George Washington

George Washington Autograph Manuscript, 20 June 1771 - A Survey & Plot Drawing Made in Reportedly Violent Indian Lands, for a Tract of Land Comprising 587 Acres in the Ohio Valley

George Washington Autograph Manuscript, 20 June 1771 - A Survey and Plot Drawing for a Tract of Land Comprising 587 Acres in the Ohio Valley

 

Single page on laid paper, 8" x 12.75", penned on the recto and verso. The front page consists of a survey map drawn in the hand of George Washington with his additional autographed notes identifying two land marks. On the verso, Washington also wrote an eight line endorsement of the parcel as "Mem of the Warrants laid upon this tract / Part of Posey’s, 187 acs.; Gutrick Crump, 200;  Marsha Pratt, 50;  Robt Scott 50, …” The balance of the document is written and signed in the hand of  Col. William Crawford. Dated "June 20, 1771." Toned commensurate with age, expected folds with archival support to the fold lines on the verso, lovely strong contrasting ink.

 

Washington personally draws a tract of land in the Ohio Valley, and additionally identifies two of its geographical features. The land plot, consisting of a total of 587 Acres would ultimately be acquired by Washington and held for the remainder of his life, showing as finally advertised for sale by him in 1796 (see details below). On the verso Washington wrote an eight line endorsement of the parcel as "Mem of the Warrants laid upon this tract / Part of Posey’s, 187 acs.; Gutrick Crump, 200;  Marsha Pratt, 50;  Robt Scott 50, …” . The balance of the document in the hand of   a long-time friend of Washington, a fellow surveyor, Col. William Crawford, is dated "June 20, 1771", and commences with "Then survayed [sic for Col. George Washington a tract of land upon the Ohio, being the first bottom on the East side the River above a creek called  Capteniny [Captina, nearly opposite to another small creek, called Pipe Creek, and commonly caled [sic and known by the name of round bottom…”

 

This phenomenal document has historical importance relating to the period in 1770 when George Washington explored the Ohio River valley. This documented event had Washington describing the country in his diary as seen from his canoe and from campsites along the Ohio River. On 22 October, he reached Mingo Town (now Mingo Junction, Ohio) which is just north of Belmont County, Ohio. Washington said in his diary that "This place contains abt. Twenty Cabbins, & 70 Inhabitants of the Six Nation [Iroquois Confederation." ["Mingo" is a slang term used to describe Iroquois Indians living outside their main area of control. At Mingo Town, Washington found "60 odd Warriors of the Six Nations going to the Cherokee Country to proceed to War against the Cuttawba's." While encamped there, Washington also received news that two traders had been killed by Indians about 28 miles downriver -- at what today is Powhatton, Ohio. On the 23rd, several more accounts of the killings reached Mingo Town, but these accounts suggested that only one white man was killed, and that it was not at the hands of the Indians. Thus, about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, Washington and his companions -- including two Indian guides -- set off down river, making their camp for the night on the Virginia side of the Ohio River at Fishing Creek.

 

The next morning -- 24 October, Washington writes that they left their encampment before sunrise. He then proceeds to describe the land and streams entering the Ohio River. He states, "we came to another Creek on the West side, called by Nicholson Weeling [McMahon's Creek and abt. a Mile lower down appears to be another small Water coming in on the East side [McMahon Run, which I remark, because of the Scarcity of them; fie to shew how badly furnished this Country is with Mill Seats. Two or three Miles below this again, is another Run on the West side; up which is a near way by Land to the Mingo Town; and about 4 Miles lower comes in another on the East at which place is a path leading to the settlement at Redstone. Abt. A Mile & half below this again, comes in the Pipe Creek [in Belmont County, several miles north of Captina Creek so called by the Indians from a Stone which is found here out of which they make Pipes. Opposite to this (that is on the East side), is a bottom of exceeding Rich Land; but as it seems to lie low, I am apprehensive that it is subject to be overflowed. This Bottom ends where the effects of a hurricane appears by the destruction & havoc among the Trees. [Washington later secured ownership of the land near Pipe Creek in Belmont County, Ohio.

 

His diary continues: "Two or three Miles below the Pipe Creek is a pretty large Creek on the West side calld by Nicholson Fox Grape Vine -- by others Captema Creek on which, 8 Miles up it, is the Town calld the Grape Vine Town; & at the Mouth of it, is the place where it was said the Traders livd, & the one was killd. To this place [Powhatton Point we came abt. 3 Oclock in the Afternoon, & findg. no body there, we agreed to Camp; that Nicholson and one of the Indians might go up to the Town, & enquire into the truth of the report concerning the Murder."

 

Ascending Captina Creek (Grapevine Creek), Nicholson and the Indian did not return until the next day. Washington records Nicholson's report as follows: "Nicholson & the Indian returnd; they found no body at the [Grapevine Town but two Old Indian women (the Men being a Hunting). From these they learnt that the Trader was not killd, but drownd in attempting to Ford the Ohio; and that only one boy, belonging to the Trader, was in these parts; the Trader (fathr. to him) being gone for Horses to take home their Skins. [Note: Today, the approximate location of Grapevine Town is still marked by grapevines, which hug the riverbank and canapy the road that follows Captina Creek. Elsewhere in his Diary, Washington describes the weather for 22-25 October 1770 as blustery and cold.

 

Earlier, 1752 Washington made his first land purchase, consisting of 1,459 acres along Bullskin Creek in Frederick County, Virginia. This act inaugurated the second and more profitable phase of his cartographic career, in which he assumed the role of land speculator. Over the next half century Washington would continue to seek out, purchase, patent, and eventually settle numerous properties. . To fully understand Washington's land acquisitions as a life pursuit, one needs to first understand the premise of the mindset of the immigrants from Europe, and the early colonialists.  The vast amount of available land in America created a society different from that from which many had emigrated. “Ownership of property gave not only economic independence but also political independence to the average American. The colonists lived in exceptional circumstances and shared a peculiar outlook. Unlike the inhabitants of the British Isles, they were not located at the center of their culture looking outward toward exotic margins. Their experience was the opposite. They lived on the far periphery looking inward toward a distant and superior metropolitan core from which standards and the sanctioned forms of organized life emanated. They lived in the outback, on the far marchlands, where constraints were loosened and where one had to struggle to maintain the forms of civilized existence."  Land speculation was a natural and common preoccupation among the Founders. For some, it became an economic affliction. “Hardly a prominent man of the period failed to secure large tracts of real estate, which could be had at absurdly low prices, and to hold the lands for the natural advance which increased population would bring. Residents of no colony or state exemplified the pursuit of land more than did Virginians. And no Virginian exemplified that pursuit more than George Washington. His education in the accumulation of land began early. As a sixteen-year-old, Washington learned not just the extent of the American interior, but how to judge the quality and exploitability of the land therein."

 

Washington would hold on to this specific piece of land for most of his entire life, until 1796, when he advertised this land along Pipe Creek (in Belmont County, Ohio) for sale. At that time he describes the land as: "Round Bottom ... about 15 miles below Wheeling, a little above Captenon, and opposite to Pipe-Creek; bounded by the river in a circular form for 2 miles and 120 poles containing 587 acres." George Washington's will, executed a few years later in 1800, listed his vast land holdings of 52,194 acres to be sold or distributed in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Kentucky, and the Ohio Valley. In addition to these properties, Washington also held title to lots in the Virginia cities of Winchester, Bath (now Berkeley Springs, West Virginia), and Alexandria, and in the newly formed City of Washington.

 

An incredibly scarce piece with important historical significance.  The manuscript text of the survey in the hand of Col. William Crawford, a comrade in arms who accompanied Washington on the historic, ill-fated Braddock expedition 16 years previously. Washington’s active years as a surveyor were long in the past, but he frequently dusted off his tools to delineate some of the extensive land purchases he made in the Ohio Valley, or even for his own Mount Vernon estate (he was doing those as late as 1799). These very scarce surveys seldom come to auction with one such example of a 1771 survey of Mount Vernon, which sold at Christies on 9 June 2002, lot 427, for $130,700.

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Item: 64583

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