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Untitled [Original Grant of Benj. Harrison Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia to George Washington of 10,990 Acres of Land on the Great Kanawha River dated July 6, 1784

Origin: America, Virginia
Iron gall ink on vellum; Iron gall ink on laid paper with watercolor.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard F. Barry, III, Mr. and Mrs. Macon F. Brock, Mr. and Mrs. David R. Goode, Mr. and Mrs. Conrad M. Hall, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas G. Johnson, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Moorman, IV, and Mr. and Mrs. Richard D. Roberts.
Acc. No. 2017-225
Four documents bound in leather volume.
Label:Virginia Lieutenent Governor Robert Dinwiddie's Proclamation of 1754 granted 200,000 acres to be divided between soldiers that volunteered to protect the western frontier at the start of the French and Indian War. (1) In 1763, at the end of that conflict, King George III forbade all settlement past the Appalachian Mountains and reserved that territory for Native Americans in an attempt to maintain powerful tribes as allies against the French. The Proclamation of 1763 made provisions for land grants for service, but it severely diminished the quantity of land to which the veterans were entitled. The grants were instructed to be distributed in amounts of 50 to 5,000 acres depending on rank. (2) This essentially quarantined that Western Virginia land, and prevented veterans, including Major George Washington, from claiming their land for another decade.

After the revolution, Virginia ceded its western lands to the Federal Government in 1784. Before this took effect, Virginia Governor Benjamin Harrison finally presented George Washington with his lands in the Ohio territory including 10,990 acres near the junction of the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers in present-day West Virginia. This is the presentation copy of the land deeds and plats that Governor Harrison gave to Washington in 1784 which included the signed deed on vellum and three land plats originally surveyed by Washington's western land agent William Crawford in 1771. Washington's interest in securing this land was part of his ambition to connect the Ohio and Potomac Rivers through a canal system that would connect the western frontier with eastern commercial centers. (3)

Washington never realized the ambitions for this land, which he referred to as, "the cream of the Country...the first choice of it." (4) Shortly after he officially received the grant, he attempted a trip to view the land, but conflicts with Native Americans prevented the trip's completion. Washington's important role in the formation of the American Government and his election as the first president in 1789, impeded on his plans to develop the land. His attempts to sell or lease the land during his lifetime were unsuccessful and the grant appeared in his will at the time of his death in 1799. (5)

This document descended in the Washington family until it was sold at a large auction of Washington family materials in April 1891. This deed was sold as lot 181 at The Final Sale of the Relics of General Washington, Thomas Birch's Sons Auctions, 110 Chesnutt Street, Philadelphia, April 21-23, 1891, Catalogue, No. 663. (6)

1) “To George Washington from Robert Dinwiddie, January 1754,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified February 1, 2018, [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 1, 7 July 1748?–?14 August 1755, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983, pp. 63–67.]

2) William C. Wooldridge, “Mapping Virginia: From the Age of Exploration to the Civil War” (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012), #130a, b, c; pp. 139-144.

3) Ibid.

4) Ibid.

5) Nicole DiSarno. "The Kanawha Tracts." In George Washington Digital Encyclopedia, edited by Joseph F. Stoltz III. Mount Vernon Estate, 2012–.

6 ) Stanislaus V. Henkels, Final settlement of the Estate, General George Washington (Philadelphia: Thomas Birch's Sons, auctioneers, 1891), p. 22.

This copy published in William C. Wooldridge, “Mapping Virginia: From the Age of Exploration to the Civil War” (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012), #130a, b, c, p. 139-144.
Provenance:This deed was sold as lot #181 at "The Final Sale of the Relics of General Washington," Thomas Birch's Sons Auctions, 110 Chesnutt Street, Philadelphia, April 21-23, 1891, Catalogue, No. 663.

Prior to the sale in 1891, the deed descended from Bushrod C. Washington and his brother Thomas B. Washington. They inherited these documents from their father, B.C. Washington; who was the son of Corbin Washington; who was brother of Judge Bushrod Washington, who inherited direct from George Washington.