at Union farm in his letter to GW of 11 Jan. 1797.

24Slave Peter Hardiman managed the Mount Vernon stable.

25An inventory of all horses and livestock at Mount Vernon is found in the farm reports for 1–7 Jan. 1797, but it does not include a list of farm implements (DLC:GW). In his 22 Jan. 1797 letter to Anderson, GW acknowledged receipt of another inventory (see also GW to Anderson, 8 Jan., and Anderson to GW, 11 Jan.).

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