From Ferdinando Fairfax
Shannon-hill 22d Aug: 1797.
Upon more particular Inquiry respecting the Cook of whom I was speaking to you, he is said to possess some ill qualities that might probably disqualify him for your Service; therefore it wou’d not be adviseable to calculate on getting him, if you can be otherwise supplied with a good Cook. My near neighbour Mr Robt Baylor (at whose house Mr Payton Gwynn, his master, stay’d, when up the Country) tells me that Dishonesty was the cause of his being first sold from Shirley; and that is a quality not often corrected by time.1
I have only to regret being thus deprived of an opportunity of rendering some service in this business; and make this early communication to prevent suspense.
When you have made your determination, how to dispose of your Jacks, I shall esteem it a favor to be made acquainted with it. To hire for a certain price or for a share of Profits, would suit me; tho, if I could get one of the best, I would rather buy.2 With great respect I am, Sir, Your hble servt
Ferdinando Fairfax (1769–1820), GW’s godson, was the son of Bryan Fairfax and the heir to the American property of his uncle George William Fairfax. He lived at his place Shannon Hill in Berkeley County on the Shenandoah River.
1. For references to the Washingtons’ search in 1797 for a proper cook for Mount Vernon, see GW to Ludwell Lee, 20 July, n.1. Robert Baylor lived in Shepherdstown, Berkeley County, in 1795 when he represented the county in the house of delegates. He later moved to Logan County, Kentucky. He probably is the Robert Baylor who was a son of Col. John Baylor (1705–1772) of Newmarket in Caroline County and a brother of GW’s former aide-de-camp George Baylor (d. 1784). John Baylor’s son Robert married Frances Gwynn (b. 1757) of Gwynn’s Island. The Payton Gwynn who is mentioned in the letter is probably Thomas Peyton Gwynn (1762–1810),a younger brother of Frances Gwynn Baylor. Fairfax is saying that Gwynn was the cook’s master.
2. It undoubtedly was when Fairfax spent the night of 14 Aug. at Mount Vernon that he learned of the Washingtons’ need for a cook and discussed with GW the disposition of GW’s jackasses (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:252).