Lot 139

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G. Washington ADS, One Of The Earliest In His Hand, 1752 Survey, The Same Year He Inherited Mt. Vernon

Autograph Document Signed, "G. Washington," 2 pages front and verso, 6.25" x 6.75", Augusta County, March 21, 1752, a survey of a 346 acre tract of land in Augusta County on near the Lost River. Repaired and infilled vertical creases affect several words in text, light to moderate toning and soiling, else very good overall.

Docketed in his hand on verso, "Plat... 346" and additionally endorsed in an unknown hand above and below Washington's note, assigning the land to the assignee John Price on August 5, 1780. Together with a manuscript letter, 3 pages, Dayton, Kentucky, January 29, 1879 describing the provenance of the survey. 

A very rare survey, executed in 1752 by a twenty-one year old Washington, who had only recently returned from Barbados, where he had traveled in the autumn of 1751 with his ailing brother Lawrence in an effort to improve his health. Lawrence's health did not improve and young George contracted smallpox from which he luckily recovered (but leaving some scarring to his face). The two parted ways late in the year: Lawrence sailed to Bermuda in a further effort improve his health while George returned to Virginia where he once again took up his duties as a surveyor.

Washington conducted this survey deep in the Virginia wilderness located in present-day Hardy County, West Virginia. He executes the survey "Pursuant to a warran[t] from the Proprietor's Office," Washington performed the survey for James Denton for a 346 tract which he drew on the page opposite the textual description of the property as prescribed by Virginia law, noting the names of adjoining land owners: "Francis McBride's Land," and "David Dunbar's Land."

From his father, Washington inherited his surveying instruments and learned the complex technique. Washington received his commission from William & Mary College on January 20, 1749 and was appointed Culpepper County Surveyor. From his powerful Fairfax relations he gained the bulk of his commissions for some 190surveys performed between 1749 and 1752. His position as a surveyor gave Washington numerous opportunities to purchase lands in the Shenandoah Valley. In all Washington earned as much as £400 from surveying, but this was not the route to wealth and distinction.

In June 1752 he shifted to a military career, asking Governor Dinwiddie to make him the post of adjutant of Virginia's Northern neck. But he continued to employ his skills for his own purposes, surveying sections of his Mount Vernon estate, up until his death in 1799. In the last decade, Washington's surveys, which provide interesting documentation of his early career, have become relatively uncommon. Surveys were usually paid for in tobacco, and as Freeman relates, "surveying not only had interest and yielded a profit but it also offered excellent training.

A good Surveyor had to be accurate and thorough: as George wanted to excel in surveying and in everything else he undertook, he painstakingly gave neatness and finish to surveys he made with the fullest care he knew how to display" (Freeman, George Washington, 1:198).

The survey is complimented by an Autograph Letter Signed "W. W. Gitt" twice, 3 pages, 5" x 8", Dayton, January 29, 1879 to G.W. Wilcox describing the provenance of the survey: "In compliance with your request of an account of the time and manner of procuring the plot and survey, with the original certificate and autograph of George Washington, for a tract of land in Augusta County Virginia containing 348 acres I herewith transmit to the same Colonel Hiram Craig, of Missouri in 1842, but then aged about 80 years and a native of the locality of this land had many original land papers, such as surveys, patents, and having left Virginia the equitable owner of some tracts, though this survey was not one of them, among his original papers this survey was. I contracted with Col. Craig to take with me on returning to Virginia - where I then lived - all his original papers and among then this survey had been packed up. Some lands I reclaimed for him but many were leased by limitation, as this would have been had I found a chain of title to this tract in some of the ancestors of Hiram Craig. Some one of his connexion [sic], though many years before my or his birth, got, no doubt, the regular possession of this ancient paper, as it was quite usual for the owner of a tract of land to obtain one of the certificates or copies of the survey and the title could and would pass without it; for subsequently, the grant issued for the same tract of land on the return of a similar survey and certificate. Respectfully yours W W Gitt aged 77 yrs. This plat and certificate with his own name are all made by George Washington and it is well known that he was the only other used surveyor at the time the same bears date. W W Gitt"

Col. Hiram Craig (1772-1842) was a native of Washington Country Virginia who settled in Missouri around 1818. In 1829 the Missouri territorial legislature appointed Craig a commissioner to determine the county seat of Chariton County, Missouri.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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