[Autograph letter to his son Lorenzo on agricultural and other matters.]. Lawrence Lewis.
[Autograph letter to his son Lorenzo on agricultural and other matters.]

[Autograph letter to his son Lorenzo on agricultural and other matters.]

Audley, Clarke County, Virginia, July 9, 1829. 4to (9.75” x 7.75”), 3 pp. ALS.

An engaging letter from Virginia planter and nephew of George Washington, Lawrence Lewis, to his son Lorenzo, on wheat farming and other agricultural topics.

At the time this letter was written, Lewis was away from his plantation home, Woodlawn, attending to agricultural matters at his property in Clarke County known as “Audley.” Addressing his son at Woodlawn, Lewis opens by making reference to the labors of “Peter” and “Clifton,” possibly two of his slaves (Lawrence had some ninety slaves at Woodlawn): “Peter arrived safe with the articles sent, and I wish it was in my power to send him back again immediately, but my wheat is getting so ripe that I must detain him to secure it… After that he must go to ploughing for I calculate the ground I have to sow this fall will take 600 bushels of wheat. We have therefore no time to lose, the detaining of Peter is rendered more necessary as I have been compelled to send out Clifton with the wheat machine, several persons wanting their wheat got out. I thought it best to let it go until it made itself clear.”

He notes that he will get from one Mr. Stillman “200 bushels for getting out of his crop of wheat, suppose[d] to be about four or five thousand bushels.” Stillman gives him, he explains, “five bushels for every hundred I thrash for him, I finding only the machine and two hands, one of the men I have to hire as he is well acquainted with the management of the machine.” Lewis hopes to finish the harvest next Tuesday; “It will turn out rather better than I at first expected. I have a vast quantity of clover hay secured, and I think should the season prove tolerable good, I shall make as much Clover seed as we shall want. We had a fine rain lately which has improved the corn very much.” He expects fruit in abundance as well: “We have a fine prospect for apples, and shall have a plenty of Peaches for eating if we can keep them. The trees are also very full of plums. I have made three barrels of currant wine & Remington has made one for himself & we have currants enough to make a hog h[ea]d more. I have never seen anything to equal the current bushes here…I am sure a very profitable business could be made of it, the making would only cost 20 per gallon and it sells readily at $1. A profit of 400 per cent.”

Lawrence mentions that one Otwayanna—perhaps a Native American slave or paid worker of his—has made for his daughter Esther and his wife four pots of jelly. (Lewis is known to have had both slaves and paid employees, including overseers, at Audley.) “You said nothing about the Harvest at Woodlawn, whether it was finished or not.” Noting the recent visit of his brother (or brother-in-law?) Stuart, he writes that yesterday Stuart went to Winchester and today went to see Bushrod and John Washington. He writes that “[Stuart] means to seat Fairfield, if he can, he will then send up ten men and go extensively into the grazing business. I think him so intent upon this scheme that I do expect he will seat some farm before he goes down.”

Noting the recent death of one Mrs. Taylor[?] Byrd, he comments on his own health as well as his sister’s: “I am getting a little better of a smart attack of the Gout, in my elbow and hips, teeth, and head, brought on by too much exposure whilst making wine. My poor sister is daily growing weaker and her days will be of short duration in this world.” He notes that Rev. Dr. William Meade, Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, came to see her last Sunday; “He delivered a most effecting prayer for her & afterward had a long conversation with her… She has been wonderfully strengthened and supported by merciful God, in making up her mind for the event and trusted nothing would turn up to change her feelings. This was spoke in such a way as to assure us all [that] death had no terrors for her. How blessed are those, my Son, who die in the Lord.”

Lawrence Lewis (1767–1839) was George Washington’s nephew, the son of Washington’s sister Betty Washington Lewis and Fielding Lewis. During the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion, he served as aide-de camp to General Daniel Morgan, attaining the rank of Major. In August of 1797, in response to a request from his uncle to assist him in the management of Mount Vernon, Lewis moved there, meeting and marrying Washington’s granddaughter (via Martha’s previous marriage) and adopted daughter, Nelly Custis. Washington willed to the couple some 2000 acres of his farmland, which they developed into Woodlawn, living in a stately house designed by William Thornton, the architect of the U.S. Capitol. Lewis developed Audley, a 571-acre plantation, on land that he had purchased from Washington. His son Lorenzo lived there (along with his wife Maria) until his death in 1847. Nelly Custis, lived there as well following the death of Lawrence Lewis in 1839.

CONDITION: Very good, old folds, minor defects.

REFERENCE: Lawrence Lewis at mountvernon.org; Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis at mountvernon.org

Item #6836

Price: $950.00

See all items in Autographs & Manuscripts
See all items by