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 from 2 years ago 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, Rappahannock, 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 south into Orange County. Apparently after reading some accounts of the wealth amassed by Robert Carter as his Land agent Lord Fairfax decided he wanted in on the action that Carter had exploited in buying and selling property derived from this huge land grant. Lord Fairfax determined that his Proprietary lands and the financial windfall which could be had deserved his foremost attention. And to effectuate his plan of action Fairfax decided to start making some changes in surveying and granting patents. More importantly though he first decided to consolidate his position against the Colony’s wish to limit his holdings and forced their hand by bringing the issue up in London. The events as they unfolded I will try to explain below.

I’m sure by now that some are thinking, as they read this, what the heck 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 late 1740’s William Longmire recorded land patents and/or surveys for the Northern Neck Proprietary. It appears that William copied and/or drew some pretty fancy plats as well. William managed to write over 200 entries in the Grants E land books 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 early 1740’s. William also wrote some entries in the later 1740’s when Lord Fairfax returned from England to take up residence in Virginia.

Fortunately for Wm Longmire the process of patenting land required several initiatives by Lord Fairfax in order to carry out the dispersal of millions of acres of land. He needed men to survey and people to 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 he needed a trustworthy associate, in this case his nephew, William Fairfax, to go all in with the zest and zeal he was later known for in carrying out this endeavor.

As a side note I must apologize in advance for upsetting the historical apple cart. But hey, don’t shoot the messenger. Meanwhile 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 properly download their digital files so that William’s work can be viewed here and handwriting compared, etc.

Update: It does appear that William actually began writing the surveys and grants in July of 1736. Some may wonder how William landed this position working for Lord Fairfax, and later, William Fairfax. Well, it appears that after William Fairfax was appointed to be Lord Fairfax’s land agent he moved to Stafford and/or King George County and set up a Land Office. More importantly though he was appointed a Justice for King George County which meant that by 1737, if not earlier, 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 still harbor a hunch that William may have worked for Capt Nicholas Smith who was Clerk and Burgess 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 King George County prior to working for T. Turner. But not to worry. Now that the Library of Virginia has re-opened to the public I will be traipsing down to Richmond to follow some more leads. Meanwhile I will update as I go along.

Update 2: So, in looking around several sources and books I have discovered that one of my favorite Virginia historical research compilers/authors, George H.S. King, had designated the home of Miss Sarah D. Ca(y)wood as the likely location for Lord Fairfax’s Land Office in King George County. Nancy Harris in her book elaborates more and/or paraphrases King’s description stating that the site was situated equally between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers near the ancient road leading up the Northern Neck of Virginia. This “ancient road” would be Route 3 otherwise known as the King’s Highway. For those not privy to such things I will point out that William Longmire was convicted of “assaulting a gentleman” along the King’s Highway in London. A stark reminder for poor William I’m sure as he obviously could hop on his horse and trot from the court house located adjacent Millbank and Belle Grove (Port Conway). I need to look into this more as I think it a bit coincident that Office Hall and the supposed Land Office proximities and if they were one and the same or relevant to each other somehow. Interestingly (a word that often signifies digression here at the hat thief blog) Thomas Lee, through his uncle, Thomas Corbin – a Virginia merchant from London, gained the Land Agent designation and began his Proprietary career in 1711 at the not too distant Machodoc Plantation in Westmoreland County. He was but 21 years of age. This certainly wrankled Robert “King” Carter who had held the Fairfax Proprietary Office previously. Through the death of Lady Catherine Fairfax, Robert Carter regained the Fairfax Proprietary and by 1722 Thomas Lee was relieved of this title. However, Thomas was later to prove his diligence in the same sphere of political and land speculation that Robert Carter had mastered. By 1732 Robert Carter had died and the mantle of Land Agent for the Proprietary eventually fell upon one William Fairfax who by 1734 or so began his initial foray into expanding the empire of Thomas Lord Fairfax. And it was not so long afterwards that one William Longmire began his grant and survey scribal career.

Update 3: The crystal ball becomes clearer the more I research. And this is where things actually become stranger because I have come to the conclusion that Wm Longmire did actually work for the Proprietary before he worked for Col Thomas Turner. As a matter of fact it appears fairly certain that William worked directly for Lord Fairfax even before he worked for William Fairfax! And so to set about explaining how this came about … On Aug 26, 1733 Wm Fairfax, Customs Collector at Salem, Massachusetts was transferred, at the request of Lord Fairfax, to administer the same position at a location in Virginia known as South Potomac. Geographically this “District” was north of the Rappahannock District which, some years earlier was administered by Adam Cockeburn, the same fellow who as part of his duties advised the authorities in London of the arrival to Virginia in April 1726 of one William Longmire, convicted felon from London. In Feb of 1733/4 Lord Fairfax then executed a Power of Attorney naming William Fairfax to act upon his behalf. After settling his affairs Wm Fairfax left Salem on June 18, 1734 and took up residence in Westmoreland County, Va. Wm Fairfax then took his oath at the county court on Aug 27, 1734. In March of 1735 Lord Fairfax left England and arrived in Virginia in May. He then took up residence with his young cousin in a house on the ridge which separated Westmoreland from King George County, Va. On July 14, 1735 Lord Fairfax wrote to Bryan Fairfax from “South Potomac”. Later he travelled down to Williamsburg to negotiate his land holdings with Governor Gooch and others and by Sept 23, 1736 the Virginia Assembly created a bill affirming the Fairfax lands and his ability to continue granting patents. Just two days later several surveyors including John Warner and William Mayo met with Charles Carter, Wm Byrd and others at Fredericksburg to begin respective surveys for the Colony and the Proprietorship. The Warner and Mayo maps both arrived in London for review in 1737. Meanwhile Lord Fairfax had begun surveying his lands with John Warner in the Spring of 1736 and it was the results of these surveys which William Longmire then began copying into the official books of Lord Fairfax, starting with an entry in Grants E for Mr Kenner on July 21, 1736. William then wrote the multi-page grants that Lord Fairfax set aside for himself with acreages totaling 122,852 acres and another for 26,535 which would be known as the “Manor of Leeds”. Later he wrote an entry for 12,588 acres for “Great Falls Manor” located in Fairfax County. Meanwhile Wm Fairfax began amassing lands in 1736 which would later become known as “Belvoir”. And so for the next several years Wm Longmire systematically wrote over 200 entries in the Grants E book for Lord Fairfax and Wm Fairfax.

From the above scenario and earlier research I conducted regarding Wm Longmire’s first court related entries it appears that his documented work history begins with the abovementioned land transactions for Lord Fairfax in the Summer of 1736. By August of 1737 Lord Fairfax closed his Proprietary offices and returned to England. Shortly thereafter William Longmire then began writing his first entries for King George County and had witnessed a bond for Eliza Lomax in Mar 1737/8. As we look to 1739 we find that William has continued writing bonds and estate inventories, etc for the court. However, Wm Fairfax began granting lands and surveys from1739 to 1741 from his Land Office located at Fallmouth, then a part of King George County, not too distant from the presumed area where Wm Longmire lived near the court house. This time frame coincides with Wm Longmire writing them until about 1742 when he began working for Col Thomas Turner as a double entry accountant. Earlier, in 1741, Wm Fairfax moved to “Belvoir” and issued grants from there until 1747 when Lord Fairfax returned from England. By 1748 when William wrote the grant for Hannah Fairfax (signed by Lord Fairfax) a young George Washington began surveying many of Lord Fairfax’s lands towards the west. Lord Fairfax then moved away towards Winchester and relocated his base of operations there. I can not say for sure how much William worked for the two Fairfax’s from 1742 – 1748 as the various handwriting entries appear to be by another whose writing was very similar to William’s and/or can not be differentiated positively. It appears that William may have shared duties with another scribe as he was actively employed at court and the store under Thomas Turner. However, I did find an entry dated 1745 written by Wm Longmire and more in 1748 signed by Lord Fairfax. Given that the Fairfax household, was then located at Belvoir, a somewhat considerable distance from the court house, it is likely the workload was taken up by someone located closer to them whilst Wm Longmire’s court and store entries became more of a full-time job. At this point in summing things up to date it appears that after Lord Fairfax secured his land grants and had Wm Longmire enter those and a few others for himself in 1736 he passed on the workload to Wm Fairfax who then became a Justice in King George County in 1737. Lo and behold a scribe by name of Wm Longmire shortly thereafter begins writing a few deeds and inventories, witnessing items, etc for the same court. Could it be that Wm Fairfax himself was the person who brought Wm Longmire into the court house scene by virtue of his earlier scribal work for Lord Fairfax?

Another facet of my investigation, so to speak, is to look into the map sent to London in 1737 which is universally attributed to John Warner. It has been noted by several cartographers that the map was appended with various writing other than from the creator(s). The fact that John Warner lived in, and was the official surveyor for, King George County may account for the possibility of this extra writing being done by the hand of Wm Longmire. Given that the map was done on behalf of Lord Fairfax and that Wm Longmire had already interacted with he and John Warner in 1736 this is not so implausible. There is a digitized version of the original 1737 Warner map at the Library of Congress website for comparison. Some of the interleaved writing in question looks to be that of William Longmire but there may be no way to prove this. I should note that there are a couple of court cases in which William drew maps to settle boundary disputes – Morton vs Donne is one that comes to mind. The similarity of those to the huge renderings which accompany Lord Fairfax’s vast personal land grants from 1736 mentioned above is possibly worth another visit to the map section of Library of Congress to get some qualified opinions.

And now to lose myself in trying to learn exactly how a felon from London ended up working for English Nobility … Cue a line from the Grateful Dead “What a long, strange trip it’s been”.

Update 4: So, I have been working on a theory of sorts with some added reflections regarding just when William began working for the Fairfax fellows and how this came about. In summing up the known people William either worked with or for or somehow knew, the little town of Falmouth keeps coming up. The more I think about this the more I believe that William either lived in and/or worked in or near Falmouth at some point in time. This may be how he first came across William Fairfax who had moved to Stanstead, the former plantation of Charles Carter, which was located upstream about a mile from Falmouth. Falmouth was commissioned by Charles Carter and the town was laid out in 1727/8 by John Warner, the surveyor/mapmaker who Wm Longmire intereacted with some years later. One might not think it today but back then Falmouth was a very important port town with several shops and storehouses run by merchants. I do not think it unreasonable that Wm Longmire, by virtue of his writing talents, possibly worked in Falmouth, possibly as a clerk for a merchant, maybe doing other related freelance work, perhaps some accounting. It also appears that Nicholas Smith, once Clerk of King George County, and the fellow who may have appointed Wm Longmire to watch the prison in 1730, may have used this port for his merchant activities. Elsewhere in this blog I point out the significant year of 1734 in which William’s beautiful handwriting and well laid out accounting work for the estate of Nicholas Smith seems to confer familiarity. This was also the same year in which Charles Carter became a Justice for King George County and Lord Fairfax designated Wm Fairfax as his land agent. Suffice to say that Wm Fairfax opened the Proprietary Land Office in Falmouth and operated out of it until about 1741 when he relocated himself and his interests to “Belvoir” which was about 4 miles from Mt Vernon. The fact that Wm Fairfax became a Justice for King George County in March 1737/8, which was the same time that Wm Longmire witnessed the Eliza Lomax document and then began writing minor items for the same court, is highly suggestive that Wm Fairfax not only introduced Wm Longmire to Col Harry Turner, then Clerk of the Court, but might also have introduced him to Lord Fairfax in the spring of 1736. Afterall, Lord Fairfax just didn’t walse into Virginia and run into Wm Longmire without an introduction from someone of substance.

The search for private documents and little known repositories continues. I do think I can find one more document or related info to bolster this theory. Just need a little more time and creative ways to peek into the heart(s) of an historian, curator, or reference librarian who can convey a destination for followup. Fortunately I do have some ideas …

Categories: Uncategorized

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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