Lord Fairfax

For the last 2 or 3 years I had merely entertained the thought that William Longmire may have freelanced or possibly found work elsewhere than what I have documented to date. Perhaps I could find something related to writing deeds or wills privately, even entering ledgers for another merchant. I have and still do continue to look for private collections and in places such as the Executive Journals of the Council of Virginia in hopes of finding more evidence of William’s handiwork. One such avenue I have been pursuing as of late centers on my earlier forays into the Northern Neck Proprietary and one Thomas Lord Fairfax. Lord Fairfax owned over 5 million acres of land stretching from the southern most tip of Lancaster County all the way up the Northern Neck counties of Richmond, Westmoreland, Northumberland, and King George. However the limits to this land grant actually encompassed all land in Virginia between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers north to Leesburg and west to the North branch of the Potomac River in what is now West Virginia. This included Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and others up past Winchester. And did I mention a few counties west of the Rappahannock? Holy Moly! To make a long, and fascinating, story short Thomas decided he wanted in on the action that Robert “King” Carter” had exploited in buying and selling property derived from this huge land grant. And since Carter was but a land agent for Lord Fairfax the financial possibilities drew his interest and foremost attention. To effectuate his plan of action Fairfax decided to start granting patents to the land hungry colonists ever fervent in their desire to move west to claim good land.

For Lord Fairfax the process of patenting land required several initiatives in order to carry out the dispersal of millions of acres of land. He needed men to survey, write deeds and patents. He needed land offices to transact the grants, and a system to convey the same in legal and documentable fashion. And I’m sure by now that some are thinking as they read this what does this have to do with one William Longmire? Well, I am happy to report that I have discovered yet another way to horrify historians and scholars by pointing out that as early as 1736 up until the 1740’s William recorded land patents and/or surveys for three different Land Offices of Lord Fairfax: King George County, Fairfax County, and Prince William County. And to top if off he drew some pretty fancy plats as well. Even more fascinating, and yes, I do find this whole sordid affair fascinating, William managed to write upwards, possibly more, of 200 entries for Lord Fairfax – many of which while simultaneously working for the county court and managing store and ledger accounts for Col Thomas Turner’s merchant/dry goods enterprise in the 1740’s. A fair amount of work considering that you also raised much of your own food unless you were of the gentry class.

As a side note I must apologize in advance for upsetting the historical apple cart. But hey, don’t shoot the messenger. In all seriousness though I do look forward to adding more flavor to this narrative as a result of these findings. The research possibilities promise a plethora of alleys and avenues to navigate. The laborious task of chronologically documenting William’s timeline against what I have so far now awaits more additions. Ah, and the correspondence I look forward to engaging in as I want to know the little facets of interaction in such cases. Questions arise such as did William travel to the land offices or did he carry Lord Fairfax’s patent books with him or have in his possession at his own house or at Col Turner’s store property? Either way I now have at least 200 more pages of microfilm to go over, in addition to the hundreds I have yet to scour in Richmond and LoC from my ealier research. Add to that at least 2 -3 books on the Proprietary to read – if I plan on giving this a good go round. Guess I better get going …

p.s. For those who may be interested in viewing actual copies of Northern Neck Proprietary patents and surveys simply visit http://www.virginiamemory.com . From there go to Digital Collections, select Collections A to Z, then scroll down to Virginia Land Office Patents and Grants. William’s entries can be found in the links for 1736 – 1742 Grants E and 1742 – 1754 Grants F. Meanwhile I will be contacting LVA staff to find out how to download their tiff files so that William’s work can be viewed here and handwriting compared, etc.

Update: I have edited some dates here which reflect more current research. William actually began writing the surveys and grants in 1736/7. Some, including several historian correspondents, may wonder how William landed this position working for William Fairfax. Well, it turns out that after Thomas Lord Fairfax appointed his cousin, William Fairfax, to be his land agent he moved to King George County and set up a Land Office. More importantly though he was appointed a Justice for King George County which meant that William Longmire crossed paths with him on many occasions. It will be interesting to discover if my ancestor worked for Fairfax first or for Thomas Turner, Clerk and Justice for the same court. I have a hunch that William may have worked for Capt Nicholas Smith who was Clerk of King George County before Thomas Turner was appointed. However, as evidenced by the handwriting of earlier records William did not work as a court scribe for Smith. At least not for that county prior to working for T. Turner. But not to worry. Now that LVA has opened to the public I will be traipsing down to Richmond to follow some more leads. Stay tuned Bat fans:)

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2 replies »

  1. This is great! Thank you again for sharing your findings! My imagination runs wild with ideas of the what’s and how’s and who’s for our William Longmire. I imagine that he must have been The Most Educated Hat-Thief!


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