Another Washington in Town

Rebecca Hardin / University of Central Florida / Fall 2014

When transcribing a cash account for the Colchester store, I came across an entry in the Cash Accounts for Edward Washington on May 13, 1767.[1] Since this transcription project is through the Mount Vernon, the first thing that came to mind when typing Edward Washington was: is this a relative of the George Washington? Is this individual related to the first president of the United States?  I was extremely intrigued over the name I had come across and even stopped transcribing to look up who this particular individual was and if he had any relation to the esteemed Washington family. It seemed fitting since Mount Vernon was the home of the first president, George Washington, and I wondered if maybe Edward was a cousin or uncle, possibly even a brother. I was not familiar with the family tree of George Washington so I was very interested to find out more, so I put aside my transcriptions for a few minutes to delve into the past of eighteenth-century Virginia and possibly a relative of one of America’s founding fathers.

Cash Account from May, 1767, identifying Edward Washington's transaction, Colchester Store.

Upon initial research, I found that Edward Washington was not a close relative of George Washington, but the two did share a similar familial line. It was believed by Lund Washington (George’s cousin and a caretaker to Mt. Vernon in George’s absence during the Revolutionary War[2]) and Lawrence Washington (George’s older half brother[3]) that Edward was a relative of the family due to his strong family resemblance.[4]  Next, I learned that Edward Washington had served as a “sub sheriff” in Fairfax County and, like George Washington, was a member of Truro Parish.  As a sheriff, he would have collected taxes and served warrants to the people.[5] Edward Washington also served as a parish vestryman in Truro Parish in the 1740s, but it was noted that when Edward Washington had stood as the candidate for vestryman in 1765, he was beat out by his distant relative, George Washington.[6] After learning this, I then wondered what is a vestryman?  Was this an important role at the time?  In the eighteenth century, a vestryman was an official of the parish council who would supervise over parish public services such administrating the poor relief and keeping parish records (baptisms, deaths, and marriages).[7]  I also learned that at Belmont Bay in Colchester, Virginia there stands what is left of the home of two successive Edward Washingtons, one of the oldest structures in Fairfax County.[8] It was extremely fascinating that out of the sixty names on a Cash Account, the one name that I researched produced such detailed results and even pictures of one of the oldest structures in the county related to Edward Washington.

Edward Washington House in Colchester, Virginia. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

[1] Alexander Henderson, et. al.  Ledger 1766-1767, Colchester, Virginia folio 20 Credit, from the John Glassford and Company Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Microfilm Reel 61 (owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association).

[2] “How Lund Washington Saved Mount Vernon,” last modified April 14, 2014,

[3] “Key Facts about George Washington,” Mount Vernon, accessed November 1, 2014,

[4]Edward Lewis Goodwin and Philip Slaughter, The History of Truro Parish in Virginia (Philadelphia: G.W. Jacobs & Co., 1908) 110.

[5]Cordelia Jackson, Edward Washington and His Kin (Washington, D.C., Mimeoform, 1934), 8.

[6] Jackson, Edward Washington and His Kin, 7.

[7] Vestryman, “The Episcopal Church of Scotland, its liturgies, communion service, and canons: Also the obligations on English clergymen to use the English office (Perth: James Morison, June) 1858.

[8]  “Edward Washington House, 10913 Belmont Boulevard, Lorton, Fairfax County, VA”, Library of Congress, accessed November 1, 2014,

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Back to School: Children’s Education in Colonial Virginia

Samantha Lee / George Washington University / 2014 E-Tern

When summer comes to an end, most of us have only one thing on our minds: school. We hasten to buy textbooks, pencils, pens, and notebooks at the last minute to prepare for another year of education. However, school in colonial Virginia was very different from

Joseph Martin purchased 1 slate and pencil on January 21, 1767, at the Colchester Store.

school today. In fact, during 18th century in Virginia, primary education as we know it hardly existed. Unless part of upper class society, most children did not receive any formal education at all. They did chores around the house and helped their parents on the farm perhaps being taught to read and write only during down times. Only the children of gentry families were privileged enough to receive a more formal education. The higher the social class, the more extensive one’s education became. So as you dread going back to school, remember that you could be doing labor-intensive farm work or emptying chamber pots with only a little learning on the side.

Growing up in Northern Virginia, I visited various plantations on field trips with my class. In fourth grade, I remember we went to Sully Plantation. We were divided into two groups; one to do schoolwork and the other to complete housework. In my group, we learned how to write with a quill and ink, how to seal an envelope with wax, how to use a hornbook, and how to use paper in the most efficient way. We were taught that paper was precious, and every inch was to be used when writing letters. Since paper was not to be wasted, children practiced their writing with a slate and pencil, much like a small chalkboard. This way, they wrote and erased as much as they needed without wasting precious paper.

English Horn Book, London? 1630. Courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Digital Image Collection

Children who lived on plantations were educated by their parents or by private tutors. Children learned their alphabet using a horn book:  a wooden paddle that contained a sheet of paper, or sometimes vellum (a type of parchment made of calf’s skin), and covered with thin sheets of horn (see image above). The paper included the alphabet, a list of consonants and vowels, and the Lord’s Prayer. Horn Books were often hung from children’s belts. As one can see in the Glassford & Henderson ledgers, in addition to horn books, people also ordered bibles and history books, most likely for educational purposes.  In those days, there were not books written specially for children and most learned how to read from the Bible or history books.[1] One book written specifically for the education of children was The New-England Primer, written around 1688 by Benjamin Harris. This was the most successful textbook in America during the 18thcentury, and similar to the horn book, the primer included the alphabet and a list of consonants and vowels. It also contained a variety of woodcuts, short sentences and moral lessons.

In addition to many other items purchased on August 3, 1767, John Anderson purchased two primers for 1 shilling three pence.

Another big difference from today, formal education was different for girls and boys. Girls, in addition to being taught reading and writing, would learn simple arithmetic and possibly a language. Young girls would learn how to sew, to dance, to play musical instruments, and how to run a household for when they got older. It was important that women could read and write letters, as it was the only way to communicate with family or friends who lived far away. On the other hand, boys received a much more extensive formal education. At an early age, they would learn the same things as the girls—reading, writing, and arithmetic—but would often go on to learn Greek and Latin, law, fencing, astronomy, and history. Boys from gentry families would attend schools in either England or America to further their education.

Not many children were lucky enough to receive a formal education. In colonial Virginia, education was a privilege. Most colonial Virginians did not possess the resources that we have today. Children learned what they could with the little that was provided to them. Learning to read from the Bible as a six-year-old probably wasn’t such a fun time, but that’s how children in colonial Virginia learned to read. The transactions in the ledgers tell us that many of the individuals ordering goods from the Colchester store had young children living in their households—the slates & pencils, hornbooks, and primers would most likely be used by children (or other people learning to read and write). This small bit of information hints at the social status of these buyers in Northern Virginia: they were wealthy enough to afford to provide additional education for their children.

A History was often purchased to help with a child's education - to help him/her learn to read. John Bronaugh, a tradesman, purchased '1 History' on July 11 and a quire of paper on February 27, 1767.


“Colonial Life.” Colonial Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2014. <>.

Ford, Paul Leicester. The New-England Primer; a History of Its Origin and Development; with a Reprint of the Unique Copy of the Earliest Known Edition and Many Facsimile Illustrations and Reproductions. New York: Printed for Dodd, Mead, 1897. 3-4. Print.

Hornbook. London?, 1630. Digital image. Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. < >.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Hornbook (education).”Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2014. <>.

Rowe, Linda. “Women and Education in Eighteenth-Century Virginia.”Colonial Williamsburg Interpreter 23.2 (2002): n. pag. Web. 07 Sept. 2014. <>.

Smith, Samuel James. “The New-England Primer (textbook).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2014. <>.

[1] Ford, Paul Leicester. The New-England Primer; a History of Its Origin and Development; with a Reprint of the Unique Copy of the Earliest Known Edition and Many Facsimile Illustrations and Reproductions. New York: Printed for Dodd, Mead, 1897. 3-4. Print.


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Family Separation and the Colonial Slave Trade

Abigail Spanier / Wheaton College / Summer 2014 E-Tern

While working on the Glassford & Henderson Transcription Project, I sometimes came across a slave purchase in an account, among the purchases of household items and tobacco sales. A noticeable trend was the way slaves were almost always sold or allotted (essentially rented out by their owners) by themselves. Examples of families moved together, like the image below of two parents and a child sold together, were few and far in between in the ledgers.

"Peter, Nan, and their Child Winnie” were bought by John Morris from the estate of Edward Conners on September 28, 1769, through the Colchester Store. Their sale is different because they were sold as a family.

It’s worth remembering that even families sold together would still likely experience separation from other family members such as siblings, grandparents, and cousins. I wanted to explore the more typical experience of family separation, and the particular toll it took on slaves’ lives. The family above was sold as part of Edward Conner’s estate (deceased) in 1768 and 1769; however, two slaves were sold individually.  Below are the slaves sold to others.  I thought they could possibly be related to Peter and Nan.

One man, named Dick, was bought by William Lendrum from the Conner's estate on September 21, 1769, through the Colchester Store.

One man, named Roger, was bought by Sanford Payne from the Conner's Estate through the Colchester Store on September 30, 1769.

Though we do not know the stories of the specific slaves mentioned in the ledgers, we can infer the struggles they would’ve experienced related to family separation, by observing accounts of other slaves’ lives, and their stories of separation.  While 18th-century accounts are rare, we can find accounts written after emancipation of what it was like to be separated from one’s family by slavery.

In 1937, an 87 year old former slave named Sarah Frances Shaw Graves, known personally as Aunt Sally, was interviewed for a project called Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938. A large part of Aunt Sally’s interview consisted of the story of how she and her mother were permanently separated from Sally’s father. Sally said the following about the separation:

“ ‘Allotments made a lot of grief for the slaves…we left my papa in Kentucky, ‘cause he  was allotted to another man. My papa never knew where my mama went, an’ my mama  never knew where papa went’. Aunt Sally paused a moment, then went on bitterly. ‘They never wanted mama to know, ‘cause they knowed she would never marry so long she knew where he was. Our master wanted her to marry again and raise more children to be slaves. They never wanted mama to know where papa was, an’ she never did…’”.

Tempie Cummins, another former slave interviewed in 1937, also experienced family separation during her childhood. Tempie was initially owned by William Neyland, along with her parents and five siblings. At the age of eight, Tempie was forced to leave her family, as she was given to Neyland’s daughter, Fannie, and her husband Phil Scarborough, possibly as a wedding gift. Tempie also recalls that she never knew her grandparents, either, because “my mother she sold in Alabama when she’s 17 and they brung her to Texas and treat her rough”.

These accounts by Sally and Tempie emphasize the difficulties faced by families in slavery, with the separation of husbands and wives, and children being taken from their parents. We should consider the profound effect that this separation would have on children especially. Sally grew up knowing that her father existed, was quite possibly still alive somewhere, but that she would never see him again, and nothing could change that.

What actions might a family separated by sale take in order to be together again?  When researching runaway slaves in the 18th century, there is a strong pattern of individuals running away not only to escape slavery, but with the intention of reuniting with family members. The Geography of Slavery has a compilation of advertisements in Virginia newspapers in which slave holders were advertising rewards for runaway slaves.

This advertisement, from the Virginia Gazette on June 13, 1766, described a runaway slave named Phil who was expected to be attempting to reunite with his wife on a plantation in Gloucester nearly 80 miles away from Henrico County.

There are hundreds of advertisements that describe runaway slaves, single or in couples, looking to reunite with family members who were separated. This action is indicative of the risk that they were willing to take, in order to be together with their families again. Running away from a plantation was in itself an enormous risk to a person’s life, and they likely risked even more in attempting to reunite with family members, especially as the slave owners might expect them to go to those places, thus they risked capture by returning there. This risk shows the dedication to one’s family, and the desperation that many felt to reunite.

This advertisement, from the Virginia Gazette on November 8, 1770, described a couple, named Tony and Phillis, who were suspected of going to one or more of the counties in which they had children.

Separation from one’s family as a result of an owner’s death, like the slaves identified in the ledger from Edward Conner’s estate, was one of many reasons sales of slaves occurred.  When faced with separation, the options available to slaves was limited; running away in search of those family members became the only way to be reunited and it was a risk many were willing to take.           



Sarah Frances Shaw Graves. Digital image. Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938. American Memory, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2014.

Tempie Cummins. Digital image. Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938. American Memory, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2014.

Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Co.), Williamsburg, June 13, 1766. Digital image. The Geography of Slavery. The Geography of Slavery, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2014.

Virginia Gazette (Rind), Williamsburg, November 8, 1770. Digital image. The Geography of Slavery. The Geography of Slavery, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2014.


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Evolving English: A Peek through the Ledgers

Taylor Dowd / University of Virginia / Summer 2014 E-Tern

What do you do if you don’t know how to spell a word?  First see if you can figure it out via auto-correct, then look for a squiggly red line under your typed guess.  If you don’t have these conveniences, just pull out your smartphone and check your dictionary app.  Or, if you are somehow stranded without technology, flip through the dusty dictionary.

Today, there are a variety of ways to ensure that you are adhering to proper English.   The rules of our language are constantly being enforced, and the “correct” way to write and speak is ingrained in English speakers at young ages.  But languages were not always this cut and dry.  Languages are fluid and constantly evolving — how else could one of the first languages spoken by humans become Latin which eventually became Spanish?  The standardization of languages artificially freezes them and turns a complex mutual means of communication, with various dialects and varieties, into one “correct” way of communicating that comes along with precise rules.  Standardization causes the evolution of languages to slow down.  It also can cause people who are powerless and on the margins of society to either have to change the way they speak and write or to be further marginalized.[1]

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, second printing, 1755. Courtesy of The British Library Board.

The standardization of English has been a gradual process shaped by those in power, by new technologies and by early dictionaries.  However, Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, which was published in 1755, was instrumental in solidifying the correct way to spell English words because of its breadth and popularity.[2]  The Glassford & Henderson ledgers were being written only a little over a decade after this publication, and therefore, probably because dictionary spellings were not fully integrated into society, the ledgers contain a variety of spellings for some words.   For example, the Colchester ledgers contain at least six ways to spell “calamanco” and “dowlas,” each which are types of fabric.

Words were often spelled more phonetically in the Colchester ledgers as you can see with the 7 yards of 'broun Dowlas'.

Because of the lack of English standardization at the time, some words in the 1768/1769 ledger were spelled more phonetically than they are now.  For example, scissors were spelled “scizor.”  Words that now have double consonants such as “saddle,” were often

Why use a double consonant when one will do? 'Sadle' is commonly spelled with only one 'd' in the Colchester ledgers as found in this example for '100 Sadle Tacks'.

spelled with only one, such as “sadle.”  What is now “metal,” was usually spelled “mettle.”  Although this is not necessarily more phonetic, it makes sense to spell it this way because of similar sounding words such as “kettle” and “settle.”  However, some eighteenth-century spellings did not make as much phonetic and logical sense.  “Net,” as in a total profit after deductions, etc., was often spelled “nett.”   The color “brown” was spelled “broun.”

Metal is spelled 'Mettle' looking more like 'kettle' in the Colchester ledgers as seen with this order for '2 dozen large mettle Buttons'.

Although spelling may seem like a trivial matter, its variations through time can provide insight into how languages evolve, and can demonstrate the effects standardization has had on the English language.  Thankfully, eighteenth-century English is fairly easy for readers from the modern day to understand.   However, reading English from centuries before that would be quite a challenge due to the different spellings and meanings of words, even though it can be considered the same language that English-speakers use today.  Small changes in spelling can add up to what looks like a totally different language!   Maybe 250 years from now, a transcriber just like me will be studying our spellings.  How different will our language look to these future English-speakers?  Maybe they will be thankful for our reliance on spell check!

[1]  John McWhorter, The Power of Babel (HarperCollins, 2003)

[2] “1755- Johnson’s Dictionary,” British Library,  Accessed August 15, 2014.

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Genealogical Clues in Ledger Books

Heather Singley / The University of Tennessee – Knoxville / Summer 2014 E-Tern

My love for history has always been natural.  My grandmother, Joanne Rundell, introduced me to Mount Vernon as a child and we visited twice together.   I took my time as I wandered through the house and the grounds, asking a million questions along the way.  I’ve been curious about Mount Vernon ever since.

At the same time, genealogy quickly grew as an interest after my grandmother asked me to investigate her mother’s ancestral line.   Tracing my ancestors through time honed my research skills and also provided another kind of history, my own personal history.  Searching through library archives and other genealogical databases was helpful and exciting.  My search revealed primary and secondary sources, including census records and family histories, but never a ledger book like those being transcribed by Mount Vernon as part of the Glassford & Henderson Transcription Project.

While census records include a person’s location and occupation, a ledger book can give equal proof that someone is in a specific place at a specific time.  Additionally, ledger books can fill in the years between censuses while revealing more personal information like goods purchased and sold.  Because the Glassford & Henderson ledgers occurred before regular censuses in the United States, they help provide a record that lists people, not only account holders, but tenants, family members, etc., during a time when lists of people are hard to find.

In 1767, Ignatius Turley made several purchases at the Colchester Store. His relationship to Paul, his father, is of interest.

Along with a personal account of daily lives, ledger books give genealogical clues.  For example, in 1767, Ignatius Turley purchased items including a handkerchief, saddle, pair of garters, and a castor hat.  Written after the account name, “Son of Paul” indicates Ignatius Turley is the son of a Paul Turley.  The same year, Paul Turley’s account indicates Ignatius came into the store and purchased nails, osnaburg, roles, and Irish linen on his account.

Under Paul Turley's account, Ignatius made a purchase in June 1767 at the Colchester Store.

Genealogical research for Paul and Ignatius Turley resulted in finding a few different kinds of documents:  rent rolls, will books, and marriage records. Paul’s marriage record indicates he was born in 1705.  The rent roll says Paul lived in Fairfax County, VA, in 1770.  These facts run parallel with the information available in the Glassford & Henderson ledger books.

Interestingly, in September 1767, Paul Turley paid off Ignatius's debt to the Colchester store in full.

A book of wills kept by local municipalities contains the probate records of many estates. The will found on record for Paul Turley lists his family members, but Ignatius isn’t included as a family member, only a legatee.  Merriam-Webster defines legatee as “someone who received money or property from a person who has died”.  Is it possible there were two Paul Turleys in Fairfax County at the same time?  Why is Ignatius not listed as a blood relative in Paul’s will?  While the ledger book confirms a familial relationship between a Paul and an Ignatius Turley, more research will need to be done to confirm that they are the same Paul and Ignatius identified in other records.

The Glassford & Henderson Transcription Project exceeded my expectations as a historical learning experience.  Finding clues that help weave pieces of a family history was a delightful, unexpected bonus.  I would be thrilled to find my ancestor in a ledger book.  Not only would it help confirm general information like names and dates, but the details of a ledger book add color to ancestor’s lives.  Using ledger books as a genealogical resource would be beneficial to all genealogy buffs and history lovers as well.


Mitchell, Beth, compiler.  The Turley Family Records.  Turley Family Historical Research Association, 1981., accessed August 8, 2014.

“Abstracts of Wills and Inventories, Fairfax County, Virginia, 1742 – 1801: Will Book C, 1767 – 1776″.  Database. 2014.

“U.S and International Marriage Records, 1560 – 1900″.  Database.  2014.

Virginia, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1607-1890”. Database. Provo, UT, USA.

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Do Artifacts Influence Our Cultural Interpretation of Clothing?

Erin Farquhar / 2014 Glassford & Henderson E-Tern

Today, Virginia weather is often categorized as variable, as it is hot and humid in the summer while bitter in the winter; it’s difficult to imagine living in this environment without the benefit of modern comforts. But, while my transcribing for Mount Vernon through the Glassford and Henderson project has progressed, I often found myself asking larger questions that these ledgers could not readily answer. As I transcribed various pages, the variety of purchases made by patrons has demonstrated a focus on commerce that merits speculation on larger issues, such as cultural need versus want.

One of the first things I noticed was that purchases related to apparel appeared several times throughout the context of these pages. Were these goods bought only for function? In other words, did these purchases represent a customer’s economic income such that some were able to purchase a variety of items inclusive of expensive goods? Or instead do these ledgers only contain economic purchases based on need? More importantly, how was frugality defined in this era; was it only based on living essentials or were other factors important as well?

Historically, clothing has been used as a mechanism to distinguish social status as well as characterize qualities such as personal identity. Trims such as lace, for example, are now a common garment staple; but in earlier eras due to lace being hand crafted, it was not only costly but was also used extensively to distinguish a lavish lifestyle. Even “humble” items used today, like the zipper, direct attention to modern advancement. Although technology in garment manufacture has progressed, the transactions recorded in these pages imply that commerce in this era was smaller; excessive purchases are rare. Instead these records suggest a cultural focus on economical prudence and necessity.

William Gates made several purchases at the Colchester store between 1767 and 1768. Including hats, handkerchiefs, and combs (underlined in red) and buttons (underlined in blue).

For instance, William Gates’ purchases in October of 1767 are representative of many of the customers recorded in these ledgers. He bought (underlined in red) two felt hats, two large cotton handkerchiefs, and one horn and one ivory comb, which all appear to be reasonable acquisitions. In November, he purchased one and one-half dozen metal buttons (underlined in blue) which is another small acquisition.  In all the pages I transcribed, many individuals purchased buttons; they are usually described simply as “mettle” buttons, with no distinguishing characteristics asides from value.  Based on this sampling, there appears to be no atypical purchases that would be indicative of an unusual, different lifestyle (thus enabling this transcriber to reach a definitive conclusion about how these items were used).

Conversely, figures such as Walter Gardner demonstrated a more atypical purchase, in addition to needing a recommendation to make purchases at all. Among other items, Ford purchased the following goods in December 1767: one pair of men’s shoes, one bottle of snuff, one fine check handkerchief, and one silk handkerchief.  Why did Gardner purchase two different types of handkerchiefs?  Specifically, the silk handkerchief raises additional questions: Why did he not purchase a cotton handkerchief (like we would today)?  Was cotton production too lengthy or underdeveloped at this time and thus silk was actually a modest choice as it may have had different associations from today? Or did Mr. Gardner opt for silk as a symbol that indicated his prestige?

Walter Gardner made a more extravagant purchase of a silk handkerchief in December, 1767, at the Colchester Store.

Another observation is that female customers appear to have been extremely rare; based on a random sampling of the ledger entries that I transcribed, they appear so infrequently that this aspect in itself becomes noteworthy to me. Might women have been discouraged from traveling directly to the store, thus reflecting their lack of independence, purchasing power, or status? Or, perhaps they were simply unable to attend to purchasing given the hazards of travel and the need to attend to the family and the home?  As sewing machines were not yet invented, making clothing for an entire family would have been a laborious and onerous task. Again, how are these facets reflective of historical individual need while simultaneously conveying a broader picture of the time? It is hard to conjecture given the lack of supporting contextual documents; but these records in and of themselves begin to suggest economic implications and paint a picture of a time in which goods merited thought, as one could not run right out to the nearest convenience store.

In comparison to those of the early colonists, our lives today appear luxurious.  Literature written by early settlers such as Mary Rowlandson’s The Sovereignty and Goodness of God[1] reflects and verifies the harsh conditions they encountered. Mary Rowlandson’s provocative account purportedly narrated in Rowlandson’s own words her ordeal as a woman captured and later ransomed by Native Americans. Although aspects of Rowlandson’s treatise, such as her regard for intercultural contact are regarded as contentious, her story has provided insight into this period, including early trade. It’s clear that daily living was not only composed of the hard work necessary to survive, but also filled with the fear of disease, famine, warfare, and the unknown.  Is the difference between wealth and poverty in this period an extreme dichotomy, or instead gauged by larger factors outside of one’s control? What remains to be seen is how individual historical artifacts (including these store accounts) will allow us to hypothesize this period, so that we not only continue in our cultural quest for knowledge, but also actively seek meaning in these items that have long since departed in time. If not, then how do these pages annotate another era, particularly in relation to larger aspects of culture?

[1] Rowlandson, Mary.  The Sovereignty and Goodness of God.  Ed. Neal Salisbury.  Boston/New York:  Bedford/St. Martin’s, c. 1997.  Print.

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A Few ‘Notes’ on Tobacco Warehouses and Inspection

Caroline Western / Spring 2014 Glassford & Henderson E-Tern

You know those annoying little stickers you sometimes find within the seams of new clothes? Yeah, the ones that poke you in the side until you finally peel it off, read the small black number with little interest, and then throw it away? In the present day, we think very little about how our goods are made and deemed fit for consumption or use.

While transcribing and editing many of the entries from the Alexandria and Colchester stores, I came across entries concerning ‘Tobacco Warehouses’ and ‘Inspectors’. These warehouses sparked an interest because, like our fashion or technology, tobacco was an integral part of colonial, and Virginian, society. Like Nichole Zang’s interest in tobacco marks, I wanted to know what these warehouses were for and who was running them.

The 18th-century Virginia economy relied heavily on tobacco cultivation and trade. In fact, tobacco was used as currency in many instances. For example, the leaves could be used to buy the indentured servants or slaves who cultivated the crop, as well as everyday commodities from local stores. Larger planters usually sold their crop directly to England, while smaller planters built relationships with local agents who would then provide them with manufactured goods.[1]

The cartouche from “A map of the most inhabited part of Virginia containing the whole province of Maryland with part of Pensilvania, New Jersey and North Carolina." Drawn by Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson in 1751.

Even though tobacco was an incredibly important crop in Virginia’s economy, it did not come without its problems. Tobacco became over-cultivated; therefore leaving farmer’s lands overused and undernourished, resulting in inferior crops. In 1619, the first inspection law was enacted, ordering cultivators to bring their low quality tobacco to their local warehouse to be burned. By 1630, a law was passed that disallowed inferior quality tobacco to be used as payments for debts.[2]

These laws were gradually built upon, resulting in 1730 with the permanent Tobacco Inspection Act of Virginia. It was decreed that warehouses would be set up, 12 to 14 miles from one another, and named after the bays or creeks they were situated upon.[2]  In the Glassford & Henderson ledgers, we see many of these names, including ‘Hunting Creek’ and ‘The Falls’.

Sanford Ramey deposited crop notes from the Falls and Hunting Creek warehouses at the store in Alexandria in 1768.

Yearly, two men of good moral standing were chosen by the Virginia county court to serve as inspectors in their area’s respective warehouses. These inspectors were given the task of receiving a planter’s hogsheads of tobacco(1 hogshead = at least 950lbs), inspecting it for quality, and issuing a crop note to the planter. The crop notes were representative of the amount of tobacco now lodged at the warehouse, and could be given to a merchant in exchange for goods. Additionally, planters could bring smaller, or surplus amounts of tobacco in exchange for ‘transfer notes’, which could be used to buy goods or satisfy the demands of a creditor.[2]

Peter Wagener deposited transfer notes from the both the Hunting Creek and the Falls warehouses at the Alexandria Store in 1768.

Inspection promised that the planter “…may go to any place, and sell his tobacco, without carrying a sample of it along with him; and the merchant may buy it, though lying 100 miles or at any distance from his store, and yet be morally sure both with respect to quality and quantity.”[2]

As most laws do in one way or another, the inspection laws faced opposition. “Poor planters” were concerned that the inspectors applied different standards depending on class, and therefore that justice under the inspection laws did not exist. The argument focused around the idea that poorer planters had poorer land, which would in turn produce poorer quality crops. In addition, these poor, “honest” planters could not compete with the rich man’s “schemes” of “false packing” a hogshead or forging a Note’s quantity.

The outcomes of such opposition are not clear to me; but, it can be determined that in general the regulations were designed to fix tobacco prices at high levels while also allowing the planter more flexibility. Before the inspection laws, store owners would usually only accept whole hogsheads for goods. Now, with the existence of Notes, the planter could seek the best price for his tobacco (Crop/Transfer Note) at a variety of establishments, and most likely did exactly that just as we might look for the best bank to deposit our money for future spending.[3]

[1] Encyclopedia Virginia: Tobacco in Colonial Virginia

[2] “Description of Virginia Commerce,” William and Mary Quarterly 14, (October 1905): 87-93.  For tobacco related laws, see Henings Statutes at Large.

[3] Rainbolt, John C., “The Case of the Poor Planters in Virginia under the Law for Inspecting and Buring Tobacco,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 79, no. 3, (July 1971): 314-321.

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George Mason: Founding Father and Landlord

Angela Claude / George Mason University/ 2013-14 Glassford & Henderson E-tern

Paying rent is just another fact of life.  It is still around today and it was around back in the mid-eighteenth century as I noticed while participating in the Glassford and Henderson transcription project.  However, there are noticeable differences in how rent was paid then.  For one, it was possible to pay your rent in tobacco, and, if you were William Stone or John Cotton, your landlord was George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights which became the basis of the US Bill of Rights.  Seeing such a big name in these store ledgers got me thinking about who these tenants of George Mason were and where they lived.

Wedding Portrait of George Mason. Courtesy of Encyclopedia Virginia & Gunston Hall.

I managed to track down two men who paid rent to George Mason in the Glassford and Henderson store ledgers.  The first of these tenants was William Stone, who on July 9, 1761, paid George Mason “your own rent” which consisted of 630 pounds of tobacco.  That same day he paid the same amount of tobacco also to George Mason for the rent of a man named Thomas Love.[i] While almost nothing could be found on Thomas Love, there was a small amount of information out there about William Stone, mostly saying that this was probably a father and a son, they lived in Fairfax County, owned seven slaves between the two of them, and signed a petition by George Mason for removing the county courthouse from Alexandria in 1789.[ii]

William Stone’s account at the Colchester Store, 1760-61. On July 9, 1761 (the red oval) he paid 630 pounds of tobacco to George Mason for both himself and Thomas Love.

The other tenant, John Cotton, seems to be almost identical to William Stone as he also paid 630 pounds of tobacco to George Mason on July 9, 1761 for rent.[iii] Much like William Stone, there also is not a lot to discover about him.  He was from Fairfax County, an acquaintance of George Mason, and signed petitions in the 1780s to repeal an act to prevent extensive credits by Mason and one by James Madison called “Memorial and Remonstrance” which was against the Assessment Act of 1785.[iv] With this very general idea that these men seemed to be active in their community and had some familiarity with George Mason, it was time to figure out where they lived.

John Cotton also paid 630 pounds of tobacco as a rent payment to George Mason at the Colchester Store on July 9, 1761.

These tenants lived at Hollin Hall, one of the four properties Mason owned in addition to his mansion Gunston Hall.  Hollin Hall consisted of four tracts totaling 676 acres of land just three miles away from the city of Alexandria and just west of Mount Vernon.  Mason would rent this land out to tenants to cultivate crops, mostly wheat but as the tenants were paying their rent in tobacco it is safe to assume they grew tobacco as well, as was common custom in the eighteenth-century.  This practice was kept until 1781 when Mason passed ownership of Hollin Hall to his third son Thomson Mason.[v]

Learning all of this was a nice reminder that the Founding Fathers were not always shut away in their studies reading the political philosophies of the day, writing treatises, and debating with each other.  They had families and homes that needed to be taken care of and, in George Mason’s case, rents to collect.

[i] Henderson, Alexander, et. al.  Ledger 1760-1761 Colchester, Virginia, Folio 033D.  From the John Glassford and Company Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Microfilm Reel (owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association).

[ii] The Papers of George Mason, 1725-1792:  Volume 1, edited by Robert A. Rutland, (Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press, 1970), xcix.

[iii] Folio 034D.

[iv] The Papers of George Mason, xlv.

[v] “George Mason’s Plantations and Landholdings:  Hollin Hall,” Gunston Hall, accessed April 21, 2014,

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Valinda Wade, an Independent Colonial Woman

Aja Bain / Middle Tennessee State University / 2014 Glassford & Henderson E-Tern

When I first heard about the Glassford and Henderson transcription project, I was immediately intrigued because it reminded me of a book I’d just read and enjoyed in one of my graduate classes. Ann S. Martin’s Buying into the World of Goods examines the economy of the eighteenth-century Virginia frontier in the context of colonial trade and culture, and gives us insight into a world of surprising sophistication through analysis of the customers and purchases at one backcountry shop in the upper Shenandoah Valley.[i] Focusing on the years between 1758 and 1810, Martin’s depiction of John Hook’s store brings a variety of historical characters to life, including those who are so often lost in the written record. This book shows that it was not only white male settlers who were involved in commercial life and trade, but also colonial women and slaves. Although the voices of these groups are often missing from official accounts, we can learn more about their experiences through their transactions at the Hook store. I was excited to see how this idea was being applied by Mount Vernon to stores in the Tidewater region!

As I started to work on the project, I found more or less what I had expected. Most transactions were performed by white men, few by white women, and very few by slaves. The lack of female customers made their appearance all the more striking, especially if they were listed as “Miss”. While married women making purchases for the family under their own accounts were uncommon, I was particularly surprised to see the names of single women as account holders. There were unmarried ladies taking care of business on their own, sometimes on a large scale. This is how I became interested in the Wade family, particularly the daughter listed in the ledgers as “Miss Valinda Wade.”

Beginning around 1765, Miss Wade (named Valinda, Vorlinda, or Verlinda depending on how the account keeper spelled it) kept an account at the Colchester store and made a variety of transactions over the next few years. Others also made purchases on her account, including men like John Barry and William Mills. I was particularly intrigued by some of her more luxurious purchases, like a satin hat for ten shillings, a dozen large London pewter plates for 25 shillings, and an apron made of lawn fabric for twenty shillings. Other interesting purchases included a 45 pound iron pot and a primer book.

Valinda Wade's purchase of a hat in 1767 at the Colchester Store … and are those dish washing gloves?

As for credit, she traded tobacco with her own “VW” tobacco mark. I was fascinated to see a single woman with such an active and varied commercial life, and wanted to see what else I could find out about her.

Valinda Wade maintained a farm that grew enough tobacco for her to have her own tobacco mark at the Pohick tobacco Warehouse.

By consulting the ledgers, genealogical research, and George Washington’s diaries available from the Library of Congress, I learned more about the Wade family, including Valinda. In the 1760s, the Wade family consisted of the widowed Mrs. Valinda Wade and her three daughters: Valinda, Eleanor, and Sarah. The patriarch, Zephaniah Wade, had died around 1746 and left a tract of land to his family adjacent to Washington’s mill plantation.[ii] Mrs. Wade appears in the Colchester ledgers in the 1760s, with multiple people making purchases on her account.

Mrs Valinda Wade maintained an account at the Colchester Store after her husband's death.

But by 1766, Mrs. Wade was deceased and the land was inherited by the daughters. Sarah died sometime before 1770, never having married. Eleanor had married John Barry, a tobacco inspector, in the 1750s and had a son, William, in 1754. In colonial Virginia, married women could not own property separately from their husbands, so Eleanor’s part of the Wade land was now owned by John. In England, a married woman was not legally considered a person separate from her husband, or much of a person at all.[iii] Like Sarah, Eleanor died early around 1770, leaving Valinda as the last remaining Wade daughter in possession of the land. Washington’s diaries note that young William Barry inherited the land after his mother’s death, so Eleanor must have made some sort of provision before the marriage that her land would go to her future children. Until William became an adult, however, the property was controlled by his father.[iv]

As a single woman, Valinda could own property and had more freedom than a married woman to conduct her own business. “As long as a woman remained single or widowed, the law deemed her a feme sole, a woman capable of keeping her own earnings, owning property, making contracts, incurring debts, suing or being sued, and writing a will.”[v] This explains her having her own store account, her own money to purchase personal items, and her own tobacco mark. As I saw more of her purchases in the Colchester ledgers, I began to try to imagine the woman who made them: a single woman in her ‘30s (quite unusual at this time), running her own household and enjoying the freedom and benefits that afforded her. Were items like the satin hat and lawn apron proof of her financial success? Was the primer for her motherless nephew, William? These and other clues can provide insight into the life of this fascinating woman.

The Wade-Barry land near Dogue Creek was eventually acquired by George Washington and incorporated into Dogue Run Farm. Valinda Wade sold her share in 1770 for £175, but John Barry refused to allow a division of the property because Washington’s plan was to divert water from Barry’s portion. The case was taken to court in August of 1772, and the judge awarded 75 acres and rights to the creek to Washington and 118 acres to the Barrys. In 1783, the remaining acres of the original Wade tract were purchased from William Barry for £150.[vi]

The unusual ledger entries connected with Miss Valinda Wade led me on a fascinating investigation into the lives of colonial women, property law in Virginia, and the gradual buildingof the Mount Vernon estate. While not much is known about Valinda’s later life, her interactions with the Colchester store and George Washington ensure her survival in the historical record. I hope to find out more about independent propertied colonial women as I continue transcribing!

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance and genealogical knowledge of Sarah Johnson, fifth great-granddaughter of William Barry, in preparing this article.

[i]  Ann S. Martin, Buying into the World of Goods. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

[ii] The Diaries of George Washington, Vol. 2 .Sowing and Harvesting, 1766. eds. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig. (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1976), 1.

[iii] Linda L. Sturtz, Within Her Power: Propertied Women in Colonial Virginia (New York: Routledge, 2002), 29.

[v] Sturtz, 20.

[vi] The Diaries of George Washington, Vol. 3. Routine Duties and Quiet Pleasures, 1772., eds. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig. (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1976), 125 and 131.

[vii] The Diaries of George Washington, Vol 1, Washington the Planter and Farmer, 1760., eds. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig. (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1976), page 240.


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Linking Glasgow and the Americas: The Shipping Network of Glassford and Henderson

Monica Genuardi / 2014 Spring Glassford & Henderson E-tern

Glasgow, Scotland, emerged as a crucial European port city in the 1700s, especially in regard to contact with the Americas. In fact, Glasgow’s exploitation of American business would become a main cause of its progress in the eighteenth century.[1] While the evolution of trading between England, Scotland and the Americas shifted in accordance to a plethora of eighteenth-century social issues, business still succeeded due to Scotland’s ability to provide the service of “middle man” for tobacco traders. The colonies had a solid but specialized economy, leading to the dependence upon a third party to help with the selling and transporting of goods.[2]  Certain British business models were in place by the mid-eighteenth century, but Scottish traders were able to take further advantage of this lucrative trade and shipping system because, geographically speaking, it was easier to sail between Virginia and Glasgow than Virginia and London. Glasgow’s location gave the city up to a twenty-day advantage in travel time over London.[3] In terms of business, Glasgow traders could provide capital resources through their banks that improved credit for the tobacco trade. Basically, Glasgow traders provided a business efficiency that lowered costs and reduced ship turn-around time.[4]

Portrait of John Glassford and family, by Archibald McLauchlan (Source: Glasgow Museums).

John Glassford was one of the men who profited most from this Glasgow tobacco trade, operating stores throughout Maryland and Virginia.[5] While John Glassford never actually came to America, he was able to control his vast operation through loyal and hardworking employees abroad.[6] This important connection between the Virginia and Maryland locations and the port of Glasgow was kept strong by a shipping network. Just as Glasgow had emerged as a port city, it was fundamental to establish ports in the Americas that would yield enough trade to make a successful venture for both trading parties. As highlighted by MacMaster:

The tobacco trade was fundamentally a speculative venture and a tobacco merchant wanted his shipmasters and supercargoes to be free to transfer their operations to a part of the Chesapeake Colonies where tobacco was plentiful and manufactured goods dear.[7]

John Glassford and his associates’ ability to create a shipping network in the Chesapeake area is one of the many reasons the Glassford and Henderson business was able to have a stronghold in the tobacco trade of the region. As evidenced in many pages, there is obviously a connection of trading goods between Glassford stores in the Chesapeake. The ability to have shipping connections within the colonies and back to Europe provided great success.

It is clear that this system of business by boat worked well, and through the Glassford and Henderson business documents, one can see the inner workings of this elaborate system.

The Ship Ann's account at the Colchester Store 1767/1768.

My interest in the importance of shipping began when I transcribed a page for the Ship Ann. Led by Captain James Huie, the Ship Ann needed food, goods and services to run. I soon found out just how much effort went into a ship’s journey just by reading its Credit and Debit pages. The Snow Jeannie, led by Captain Omey, also needed specialized labor and goods to trade within other stores along the Chesapeake.

One of the first services that was common in many Debit pages that intrigued me was the service of pilotage. As the word insinuates, pilotage was needed to guide the ship through the trading rivers that connected the stores of John Glassford. Specifically, pilotage entails, “the art or skill of piloting a vessel, esp. in shallow or treacherous waters.”[8] Pilotage by the captains was an obvious and fundamental need to support trade in the Americas. For example, the Snow Jeannie’s account in 1766 shows the cash paid to Captain Omey for Pilotage up & down the River.

Pilotage payments were made to captains for their speciality skills in navigating the challenging waters.

Pilotage was also needed for the Ship Ann. In 1766, specific areas were noted that tell more about the routes taken by the ships. Part of the pilotage in this instance was paid from Cape Henry in Virginia to Smith Point to Washington D.C. Then, the ship needed pilotage up and down the Patowmac River, now known as the Potomac. The journey would need to complete its route from the mouth of the Potomac back to Cape Henry. Through the pilotage payments found in the folio pages, the entire trade route of the ship can be followed.

Sometimes you can see exactly where a ship went from looking at the pilotage charges, as in this example from the Ship Ann's account at the Colchester Store, 1765/1766.

General locations of trade points from the Ship Ann's account (1766/1767). Map provided by GoogleMaps 2014.

A common good that was transported between stores in the Virginia area was staves. I kept seeing and transcribing the word ‘stave,’ but did not understand what it actually was.  After researching it, I now understand why the good was so present in credit and debit pages referring to ships. A stave is, “any of the narrow strips of wood or narrow iron plates placed edge to edge to form the sides, covering, or lining of a vessel or structure.”[9] In reference to ship trading, a stave is the wooden strip that forms the side of a barrel.  The need for barrels would have been a staple on board the ships, which explains their heavy presence in the folio pages. In 1769, Captain James Huie of the Ship Ann was paid handsomely for hogshead barrel staves.

Staves were a common item needed in the shipping industry for the construction of the barrel used to house goods. Image courtesy of Lexington Container Company.

Although trading between Glasgow and the Americas declined eventually, the interaction between the two areas brought about great success to those involved. Glassford and Henderson transcriptions provide a physical and realistic look into the trading and shipping industry of the 1700s.


[1] Devine, T. M.. “Scotland”, The Cambridge Urban History of Britain. 1st ed. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 156. Cambridge Histories Online. Web. 04 April 2014.

[2] Jackson, Gordon. “Ports 1700–1840″, The Cambridge Urban History of Britain. 1st ed. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 705-732. Cambridge Histories Online. Web. 04 April 2014. (84)

[3] “HISTORY: 1700 – 1830.” History 1700-1830, Merchant City Glasgow. Merchant City Glasgow, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.

[4] Jackson, Gordon, 84-85.

[5] Jackson, Gordon, 85.

[6] MacMaster, Richard K. “Georgetown and the Tobacco Trade, 1751-1783.” Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C 66/68 (1966/1968): 1-33. Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. (14-15)

[7] MacMaster, Richard K. (3-4)



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