Robert King Carter's Correspondence and Diary

   A Collection Transcribed
        and Digitized
   by Edmund Berkeley, Jr.

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Electronic Text Center , University of Virginia Library


Letter from Robert Carter to Colonel [Mann] Page, June [2], 1729

     Robert Carter writes to his son-in-law, Colonel [Mann] Page, June [2], 1729, concerning what he has learned about the course of the Little Fork (the southern branch of the Rappahannock River) from Thomas Owsley, its effect on the Northern Neck proprietary, and the motives of those persons attempting to redraw the boundaries.

Letter from Robert Carter to Colonel [Mann] Page , June [2], 1729

-1 -

Corotom[an]:, [Lancaster County, Virginia]     
June [2,] 1729

Colo Page

Honl Sir

     Having lately met with some fresh testimony to the
boundary of the Northern neck in proof of the Southern run of the
Little forks being incomparatively the larger and longer stre [a] m
from Mr Thomas Owsley I cannot but think it Proper immedia
tely to hand it to Mr Holloway and it will not be Unpleast to you
who Always Appear So Strenuously my Friend to send you a Copy
of it taking all the Proofs I have together I think it appears to
me it will be as easy disputing against daylight as to dispute the
Little fork out of the Northern Neck Grant this relation of Ows
leys if you are at the Oyer & terminer as I strongly hope you will
be Able to be I should be willing my son should see And if you think
it Proper to let Mr Attorney have A Sight of it it may Perhaps a
little Cool him in respect to the great Zeal of Mr Recr Genl

     The mighty warmth of Our Recr: I was of Opinion
proceeded from his Strong Inclination to have the Northern neck
added to his Place (A pretty Perquisit if he could get it) but there
is lately come into my head Another reason that I apprehend may
greatly kindle the fire of his Zeal yo: know some years agoe I lent
Harry Willis some money this money as I take it was paid me by
Colo Grymes who is Also guardian to young Smith I have a
Notion that all the land and Slaves that Willis has in this Fork
are mortgaged to Colo Grymes for his security and the boys
if it be so as I beleive you know more of it than I do

-2 -

the Mistery of his mighty warmth is Pretty well Unfolded &
Colo judge Grymes Cann't be look'd Upon as an indifferent Council
for the King in this Affair or that the duty of his place is his only

     What Grants have Yet Pass'd for land in this little fork
I take the Govr to have been Surprized into for I can't believe if it
was Clearly prov'd to a govr: that the Southern branch is the main
branch he would sign Any Pattents for lands in this little fork

     I can't Expect there will be much done at this oyer and
terminer you know how uneasy it is for me to be Abroad in this
hot season And our Court will happen the day after where I
have Urgent business I have Excus'd myself for some late years
from attending these Courts in respect to their Unseasonableness
And I hope I shall not Suffer by my Absence now

     Robin Beverley got a Pattent of Colo Spotswood for
four thousand Acres in which he Cunningly leaves out the mea
sure of some of his Courses and by this means wins into this little Fork I am
told upon a late tryal Made by Will Beverley his son being threatened
to it by the Recr Genl. there appears to be near ten thousand Acres
this Upper part of his Pattent taking in the little fork he hat [h]
seated with Two or three qrs: and Slaves so that its likely that
interest will Also be engaged in the Controversy however the plain
ness of the Case I can't but think will Overcome all difficulties


Source copy consulted: Letter book, 1728 August-1731 July, Robert Carter Papers (acc. no. 3807), Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. Carter's clerk left a space for the day after the month, and "2" has been assigned as the letter is with others of this date in the letterbook. The county and colony have been added for clarity to the heading on this draft.

[1] The Fry-Jefferson map shows the Little Fork as a tributary of the Hedgman (now the Rappahannock) River. It lies in what is probably Culpeper County today, not far from the Blue Ridge.

[2] Thomas Owsley (ca. 1690-1750) was a large landholder in Stafford County, and had taken many trips into the back country. (Harrison. Landmarks. . . . pp. 53, 83, 110. 609. See Carter's letter to Holloway of this same date.)

[3] See the discussion of the Northern Neck proprietary on this project's home page.

[4] "Oyer is French for to hear -i.e. hear in court or try; and terminer is French for to conclude . The words mean that the commissioners appointed are to hear and bring to an end all the cases in the county." "In I710 Queen Anne extended the right of habeas corpus to Virginia and decreed that two courts of oyer and terminer be held annually to facilitate 'gaol delivery.' Such courts were to sit the first Tuesdays of December and June 7 ." ("Oyer and Terminer" in Dictionary of Phrase and Fable online at infoplease, 8/26/2011; Hugh F. Rankin. "The General Court Of Colonial Virginia: Its Jurisdiction and Personnel ." Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 70[2(Apr., 1962)]: 144; and Rhys Isaac. The Transformation of Virginia 1740-1790. Williamsburg, VA:, Institute of Early American History and Culture, and Chapel Hill, NC, University of North Carolina Press, 1982; new edition [paperback], 1999., p. 92.)

[5] "The receiver-generalship was a royal appointment" and the official was required to give bond both to the lord of the treasury and to the governor. "Those who filled the office of receiver-general were practially all councillors. . . . The duties of the receiver-general included the receiving of the quit-rents, the revenue arising from the export duty of two shillings per hogshead on tobacco, the one penny per pound on tobacco exported from Virginia . . . the port duty, which was the revenue arising from the fifteen pence per ton on all vessels arriving in the colony, and all funds of the colony not received by the treasurer. . . . He paid out of the revenue . . . the salaries of the officers of the colony, also those of the auditor-general of the colonies and the solicitor of Virginia affairs, both of whom lived in England. All the public expenses of the colony, except, of course, those paid out of the funds held by the treasurer, were paid out of the funds received in his office. . . . He of course reported to the lords of the treasury all payments made on the order of the governor. The accounts of the revenues and the reports of disbursements forwarded to the lords of the treasury were certified to by the auditor and the governor, and sent by the governor." (Percy Scott Flippin. The Financial Administration of the Colony of Virginia [Johns Hopkins Press, 1915.] 41-42.)

[6] Henry Willis (1691-1740) founder of Fredericksburg. ((See Paula S. Felder, "A Slow Beginning: 1728-1732." Free Lance Star [Fredericksburg, VA] 15 Mar. 2003, and "Fredericksburg's Origins and a History of Its Neighborhoods"; ; "Descendants of Lewis ap David of Cardiganshire, Wales" ; and "Willis Family." William and Mary Quarterly. 1st ser. 5(1896): 24-27, 171-176; 6(1897): 27-29, 206-214.) )

[7] Carter refers to Willis's stepson. Willis's first wife, Ann Alexander (whom he married November 2, 1714) was the widow of John Smith (d. 1712) of Purton, Gloucester County. She had two children including a son, Augustine Smith, for whom Willis would have had responsibility. ( "Willis" 3/15/2005 and 3/2/2015 ; and "Warner" 3/18/ 2005 and 3/2/2015 .)

[8] The Lancaster County court

[9] Robert Beverley (c. 1673-1722) held various clerk's posts in the colonial government. He was a burgess from Jamestown in the period 1699-1706. In 1716, the Council named Beverly, John Holloway, and John Clayton to "regulate the admission of attornies to the bar." Beverley is best remembered for his classic History and Present State of Virginia published in London in 1705. (Kukla. Speakers and Clerks. . . . pp. 144-46 )

[10] Alexander Spotswood (1646-1740), army officer with a succesful career, was a protege of George Hamilton, first earl of Orkney, the royal governor of Virginia, who sent Spotswood to Virginia in 1710 as lieutenant governor. His first five years in the colony were fairly successful ones, but his policies concerning land quitrents and over the colonial church brought confrontation with powerful members of the Council. Their interests in England led to Spotswood's dismissal as governor in 1722. He had acquired large land holdings, and he went to England in 1724 where he married and worked on securing the titles to his Virginia land holdings. In 1730 he returned to Virginia and remained there. (Gwenda Morgan. "Alexander Spotswood," in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and Leonidas Dodson. Alexander Spotswood, Governor of Colonial Virginia, 1710-22 [Philadelphia, 1932].)

[11] William Beverley (c. 1696-1756) son of Robert Beverley, lived at Blandfield, Essex County, where he was a member of the House of Burgesses and clerk of the court for many years (1716-1745). In 1752 he was appointed to the Council serving until just before his death. He acquired and leased vast tracts of land in what is today Augusta County where he is remembered in the city of Staunton where a street and district are named for him. (Cynthia Miller Leonard. The General Assembly of Virginia July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978. A Bicentennial Register of Members. Richmond: General Assembly of Virginia, 1978. pp. 77, 78, 81; and "Col. William Beverley [13049] ." 3/24/2005, 3/9/2015 )

This text, originally posted in 2005, was revised March 10, 2015, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.