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, John Carter, Robert Carter, Jr., and Charles Carter to Edward Athawes, July 22, 1731

     Robert Carter, John Carter, Robert Carter, Jr., and Charles Carter as partners in the Frying Pan Copper Mining Company write to London merchant Edward Athawes, July 22, 1731, to describe at length the problems they have had with the miners sent to them by Athawes and a "Mr. James," and to enquire abou the customary holidays these miners have claimed. They also report the discovery of a substantial vein of ore, and send samples and an invoice (not present) for more supplies for carrying on the work.

Letter from Robert Carter, John Carter, Robert Carter, Jr., and Charles Carter to Edward Athawes, July 22, 1731

-1 -

Rappa [hannock, Lancaster County, Virginia]

July 22d 1731

Mr. Edward Athawes


     One of us in the behalf of the Frying Pan
has already given you the entertainment of seve --
ral letters which we have had the perusal of and are
[agr] eeable to our sentiments In a clause of a letter to Mr Daw --
of the sixth Instant we acquainted you of the poor pros --
[pects] we were then under and of the base behavior of

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our Miners since that time four of them vizt: Honey Haweis
Bunton and another of a Saturday night Got drunk fell aboard
several of our servants and our Ovcrseer as he told us hardly Escaped
with whole bones cursing and daming us and all our concerns
and on the day following left their business pretending they would
come to their Masters to complain of the usage they met with the chief
fault they found was against their provision although the rest of
their fellows own to us they have not wanted plenty of very good salt meat one day from
their being there & that several venison had been killed for them and had
plenty of sweet milk from the Cow morning and Evening They
plead it as the custom of Miners that every red letter day are holidays
to them and that Saturdays in the afternoon are their own and that
this custom they will not give up upon this pretence they have
made so many holidays which we never heard of before that the work
they have done has been very little a great deal less than we did
with fewer unskilled people before they came to us in the contracts
from with the three Falmouth men there is no mention of this custom of
keeping holidays indeed they are styled Tinners and Miners and
It is to be owned they came away with a very good character from
Mr James particularly Nicholas and how far they may be under the
influence of this custom if there be such a one we shall not
Say but it is very plain Howeis and Brunton are our servants
by common Indentures they are styled only as diggers in Mines
they were taken up as Strollers about London and as we think
want of bread and common Necessaries were the Great persuasives
to them to come aboard Haweis whom you express so good an opini
on of and indeed who deceived us as much until we came to try
him proves the greatest rogue in the Pack and as our Overseer informs
us makes the rest a great deal more [. . . ] than they would be
and he think would be of advantage for us to discharge him
from our business and some of the Bristol Miners affirm
that to their knowledge this Howeis has been several years [aboard]
of a Man of War has been in Maryland served [there]
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an indented time at the Hoe of four years and all this since he has been
in a Mine and his fellow Miners Say he is a very indifferent fellow
in their business We are this particular in troubling you with
this Story that both Mr James to whom we desire you will com --
municate it as well as yourself may have a right account of the
behaviour of these fellows for it seems in their cups they have
not only cursed us but threatened to write both to you and Mr James
and to sue Mr James's bond We write nothing here but what we
have in a letter from Nicholas himself

     You may depend upon it as for the three Fal --
mouth Miners if their behaviour proves but tolerable they shall
not want a plentiful maintenance both of provision and
other necessaries to content them if anything that is reason --
able will do it but for Haweis and Brunton as they are our
Servants upon another foot we dare say you will not blame
us if we take proper measure to bring them to better Manners

     The four Fellow named above traveled about
five & twenty of thirty Mile and there took up at a tippling house and
stayed drinking two or three days together on the Wednesday they
returned to the works and on the Thursday in A shaft that had been
left off for some time they fell upon a very rich vein of
Ore and when our intelligence came away by a letter from
our overseer dated the 14th they had raised about fifteen hundred weight of this
Ore that the Vein was about a foot broad and six foot high and we
have since had a random story but brought with a great deal
of appearance of truth that the vein continued and was rather
larger than less thus our drooping hopes stand revived at pre --
sent We shall go near to be able to send you a further Account
[how t] his vein stands by us We send you some samples that
[our ov] erseer sent down to us with [. . .] his letter which at first

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sight the most unskillfull person in these Matters will say is very
rich not inferiour to the best of Skilers Ore we have seen

     This Fresh encouragement raises such a new life in us
that we resolve to push on with our utmost vigour and in order
thereto we hereiin send a further invoice for a supply of such
things as we think will be absolutely necessary for the well carrying
on of our undertaking and as you have been very zealous in the Cause
hitherto we doubt not you will continue your usual efforts in
this Service we are not for having any more persons upon wages
sent to us we hope three or four honest skillful fellows with
the assistance of our slaves we may will carry on our design to good
purpose if we have the good fortune to find a plentiful stock of
encouraging Ore this Invoice of goods we would have carried
in thirds to our respective Accounts according to our former direc
tions to you and send us into Rappahanock York or Potomack
under this mark [mark] consigning them to us who are

                   Your Most Humble servants

                                          Robert Carter
as Executor To Colonel Page     John Carter
                                          Robert Carter junior
                                           Charles Carter

We would Earnestly desire you
to give us a full Accot of what the
customs of these miners are in relation
to Holidays & saturdays in the Afternoon and
in what manner their general ways of Working
are whether by the day the month the Year or by
the great
or are paid according to the quantity of ore they raise or how far the opinion is these Miners
under their Present Contracts have a right to insist
upon these customs


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. There is water damage to some leaves of the letter book making reading the text difficult.

Robert Carter generally used a return address of "Rappahannock" for the river on which he lived rather than "Corotoman," the name of his home, on his correspondence, especially to merchants abroad. The county and colony have been added for clarity.

[1] 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. )

[2] Vizt. is the abbreviation for the Latin word "videlicet"; it means "that is to say; namely; to wit: used to introduce an amplification, or more precise or explicit explanation, of a previous statement or word." ( Oxford English Dictionary online. )

[2] Carter refers to the ancient custom of "(a) (originally) a saint's day or other Christian festival conventionally indicated in the calendar by red letters; (b). . . any significant, memorable, or happy day. . . ." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[4] Carter refers to miners recruited from Falmouth, Cornwall, England. There have been tin mines in Cornwall abd Devon since prehistoric times. (Wikipedia's entries on this subject appear reliable.)

[5] According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online a tinner is "one who gets or digs tin ore; a tin-miner."

[6] Mr. James has not been identified.

[7] 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. )

[8] A stroller is "a vagabond, vagrant; an itinerant beggar or pedlar." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[9] Carter probably means by "at the Hoe" that he served his indenture as an agricultural worker.

[10] In this context, "by the great" means "as a whole, all together," meaning by the entire job. ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

This text, originally posted in 2006, was revised January 22, 2016, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.