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 Benjamin Grayson, July 13, 1731

     Robert Carter writes to Benjamin Grayson of Prince William County, July 13, 1731, to give him instructions about his supervision of work at the Frying Pan mine and its workers who have left the mine and have been seen on the roads. He sets out specific instructions for pursuing them with "hue and cry" both in Virginia and Maryland, and sends copies (not present) of their indentures and other documents. He orders Grayson to take some into court if necessary.

Letter from Robert Carter to Benjamin Grayson, July 13, 1731

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Corotomon, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

13 July 1731

Mr Benja Grayson,

     On Saturday last William Manuel brought me a great
many Lletters from you, Nicholas, & another signed by Honey, Haweis,
Brunton & Cardel. They contain a great deal of unagreeable News, but
none so bad as that you cannot meet with any Good Ore, Giving us but poor
Hopes for all our Charge & Trouble in our Enterprize ; however we must push
on still. Certainly all the shows we have had must prognosticate a large
Vein of Good Ore somewhere, if we can but be so fortunate to find it.

     Manuel tells me below Occoquon Ferry he heard of four men
was seen upon the Main Road traveling downwards. I hear nothing of
them more. I take these to have been the Miners. He says They took away
some Shirts & their best Summer Clothes, leaving their thicker Clothes, behind
them. I can hardly think they are run away. If they stand but their Ground
I believe we shall find Law enough to bring them to better manners. --
you have been wanting in not forthwith pursuing them with Hue & Cries
I have now sent you the Counterparts of Nicholas, Whifford, Honey & Cardel
their Articles signed by the Company, which you are to deliver to [illegible]
as many of them as are at Home. You had best take Copies of them that
you may know at all times, when you have Occasion, what they
are obliged to do. Nicholas it seems thinks he is not obliged to work;
but, if I have any Understanding, he is very much mistaken; & if so I --
shall convince him, if he puts me to the Necessity, of carrying him to Court.
They complain for want of provision; herein I send you an accot of what
they have had. They have plenty of Milk now, & if they had nothing --
else to live upon, Good milk & Hominy & milk & mush might very
well content them in these Summer months. How many hundred families
in Virginia, better men than ever these Fellows will be & work a great deal
--                                                             harder

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harder, have no Meat at this time of year? &, if they had been --
Good Husbands , their Provision they have had would have served them
a great deal longer. As for their Unreasonable Holidays, wch
they plead Custom for, I will never believe anyThing of it: some of
them told me themselves, They generally work by the Great; & when
they work by the Year, if they are absent but a Day, they are immediately

cut off in their wages; And, if they are not diligent & mind their
Business, they lose their Employment

     Haweis and Brunton are our servants by Common Indent=
. They have each of them four years to serve from their arrival
into Virginia. I send you Copies of their Indentures that you may know
how to treat them. You will see upon the Backside of these Indentures
what money we advanced to them in London , which the Time they
have been with us has not reimbursed yet; so that there is nothing
due to these two. I have had a Good Character of Honey. If he returns
& is orderly, I would have him used kindly. I admire he should herd
with these Fellows. I would have you handle Howeis & Brunton --
with Severity. I here send you an order to let them know that I appoint
you their master in our Absence. I know no Difference between them
& other Common waged Servants. They are employed as Diggers in
the Mines they cannot plead Custom: We'll allow them no --
Holidays I'll assure them, & I desire you will break the neck of it;
& if they will not come into minding their Business by Fair Means,
I would have you try Correction; and, if that will not do, clap them
int the Custody of the sheriff's Hands, & lay them up in Jail, that they
may be made to know what Circumstances they are under. Howeis
I understand is the Greatest Rogue in the Pack: It seems he --
curses & damns us to your Face; I desire you would let him --
--                                                                           know

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know we are his masters, by giving him a Sound Drubbing for his
Impudence. To be sure, if either of us were there; he should not fail
of his Deserts.

     As for Cardell, seeing he will not come into the Terms we
offered him, my Order is that you forthwith have him arrested
and clapped into the Custody of the Law, that we may have it tried whether
he will not be adjudged for a Common Servant according to his Inden=
ture for the Cheat that he has put upon us, pretending to hire himself as
a Miner, when all that work with him declare that he knows nothing
of the matter; & I think in all Justice he ought to be made to serve us,
besides his Indented time, for the ten pounds sterling which is due to us for his Passage money
which I have paid, for the six pounds I advanced to him before he --
went away from me; & my order is, if the Judgement of your County --
Court should not be for us, that you appeal to the General Court . You
must employ one of your Lawyers; who they are that practice at yor Court
I know not. If Mr Mercer comes there, he is my Lawyer, already, &
will be the fittest I believe to prepare the Process. Cardel's Indenture
has a forfeiture of one hundred sixty Pounds; I believe the Lawyer will believe think it
the best Way to sue for the Penalty. If these Fellows should not be
come home before Manuel's Return, you must be very diligent and
dextrous to pursue them with Hue & cries , not only in Virginia,
but through Maryland also; & particularly to Annapolis. If it
be possible we must overtake these Fellows. As for Cardel you had
best keep our Joint Indenture from to him, until you have got him --
safely laid up. This Letter is long enough. I am

              Your Friend --


Source copy consulted: Letter book, 1731 July 9-1732 July 13 , Robert Carter Papers (acc. no. 3807), Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. There is a 19th-century transcript of the letter in the Minor-Blackford Papers, James Monroe Law Office and Museum, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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

[1] Benjamin Grayson was, according to Fairfax Harrison, "one of the earliest of the Scots merchants to be established on Quantico, where Dumfries was to arise." He was appointed a justice of Prince William County in November 1731. (Harrison. Landmarks. . . . pp. 156 and McIlwaine. Executive Journals of the Council. . . . , 4[1721-1739]: 256. )

[2] In 1728, Carter, his sons Robert and Charles, and his son-in-law Mann Page, organized a company to mine for copper on a tract of some 27,000 acres that Louis Morton describes as lying "near the present boundary of Fairfax and Loudoun counties." Fairfax Harrison wrote that the tract was "on the Horsepen of Broad." Today, there is a Frying Pan Park just east of the border of the Dulles Airport reservation, and there are other things with the name in the area. The company was not successful. (Morton. Robert Robert Carter of Nomini Hall. pp. 18-19; and Harrison. Landmarks. . . . p. 342. )

[3] Occoquan ferry was located on the Occaquan River, a major tributary of the Potomac River, that lay in Stafford County in Carter's day.The ferry was owned later by George Mason.

[4] "Outcry calling for the pursuit of a felon, raised by the party aggrieved, by a constable, etc." and " A proclamation for the capture of a criminal or the finding of stolen goods." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[5] Hominy is "maize or Indian corn hulled and ground more or less coarsely and prepared for food by being boiled with water or milk." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[6] Carter uses "good Husbands" in the sense of "to administer as a good householder or steward; to manage with thrift and prudence; to use, spend, or apply economically; to make the most of; to economize; also, to save, lay by a store of." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[7] Webster's Dictionary defines this use of "great" as by the whole or gross, as in a "a contract to build a ship by the great."

[8] An indenture is a contract between two or more parties. It is so named because copies of such a contract in early times were often written at the top and the bottom of a sheet which was then cut apart in a jagged or indented manner. The copies could then be fitted together to prove autheiticity. "The contract by which an apprentice is bound to the master . . . by which a person binds himself to service in the colonies, etc." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[9] Carter uses the word "admire" in a sense that is no longer current. The Oxford English Dictionary defines what he means as "to feel or express surprise, or astonishment; to wonder, to marvel, to be surprised."

[10] "The governor's Council, also known as the Council of State or simply the Council, consisted of about a dozen of colonial Virginia's wealthiest and most prominent men. Beginning in the 1630s the Crown appointed Council members. . . . Crown appointments were lifetime appointments. From 1625, when Virginia became a royal colony, until the outbreak of the American Revolution (1775-1783), the Council members advised the royal governor or his deputy, the lieutenant governor, on all executive matters. The Council and the governor together constituted the highest court in the colony, known initially as the Quarter Court and later as the General Court. The Council members also served as members of the General Assembly; from the first meeting of the assembly in 1619 until 1643 the governor, Council members, and burgesses all met in unicameral session. After 1643 the Council members met separately as the upper House of the General Assembly." ("The Governor's Council" in Encyclopedia Virginia )

[11] John Mercer (1704-1768) emigrated from Ireland where he had been trained as an attorney. "He settled at Marlboroughtown [in then Stafford County] in 1726 as a practicing attorney and at once allowed a facile pen to get him into trouble with the government." He eventually lost his license to practice law, and turned to the land speculation that he had begun as soon as he reached Virginia. "He married first on June 10, 1725 Catherine Mason (June 21, 1707-June 15, 1750) only child of Colonel George Mason (16??-1716) and his second wife Elizabeth Waugh, daughter of the Reverend Mr. John Waugh."(Harrison. Landmarks of Old Prince William p. 315; Copeland and MacMaster. The Five George Masons. ; and "John Mercer." )

This text, originally posted in 2006, was revised January 5, 2016, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.