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 Edward Athawes, November 16, 1731

     Robert Carter writes to London merchant Edward Athawes, November 16, 1731, to summarize the discouraging position that the principals of the Frying Pan mining company find themselves in because the rich vein of ore has run out and there are no new signs. Their miners have proposed sinking new shafts at other places, but they have been made to sink the present shaft deeper. He wonders if the merchant can find some Swedish copper miners.

Letter from Robert Carter to Edward Athawes, November 16, 1731

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Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

Novr. 15. 1731

Mr. Edward Athawes


     My last to you was by Your Brigg Capt Belcher
by whom I sent you 16 Barrels of Copper ore which we had a great
deal of reason to beleive would prove very Valuable I then told you our
vein was quite gone out All Our attempts since have been to no purpose
and our Expectations now are at an absolute Stand we drive
deeper into the Earth and carry our drifts to all points of the Compass
without the appearance of the least Vein of Ore and our miners
are at an intire Loss how to proceed thus the great hopes taken up on
our little success are altogether Vanisht and what to do next is the
puzzle I have already said a great deal to you of the Villany of
these miners their idleness and their unruelyness . In some Conversa --
tion I have been in I have been advis'd that the best men to be imploy'd
in such an Affair are from Sweedland who 'tis said have the greatest
experience in Copper works of any people in the World and that the
Miners there work for very low Wages and in their natures are of a
more ductile malliable temper than our Cornish men or any other
English miners but whether you may be able to procure us a Sweed or two
properly qualify'd for this Work that will be willing to leave their
own Countrys and transport themselves into such a remote part of the
World upon such a design for such low Wages as we are able to give upon
the Small appearance we have of Success may be a great question I
know you will do every thing in your power to serve us in this design

     One year of our Miners time from our Contracts with them is alre
ady run out and the discouragements they meet with it is very
much to be fear'd will pall their endeavours and make them continue
all the ways they can to idle away their time and get their wages of us

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for nothing and the Consequence must be when their time is out
to break up our undertaking unless we can get other men of skill
to persist in the discovery What I want to be satisfy'd in is whether
in any of the English mines where such fair hopes of Ore has app=
eard they fail to meet with a body of Ore in some parts
of the bowels of the Earth adjacent and are forc'd to give up their undertakings
Our Miners are perswading us to make new Shafts some distance from the works
already made some are for trying in one place & some another no two
of them agree in the same Opinion some are for the Northward some
for the Southward & indeed for all Points of the Compass but we
continue resolute hitherto in sinking deeper into the earth in those
Shafts where the veins of the rich Ore were met with the Water
Annoys us Very much which the miners do not at all like this
winter wether . I hear the Bristol Works are at the same stand &
Under the same discouragements as we are thus You have this affair
in the best light I can set it

      Now by the Thistle I send you 11 Barrels of Ore which
by our Assays we hope will prove valuable enough to encourage the
Shipping of it I am for self & Company

              Yr. most humble Servant


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.

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] In mining a drift is "a passage 'driven' or excavated horizontally, for working, exploration, ventilation, or draining; esp. one driven in the direction of a mineral vein." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[3] By "pall," Carter means "to enfeeble or weaken; to daunt, dismay, deprive of strength; to impair or diminish." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[4] The Thistle was a London ship commanded by a Captain Reid and owned by merchant James Buchanan. (See Carter to Edward Athawes , 1731 September 10, 1731, and Carter to James Buchanan , November 19, 1731. )

This text, originally posted in 2006, was revised March 24, 2016, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.