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Savary de Valcoulon, Jean
Three Autograph Letters Signed to Terrasson Brothers, and Barthelemy Terrasson, Franco-American bankers and entrepreneurs in Philadelphia, from Pointe du Grand Kanhaway, New York, and George’s Creek, Pennsylvania, 1785-1786

folio and quarto, three letters, 9 pages, plus integral address leaves, old folds, last letter heavily damp-stained, and with old tape repairs, else in good legible condition.

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In these letters, two of which were written from the western frontier, in western Virginia and Pennsylvania, Savary, who could not write in English, and had come to America as agent of a French creditor of the state of Virginia, details his western land speculations in partnership with Albert Gallatin1, an adventurous Harvard instructor and future Secretary of the Treasury, who had immigrated from his native Switzerland in 1780. Having purchased 120,000 acres of western Virginia land in the Ohio River valley, mostly along the Great Kanawha, in the spring of 1784, the two young men went to Pittsburg to organize a party of experienced scouts and woodsmen for an expedition to inspect their holdings, establishing a base of operations on a 300 acre farm at Georges Creek, which flowed into the Monongahela River.  (There Gallatin had a chance meeting with a visiting General George Washington, who he first nearly insulted and then impressed). In May 1785 Savary and Gallatin, in the  company of 15 hired guides, hunters and surveyors, set out by boat down the Monongahela, stopping each night to camp in tents on the river bank. On June 8, the party reached the mouth of Sandy Creek, a branch of the Ohio River, where they built a log cabin for what they hoped would be a permanent settlement. In July, leaving Savary there in command of the main party, Gallatin set out with several of the men in canoes for a four-week expedition of surveying and exploration.

               It was during his absence that Savary, writing to his “dear friend” Terrasson, described what had transpired while he was “waiting for Gallatin” to return from his “operations”. While offering “Propositions de commerce” to the “Shavanaeze” (Shawnee) Indians, an officer and several of his men had been wounded in an Indian “embuscade” some 30 miles from Savary’s cabin. It was with pleasure that a frightened Savary welcomed the arrival of a Colonel Lewis2, accompanied by 6 “sauvages”, after being taken prisoner by three Cherokee and three Mingo Indians. Savary and his men soon fled their encampment for the small settlement of Point Pleasant, where Savary, learning of their plight, joined him on August 18 – nine days after the first of these letters was written. There they found other refugee surveyors, sick and dying, and the partners suspended operations for the season and headed back to Georges Creek, tramping, nearly starved, through uncharted forests because they feared hostile Indians who might be lurking along the river banks. News reports reached Philadelphia that Gallatin had been killed by Indians, but he, in fact reached his farm safe and sound.

           The next two letters were written the following year, after Gallatin had purchased another 400 acres at Georges Creek, where he made his home. Savary, describes their complicated business dealings with Colonel Stephan Moylan, former aide to Washington, who commanded the Pennsylvania Dragoons, and with a Swiss entrepreneur in Philadelphia, Nicholas DuBey, who bought some of their lands along the Kanawha (adjacent to holdings of George Washington, who later wrote DuBey that he could not offer advice about the quality of those lands, with which he had “little connection”). Savary was by then fed up with his dealings with the various state governments which were still loosely connected in a falling out and in the 1790s, Gallatin went off on new land speculations of his own – while embarking on the illustrious political career that would make him United States Senator from Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s Secretary of the Treasury, and American Ambassador to post-Napoleonic France and England.

 

           1. American National Biography, vol. 8, pp., 639-642

            2. Colonel Andrew Lewis Jr. (1758-1844), Colonel Andrew Lewis, Jr. was the fourth son of his more famous father, General Andrew Lewis. Andrew Lewis, Jr., served as a Private in the Virginia Militia during the Revolutionary War. Among his senior officers were Colonel William Preston and General Andrew Lewis, his father. He first volunteered on 1 February 1777 and was finally discharged on 4 June 1781, four months before Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. Among four separate enlistments and discharges during this period, he served a little more than one year in total. He was in two engagements in 1781 in North Carolina at the Alamance on 2 March and at Reedy Fork on 6 March, and he was on outpost duty at the Battle of Guilford Court House on 15 March.

             Like his father, Andrew Lewis, Jr. gained his fame and rank of Colonel as an Indian fighter. In 1991, he was a Captain in the Virginia State Troops. A Virginia Historical Highway Marker (KA7) just west of Gate City in southwest Virginia attests that Fort Carter was under command of Captain Andrew Lewis, Jr. from 1792 to 1794. He settled on Bent Mountain and built the first home there, a log house, one and one-half stories in height. He named the home “Longwood” and he died in that home. His first wife was Agatha Madison, a cousin of President James Madison, and they had one daughter. After the death of his first wife, he married Margaret Bryan on 10 June 1788 and they had two children, Catherine (Kitty) and Thomas. Colonel Lewis’s two daughters by his two wives bore nineteen children between them.

Thomas Lewis, the only son of Colonel Andrew Lewis, never married and was killed on 9 May 1808 in a duel to settle a political dispute. Thomas was killed instantly, and the other party to the duel, John McHenry, was mortally wounded and died shortly thereafter.