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 Robert Jones, October 22, 1729

     Robert Carter writes to a senior manager, Robert Jones of Prince William County, October 22, 1729, to give him very specific instructions about the distribution of bedding, caps, and clothes for slaves on the quarters under his supervision, the breaking and training of oxen for carts for which wheels and other gear are being sent, rounding up of hogs, cider, beef, and butter for Carter's use, and to chide Jones for his inattention to Carter's affairs.

Letter from Robert Carter to Robert Jones, October 22, 1729

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Corotoman, [Lancaster County, Virginia]
Octobr 22d. 1729

Mr. Robert Jones

     By the Sloop I send you a great many things you have
a particular invoice of them Inclosed , the Bed clothing there are Labels
upon with the Names of Every Negro they are for, the bedding for the Overseer
of Richland and for the Overseer at the Mountain are particularly markd
the Frocks [ . . . ] for the Children are all markd Also another petty Coat for
Grace my son Charles is very Certain that he sent one before for her knowing
her to be a large Woman & Cowkeeper he was particularly Carefull to choose
a pettyCt for her and set her name Upon it and it was one of the PettyCts
that the things were sow'd up in, I hope you will be more Carefull in the right
delivery of these goods than you were in the Cloths, for what I Observ'd
you never so much as Look'd into the Packs to see whether Everything was
there before you sent them away so that it is in the breast of any Overseer
to take What they pleas out and deny that they Came to them this is like
the rest of the care you Use about Other things, the way us'd to be Either
to have all the People down from the Several Qrs and fit them at the
Falls Qr: or Else to have the furthest overseers down and to open
the packs before them and let them see that Every thing was right for
their Gangs, this is the method I observe with Nomini and Richland
people every Overseer comes down for his peoples Cloths and sees
that everything is right and this is the method that I Will have Observ'd
By the person that lives in your Station

     I have sent you two pr of Wheals with Axtrees Well
Box'd and Well Clampt with Clouts Washers and Linck pins with an Iron
to be at the End of the tongue of Each Cart 4 Chains Yeokes Well fitted
for two teems of oxen of six in a teem Compleat , so that you have nothing
to do but to make the Carpenters make two Carts, I have Also sent you
three Ropes for the managing the Oxen one teem I would have Broke
Between Threalkild & Jimmy Peters, Tim Dargon has promis' [d]

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me to Break a Yoke of Oxen for himself

     I have agreed with an Overseer for Richland And have oblig'd
him in his Conditions to Break me a Yoke of Oxen, he will Be up
before christmas and I intend to send up two pr of Wheels more wth
Yokes & Chains &ca. one for Oxford and Mountain the Other for
Richland, the two first teems I would hope if you were a person
of life & resolution would be soon got ready for your use and
While the Other are getting ready for you you might Break more
young Oxen that might be ready for the two Carts that I intend
to provide Wheels for by the next Sloop When we get these 5 teems
of Oxen Equipt and Well managed I think all business will go
on with a great deal of Ease And Wheat & Corn &ca. will be Easily
brought down without and removd from one plantation to ano
ther without The sad specticle of Sore backt horses & poor Jades
and the people where the Plantations are large may have
their fencing stuff drawn into place their Firewood got to
their doors their Corn removd to their home houses their
Tobo Carred from their fields tho never so remoat and abundance
of other benefits not to be mention'd

     I have sent you a Cask to put the poplar Cyder
in that which I brought down pleases me and agrees
with me so Extraordinary Well that I set a great Value
Upon it purposely for my Own drinking therefore you
will take Very great Care that it be not abus'd I think
the best way will be that the Cask be Carry'd there &
that there the Cyder be drawn of from the Lees much
Better than to bring it down to the Falls with

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the Lees in

     You must send me all the Wheat possibly you Can get down
for the Sloop Burwells wheat may Come down I have sent 20 Empty
hogsheads I would have you send me 4 Beeves by All means if Possible two
from the Foard, the Pide Ox at the Falls I think may be one I think
Oxfords Beeves must be killd there and Carted down the other Beef I
would have a Very good one you may take him from what Qr. you think
best, John Hust I have Writ to by James Carter about doing your the Jobbs
at yr Quarter making these 2 Carts and about the Buildings at the falls -- I
have sent a great many Caps and the names of the people that are to
have them I have sent you 20 yards of Oxnabuggs as you desire My New hands are all
down in their Seasoning Except one I must wait with Patience till they
recover their strength before I can send them.

     I have a great many Observations to make of your ill
managemt but I will take another time for it I am told you said you do
a great deal of Work for a little money I am of the Contrary Opinion I
think you do but very little for a great deal of money I am sure reckon [illegible]
[illegible] the Expenses of your living and your salary there is never a ten hands I
have Under you with all They make will answer what you have if you
can find a way to mend your self I shall be very Easy you have a mighty
Itch of retailing a little rum by qts. and pints you know This is What I peremp
toryly forbid and if you get my Overseers into your debt by these practices I shall
send you some where Else to look for your Pay you are Very forward in
drawing out your Salary before you have Earned it you know when we last
settled We were pretty Even I owe you nothing till your year is up were it to
stock you with negroes twould do you good I should not Grudge -t it but
you'd Best have a Care of being too free with your noats least I refuse

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he is an honest man that pays for his Work after tis done the
proverb is he is a Bad paymaster Who pays not at all
or Who pays beforehand -- I shall take me Leave of you at [illegible]
Present I am

              your friend to Serve you

I Expect you will begin to look about
you for Hoggs they must be put
up When the Mast is Over as soon as
the corn is in or at least got into the Corn
fields I shall never Endure to have such
intollerable Accots for the fattning of hoggs
as the Overseers gave me the last year and you Were at the wonder
full pains of Writing down from their mouths Dr: Bell I intend
to let have the same allowance of provision he hath had in former years
the Overseers talkt of a great many outlying hoggs that have not
been seen of late I hope they Will be got in, The Butter I Expect you
will send down in the Sloop you have 12 Calves at the Qr Where
you live some of them very near killd with the Churn stick I
beleive I shall have hardly butter Enough from yr dairy to Answ:
er the life of one of them I hope by that time this sloop Comes away
you may be Able to let me know how many hoggs I may Expect from you
I Expect you will take Care that I have all the tallow of these Beeves &
of the Cow sent to me if you let Dr Bell have half a dozen pound I
shall not be against it. The last thing to be done for the Sloop must
be the killing the Beeves and I hope you will take Care to see them well
aboard and hung up as Usual I have always had my meat Come down well


Source copy consulted: Robert Carter Letter Book, 1727 April 13-1728 July 23, Carter Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond.

The county and colony have been added for clarity to the heading on the draft.

This letter was published in Berkeley. "Robert Carter as Agricultural Administrator: . . .", 291-295.

[1] A petticoat is "a light loose undergarment (originally of calico, flannel, silk, etc.; now frequently of synthetic material) hanging from the shoulders or waist, and worn by a woman or girl under a dress or skirt for warmth, etc." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[2] An axletree is the "the fixed bar or beam of wood, etc., on the rounded ends of which the opposite wheels of a carriage revolve." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[3] A clout is a "plate of iron . . . fixed on some part of a plough, on an axle-tree, or on a shoe, to prevent wear." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[4] The tongue is "the pole of a wagon or other vehicle" to which the animals are attached. ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[5] William Threalkill is mentioned in the 1733 inventory of Carter's estate as the overseer at Poplar Quarter, Stafford County. (Carter Papers: An Inventory. . . ." .)

[6] Jimmy Peters was an overseer who would be at Hinson's Quarter in Stafford County in the1733 inventory. (Carter Papers: An Inventory. . . ." .)

[7] "In 1724, Robert Carter took out patents for, among others: the Licking Run tract of 10,227 acres which lay along and east of Licking Run above Germantown and across Owl and Turkey Runs, to what was then supposed to be the western boundary of the vast Brent Town Tract. Here Carter seated the Lodge Quarter mentioned in his will." Timothy Dargan was its overseer in the 1733 inventory. ( Carl F. Cannon, Jr., "Robert ("King") Carter of "Corotoman." Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Duke University, 1956, p. 274; and Carter Papers: An Inventory. . . ." )

[8] Roger Oxford was the overseer at Norman's Ford.

[9] A jade is a "contemptuous name for a horse; a horse of inferior breed, e.g. a cart-or draught-horse as opposed to a riding horse; a roadster, a hack; a sorry, ill-conditioned, wearied, or worn-out horse; a vicious, worthless, ill-tempered horse. . . . " ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[10] The Oxford English Dictionary Online states that the lees are the "sediment deposited in a vessel containing wine," or, as Wine Weekly describes them, "the lees . . . are the dead yeast cells, grape seeds, pulp, stems, skins, and tartrates that separate from the juice during wine making and aging." The same term is used in cider making.

[11] By "beaves" the editor assumes Carter means beef cattle carcases but the word does not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary Online and a Google search was not useful.

[12] Norman's Ford was an important Rappahannock River (earlier Hedgeman's River) crossing on the old Iroquois trail, later called the Carolina Road. Fairfax Harrison states that it received its name because Isaac Norman patented the land in June 1726, but Carter refered to it by this name four years earlier. It is located where U.S. 29 and U.S. 15 cross the Rappahannock between Culpeper and Fauquier counties. ("The Old Roads and the Ordinaries," in Harrison, Landmarks of Old Prince William, pp. 441-517, esp. fn. 37 on p. 500. )

[13] Pied, accoring to the Oxford English Dictionary Online means "marked, dappled, speckled with (a colour or, in extended use, some other thing)."

[14] John Hust (or Hurst) was the overseer of "Hamstead Quarter," Stafford County, in the 1733 inventory, supervising sixteen slaves with the assistance of one horse. Hust apparently was a carpenter because Carter mentions his doing carpentry work in various letters. (Carter Papers: An Inventory. . . ." )

[15] Osnaburg is a coarse fabric named for the region of Germany in which it was first produced. It was commonly used for sacking and bagging. ( 18th Century Trade Terms (Fabrics), "Of Silk, Terms Of Silk , Cotton, Linen and Wool,"[Compiled from] The Beekman Mercantile Paper 1746-1799. 5/ 4/2007; 6/18/2015 )

[16] Seasoning is "the process by which a person becomes hardened or inured to a strange climate, acclimatization," and was the term colonial Virginians used to refer to the sicknesses that affected new immigrants, black and white, to the colony, until they developed immunities. ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[17] Mast is "the fruit of beech, oak, chestnut, and other woodland trees, esp. when fallen and used as food for pigs, etc." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[18] Tallow is "a substance consisting of a somewhat hard animal fat (esp. that obtained from the parts about the kidneys of ruminating animals, now chiefly the sheep and ox), separated by melting and clarifying from the membranes, etc., naturally mixed with it; used for making candles and soap, dressing leather, and other purposes." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[19] Carter uses the word "hung" here to mean "meat: Suspended in the air to be cured by drying, or (in the case of game) to become 'high.'" ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

This text, originally posted in 2005, was revised July 9, 2015, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.