WASHINGTON, George, President. Autograph letter signed ("G: Washington") to Colonel Thomas Parker, Mount Vernon, 16 November 1799. 2 pages, 4to, several small marginal defects neatly mended, otherwise in very fine condition.
WASHINGTON'S LANDS IN THE NORTHWEST TERRITORY: A MONTH BEFORE HIS DEATH
A lengthy letter concerning Washington's extensive, but troublesome, lands in the Ohio Valley and the newly opened Northwest Territory. Writing only one month before his death, Washington has learned that Colonel Parker may be travelling into the western territories: "...On the presumption that you will accomplish your intention, I take the liberty of requesting (if you go by the way of Pittsburgh, especially) that you would do me the favour of making the following enquiries & reporting the result on your return. First, what is the supposed value (by the acre) of three tracts of land which I hold on the Ohio River (East side) between the mouths of the two Kanhawas [the Kanawah rivers]." He describes the precise location and acreage of the tracts (one of which runs along the river for a full five miles!) and continues: "...What I mean by the value thereof is, what they probably would sell for, one third of the purchase money paid down - and the other two thirds in annual instalments, with Interest. Let me further request that favour of you to make precisely the same enquiry with respect to three tracts of land which I hold in the Northwestern Territory on the Little Miami River, one within about a mile of the Ohio River, containing 829 acres--another about seven miles up the former, of 977 acres;--and the third...measuring 1235 acres. I pray you to enquire whether the lands on the other side the Ohio are taxed, & under what predicament mine are. And if any of the tracts hereinmentioned (on either side of the River) have settlers on them; what kind; and what sort of Improvements with the number of them. If you should pass by the Great Kanhawa let me repeat my request with respect to my land."
In his last year, Washington found himself in financial difficulties for the first time in his life and found the management of these distant land grants increasingly difficult, as many had settled illegally on his lands in the western migration. The issue of the ownership of these lands remained unsolved in Washington's life, and was still the subject of litigation well into the mid-nineteenth century.
Published in Writings, ed. J.C. Fitzpatrick 37:426-427.