Wood, George T.
Manuscript Archive of George T. Wood, of Munfordville, Hart County, Kentucky, relating to the Stephen Girard Estate Lands, dated 1825-1875

The archive includes approximately 51 letters (59 mss pages) and 44 documents (53 pages) either hand written, or partially printed and completed in manuscript. Also includes 4 hand drawn plat maps. The outgoing correspondence consists mainly of retained copies of the originals, with the incoming correspondence (16 letters) being original. The archive appears to have come down from George T. Wood, who handled the Girard lands in Kentucky for the City of Philadelphia which inherited the lands from Stephen Girard. The archive is dated between  June 21, 1825 to November 7, 1875.

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This archive includes incoming correspondence of officials of the city of Philadelphia to their "agent and attorney in fact" George T. Wood, at Munfordville, Hart County, Kentucky, as well as copies of letters by Wood to the city officials who managed the Girard Trust Fund. Also includes court summonses, land surveys, plat maps, accounts for land sales and articles of agreements for leased lands, a copy of a supplement to Stephen Girard's Will, and miscellaneous notes.

The content of the documents and correspondence in this archive details the efforts the City of Philadelphia made to re-acquire the lands that were left to them by Stephen Girard. The lands were forfeited as a result of the failure of Girard's previous agent to pay the real estate taxes. The City of Philadelphia hired a local Munfordville man by the name of George T. Wood to act as their "agent and attorney in fact." The lands were reacquired by the city through Wood's efforts, Wood then acted as a land agent, leasing lands to tenants, checking on the condition of the lands so they would not be neglected or abused, and then later in the 1840's, he started to sell off the lands for the city of Philadelphia. Wood took various fees and payments for his work.

The collection includes four "Articles of Agreement" between Robert Triplett, acting as agent and attorney for Stephen Girard, and various individuals who were leasing land from Girard, presumably in Kentucky, where Triplett was based. Triplett was an ambitious pioneer who in 1820 settled at Owensboro, Kentucky, a town on the Lower Ohio River. He was the son of a Virginia planter and invested in the first steam-powered sawmill, the first distillery on the river, and most notably Bon Harbor, a few miles west of Owensboro. He was the wealthiest man in this area of Kentucky, having an estate of $167,000 in 1850. He was not able to raise the capital that he had hoped for to build his industrial community at Bon Harbor, before his death in Philadelphia in 1853.

When Stephen Girard died, in 1831, he left the City of Philadelphia 4,775 acres in Hart County, Kentucky. However, his agent, Robert Triplett, had failed to pay taxes on the land for about five years, thus necessitating the City of Philadelphia to try and recover the inherited Girard lands from the State of Kentucky, which apparently took the land (unbeknownst to Girard) for failure to pay taxes.

Daniel Groves, a member of the committee of the Select & Common Councils of the City of Philadelphia, wrote to George T. Wood, Esquire, of Munfordville, Kentucky, on 19 March 1834, to see if he would undertake being the new agent for the Kentucky lands that Philadelphia inherited from Girard. The city wanted Wood to act immediately to pay the taxes, petition the governor, and reacquire the Girard lands in Hart County. In Groves' letter there is a map of the lands, some 4,774 acres in Hart County, a good portion of which was on Nolen Creek. Wood wrote back accepting the position.

The lands in Kentucky were badly managed by those who they were leased to:

"There has been much waste committed on the land by cutting and destroying the best timber on it...The land has been much neglected, the distance which Mr. Triplett lived from the land prevented his attending to it, and those who leased, as is often the case, had but little regard to the right of the owner."

George T. Wood (c1797-1876), of Virginia, married Elizabeth Helm, the sister of a Kentucky Governor. He appears to have spent most of his life at Munfordville, Hart County, Kentucky, where he was active as the Clerk of the Circuit and County Courts of Hart County. His venture as land agent for the City of Philadelphia would appear to be job to supplement his county clerk position.

Wood helped the City of Philadelphia get back the lands from the State of Kentucky and also proceeded to lease out some of the lands, all of which is recorded in various documents in this archive. Wood was compensated by the City of Philadelphia by drawing on the account of Martin & Griswald, of Louisville, Kentucky, where he had set up an account with the City of Philadelphia.

After the initial flurry of correspondence to reacquire the lands by the City of Philadelphia, there was no further correspondence until October of 1840, until Philadelphia's city solicitor Edward Olmsted wrote to Wood for information on the lands, their condition, and if indeed the city owned them yet. The city apparently failed to correspond on the matter for several years. After re-establishing communication with Wood, the city inquired about the rents the lands were leased for and potential sale prices. The price was not sufficient and the city decided to continue to lease the lands. Wood later obtained better prices per acre and let the city know about it at the end of the summer of 1842.

A succession of individuals for the City of Philadelphia handled the Girard Trust Fund for the Kentucky lands. Originally it was Daniel Groves who had contacted George T. Wood, then Edward Olmstead, the City Solicitor, handled the matter for a time. Subsequently  George S. Smith, Esq., treasurer of the Girard Trust (later Superintendent), who appears to have also been a correspondent of George T. Wood from the 1840s to at least 1874, at which point Wood resigned as the agent in Kentucky for the Girard Estate lands. Wood died in 1876.

By about 1847, the land began to be sold off in large lots of 100, 150, to 200 plus acre lots. The archive includes various manuscript documents showing who purchased the land, how many acres, and for how much, as well as the dates. By 1853, Wood had sold off a little over 1900 acres. He continued to sell land over the years and the correspondence continued through 1874 when Wood resigned as the land agent.

      American National Biography, vol. 9, pp., 84-85

      Dictionary of American Biography, vol. IV, pp., 319-322