Progress to the Mines: in the Year 1732

An Electronic Edition ยท William Byrd II of Westover (1674-1744)

Original Source: The Westover manuscripts containing the history of the dividing line betwixt Virginia and North Carolina, a journey to the land of Eden, A.D. 1733, and a progress to the mines written from 1728 to 1736. Petersburg [Va.]: Printed by Edmund and Julian C. Ruffin, 1841.

Copyright 2003. This text is freely available provided the text is distributed with the header information provided.

Full Colophon Information


September 18th. For the pleasure of the good company of Mrs.
Byrd, and her little governor, my son, I went about half way to the falls in
the chariot. There we halted, not far from a purling stream, and upon the stump
of a propagate oak picked the bones of a piece of roast beef. By the spirit
which that gave me, I was the better able to part with the dear companions of
my travels, and to perform the rest of my journey on horseback by myself. I
reached Shacco’s before two o’clock, and crossed the river to the mills. I had
the grief to find them both stand as still, for the want of water, as a dead
woman’s tongue, for want of breath. It had rained so little for many weeks
above the falls, that the Naiades had hardly water enough left to wash their
faces. However, as we ought to turn all our misfortunes to the best advantage,
I directed Mr. Booker, my first minister there, to make use of the lowness of
the water for blowing up the rocks at the mouth of the canal. For that purpose
I ordered iron drills to be made about two feet long, pointed with steel,
chisel fashion, in order to make holes, into which we put our cartridges of
powder, containing each about three ounces. There wanted skill among my
engineers to choose the best parts of the stone for boring, that we might blow
to the most advantage. They made all their holes quite perpendicular, whereas
they should have humoured the grain of the stone for the more effectual
execution. I ordered the points of the drills to be made chisel way, rather
than the diamond, that they might need to be seldomer repaired, though in stone
the diamond points would make the most despatch. The water now flowed out of
the river so slowly, that the miller was obliged to pond it up in the canal, by
setting open the flood-gates at the mouth, and shutting those close at the
mill. By this contrivance, he was able at any time to grind two or three
bushels, either for his choice customers, or for the use of my plantations.
Then I walked to the place where they broke the flax, which is wrought with
much greater ease than the hemp, and is much better for spinning. From thence I
paid a visit to the weaver, who needed a little of Minerva’s inspiration to
make the most of a piece of cloth. Then I looked in upon my Caledonian
spinster, who was mended more in her looks than in her humour. However, she
promised much, though at the same time intended to perform little. She is too
highspirited for Mr. Booker, who hates to have his sweet temper ruffled, and
will rather suffer matters to go a little wrong sometimes, than give his
righteous spirit any uneasiness. He is very honest, and would make an admirable
overseer where servants will do as they are bid. But eye-servants, who want
abundance of overlooking, are not so proper to be committed to his care. I
found myself out of order, and for that reason retired early; yet with all this
precaution had a gentle fever in the night, but towards morning nature set open
all her gates, and drove it out in a plentiful perspiration. 1.

19th. The worst of this fever was, that it put me to the
necessity of taking another ounce of bark. I moistened every dose with a little
brandy, and filled the glass up with water, which is the least nauseous way of
taking this popish medicine, and besides hinders it from purging. After I had
swallowed a few poached eggs, we rode down to the mouth of the canal, and from
thence crossed over to the broad rock island in a canoe. Our errand was to view
some iron ore, which we dug up in two places. That on the surface seemed very
spongy and poor, which gave us no great encouragement to search deeper, nor did
the quantity appear to be very great. However, for my greater satisfaction, I
ordered a hand to dig there for some time this winter. We walked from one end
of the island to the other, being about half a mile in length, and found the
soil very good, and too high for any flood, less than that of Deucalion, to do
the least damage. There is a very wild prospect both upward and downward, the
river being full of rocks, over which the stream tumbled with a murmur, loud
enough to drown the notes of a scolding wife. This island would make an
agreeable hermitage for any good Christian, who had a mind to retire from the
world. Mr. Booker told me how Dr. Ireton had cured him once of a looseness,
which had been upon him two whole years. He ordered him a dose of rhubarb, with
directions to take twenty-five drops of laudanum so soon as he had had two
physical stools. Then he rested one day, and the next he ordered him another
dose of the same quantity of laudanum to be taken, also after the second stool.
When this was done, he finished the cure by giving him twenty drops of laudanum
every night for five nights running. The doctor insisted upon the necessity of
stopping the operation of the rhubarb before it worked quite off, that what
remained behind might strengthen the bowels. I was punctual in swallowing my
bark, and that I might use exercise upon it, rode to Prince’s Folly, and my
Lord’s islands, where I saw very fine corn. In the mean time Vulcan came in
order to make the drills for boring the rocks, and gave me his parole he would,
by the grace of God, attend the works till they were finished, which he
performed as lamely as if he had been to labour for a dead horse, and not for
ready money. I made a North Carolina dinner upon fresh pork, though we had a
plate of green peas after it, by way of desert, for the safety of our noses.
Then my first minister and I had some serious conversation about my affairs,
and I find nothing disturbed his peaceable spirit so much as the misbehavior of
the spinster above-mentioned. I told him I could not pity a man, who had it
always in his power to do himself and her justice, and would not. If she were a
drunkard, a scold, a thief, or a slanderer, we had wholesome laws, that would
make her back smart for the diversion of her other members, and it was his
fault he had not put those wholesome severities in execution. I retired in
decent time to my own apartment, and slept very comfortably upon my bark,
forgetting all the little crosses arising from overseers and negroes.2.

20th. I continued the bark, and then tossed down my poached
eggs, with as much ease as some good breeders slip children into the world.
About nine I left the prudentest orders I could think of with my vizier, and
then crossed the river to Shacco’s. I made a running visit to three of my
quarters, where, besides finding all the people well, I had the pleasure to see
better crops than usual both of corn and tobacco. I parted there with my
intendant, and pursued my journey to Mr. Randolph’s, at Tuckahoe, without
meeting with any adventure by the way. Here I found Mrs. Fleming, who was
packing up her baggage with design to follow her husband the next day, who was
gone to a new settlement in Goochland. Both he and she have been about seven
years persuading themselves to remove to that retired part of the country,
though they had the two strong arguments of health and interest for so doing.
The widow smiled graciously upon me, and entertained me very handsomely. Here I
learned all the tragical story of her daughter’s humble marriage with her
uncle’s overseer. Besides the meanness of this mortal’s aspect, the man has not
one visible qualification, except impudence, to recommend him to a female’s
inclinations. But there is sometimes such a charm in that Hibernian endowment,
that frail woman cannot withstand it, though it stand alone without any other
recommendation. Had she run away with a gentleman or a pretty fellow, there
might have been some excuse for her, though he were of inferior fortune: but to
stoop to a dirty plebeian, without any kind of merit, is the lowest
prostitution. I found the family justly enraged at it; and though I had more
good nature than to join in her condemnation, yet I could devise no excuse for
so senseless a prank as this young gentlewoman had played. Here good drink was
more scarce than good victuals, the family being reduced to the last bottle of
wine, which was therefore husbanded very carefully. But the water was
excellent. The heir of the family did not come home till late in the evening.
He is a pretty young man, but had the misfortune to become his own master too
soon. This puts young fellows upon wrong pursuits, before they have sense to
judge rightly for themselves. Though at the same time they have a strange
conceit of their own sufficiency, when they grow near twenty years old,
especially if they happen to have a small smattering of learning. It is then
they fancy themselves wiser than all their tutors and governors, which makes
them headstrong to all advice, and above all reproof and admonition.3.

21st. I was sorry in the morning to find myself stopped in my
career by bad weather brought upon us by a north-east wind. This drives a world
of raw unkindly vapours upon us from Newfoundland, laden with blight, coughs,
and pleurisies. However, I complained not, lest I might be suspected to be
tired of the good company. Though Mrs. Fleming was not so much upon her guard,
but mutinied strongly at the rain, that hindered her from pursuing her dear
husband. I said what I could to comfort a gentlewoman under so sad a
disappointment. I told her a husband, that stayed so much at home as her’s did,
could be no such violent rarity, as for a woman to venture her precious health,
to go daggling through the rain after him, or to be miserable if she happened
to be prevented. That it was prudent for married people to fast sometimes from
one another, that they might come together again with the better stomach. That
the best things in this world, if constantly used, are apt to be cloying, which
a little absence and abstinence would prevent. This was strange doctrine to a
fond female, who fancies people should love with as little reason after
marriage as before. In the afternoon monsieur Marij, the minister of the
parish, came to make me a visit. He had been a Romish priest, but found
reasons, either spiritual or temporal, to quit that gay religion. The fault of
this new convert is, that he looks for as much respect from his protestant
flock, as is paid to the popish clergy, which our ill-bred Hugonots do not
understand. Madam Marij, had so much curiosity as to want to come too; but
another horse was wanting, and she believed it would have too vulgar an air to
ride behind her husband. This woman was of the true exchange breed, full of
discourse, but void of discretion, and married a parson, with the idle hopes he
might some time or other come to be his grace of Canterbury. The gray mare is
the better horse in that family, and the poor man submits to her wild vagaries
for peace’ sake. She has just enough of the fine lady, to run in debt, and be
of no signification in her household. And the only thing that can prevent her
from undoing her loving husband will be, that nobody will trust them beyond the
sixteen thousand, which is soon run out in a Goochland store. The way of
dealing there is, for some small merchant or pedler to buy a Scots pennyworth
of goods, and clap one hundred and fifty per cent. upon that. At this rate the
parson cannot be paid much more for his preaching than it is worth. No sooner
was our visiter retired, but the facetious widow was so kind as to let me into
all this secret history, but was at the same time exceedingly sorry that the
woman should be so indiscreet, and the man so tame as to be governed by an
unprofitable and fantastical wife.4.

22d. We had another wet day, to try both Mrs. Fleming’s
patience and my good breeding. The north-east wind commonly sticks by us three
or four days, filling the atmosphere with damps, injurious both to man and
beast. The worst of it was, we had no good liquor to warm our blood, and
fortify our spirits against so strong a malignity. However, I was cheerful
under all these misfortunes, and expressed no concern but a decent fear lest my
long visit might be troublesome. Since I was like to have thus much leisure, I
endeavoured to find out what subject a dull married man could introduce that
might best bring the widow to the use of her tongue. At length I discovered she
was a notable quack, and therefore paid that regard to her knowledge, as to put
some questions to her about the bad distemper that raged then in the country. I
mean the bloody flux, that was brought us in the negro-ship consigned to Col.
Braxton. She told me she made use of very simple remedies in that case, with
very good success. She did the business either with hartshorn drink, that had
plantain leaves boiled in it, or else with a strong decoction of St. Andrew’s
cross, in new milk instead of water. I agreed with her that those remedies
might be very good, but would be more effectual after a dose or two of Indian
physic. But for fear this conversation might be too grave for a widow, I turned
the discourse, and began to talk of plays, and finding her taste lay most
towards comedy, I offered my service to read one to her, which she kindly
accepted. She produced the second part of the Beggar’s Opera, which had
diverted the town for forty nights successively, and gained four thousand
pounds to the author. This was not owing altogether to the wit or humour that
sparkled in it, but to some political reflections, that seemed to hit the
ministry. But the great advantage of the author was, that his interest was
solicited by the dutchess of Queensbury, which no man could refuse who had but
half an eye in his head, or half a guinea in his pocket. Her grace, like death,
spared nobody, but even took my lord Selkirk in for two guineas, to repair
which extravagance he lived upon Scots herrings two months afterwards. But the
best story was, she made a very smart officer in his majesty’s guards give her
a guinea, who swearing at the same time it was all he had in the world, she
sent him fifty for it the next day, to reward his obedience. After having
acquainted my company with the history of the play, I read three acts of it,
and left Mrs. Fleming and Mr. Randolph to finish it, who read as well as most
actors do at a rehearsal. Thus we killed the time, and triumphed over the bad
weather. 5.

23d. The clouds continued to drive from the north-east, and
to menace us with more rain. But as the lady resolved to venture through it, I
thought it a shame for me to venture to flinch. Therefore, after fortifying
myself with two capacious dishes of coffee, and making my compliments to the
ladies, I mounted, and Mr. Randolph was so kind as to be my guide. At the
distance of about three miles, in a path as narrow as that which leads to
heaven, but much more dirty, we reached the homely dwelling of the reverend Mr.
Marij. His land is much more barren than his wife, and needs all Mr. Bradley’s
skill in agriculture to make it bring corn. Thence we proceeded five miles
farther, to a mill of Mr. Randolph’s, that is apt to stand still when there
falls but little rain, and to be carried away when there falls a great deal.
Then we pursued a very blind path four miles farther, which puzzled my guide,
who I suspect led me out of the way. At length we came into a great road, where
he took leave, after giving me some very confused directions, and so left me to
blunder out the rest of the journey by myself. I lost myself more than once,
but soon recovered the right way again. About three miles after quitting my
guide, I passed the south branch of Pamunky river, near fifty yards over, and
full of stones. After this, I had eight miles to Mr. Chiswell’s, where I
arrived about two o’clock, and saved my dinner. I was very handsomely
entertained, finding every thing very clean, and very good. I had not seen Mrs.
Chiswell in twenty-four years, which, alas! had made great havoc with her
pretty face, and ploughed very deep furrows in her fair skin. It was impossible
to know her again, so much the flower was faded. However, though she was grown
an old woman, yet she was one of those absolute rarities, a very good old
woman. I found Mr. Chiswell a sensible, well-bred man, and very frank in
communicating his knowledge in the mystery of making iron, wherein he has had
long experience. I told him I was come to spy the land, and inform myself of
the expense of carrying on an iron work with effect. That I sought my
instruction from him, who understood the whole mystery, having gained full
experience in every part of it; only I was very sorry he had bought that
experience so dear. He answered that he would, with great sincerity, let me
into the little knowledge he had, and so we immediately entered upon the
business. He assured me the first step I was to take was to acquaint myself
fully with the quantity and quality of my ore. For that reason I ought to keep
a good pick-axe man at work a whole year to search if there be a sufficient
quantity, without which it would be a very rash undertaking. That I should also
have a skilful person to try the richness of the ore. Nor is it great advantage
to have it exceeding rich, because then it will yield brittle iron, which is
not valuable. But the way to have it tough is to mix poor ore and rich
together, which makes the poorer sort extremely necessary for the production of
the best iron. Then he showed me a sample of the richest ore they have in
England, which yields a full moiety of iron. It was of a pale red colour,
smooth and greasy, and not exceedingly heavy; but it produced so brittle a
metal, that they were obliged to melt a poorer ore along with it. He told me,
after I was certain my ore was good and plentiful enough, my next inquiry ought
to be, how far it lies from a stream proper to build a furnace upon, and again
what distance that furnace will be from water carriage; because the charge of
carting a great way is very heavy, and eats out a great part of the profit.
That this was the misfortune of the mines of Fredericksville, where they were
obliged to cart the ore a mile to the furnace, and after it was run into iron,
to carry that twenty-four miles, over an uneven road to Rappahannock river,
about a mile below Fredericksburg, to a plantation the company rented of Col.
Page. If I were satisfied with the situation, I was in the next place to
consider whether I had woodland enough near the furnace to supply it with
charcoal, whereof it would require a prodigious quantity. That the properest
wood for that purpose was that of oily kind, such as pine, walnut, hickory,
oak, and in short all that yields cones, nuts, or acorns. That two miles square
of wood, would supply a moderate furnace; so that what you fell first may have
time to grow up again to a proper bigness (which must be four inches over) by
that time the rest is cut down. He told me farther, that one hundred and twenty
slaves, including women, were necessary to carry on all the business of an iron
work, and the more Virginians amongst them the better; though in that number he
comprehended carters, colliers, and those that planted the corn. That if there
should be much carting, it would require one thousand six hundred barrels of
corn yearly to support the people, and the cattle employed; nor does even that
quantity suffice at Fredericksville. That if all these circumstances should
happily concur, and you could procure honest colliers and firemen, which will
be difficult to do, you may easily run eight hundred tons of sow iron a year.
The whole charge of freight, custom, commission, and other expenses in England,
will not exceed thirty shillings a ton, and it will commonly sell for six
pounds, and then the clear profit will amount to four pounds and ten shillings.
So that allowing the ten shillings for accidents, you may reasonably expect a
clear profit of four pounds, which being multiplied by eight hundred, will
amount to three thousand two hundred pounds a year, to pay you for your land
and negroes. But then it behooved me to be fully informed of the whole matter
myself, to prevent being imposed upon; and if any offered to put tricks upon
me, to punish them as they deserve. Thus ended our conversation for this day,
and I retired to a very clean lodging in another house, and took my bark, but
was forced to take it in water, by reason a light fingered damsel had ransacked
my baggage, and drunk up my brandy. This unhappy girl, it seems, is a baronet’s
daughter; but her complexion, being red-haired, inclined her so much to
lewdness, that her father sent her, under the care of the virtuous Mr. Cheep,
to seek her fortune on this side the globe.6.

24th. My friend, Mr. Chiswell, made me reparation for the
robbery of his servant, by filling my bottle again with good brandy. It being
Sunday, I made a motion for going to church, to see the growth of the parish,
but unluckily the sermon happened to be at the chapel, which was too far off. I
was unwilling to tire my friend with any farther discourse upon iron, and
therefore turned the conversation to other subjects. And talking of management,
he let me into two secrets worth remembering. He said the quickest way in the
world to stop the fermentation of any liquor was to keep a lighted match of
brimstone under the cask for some time. This is useful in so warm a country as
this, where cider is apt to work itself off both of its strength and sweetness.
The other secret was to keep weevils out of wheat and other grain. You have
nothing to do, said he, but to put a bag of pepper into every heap, or cask,
which those insects have such an antipathy to that they will not approach it.
These receipts he gave me, not upon report, but upon his own repeated
experience. He farther told me he had brewed as good ale of malt made of Indian
corn as ever he tasted; all the objection was, he could neither by art, or
standing, ever bring it to be fine in the cask. The quantity of corn he
employed in brewing a cask of forty gallons was two bushels and a half, which
made it very strong and pleasant. We had a haunch of venison for dinner, as fat
and well tasted as if it had come out of Richmond park. In these upper parts of
the country the deer are in better case than below, though I believe the buck
which gave us so good a dinner had eaten out his value in peas, which will make
deer exceedingly fat. In the afternoon, I walked with my friend to his mill,
which is half a mile from his house. It is built upon a rock very firmly, so
that it is more apt to suffer by too little water, (the run not being over
plentiful,) than too much. On the other side of this stream lie several of Col.
Jones’ plantations. The poor negroes upon them are a kind of Adamites, very
scantily supplied with clothes and other necessaries; nevertheless, (which is a
little incomprehensible,) they continue in perfect health, and none of them
die, except it be of age. However, they are even with their master, and make
him but indifferent crops, so that he gets nothing by his unjustice, but the
scandal of it. And here I must make one remark, which I am a little unwilling
to do for fear of encouraging of cruelty, that those negroes which are kept the
barest of clothes and bedding are commonly the freest from sickness. And this
happens, I suppose, by their being all face, and therefore better proof against
the sudden changes of weather, to which this climate is unhappily subject. 7.

25th. After saying some very civil things to Mrs. Chiswell,
for my handsome entertainment, I mounted my horse, and Mr. Chiswell his
phaeton, in order to go to the mines at Fredericksville. We could converse very
little by the way, by reason of our different voitures. The road was very
straight and level the whole journey, which was twenty-five miles, the last ten
whereof I rode in the chair, and my friend on my horse, to ease ourselves by
that variety of motion. About a mile before we got to Fredericksville, we
forded over the north branch of Pamunky, about sixty yards over. Neither this
nor the south branch run up near so high as the mountains, but many miles below
them spread out into a kind of morass, like Chickahominy. When we approached
the mines, there opened to our view a large space of cleared ground, whose wood
had been cut down for coaling. We arrived here about two o’clock, and Mr.
Chiswell had been so provident as to bring a cold venison pasty, with which we
appeased our appetites, without the impatience of waiting. When our tongues
were at leisure for discourse, my friend told me there was one Mr. Harrison, in
England, who is so universal a dealer in all sorts of iron, that he could
govern the market just as he pleased. That it was by his artful management that
our iron from the plantations sold for less than that made in England, though
it was generally reckoned much better. That ours would hardly fetch six pounds
a ton, when their’s fetched seven or eight, purely to serve that man’s
interest. Then he explained the several charges upon our sow iron, after it was
put on board the ships. That in the first place it paid seven shillings and
sixpence a ton for freight, being just so much clear gain to the ships, which
carry it as ballast, or wedge it in among the hogsheads. When it gets home, it
pays three shillings and nine-pence custom. These articles together make no
more than eleven shillings and three pence, and yet the merchants, by their
great skill in multiplying charges, swell the account up to near thirty
shillings a ton by that time it gets out of their hands, and they are
continually adding more and more, as they serve us in our accounts of tobacco.
He told me a strange thing about steel, that the making of the best remains at
this day a profound secret in the breast of a very few, and therefore is in
danger of being lost, as the art of staining of glass, and many others, have
been. He could only tell me they used beech wood in the making of it in Europe,
and burn it a considerable time in powder of charcoal; but the mystery lies in
the liquor they quench it in. After dinner we took a walk to the furnace, which
is elegantly built of brick, though the hearth be of fire-stone. There we saw
the founder, Mr. Derham, who is paid four shillings for every ton of sow iron
that he runs, which is a shilling cheaper than the last workman had. This
operator looked a little melancholy, because he had nothing to do, the furnace
having been cold ever since May, for want of corn to support the cattle. This
was however no neglect of Mr. Chiswell, because all the persons he had
contracted with had basely disappointed him. But having received a small
supply, they intended to blow very soon. With that view they began to heat the
furnace, which is six weeks before it comes to that intense heat required to
run the metal in perfection. Neverthless, they commonly begin to blow when the
fire has been kindled a week or ten days. Close by the furnace stood a very
spacious house full of charcoal, holding at least four hundred loads, which
will be burnt out in three months. The company has contracted with Mr. Harry
Willis to fall the wood, and then maul it and cut it into pieces of four feet
in length, and bring it to the pits where it is to be coaled. All this he has
undertaken to do for two shillings a cord, which must be four feet broad, four
feet high, and eight feet long. Being thus carried to the pits, the collier has
contracted to coal it for five shillings a load, consisting of one hundred and
sixty bushels. The fire in the furnace is blown by two mighty pairs of bellows,
that cost one hundred pounds each, and these bellows are moved by a great wheel
of twenty-six feet diameter. The wheel again is carried round by a small stream
of water, conveyed about three hundred and fifty yards over land in a trough,
from a pond made by a wooden dam. But there is great want of water in a dry
season, which makes the furnace often blow out, to the great prejudice of the
works. Having thus filled my head with all these particulars, we returned to
the house, where, after talking of Col. Spotswood, and his stratagems to shake
off his partners, and secure all his mines to himself, I retired to a homely
lodging, which, like a homespun mistress, had been more tolerable, if it had
been sweet.8.

26th. Over our tea, Mr. Chiswell told me the expense which the
company had been already at amounted to near twelve thousand pounds: but then
the land, negroes, and cattle were all included in that charge. However, the
money began now to come in, they having run twelve hundred tons of iron, and
all their heavy disbursements were over. Only they were still forced to buy
great quantities of corn, because they had not strength of their own to make
it. That they had not more than eighty negroes, and few of those Virginia born.
That they need forty negroes more to carry on all the business with their own
force. They have fifteen thousand acres of land, though little of it rich
except in iron, and of that they have a great quantity. Mr. Fitzwilliam, took
up the mine tract, and had the address to draw in the governor, Capt. Pearse,
Dr. Nicolas and Mr. Chiswell to be jointly concerned with him, by which
contrivance he first got a good price for the land, and then, when he had been
very little out of pocket, sold his share to Mr. Nelson for five hundred
pounds; and of these gentlemen the company at present consists. And Mr.
Chiswell is the only person amongst them that knows any thing of the matter,
and has one hundred pounds a year for looking after the works, and richly
deserves it. After breaking our fast we took a walk to the principal mine,
about a mile from the furnace, where they had sunk in some places about fifteen
or twenty feet deep. The operator, Mr. Gordon, raised the ore, for which he was
to have by contract one and six-pence per cart-load of twenty-six hundred
weight. This man was obliged to hire all the laborers he wanted for this work
of the company, after the rate of twenty-five shillings a month, and for all
that was able to clear forty pounds a-year for himself. We saw here several
large heaps of ore of two sorts, one of rich, and the other spongy and poor,
which they melted together to make the metal more tough. The way of raising the
ore was by blowing it up, which operation I saw here from beginning to end.
They first drilled a hole in the mine, either upright or sloping, as the grain
of it required. This hole they cleansed with a rag fastened to the end of an
iron with a worm at the end of it. Then they put in a cartridge of powder
containing about three ounces, and at the same time a reed full of fuse that
reached to the powder. Then they rammed dry clay, or soft stone very hard into
the hole, and lastly they fired the fuse with a paper that had been dipped in a
solution of saltpetre and dried, which burning slow and sure, gave leisure to
the engineer to retire to a proper distance before the explosion. This in the
miner’s language is called making a blast, which will loosen several hundred
weight of ore at once; and afterwards the laborers easily separate it with
pick-axes and carry it away in baskets up to the heap. At our return we saw
near the furnace large heaps of mine with charcoal mixed with it, a stratum of
each alternately, beginning first with a layer of charcoal at the bottom. To
this they put fire, which in a little time spreads through the whole heap, and
calcines the ore, which afterwards easily crumbles into small pieces fit for
the furnace. There was likewise a mighty quantity of limestone, brought from
Bristol, by way of ballast, at two and sixpence a ton, which they are at the
trouble to cart hither from Rappahannock river, but contrive to do it when the
carts return from carrying of iron. They put this into the furnace with the
iron ore, in the proportion of one ton of stone to ten of ore, with design to
absorb the sulphur out of the iron, which would otherwise make it brittle. And
if that be the use of it, oyster shells would certainly do as well as
limestone, being altogether as strong an alkali, if not stronger. Nor can their
being taken out of salt water be any objection, because it is pretty certain
the West India limestone, which is thrown up by the sea, is even better than
that imported from Bristol. But the founders who never tried either of these
will by no means be persuaded to go out of their way, though the reason of the
thing be never so evident. I observed the richer sort of mine, being of a dark
colour mixed with rust, was laid in a heap by itself, and so was the poor,
which was of a liver or brick colour. The sow iron is in the figure of a
half-round, about two feet and a half-long, weighing sixty or seventy pounds,
whereof three hundred weight make a cart-load drawn by eight oxen, which are
commonly shod to save their hoofs in those stony ways. When the furnace blows,
it runs about twenty tons of iron a week. The founders find it very hot work to
tend the furnace, especially in summer, and are obliged to spend no small part
of their earnings in strong drink to recruit their spirits. Besides the
founder, the collier, and miner, who are paid in proportion to their work, the
company have several other officers upon wages, a stock-taker, who weighs and
measures every thing, a clerk, who keeps an account of all receipts and
disbursements, a smith to shoe their cattle, and keep all their iron work in
repair, a wheel-wright, cartwright, carpenter, and several carters. The wages
of all these persons amount to one hundred pounds a year; so that including Mr.
Chiswell’s salary, they disburse two hundred pounds per annum in standing
wages. The provisions too are a heavy article, which their plantations do not
yet produce in a sufficient quantity, though they are at the charge of a
general overseer. But while corn is so short with them, there can be no great
increase of stock of any kind.9.

27th. Having now pretty well exhausted the subject of sow
iron, I asked my friend some questions about bar-iron. He told me we had as yet
no forge erected in Virginia, though we had four furnaces. But there was a very
good one set up at the head of the bay in Maryland, that made exceeding good
work. He let me know that the duty in England upon bar iron was twenty-four
shillings a ton, and that it sold there from ten to sixteen pounds a ton. This
would pay the charge of forging abundantly, but he doubted the parliament of
England would soon forbid us that improvement, lest after that we should go
farther, and manufacture our bars into all sorts of iron ware, as they already
do in New England and Pennsylvania. Nay, he questioned whether we should be
suffered to cast any iron, which they can do themselves at their furnaces. Thus
ended our conversation, and I thanked my friend for being so free in
communicating every thing to me. Then, after tipping a pistole to the clerk, to
drink prosperity to the mines with all the workmen, I accepted the kind offer
of going part of my journey in the phaeton. I took my leave about ten, and
drove over a spacious level road ten miles, to a bridge built over the river
Po, which is one of the four branches of Matapony, about forty yards wide. Two
miles beyond that, we passed by a plantation belonging to the company, of about
five hundred acres, where they keep a great number of oxen to relieve those
that have dragged their loaded carts thus far. Three miles farther we came to
the Germanna road, where I quitted the chair, and continued my journey on
horseback I rode eight miles together over a stony road, and had on either side
continual poisoned fields, with nothing but saplings growing on them. Then I
came into the main county road, that leads from Fredericksburg to Germanna,
which last place I reached in ten miles more. This famous town consists of Col.
Spotswood’s enchanted castle on one side of the street, and a baker’s dozen of
ruinous tenements on the other, where so many German families had dwelt some
years ago; but are now removed ten miles higher, in the fork of Rappahannock,
to land of their own. There had also been a chapel about a bow-shot from the
colonel’s house, at the end of an avenue of cherry trees, but some pious people
had lately burnt it down, with intent to get another built nearer to their own
homes. Here I arrived about three o’clock, and found only Mrs. Spotswood at
home, who received her old acquaintance with many a gracious smile. I was
carried into a room elegantly set off with pier glasses, the largest of which
came soon after to an odd misfortune. Amongst other favourite animals that
cheered this lady’s solitude, a brace of tame deer ran familiarly about the
house, and one of them came to stare at me as a stranger. But unluckily spying
his own figure in the glass, he made a spring over the tea table that stood
under it, and shattered the glass to pieces, and falling back upon the tea
table, made a terrible fracas among the china. This exploit was so sudden, and
accompanied with such a noise, that it surprised me, and perfectly frightened
Mrs. Spotswood. But it was worth all the damage, to show the moderation and
good humour with which she bore this disaster. In the evening the noble colonel
came home from his mines, who saluted me very civilly, and Mrs. Spotswood’s
sister, Miss Theky, who had been to meet him en cavalier, was so kind too as to
bid me welcome. We talked over a legend of old stories, supped about nine, and
then prattled with the ladies, till it was time for a traveller to retire. In
the mean time I observed my old friend to be very uxorious, and exceedingly
fond of his children. This was so opposite to the maxims he used to preach up
before he was married, that I could not forbear rubbing up the memory of them.
But he gave a very good- natured turn to his change of sentiments, by alleging
that whoever brings a poor gentlewoman into so solitary a place, from all her
friends and acquaintance, would be ungrateful not to use her and all that
belongs to her with all possible tenderness. 10.

28th. We all kept snug in our several apartments till nine,
except Miss Theky, who was the housewife of the family. At that hour we met
over a pot of coffee, which was not quite strong enough to give us the palsy.
After breakfast the colonel and I left the ladies to their domestic affairs,
and took a turn in the garden, which has nothing beautiful but three terrace
walks that fall in slopes one below another. I let him understand, that besides
the pleasure of paying him a visit, I came to be instructed by so great a
master in the mystery of making of iron, wherein he had led the way, and was
the Tubal Cain of Virginia. He corrected me a little there, by assuring me he
was not only the first in this country, but the first in North America, who had
erected a regular furnace. That they ran altogether upon bloomeries in New
England and Pennsylvania, till his example had made them attempt greater works.
But in this last colony, they have so few ships to carry their iron to Great
Britain, that they must be content to make it only for their own use, and must
be obliged to manufacture it when they have done. That he hoped he had done the
country very great service by setting so good an example. That the four
furnaces now at work in Virginia circulated a great sum of money for provisions
and all other necessaries in the adjacent counties. That they took off a great
number of hands from planting tobacco, and employed them in works that produced
a large sum of money in England to the persons concerned, whereby the country
is so much the richer. That they are besides a considerable advantage to Great
Britain, because it lessens the quantity of bar iron imported from Spain,
Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Muscovy, which used to be no less than twenty
thousand tons yearly, though at the same time no sow iron is imported thither
from any country but only from the plantations. For most of this bar iron they
do not only pay silver, but our friends in the Baltic are so nice, they even
expect to be paid all in crown pieces. On the contrary, all the iron they
receive from the plantations, they pay for it in their own manufacturers, and
send for it in their own shipping. Then I inquired after his own mines, and
hoped, as he was the first that engaged in this great undertaking, that he had
brought them to the most perfection. He told me he had iron in several parts of
his great tract of land, consisting of forty-five thousand acres. But that the
mine he was at work upon was thirteen miles below Germanna. That his ore (which
was very rich) he raised a mile from his furnace, and was obliged to cart the
iron, when it was made, fifteen miles to Massaponux, a plantation he had upon
Rappahannock river; but that the road was exceeding good, gently declining all
the way, and had no more than one hill to go up in the whole journey. For this
reason his loaded carts went it in a day without difficulty. He said it was
true his works were of the oldest standing: but that his long absence in
England, and the wretched management of Mr. Greame, whom he had entrusted with
his affairs, had put him back very much. That what with neglect and severity,
above eighty of his slaves were lost while he was in England, and most of his
cattle starved. That his furnace stood still great part of the time, and all
his plantations ran to ruin. That indeed he was rightly served for committing
his affairs to the care of a mathematician, whose thoughts were always among
the stars. That nevertheless, since his return, he had applied himself to
rectify his steward’s mistakes, and bring his business again into order. That
now he had contrived to do every thing with his own people, except raising the
mine and running the iron, by which he had contracted his expense very much.
Nay, he believed that by his directions he could bring sensible negroes to
perform those parts of the work tolerably well. But at the same time he gave me
to understand, that his furnace had done no great feats lately, because he had
been taken up in building an air furnace at Massaponux, which he had now
brought to perfection, and should be thereby able to furnish the whole country
with all sorts of cast iron, as cheap and as good as ever came from England. I
told him he must do one thing more to have a full vent for those commodities,
he must keep a shallop running into all the rivers, to carry his wares home to
people’s own doors. And if he would do that I would set a good example, and
take off a whole ton of them. Our conversation on this subject continued till
dinner, which was both elegant and plentiful. The afternoon was devoted to the
ladies, who showed me one of their most beautiful walks. They conducted me
through a shady lane to the landing, and by the way made me drink some very
fine water that issued from a marble fountain, and ran incessantly. Just behind
it was a covered bench, where Miss Theky often sat and bewailed her virginity.
Then we proceeded to the river, which is the south branch of Rappahannock,
about fifty yards wide, and so rapid that the ferry boat is drawn over by a
chain, and therefore called the Rapidan. At night we drank prosperity to all
the colonel’s projects in a bowl of rack punch, and then retired to our
devotions. 11.

29th. Having employed about two hours in retirement, I
sallied out at the first summons to breakfast, where our conversation with the
ladies, like whip sillabub, was very pretty, but had nothing in it. This it
seems was Miss Theky’s birth day, upon which I made her my compliments, and
wished she might live twice as long a married woman as she had lived a maid. I
did not presume to pry into the secret of her age, nor was she forward to
disclose it, for this humble reason, lest I should think her wisdom fell short
of her years. She contrived to make this day of her birth a day of mourning,
for having nothing better at present to set her affections upon, she had a dog
that was a great favourite. It happened that very morning the poor cur had done
something very uncleanly upon the colonel’s bed, for which he was condemned to
die. However, upon her entreaty, she got him a reprieve; but was so concerned
that so much severity should be intended on her birth day, that she was not to
be comforted; and lest such another accident might oust the poor cur of his
clergy, she protested she would board out her dog at a neighbour’s house, where
she hoped he would be more kindly treated. Then the colonel and I took another
turn in the garden, to discourse farther on the subject of iron. He was very
frank in communicating all his dear-bought experience to me, and told me very
civilly he would not only let me into the whole secret, but would make a
journey to James river, and give me his faithful opinion of all my
conveniences. For his part he wished there were many more iron works in the
country, provided the parties concerned would preserve a constant harmony among
themselves, and meet and consult frequently, what might be for their common
advantage. By this they might be better able to manage the workmen, and reduce
their wages to what was just and reasonable. After this frank speech, he began
to explain the whole charge of an iron work. He said, there ought at least to
be a hundred negroes employed in it, and those upon good land would make corn,
and raise provisions enough to support themselves and the cattle, and do every
other part of the business. That the furnace might be built for seven hundred
pounds, and made ready to go to work, if I went the nearest way to do it,
especially since coming after so many, I might correct their errors and avoid
their miscarriages. That if I had ore and wood enough, and a convenient stream
of water to set the furnace upon, having neither too much nor too little water,
I might undertake the affair with a full assurance of success. Provided the
distance of carting be not too great, which is exceedingly burdensome. That
there must be abundance of wheel carriages, shod with iron, and several teams
of oxen, provided to transport the wood that is to be coaled, and afterwards
the coal and ore to the furnace, and last of all the sow iron to the nearest
water carriage, and carry back limestone and other necessaries from thence to
the works; and a sloop also would be useful to carry the iron on board the
ships, the masters not being always in the humour to fetch it. Then he
enumerated the people that were to be hired, viz.: a founder, a mine-raiser, a
collier, a stock-taker, a clerk, a smith, a carpenter, a wheelwright, and
several carters. That these altogether will be a standing charge of about five
hundred pounds a year. That the amount of freight, custom, commission and other
charges in England, comes to twenty-seven shillings a ton. But that the
merchants yearly find out means to inflame the account with new articles, as
they do in those of tobacco. That, upon the whole matter, the expenses here and
in England may be computed modestly at two pounds a ton. And the rest that the
iron sells for will be clear gain, to pay for the land and negroes, which it is
to be hoped will be three pounds more for every ton that is sent over. As this
account agreed pretty near with that which Mr. Chiswell had given me, I set it
down (notwithstanding it may seem a repetition of the same thing) to prove that
both these gentlemen were sincere in their representations. We had a Michaelmas
goose for dinner, of Miss Theky’s own raising, who was now good-natured enough
to forget the jeopardy of her dog. In the afternoon we walked in a meadow by
the river side, which winds in the form of a horseshoe about Germanna, making
it a peninsula, containing about four hundred acres. Rappahannock forks about
fourteen miles below this place, the northern branch being the larger, and
consequently must be the river that bounds my lord Fairfax’s grant of the
Northern Neck. 12.

30th. The sun rose clear this morning, and so did I, and
finished all my little affairs by breakfast. It was then resolved to wait on
the ladies on horseback, since the bright sun, the fine air, and the wholesome
exercise, all invited us to it. We forded the river a little above the ferry,
and rode six miles up the neck to a fine level piece of rich land, where we
found about twenty plants of ginseng, with the scarlet berries growing on the
top of the middle stalk. The root of this is of wonderful virtue in many cases,
particularly to raise the spirits and promote perspiration, which makes it a
specific in colds and coughs. The colonel complimented me with all we found, in
return for my telling him the virtues of it. We were all pleased to find so
much of this king of plants so near the colonel’s habitation, and growing too
upon his own land; but were, however, surprised to find it upon level ground,
after we had been told it grew only upon the north side of stony mountains. I
carried home this treasure, with as much joy, as if every root had been a graft
of the tree of life, and washed and dried it carefully. This airing made us as
hungry as so many hawks, so that between appetite and a very good dinner, it
was difficult to eat like a philosopher. In the afternoon the ladies walked me
about amongst all their little animals, with which they amuse themselves, and
furnish the table; the worst of it is, they are so tender- hearted, they shed a
silent tear every time any of them are killed. At night the colonel and I
quitted the threadbare subject of iron, and changed the scene to politics. He
told me the ministry had receded from their demand upon New England, to raise a
standing salary for all succeeding governors, for fear some curious members of
the house of commons should inquire how the money was disposed of, that had
been raised in the other American colonies for the support of their governors.
And particularly what becomes of the four and a half per cent., paid in the
sugar colonies for that purpose. That duty produces near twenty thousand pounds
a year, but being remitted into the exchequer, not one of the West India
governors is paid out of it; but they, like falcons, are let loose upon the
people, who are complaisant enough to settle other revenues upon them, to the
great impoverishing of these colonies. In the mean time, it is certain the
money raised by the four and a half per cent. moulders away between the
minister’s fingers, no body knows how, like the quitrents of Virginia. And it
is for this reason that the instructions, forbidding all governors to accept of
any presents from their assemblies, are dispensed with in the sugar islands,
while it is strictly insisted upon every where else, where the assemblies were
so wise as to keep their revenues among themselves. He said further, that if
the assembly in New England would stand bluff, he did not see how they could be
forced to raise money against their will, for if they should direct it to be
done by act of parliament, which they have threatened to do, (though it be
against the right of Englishmen to be taxed, but by their representatives,) yet
they would find it no easy matter to put such an act in execution. Then the
colonel read me a lecture upon tar, affirming that it cannot be made in this
warm climate, after the manner they make it in Sweden and Muscovy, by barking
the tree two yards from the ground, whereby the turpentine descends all into
the stump in a year’s time, which is then split in pieces in order for the
kiln. But here the sun fries out the turpentine in the branches of the tree,
when the leaves are dried, and hinders it from descending. But, on the
contrary, those who burn tar of lightwood in the common way, and are careful
about it, make as good as that which comes from the east country, nor will it
burn the cordage more than that does. Then we entered upon the subject of hemp,
which the colonel told me he never could raise here from foreign seed, but at
last sowed the seed of wild hemp, (which is very common in the upper parts of
the country) and that came up very thick. That he sent about five hundred
pounds of it to England, and that the commissioners of the navy, after a full
trial of it, reported to the lords of the admiralty, that it was equal in
goodness to the best that comes from Riga. I told him if our hemp were never so
good, it would not be worth the making here, even though they should continue
the bounty. And my reason was, because labour is not more than two pence a day
in the east country where they produce hemp, and here we cannot compute it at
less than ten pence, which being five times as much as their labour, and
considering besides, that our freight is three times as dear as theirs, the
price that will make them rich will ruin us, as I have found by woful
experience. Besides, if the king, who must have the refusal, buys our hemp, the
navy is so long in paying both the price and the bounty, that we who live from
hand to mouth cannot afford to wait so long for it. And then our good friends,
the merchants, load it with so many charges, that they run away with great part
of the profit themselves. Just like the bald eagle, which after the fishing
hawk has been at great pains to catch a fish, pounces upon and takes it from
him. Our conversation was interrupted by a summons to supper, for the ladies,
to show their power, had by this time brought us tamely to go to bed with our
bellies full, though we both at first declared positively against it. So very
pliable a thing is frail man, when women have the bending of him.13.

October 1st. Our ladies overslept themselves this morning,
so that we did not break our fast till ten. We drank tea made of the leaves of
ginseng, which has the virtues of the root in a weaker degree, and is not
disagreeable. So soon as we could force our inclinations to quit the ladies, we
took a turn on the terrace walk, and discoursed upon quite a new subject. The
colonel explained to me the difference betwixt the galleons and the flota,
which very few people know. The galleons, it seems, are the ships which bring
the treasure and other rich merchandise to Carthagena from Portobel, to which
place it is brought over land, from Panama and Peru. And the flota is the
squadron that brings the treasure, and c., from Mexico and New Spain, which
make up at La Vera Cruz. Both these squadrons rendezvous at the Havanna, from
hence they shoot the gulf of Florida, in their return to Old Spain. That this
important port of the Havanna is very poorly fortified, and worse garrisoned
and provided, for which reason it may be easily taken. Besides, both the
galleons and flota, being confined to sail through the gulf, might be
intercepted by our stationing a squadron of men of war at the most convenient
of the Bahama islands. And that those islands are of vast consequence for that
purpose. He told me also that the azogue ships are they that carry quicksilver
to Portobello and La Vera Cruz, to refine the silver, and that, in Spanish,
azogue signifies quicksilver. Then my friend unriddled to me the great mystery,
why we have endured all the late insolences of the Spaniards so tamely. The
asiento contract, and the liberty of sending a ship every year to the Spanish
West Indies, make it very necessary for the South Sea Company to have effects
of great value in that part of the world. Now these being always in the power
of the Spaniards, make the directors of that company very fearful of a breach,
and consequently very generous in their offers to the ministry to prevent it.
For fear these worthy gentlemen should suffer, the English squadron, under
Admiral Hosier, lay idle at the Bastimentos, till the ships’ bottoms were eaten
out by the worm, and the officers and men, to the number of five thousand, died
like rotten sheep, without being suffered, by the strictest orders, to strike
one stroke, though they might have taken both the flota and galleons, and made
themselves masters of the Havanna into the bargain, if they had not been
chained up from doing it. All this moderation, our peaceable ministry showed
even at a time when the Spaniards were furiously attacking Gibraltar, and
taking all the English ships they could, both in Europe and America, to the
great and everlasting reproach of the British nation. That some of the
ministry, being tired out with the clamours of the merchants, declared their
opinion for war, and while they entertained those sentiments they pitched upon
him, Col. Spotswood, to be governor of Jamaica, that by his skill and
experience in the art military, they might be the better able to execute their
design of taking the Havanna. But the courage of these worthy patriots soon
cooled, and the arguments used by the South Sea directors, persuaded them once
again into more pacific measures. When the scheme was dropped, his government
of Jamaica was dropped at the same time, and then general Hunter was judged fit
enough to rule that island in time of peace. After this the colonel endeavoured
to convince me that he came fairly by his place of postmaster-general,
notwithstanding the report of some evil disposed persons to the contrary. The
case was this, Mr. Hamilton, of New Jersey, who had formerly had that post,
wrote to Col. Spotswood, in England, to favour him with his interest to get it
restored to him. But the colonel, considering wisely that charity began at
home; instead of getting the place for Hamilton, secured it for a better
friend: though, as he tells the story, that gentleman was absolutely refused,
before he spoke the least good word for himself. 14.

2d. This being the day appointed for my departure from hence,
I packed up my effects in good time; but the ladies, whose dear companies we
were to have to the mines, were a little tedious in their equipment. However,
we made a shift to get into the coach by ten o’clock; but little master, who is
under no government, would by all means go on horseback. Before we set out I
gave Mr. Russel the trouble of distributing a pistole among the servants, of
which I fancy the nurse had a pretty good share, being no small favourite. We
drove over a fine road to the mines, which lie thirteen measured miles from the
Germanna, each mile being marked distinctly upon the trees. The colonel has a
great deal of land in his mine tract exceedingly barren, and the growth of
trees upon it is hardly big enough for coaling. However, the treasure under
ground makes amends, and renders it worthy to be his lady’s jointure. We
lighted at the mines, which are a mile nearer to Germanna than the furnace.
They raise abundance of ore there, great part of which is very rich. We saw his
engineer blow it up after the following manner. He drilled a hole about
eighteen inches deep, humouring the situation of the mine. When he had dried it
with a rag fastened to a worm, he charged it with a cartridge containing four
ounces of powder, including the priming. Then he rammed the hole up with soft
stone to the very mouth; after that he pierced through all with an iron called
a primer, which is taper and ends in a sharp point. Into the hole the primer
makes the priming is put, which is fired by a paper moistened with a solution
of saltpetre. And this burns leisurely enough, it seems, to give time for the
persons concerned to retreat out of harm’s way. All the land hereabouts seems
paved with iron ore; so that there seems to be enough to feed a furnace for
many ages. From hence we proceeded to the furnace, which is built of rough
stone, having been the first of that kind erected in the country. It had not
blown for several moons, the colonel having taken off great part of his people
to carry on his air furnace at Massaponux. Here the wheel that carried the
bellows was no more than twenty feet diameter; but was an overshot wheel that
went with little water. This was necessary here, because water is something
scarce, notwithstanding it is supplied by two streams, one of which is conveyed
one thousand and nine hundred feet through wooden pipes, and the other sixty.
The name of the founder employed at present is one Godfrey, of the kingdom of
Ireland, whose wages is three shillings and sixpence per ton for all the iron
he runs, and his provisions. This man told me that the best wood for coaling is
red oak. He complained that the colonel starves his works out of whimsicalness
and frugality, endeavouring to do every thing with his own people, and at the
same time taking them off upon every vagary that comes into his head. Here the
coal carts discharge their load at folding doors, made at the bottom, which is
sooner done, and shatters the coal less. They carry no more than one hundred
and ten bushels. The colonel advised me by all means to have the coal made on
the same side the river with the furnace, not only to avoid the charge of
boating and bags, but likewise to avoid breaking of the coals, and making them
less fit for use. Having picked the bones of a sirloin of beef, we took leave
of the ladies, and rode together about five miles, where the roads parted. The
colonel took that to Massaponux, which is fifteen miles from his furnace, and
very level, and I that to Fredericksburg, which cannot be less than twenty. I
was a little benighted, and should not have seen my way, if the lightning,
which flashed continually in my face, had not befriended me. I got about seven
o’clock to Col. Harry Willis’s, a little moistened with the rain; but a glass
of good wine kept my pores open, and prevented all rheums and defluxions for
that time.15.

3d. I was obliged to rise early here, that I might not starve
my landlord, whose constitution requires him to swallow a beef-steak before the
sun blesses the world with its genial rays. However, he was so complaisant as
to bear the gnawing of his stomach, till eight o’clock for my sake. Col.
Waller, after a score of loud hems to clear his throat, broke his fast along
with us. When this necessary affair was despatched, Col. Willis walked me about
his town of Fredericksburg. It is pleasantly situated on the south shore of
Rappahannock river, about a mile below the falls. Sloops may come up and lie
close to the wharf, within thirty yards of the public warehouses, which are
built in the figure of a cross. Just by the wharf is a quarry of white stone
that is very soft in the ground, and hardens in the air, appearing to be as
fair and fine grained as that of Portland. Besides that, there are several
other quarries in the river bank, within the limits of the town, sufficient to
build a large city. The only edifice of stone yet built is the prison; the
walls of which are strong enough to hold Jack Sheppard, if he had been
transported thither. Though this be a commodious and beautiful situation for a
town, with the advantages of a navigable river, and wholesome air, yet the
inhabitants are very few. Besides Col. Willis, who is the top man of the place,
there are only one merchant, a tailor, a smith and an ordinary keeper; though I
must not forget Mrs. Levistone, who acts here in the double capacity of a
doctress and coffee woman. And were this a populous city, she is qualified to
exercise two other callings. It is said the court-house and the church are
going to be built here, and then both religion and justice will help to enlarge
the place. Two miles from this place is a spring strongly impregnated with
alum, and so is the earth all about it. This water does wonders for those that
are afflicted with a dropsy. And on the other side the river, in King George
county, twelve miles from hence, is another spring of strong steel water, as
good as that at Tunbridge Wells. Not far from this last spring are England’s
iron mines, called so from the chief manager of them, though the land belongs
to Mr. Washington. These mines are two miles from the furnace, and Mr.
Washington raises the ore, and carts it thither for twenty shillings the ton of
iron that it yields. The furnace is built on a run, which discharges its waters
into Potomac. And when the iron is cast, they cart it about six miles to a
landing on that river. Besides Mr. Washington and Mr. England, there are
several other persons, in England, concerned in these works. Matters are very
well managed there, and no expense is spared to make them profitable, which is
not the case in the works I have already mentioned. Mr. England can neither
write nor read; but without those helps, is so well skilled in iron works, that
he does not only carry on his furnace, but has likewise the chief management of
the works at Principia, at the head of the bay, where they have also erected a
forge and make very good bar iron. Col. Willis had built a flue to try all
sorts of ore in, which was contrived after the following manner. It was built
of stone four feet square with an iron grate fixed in the middle of it for the
fire to lie upon. It was open at the bottom, to give a free passage to the air
up to the grate. Above the grate was another opening that carried the smoke
into a chimney. This makes a draught upward, and the fire rarifying the air
below, makes another draught underneath, which causes the fire to burn very
fiercely, and melt any ore in the crucibles that are set upon the fire. This
was erected by a mason called Taylor, who told me he built the furnace at
Fredericksville, and came in for that purpose at three shillings and sixpence a
day, to be paid him from the time he left his house in Gloucestershire, to the
time he returned thither again, unless he chose rather to remain in Virginia
after he had done his work. It happened to be court day here, but the rain
hindered all but the most quarrelsome people from coming. The colonel brought
three of his brother justices to dine with us, namely, John Talifero, major
Lightfoot, and captain Green, and in the evening parson Kenner edified us with
his company, who left this parish for a better, without any regard to the poor
souls he had half saved, of the flock he abandoned. 16.

4th. The sun rising very bright, invited me to leave this
infant city; accordingly, about ten, I took leave of my hospitable landlord,
and persuaded parson Kenner to be my guide to Massaponux, lying five miles off,
where I had agreed to meet Col. Spotswood. We arrived there about twelve, and
found it a very pleasant and commodious plantation. The colonel received us
with open arms, and carried us directly to his air furnace, which is a very
ingenious and profitable contrivance. The use of it is to melt his sow iron, in
order to cast it into sundry utensils, such as backs for chimneys, andirons,
fenders, plates for hearths, pots, mortars, rollers for gardeners, skillets,
boxes for cart wheels; and many other things, which, one with another, can be
afforded at twenty shillings a ton, and delivered at people’s own homes. And,
being cast from the sow iron, are much better than those which come from
England, which are cast immediately from the ore for the most part. Mr. Flowry
is the artist that directed the building of this ingenious structure[.] which
is contrived after this manner. There is an opening about a foot square for the
fresh air to pass through from without. This leads up to an iron grate that
holds about half a bushel of sea coal, and is about six feet higher than the
opening. When the fire is kindled, it rarefies the air in such a manner as to
make a very strong draught from without. About too feet above the grate is a
hole that leads into a kind of oven, the floor of which is laid shelving
towards the mouth. In the middle of this oven, on one side, is another hole
that leads into the funnel of a chimney, about forty feet high. The smoke
mounts up this way, drawing the flame after it with so much force, that in less
than an hour it melts the sows of iron that are thrust towards the upper end of
the oven. As the metal melts it runs towards the mouth into a hollow place, out
of which the potter lades it in iron ladles, in order to pour it into the
several moulds just by. The mouth of the oven is stopped close with a moveable
stone shutter, which he removes so soon as he perceives, through the peep
holes, that the iron is melted. The inside of the oven is lined with soft
bricks, made of Sturbridge or Windsor clay, because no other will endure the
intense heat of the fire. And over the floor of the oven they strew sand taken
from the land, and not from the water side. This sand will melt the second heat
here, but that which they use in England will bear the fire four or five times.
The potter is also obliged to plaster over his ladles with the same and
moistened, to save them from melting. Here are two of these air furnaces in one
room, that so in case one wants repair, the other may work, they being exactly
of the same structure. The chimneys and other outside work of this building are
of free-stone, raised near a mile off, on the colonel’s own land. And were
built by his servant, whose name is Kerby, a very complete workman. This man
disdains to do any thing of rough work, even where neat is not required, lest
any one might say hereafter, Kerby did it. The potter was so complaisant as to
show me the whole process, for which I paid him and the other workmen my
respects in the most agreeable way. There was a great deal of ingenuity in the
framing of the moulds, wherein they cast the several utensils, but without
breaking them to pieces, I found there was no being let into that secret. The
flakes of iron that fall at the mouth of the oven are called geets, which are
melted over again. The colonel told me, in my ear, that Mr. Robert Cary, in
England, was concerned with him, both in this and his other iron works, not
only to help support the charge, but also to make friends to the undertaking at
home. His honour has settled his cousin, Mr. Greame, here as postmaster, with a
salary of sixty pounds a year, to reward him for having ruined his estate while
he was absent. Just by the air furnace stands a very substantial wharf, close
to which any vessel may ride in safety. After satisfying our eyes with all
these sights, we satisfied our stomachs with a sirloin of beef, and then the
parson and I took leave of the colonel, and left our blessing upon all his
works. We took our way from thence to major Woodford’s, seven miles off, who
lives upon a high hill that affords an extended prospect. On which account it
is dignified with the name of Windsor. There we found Rachel Cocke, who stayed
with her sister some time, that she might not lose the use of her tongue in
this lonely place. We were received graciously, and the evening was spent in
talking and toping, and then the parson and I were conducted to the same
apartment, the house being not yet finished.17.

5th. The parson slept very peaceably, and gave me no
disturbance, so I rose fresh in the morning, and did credit to the air by
eating a hearty breakfast. Then major Woodford carried me to the house where he
cuts tobacco. He manufactures about sixty hogsheads yearly, for which he gets
after the rate of eleven pence a pound, and pays himself liberally for his
trouble. The tobacco he cuts is long green, which, according to its name, bears
a very long leaf, and consequently each plant is heavier than common
sweet-scented or Townsend tobacco. The worst of it is the veins of the leaf are
very large, so that it loses its weight a good deal by stemming. This kind of
tobacco is much the fashion in these parts, and Jonathan Forward (who has great
interest here) gives a good price for it. This sort the major cuts up, and has
a man that performs it very handily. The tobacco is stemmed clean in the first
place, and then laid straight in a box, and pressed down hard by a press that
goes with a nut. This box is shoved forward towards the knife by a screw,
receiving its motion from a treadle, that the engineer sets a-going with his
foot. Each motion pushes the box the exact length which the tobacco ought to be
of, according to the saffron or oblong cut, which it seems yields one penny in
a pound more at London than the square cut, though at Bristol they are both of
equal price. The man strikes down the knife once at every motion of the screw,
so that his hand and foot keep exact pace with each other. After the tobacco is
cut in this manner, it is sifted first through a sand riddle, and then through
a dust riddle, till it is perfectly clean. Then it is put into a tight
hogshead, and pressed under the nut, till it weighs about a thousand net. One
man performs all the work after the tobacco is stemmed, so that the charge
bears no proportion to the profit. One considerable benefit from planting long
green tobacco is, that it is much harder, and less subject to fire than other
sweet scented, though it smells not altogether so fragrant. I surprised Mrs.
Woodford in her housewifery in the meat-house, at which she blushed as if it
had been a sin. We all walked about a mile in the woods, where I showed them
several useful plants, and explained the virtues of them. This exercise, and
the fine air we breathed in, sharpened our appetites so much that we had no
mercy on a rib of beef that came attended with several other good things at
dinner. In the afternoon, we tempted all the family to go along with us to
major Ben. Robinson’s, who lives on a high hill, called Moon’s Mount, about
five miles off. On the road we came to an eminence, from whence we had a plain
view of the mountains, which seemed to be no more than thirty miles from us, in
a straight line, though, to go by the road, it was near double that distance.
The sun had just time to light us to our journey’s end, and the major received
us with his usual good humour. He has a very industrious wife, who has kept him
from sinking by the weight of gaming and idleness. But he is now reformed from
those ruinous qualities, and by the help of a clerk’s place, in a quarrelsome
county, will soon be able to clear his old scores. We drank exceeding good
cider here, the juice of the white apple, which made us talkative till ten
o’clock, and then I was conducted to a bed-chamber, where there was neither
chair nor table; however, I slept sound, and waked with strong tokens of health
in the morning. 18.

6th. When I got up about sunrise, I was surprised to find
that a fog had covered this high hill; but there is a marsh on the other side
the river that sends its filthy exhalation up to the clouds. On the borders of
that morass lives Mr. Lomax, a situation fit only for frogs and otters. After
fortifying myself with toast and cider, and sweetening my lips with saluting
the lady, I took leave, and the two majors conducted me about four miles on my
way, as far as the church. After that, Ben. Robinson ordered his East Indian to
conduct me to Col. Martin’s. In about ten miles, we reached Caroline
court-house, where Col. Armstead and Col. Will. Beverley, have each of them
erected an ordinary, well supplied with wine and other polite liquors, for the
worshipful bench. Besides these, there is a rum ordinary for persons of a more
vulgar taste. Such liberal supplies of strong drink often make Justice nod, and
drop the scales out of her hands. Eight miles beyond the ordinary, I arrived at
Col. Martin’s, who received me with more gravity than I expected. But, upon
inquiry, his lady was sick, which had lengthened his face and gave him a very
mournful air. I found him in his night-cap and banian, which is his ordinary
dress in that retired part of the country. Poorer land I never saw than what he
lives upon; but the wholesomeness of the air, and the goodness of the roads,
make some amends. In a clear day the mountains may be seen from hence, which
is, in truth, the only rarity of the place. At my first arrival, the colonel
saluted me with a glass of good Canary, and soon after filled my belly with
good mutton and cauliflowers. Two people were as indifferent company as a man
and his wife, without a little inspiration from the bottle; and then we were
forced to go to the kingdom of Ireland, to help out our conversation. There, it
seems, the colonel had an elder brother, a physician, who threatens him with an
estate some time or another; though possibly it might come to him sooner if the
succession depended on the death of one of his patients. By eight o’clock at
night we had no more to say, and I gaped wide as a signal for retiring,
whereupon I was conducted to a clean lodging, where I would have been glad to
exchange one of the beds for a chimney.19.

7th. This morning Mrs. Martin was worse, so that there were
no hopes of seeing how much she was altered. Nor was this all, but the
indisposition of his consort made the colonel intolerably grave and thoughtful.
I prudently ate a meat breakfast, to give me spirits for a long journey, and a
long fast. My landlord was so good as to send his servant along with me, to
guide me through all the turnings of a difficult way. In about four miles we
crossed Mattaponi river at Norman’s ford, and then slanted down to King William
county road. We kept along that for about twelve miles, as far as the new brick
church. After that I took a blind path, that carried me to several of Col.
Jones’s quarters, which border upon my own. The colonel’s overseers were all
abroad, which made me fearful I should find mine as idle as they. But I was
mistaken, for when I came to Gravel Hall, the first of my plantations in King
William, I found William Snead (that looks after three of them) very honestly
about his business. I had the pleasure to see my people all well, and my
business in good forwardness. I visited all the five quarters on that side,
which spent so much of my time, that I had no leisure to see any of those on
the other side the river; though I discoursed Thomas Tinsley, one of the
overseers, who informed me how matters went. In the evening Tinsley conducted
me to Mrs. Sym’s house, where I intended to take up my quarters. This lady, at
first suspecting I was some lover, put on a gravity that becomes a weed; but so
soon as she learned who I was, brightened up into an unusual cheerfulness and
serenity. She was a portly, handsome dame, of the family of Esau, and seemed
not to pine too much for the death of her husband, who was of the family of the
Saracens. He left a son by her, who has all the strong features of his sire,
not softened in the least by any of hers, so that the most malicious of her
neighbours cannot bring his legitimacy in question, not even the parson’s wife,
whose unruly tongue, they say, does not spare even the reverend doctor, her
husband. This widow is a person of a lively and cheerful conversation, with
much less reserve than most of her countrywomen. It becomes her very well, and
sets off her other agreeable qualities to advantage. We tossed off a bottle of
honest Port, which we relished with a broiled chicken. At nine I retired to my
devotions, and then slept so sound that fancy itself was stupified, else I
should have dreamed of my most obliging landlady. 20.

8th. I moistened my clay with a quart of milk and tea, which
I found altogether as great a help to discourse as the juice of the grape. The
courteous widow invited me to rest myself there that good day, and go to church
with her, but I excused myself, by telling her she would certainly spoil my
devotion. Then she civilly entreated me to make her house my home whenever I
visited my plantations, which made me bow low, and thank her very kindly. From
thence I crossed over to Shaccoe’s, and took Thomas Tinsley for my guide,
finding the distance about fifteen miles. I found every body well at the Falls,
blessed be God, though the bloody flux raged pretty much in the neighbourhood.
Mr. Booker had received a letter the day before from Mrs. Byrd, giving an
account of great desolation made in our neighbourhood, by the death of Mr.
Lightfoot, Mrs. Soan, Capt. Gerald and Col. Henry Harrison. Finding the flux
had been so fatal, I desired Mr. Booker to make use of the following remedy, in
case it should come amongst my people. To let them blood immediately about
eight ounces; the next day to give them a dose of Indian physic, and to repeat
the vomit again the day following, unless the symptoms abated. In the mean
time, they should eat nothing but chicken broth, and poached eggs, and drink
nothing but a quarter of a pint of milk boiled with a quart of water, and
medicated with a little mullein root, or that of the prickly pear, to restore
the mucus of the bowels, and heal the excoriation. At the same time, I ordered
him to communicate this method to all the poor neighbours, and especially to my
overseers, with strict orders to use it on the first appearance of that
distemper, because in that, and all other sharp diseases, delays are very
dangerous. I also instructed Mr. Booker in the way I had learned of blowing up
the rocks, which were now drilled pretty full of holes, and he promised to put
it in execution. After discoursing seriously with the father about my affairs,
I joked with the daughter in the evening, and about eight retired to my castle,
and recollected all the follies of the day, the little I had learned, and the
still less good I had done. 21.

9th. My long absence made me long for the domestic delights
of my own family, for the smiles of an affectionate wife, and the prattle of my
innocent children. As soon as I sallied out of my castle, I understood that
Col. Carter’s Sam was come, by his master’s leave, to show my people how to
blow up the rocks in the canal. He pretended to great skill in that matter, but
performed very little, which however might be the effect of idleness rather
than ignorance. He came upon one of my horses, which he tied to a tree at
Shacco’s, where the poor animal kept a fast of a night and a day. Though this
fellow worked very little at the rocks, yet my man, Argalus, stole his trade,
and performed as well as he. For this good turn, I ordered Mr. Samuel half a
pistole, all which he laid out with a New England man for rum, and made my
weaver and spinning woman, who has the happiness to be called his wife,
exceedingly drunk. To punish the varlet for all these pranks, I ordered him to
be banished from thence for ever, under the penalty of being whipped home, from
constable to constable, if he presumed to come again. I left my memoranda with
Mr. Booker, of every thing I ordered to be done, and mounted my horse about
ten, and in little more reached Bermuda Hundred, and crossed over to Col.
Carter’s. He, like an industrious person, was gone to oversee his overseers at
North Wales, but his lady was at home, and kept me till supper time before we
went to dinner. As soon as I had done justice to my stomach, I made my honours
to the good humoured little fairy, and made the best of my way home, where I
had the great satisfaction to find all that was dearest to me in good health,
nor had any disaster happened in the family since I went away. Some of the
neighbours had worm fevers, with all the symptoms of the bloody flux; but,
blessed be God! their distempers gave way to proper remedies. 22.

Full Colophon Information

Genre: Prose
Subjects: Frontier and Pioneer Life, Travel
Period: 1700-1750
Location: British American South, Chesapeake
Format: Account/Relation

The composition of this text was originally completed by 1736.

The machine-readable text of the present edition was initially prepared from The Westover manuscripts containing the history of the dividing line betwixt Virginia and North Carolina, a journey to the land of Eden, A.D. 1733, and a progress to the mines written from 1728 to 1736 (Petersburg [Va.]: Printed by Edmund and Julian C. Ruffin, 1841) for "Documenting the American South" at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) Libraries by Natalia Smith, who generously has permitted us to use a plain-text version for mark-up in EADA. The .xml encoded document has subsequently been proofed against the original. For the purpose of the present edition, all preliminaries and notes have been omitted except those for which the author is responsible. All editorial notes have been omitted except those that indicate significant textual variations. Line and paragraph numbers contained in the source text have been retained. In cases where the source text displays no numbers, numbers are automatically generated. In the header, personal names have been regularized according to the Library of Congress authority files as "Last Name, First Name" for the REG attribute and "First Name Last Name" for the element value. Names have not been regularized in the body of the text.