To Bushrod Washington
Mount Vernon 19th Jan. 1798
My dear Bushrod,
Your letter of the 8th instant came to hand opportunely,1 as Mr Augustus Woodward (in whose favour the Sheriff of Kanhawa had drawn for the taxes of my lands in that County) was here on his return from Philadelphia, and received the full amount of his draught.2
I am perfectly at a loss to know what is meant by the Auditors A/c as coming from “The Sheriff of Greenbrier who says he has returned a tract of land the property of Genl George Washington Esqr., amounting to 15,940 acres for non-payment of the Revenue tax due thereon, for the year 1789. The tax is £35:17:3.”3
I neither do, or ever did, hold such a tract, and must request the favour of you to investigate this matter; & that you may be enabled to do it with accuracy, I enclose you a list of all the lands I hold in this state on the Western waters, with the dates of the Patents; to whom granted; for what quantity; and in what counties they were supposed to lye at the time they were surveyed.4 By which you will perceive, first that I have no such tract in any county, & 2d that no two or more of those, contained in the list, will make the exact quantity of 15,940.
The Sheriff, in his draught on me in favour of A. Woodward, does not specify the quantity of acres I hold on the Kanhawa; but the number of tracts only, on which the taxes are due for the years 17188.8.131.52.5 and 1796: and for 2 tracts only on the River Ohio, when there are three tracts on that river:5 This puts it out of my power to know whether I am justly dealt by, or not; and it would seem by some calculations & figures on a piece of paper (which I return) that I am charged for more land than I ever held there.6 A small tract of 240 acres between the Representative of Genl Andrew Lewis & my self, is there inserted also. Pray what is the state of that matter? No tax has ever been demanded of me, therefor; & it may, for ought I know to the contrary, be in jeopardy likewise. It contains the burning spring.7 Several matters relative to these lands want explanation, and you would oblige me by endeavouring to obtain it, & for this purpose, as it may assist, I return all the Papers you sent me.
By comparing them, you will find that Sheriff Alderson charges taxes for the years 1791–1796, both inclusive, for the four tracts on the Kanhawa, and two on the Ohio: & that the Sheriff of Greenbrier returns 15940 for non-payment of the Revenue tax, for the year 1789.8 What becomes of the tax for 1790 on all these lands? or was there any? Why return 15940 acres, & not the whole when all were under the same predicament? Why are two tracts on the Ohio charged, & the third not?9 The enclosed list contains those on the one, as well as the other river; and if (as I conceive ought to have been the case with the Sheriff, and I suppose is so at the Auditors Office) the number of acres in each tract, & at what assessed had been inserted, these difficulties might have been removed without giving you the trouble I am about to do in examining the aforesaid Office—but as there is a cloud over the business; as I am as willing to comply with the Laws, as to receive justice in the execution of them; as I wish to have a full understanding of the case, to effect both; and shall not willingly, nor neglectfully (knowing it) put it in the power of any one to deprive me of my property through any failure on my part, I must beg the favour ⟨of you⟩10 to obtain from the Auditor at your & his leisure, provided I put nothing to hazard by the delay, a complete statement of the taxes on all the lands mentioned in the list I enclose—the small tract of 587 Acres I had almost forgot, though extremely valuable for its size. With sincere & Affectionate regard—I am always Yours
P.S. Since writing the aforegoing letter, which, as you will readily perceive is done in much haste, I find I was mistaken in saying none of the tracts united would make 15940 acres—those of 10990, 2950, & 2000 do this. I send you $120 to pay the £35.17.3 and 1/ Tax for Lots,11 though I did not know that any thing was due on the latter. nor do I believe any tax has ever been paid on the 587 Acs. tract, or others before.
ALS, NhD; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.
1. Bushrod Washington wrote GW on 9 Jan., and GW’s letter appears to be for the most part a response to that letter, suggesting that GW was mistaken when he referred to a letter of the “8th” instead of the “9th.”
2. On 15 Jan. 1798 GW paid $338.37 (£101.10.3¼) to “George Alderson sheriff of Kanhawa County . . . in favr of Augustus Woodward for taxes on four tracts of Land lying on Kanhawa River for the Years 1791. 2. 3. 4. 5. & 6,” and $109.22 “in like manner for taxes of 2 tracts of Land laying on the Ohio for the Same Years” (Ledger C description begins Manuscript Ledger in Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 43). See GW to Bushrod Washington, 18 Dec. 1797, n.2; see also Day Book, 15 January. On 15 Jan. Augustus Woodward signed at Mount Vernon this receipt: “In consequence of the within order, I do hereby acknowledge that I have received a check on the Bank of Alexandria for amount of the within sum of one hundred and one pounds ten shillings and three pence three farthings—which, when paid is in full discharge thereof” (NjMoHP).
3. Presumably the quotation is taken from the auditor’s “rough Statement of Yr Taxes in Kanawa” that Bushrod Washington refers to in his letter of 9 January.
4. GW gave to this listing of his land on the Great Kanawha and Ohio rivers the dateline “Mount Vernon Jany 1798”:
“Lands belonging to George Washington on the Western Waters, in the State of Virginia.
Great Kanhawa. Fincastle County
|10990||Acrs. Near the mouth thereof. Granted by Letters Patent to George Washington the 15th day of December 1772. and confirmed after the Revolution, by other letters Patent the 6th of July 1784 in consequence of a friendly Petition for the same, by Burwell Bassett Esqr. for the non-performance of the act requiring certain improvements.|
|7276||acs. Higher up the Kanhawa. Granted to George Washington & George* Muse as above, on the 1st day of Decr 1773—and said to lye in the County of Botetourt.|
|2950||acs. Opposite the Mouth of Cole River, still higher up the Kanhawa—and sd to be in Greenbriar County. Granted the 12th day of April 1784 to G: Washington.|
|2000||Acs In the Fork between Cole River & Kanhawa in the above county of Greenbrier—granted to Geo: Washington 12th Aprl 1784.|
“Besides the abovementioned tracts, there is a small tract of (I believe) 240 acres Granted (the date of the Patent I know not) to Genl Andrew Lewis & myself, containing the burning Spring, on or near the Kanhawa River, in Greenbrier County.
On the Ohio River. Botetourt County.
*[George] Muses moiety convey’d to G. Washington afterwards” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW).
9. GW inserted a symbol here pointing to an insertion in the margin: “except it should lye in another C[oun]ty.”
10. The manuscript is torn; “of you” is taken from the letterpress copy.
11. The payment of £35.17.3 was for the taxes on the Kanawha and Ohio lands before 1790 when they were in Greenbrier County, out of which Kanawha County was formed. See Bushrod Washington to GW, 9 Jan. 1798, and note 2 in GW to Bushrod Washington, 18 Dec. 1797. The one-shilling tax for lots was the tax owed in Berkeley County in 1795 (Bushrod Washington to GW, 9 January).