George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Lewis, 26 October 1797

From Robert Lewis

Spring Hill October 26th 1797.

Hond Uncle,

My waggon going to Alexandria with a load of flour, affords me an opportunity of writing and sending you a barrel of orchard-grass seed which was put in my care with directions to send to you by the first conveyance—It is a present from my worthy neighbour Mr Francis Whiting—As he tells me you intend it for pasture grounds, I hope it will get to you in good season—It has laid in my possession five or six weeks for the want of an opportunity which cou’d be confided in.1

Since I had the pleasure of seeing you at Mount Vernon, and within a few days past one of my neighbours has returned from a distance up the Potomac, where he has been to view some lands which he lately purchased, and at my earnest request, visited your small tract above Bath in order to examine into its real situation. He informs me that the Man, in whose care I trusted it, has lately removed with his family to Kentuckey, and that great has been the depredations committed on the timber since that time. As this place is surrounded by a sett of lawless rascals, I conceive it wou’d be prudent to let it out on a moderate rent for a short term of years, in order that some profit may be derived from a valuable property which is at present inactive, and a proportion of the best timber reserved, which in a few years must be totally lost, and the land rendered less valuable—It was always my opinion that the timber on the land was worth considerably more, than the land itself computed at its intrinsic value; therefore, I have always thought it best to retain it, and it coincided with your idea likewise: but as it cannot be preserved (for it appears the Man in whose care it was put has actually been driven off in defending the property) I do imagine, at all events, it wou’d be proper to let it out; therefore, please to direct me as soon as convenient, and let your letter be addressed to the care of my brother George Lewis in Frederickburg.2

There has also been another very serious depredation on your reserved land in the lost Mountain, in this County, by some tanners; who have barked several acres of land on the pinacle of the mountain by moon-light.3 As I had timely information from one of the tenants, who has a retaining fee annually for his services, I have been able to discover the principals in this business, and hope shortly to be able to inform you of their being brought to condign punishment. Mrs Lewis unites with me in sincere regards to my Aunt & family,4 and I remain, Your much obliged & very Affectionate Nephew

Robt Lewis

P.S. The barrel of seed will be deposited with Patton & Dykes Merchants in Alexandria. R:L.

ALS, ViMtvL. Written on cover: “Recommended to the care of Mesrs Patton and Dykes Merchants Alexandria.”

GW’s nephew Robert Lewis left GW’s employ as a clerk in 1791 and was living at Spring Hill in Fauquier County where he had acted since 1792 as GW’s agent in dealing with GW’s tenants in Frederick, Berkeley, Loudoun, and Fauquier counties. Spring Hill was probably on the 1369¾-acre Deep Run land that GW “in Consideration of natural affection and the sum of ten pounds Current money” transferred to Lewis (see GW to Lewis, 11 Feb. 1798, n.2).

1This is probably the Francis Whiting who died in Fauquier County in 1810.

2In 1763 GW arranged with Christopher Hardwick for Hardwick to settle four of GW’s slaves on and develop “a piece of Land whereof the said George [Washington] is possessed in Hampshire County lying on Potomack River between the Mouths of Great Cacapehon and little Cacapehon containing by patent Two hundred and Forty Acres” (Agreement with Christopher Hardwick, 22 Jan. 1763). Nothing came of this. See the source note to Agreement with Christopher Hardwick. When GW sent Tobias Lear to Pittsburgh in 1786 to inspect his Pennsylvania lands, he instructed Lear: “When you are at Bath enquire the way to a piece of Land I have on the river about 14 Miles above the town on the way to Old Town and see if it is in the occupation of any one, and on what terms it is held” (GW to Lear, 30 Nov. 1786). On 29 April 1793 GW wrote Robert Lewis, who had recently been made GW’s rental agent, to look into the condition of the land above Bath. In May 1794 GW rejected Lewis’s proposal to trade GW land on the Potomac for this land of GW’s in Berkeley County (Lewis to GW, 7 May 1794; GW to Lewis, 18 May 1794; see also Lewis to GW, 17 July 1793). On 3 Nov. 1797 GW wrote Lewis approving the placing of a tenant on this tract at a moderate rent to protect his timber. In a missing letter of 31 Jan. 1798, Lewis reported the continued stealing of GW’s timber and his inability to secure the punishment of the thieves (see GW to Lewis, 11 Feb. 1798).

3Lost Mountain was in the northwest corner of Fauquier County near Ashby’s Gap. This was the location of GW’s Ashby’s Bent land.

4Lewis was married in 1791 to Judith Carter Browne (1773–1830) of King William County.

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