The Virginia Gazette

April 2, 1767. Number 828. Page 2, Column 2

I TAKE this method to acknowledge the receipt of the following letter: By inserting it, with my remarks, in your Gazette, as it is partly of a publick nature, and no names concealed, I hope, for the sake of having justice done to the parties concerned, by the Legislative Body of this colony (who it seems are to be troubled with it) you will give it a place in your paper, and oblige
Your humble servant,
March 16, 1767.

The inhabitants of this town being much prejudiced by the mill which your brother, the Reverend Mr. John Dixon, has erected here, and as you manage his affairs this way, you are desired to take notice that there will be a petition presented to the Assembly by the inhabitants in order to have the said mill DESTROYED, for the reasons therein set forth.
Your humble servants,
March 13, 1767."

I think it necessary to acquaint the publick that Dekar Thompson and Gavin Lawson are factors now residing in Falmouth, one of them from Whitehaven, the other from Scotland, and consequently transient persons, without wives or families, and know little about the use of mills; yet they undertake, in the name of the inhabitants of a whole town, without regarding the country adjacent, to give ME notice that they want to DESTROY my BROTHER's PROPERTY, without recompense; and such a part of it as is not only necessary to subsist a family of about thirty Negroes, which my brother has there on the spot, but serves to furnish the town and country round about with meal. I very well remember that directly after my brother had completed that mill, at a very considerable expense, the inhabitants expressed their approbation, in the most grateful and satisfactory terms, for being so well accommodated with a mill, at their own doors. I am ignorant of what is contained in the petition to be exhibited to the Assembly, and of the persons who complain, except from the above notice; wherein I (not my brother) am generally informed that the town is greatly prejudiced by his mill, but am left to guess in what manner. However, I own I have been told that the complaint is that in the summer season, in dry weather, the pond is stagnated and unwholesome; but I believe there is little foundation for such a complaint, as the pond is very small, and but few houses near it or affected by it, and I am persuaded the conveniences arising from such a mill must over-balance any inconvenience that can be complained of. Last summer and fall were very dry, and in general very sickly through the whole country; even the mountain and forest settlements did not escape the fever and ague, which hardly ever had that distemper among them before; and I do not know that Falmouth was remarkably sickly. It is true one John Briggs of that town was in a bad state of health, and I hear attributes it to the mill pond. This man was formerly a tenant of my brother's, and afterwards became a purchaser of his lot and houses; and this after the mill was completed, and after having expressed an entire satisfaction in having it so convenient to him. My brother, I am satisfied, if there was any foundation for a complaint against his mill pond as a nusance, would, on a private application, readily and cheerfully remove the cause; which is easily to be done, by fixing a trough at the bottom of his dam, with a gate, that in dry weather the stream might continue running its natural course, and at other times, when the mill could grind, the gate might be hoisted, and the water could never be stagnated. Therefore, I see no just cause for the inhabitants complaint, and must impute it altogether to malice, or some sinister design. What else can provoke a set of people to attempt the DESTRUCTION of so valuable and useful a part of a man's property? I would be more charitable in my opinion of them, if I could; but some late instances, which I am sorry to trouble the publick with, convince me that ill will is at the bottom; and yet I believe I could acquit some among the inhabitants singly to be free from accusation, yet suffer themselves collectively to join in the most injurious schemes, which (as I have hinted) is incumbent on me to explain, by giving an instance or two of their oppressive behavior. The inhabitants, that is to say a few merchants residing in Falmouth, who had the honour to be chosen trustees for the town, were successful enough to gain a law in their favour, by surprise, in a late Assembly, much to the prejudice of my brother, who was not heard on the occasion. The case was this: My brother owns a piece of ground which joins the main street of Falmouth, between the river and the street, and consequently had a front on that street for seven or eight lots in width, which made it very valuable; the new trustees took it into their heads that the main street was laid off originally too wide, and that it would be necessary to split it in two, and sell that part that adjoined my brother's ground in lots, and cut him off from having a front on the street. This my brother objected to, as doing him a manifest piece of injustice; but proposed that if they would take his ground into the bounds of the town and annex what belonged to him to the lots that they proposed taking out of the street, and allow the whole to be sold together, and give him a reasonable proportion of the money, he would consent to it, which he expected would have been so provided by the law. But behold!! instead of that, a law passed (I must say by surprise, because I think the Legislature, after knowing the true state of the case, could not assent to it) to enable the trustees to sell a part of the street, by which means my brother lost his whole front on the main street, which was purchased and held under the faith of a law which had established his bounds on that street; and therefore his ground is now rendered of very little value, which was before of a great value. My father, under whose will my brother claims, purchased a tract of near a thousand acres which surrounds the town of Falmouth, and with it the publick tobacco warehouses and ferry; but as the ferry was in the late Col. Carter's hand of Cleve, who let it out, with an ordinary he had in town, and was of little value when my father went to England, he did not contest the possession; though he always claimed the right, under his deed from Mr. Todd, especially as the ferry-keeper under Col. Carter's tenant had always directions to let any of my father's family, overseers, or people, pass ferry free, for fear of drawing the right into dispute. And it was thus held until Col. Carter died, when his heir declared that he had not right to the ferry; whereon the merchants at Falmouth, under the name of trustees, took possession of the ferry, and fixed a house and boat there immediately; which my brother complained of, and told them that he must seek redress. This gave the Gentlemen such umbrage that they seem now resolved to do him a further injury: My brother is of that pacifick temper, contention is so disagreeable to him, that rather than have disputes with the world, either in a publick or a private capacity, he would choose (was it not for the sake of his posterity, whose rights he ought to preserve) to leave all injuries done him to the grand day of retribution. Since I have mentioned the ferry, I think I ought to clear up my brother's right to it, as I have accused others with taking it from him. In the first place, he has a deed for it from the original proprietor; in the next place, the law gives every ferry to the owner of the landing where the ferry is kept, which at Falmouth is incontestably his, as used for many years past; and the most convenient place to land is on his ground. Even if the right is doubtful, there are many reasons for giving my brother a title to it, viz. He is proprietor of the land round the town, through which many roads are cut that lead to the ferry; his plantations are liable to the trespases or accommodations of travellers; he is proprietor of the publick warehouses, and a large and only gratis contributor to the town wharf; and no person, besides himself, has any ground on the river where the ferry is usually kept. Notwithstanding his right is so clear, the ferry is wrested from him, and he has not as yet submitted the matter to his Peers: One reason, I believe, is, because he lives 120 miles from the place; and another, the ferry is rendered of little value, by a ford being made above the ferry, and a road cut through his land there also; which he submits to, in hopes experience will show its utility to the publick, which I heard him declare, in this case, he had rather prefer than his own interest, and that the publick was welcome to the road, and stones to make the ford (though it hurt the ferry, and although his consent was not asked) provided it was safe and practicable to have a ford kept up; but he conceives, as I do, that it is dangerous and impracticable, as one life has already been lost there, and many other endangered. He, as well as myself, would be glad to see a good bridge there, and would contribute handsomely towards it. I hope the Legislature will be fully satisfied how causelesly my brother is injured, in what will come before them, by the DESTRUCTIVE petition with which he is threatened by Dekar Thompson and Gavin Lawson, in their letter to


P.S. If my zeal in my brother's cause (which I publish without his knowledge) it too warm, or appears too partial, I hope it may not be imputed to him, or cause him to be looked on with an unfavorable eye by any person whatsoever; and I hope also that I may be excused for troubling the publick with a matter that does not concern them, except to see an injurious attempt exposed, with I am provoked to do, on receiving so extraordinary a letter.