WASHINGTON, Martha Dandridge Custis (1731-1802). Autograph note signed ("Martha Washington"), TO GEORGE WASHINGTON ("My Dearest"), comprising six lines plus salutation, closing and signature, written in the blank portion of page 2 of a Lund Washington autograph letter signed ("Lund Washington") to George Washington, Mount Vernon, 30 March 1767. 2 pages, 4to (9/5/8 x 7 1/8 in.), left-hand edge slightly frayed with loss of a letter in about 15 lines.
ONE OF ONLY TWO SURVIVING LETTERS OF MARTHA WASHINGTON TO GEORGE WASHINGTON: WRITTEN WHILE HE ATTENDED THE HOUSE OF BURGESSES IN WILLIAMSBURG
WITH A REPORT ON "SAM": A FUGITIVE SLAVE
An important document, comprising one of only two letters from Martha to George Washington to have survived Martha's deliberate and systematic destruction of their correspondence to prevent its publication. The letter also contains important documentation of early agricultural practices at Mount Vernon and reports on the case of "Sam," a runaway slave. At the end of Lund's lengthy and detailed report on the spring clearing, plowing and planting at Mount Vernon, Martha adds an affectionate postscript in her typically small hand, replete with casual spellings: "My Dearest It was with very great pleasure I see in your letter that you got safely down [to Williamsburg]. We are all very well at this time but it is still rainy and wett. I am sorry you will not be at home as I expected you. I had reather my sister [Anna Maria Bassett] would not come up so soon as May would be much pleasanter time than April. We wrote you last post as I have nothing new to tell you I must conclude myself Your most Affectionate Martha Washington."
Lund Washington (1737-1796), a cousin, managed Mount Vernon during Washington's frequent absences and served as overseer during Washington's Revolutionary War service (1775-1783). Here, he informs Washington that " I have delivered Mr. Adams the Wheat, all but about 40 Bushels which was at the Mill, and that a Vessel was to have called for...We began to Plow at [Dogue's Run] last Wednesday with three plows and continued at it all the week tho the ground was very wet. It began to [ra]in here Saturday night...I don't [e]xpect we shall be able to Plow there to day...Muddy Hole, one ploe has work'd ever since you left home & [t]he cart carrying out the Dung tho not yet done. The other people [probably slaves]...after [cu]tting down the corn stocks [stalks] rake'd the new ground, made up the new [f]ence on the ferry road & prepared the Flax ground, tho not sew'd [sowed] [o]wing to its being too wet. Should sew'd this day had no more rain fall'n."
Lund adds the news that "we have been trimming the hops & seting up new poles," notes other jobs at the "flax ground," at the mill and around the estate, then adds news on a runaway slave: "Sam has been seen since you left home by Bisup [Bishop?] & one John Moxly but neither had it in their power to catch him, you desired me to inquire if he had any particular mark. It seems he has a nick cut under part of one of his ears & a mole or wart upon his upper lipas to his size colour &c, you can describe yourself shou'd you incline to advertise him."
In the middle of March, Washington had departed Mount Vernon to be present for the Spring session of the Virginia House of Burgesses. Unexpectedly, he had evidently determined that when the session ended, as it did on 11 April, he would continue south, across the James River to visit the Dismal Swamp area. Washington had first visited the area in 1763 and helped form two syndicates (the Dismal Swamp Land Company and the Adventurers for Draining the Great Dismal Swamp). They acquired 40,000 acres of swamp lands in 1763 and planned to drain the swamp, harvest the trees, and dig a canal which would link the Chesapeake with Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. Washington directed the surveying and excavation of a 5-mile ditch connecting part of the swamp to Lake Drummond, but it eventually became evident that to drain the vast swamp was an impractical undertaking, and in 1796 Washington attempted to sell his shares to "Light-Horse" Harry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee). But Lee was unable to raise sufficient funds, and Washington's share passed to Martha on Washington's death.
Before her death, Martha Washington carefully burned their personal correspondence. Only two letters from George Washington to her survive: two letters apparently overlooked by Martha and discovered in the back of a desk that Martha gave to one of her granddaughters. The fact that Lund's letter to Washington contained her postscript was evidently also overlooked by Martha. One other brief note from Martha to George, also a postscript but unsigned, was recently discovered by editors at the Papers of George Washington. The present letter is published in "Worthy Partner': The Papers of Martha Washington, ed. Joseph T. Fields, p.149.
Provenance: Forrest H. Sweet of Battle Creek, Michigan.