THE TROUBLES OF CAPT. JOHN POSEY OF CHARLES CO. MD AND FAIRFAX CO. VA.
Researched by James G. Elgin 2009
John Posey was born in Charles Co. MD around 1727 and as his father, Richard, had died when he was around seven years old, he spent his formative years in the household of his stepfather, Joseph Ratcliffe, who already had a large family. He moved around a lot showing up in Baltimore in 1741 as a teen-ager but finally moved around 1746 to Fairfax Co. VA. John was soon married into a prominent family in 1749. His first wife was Elizabeth Lloyd, (Loyd) who was born in 1732 and she brought some land and slaves into the union, but she soon died, probably in 1750 in childbirth of their first son, Thomas.
In 1751, the Trubo Parish appointed John the caretaker of several of the Pohick Church’s glebe Lands, a position he held until 1763. John married second on June 27, 1752 to Martha `Price' Harrison, the widow of George Harrison, the son of William and Sarah Harrison and she brought a large estate of 838 acres in Fairfax Co.and slaves into the union. During the period of the 1750’s, John and Martha had 6 children born. They are Amelia “Millie”, Hanson, St. Lawrence Washington, John Price, Amanda and William. On Nov. 27, 1753, Martha Posey, obtained a permit/license from the Colony of Maryland by an Act of Assembly to open a ferry from Marshall Hall to the land in Virginia and they began operating the ferry using their slaves, Jack and Herculas as ferrymen. John and his other slaves began making roads from the various plantations and main roads to the ferry property during the 1755 to 1765 period.
In 1754, George Washington had obtained ownership of Mount Vernon and moved there from Culpepper Co. striking up a friendship with the neighbor, John Posey, just a mile down river on Dogue Creek where John and his family were living. In 1754-55 John joined with Washington in the Virginia Regiments, GW in the 1st and John in the 2nd and was with General Braddock at his defeat at Fort Duquesne. He was made a Captain of a Company at this time by Colonel Bouquet. He was known ever after as Capt. Posey. At this time John and his family began to visit with George Washington at Mount Vernon entertaining him with imported French wines bearing his own seal. In order to be a gentleman one just had to have French imported wines.
NOTE JGE: A wine seal bearing the name "John Posey" was found in George Washington’s kitchen midden recently.
In 1755, he bought the 6 acre plot of land where he was living from Thomas Marshall, which he named "Rover’s Delight“, a fanciful name that reflected his personality. Even at this stage of his life he was a drinker and spent much time in taverns where he was a very amiable storyteller. Charles West had some rights to the 6 acre plot that he contested in Court but never settled as far as records show. In 1758-9 John bought 200 acres of woodland from Charles West and tried to sell it to George Washington 10 months later, but it was declined.
George Washington was married on January 6, 1759 to Martha Dandridge Custis and she and her children, John Parke “Jacky” and Martha “Patsy” Parke Custis moved into Mount Vernon in April 1759. Martha’s two other children had died young. She was just 28 years old. The Posey children now had companions to play with.
In 1760, John sold the 145 acres in Fairfax Co. of the Harrison property to Daniel French. On Jan 19, 1761, John leased the 107 acres to Thrift near New Church for the life of Martha. It was some of the land she received from her 1st husband.
During the early part of the 1760’s, John was constantly borrowing money from friends and neighbors, and especially George Washington, and running up large tabs at merchants stores. He was trying to borrow his way out of debt, but not keeping ahead of the game. He was also having his slaves make more and better roads to his wife’s ferry. On June 24, 1767 George Washington wrote to John advising a way out of his debt, suggest that he sell out completely and pay off his debts and take up land in the western interior, where a man with little money and much ambition could better himself and his family. This advise was ignored as John had a different scheme.
On Sept. 24, 1767, John made a bond with Col. Mason with George Washington as security, much to GW’s reluctance. So John executed a Bill of Sale to GW which covered 25 slaves, 40 head of cattle, 20 horses, 40 sheep, 80 hogs and lots of household goods including Silver of various descriptions.
Martha Posey died in December of 1768 and things started to really go bad for him as his creditors began demanding their money, more often. John married 3rd on May 25, 1769 to Elizabeth Adair of Kent? Co. Maryland and John thought his troubles were over because she and her sister had inherited an estate from Robert Adair, which was pending in the Baltimore Co. Court of Chancery. John and Elizabeth established themselves on the 6 acre property in Virginia.
Around July 24, 1769, John sent GW a letter telling GW that: “She has large sums of cash and a prittey good Est. She is thick as she is high-and she gets drunk at least three or four time a week…. Has a valiant Sperritt when drunk”. He was apparently explaining that he would soon have ample funds to satisfy all his debt, and would soon pay off Colo. Mason’s Bond and relieve GW of his security obligations. He evidently was counting on the large estate that Elizabeth had and was indicating to GW that that was the basis of his new prosperity. John’s son Thomas left home at this time trying to find some way to make his fortune. On July 26, 1769, GW wrote him back reminding him of all his broken promises and failed payment dates. He also told him that he was aware the his new wife had not and would not transfer her monies or estate to him as she had indicated that to Colo. Fairfax and his Lady. She and John were constantly drunk and doing battle, for which John was often jailed.
On Oct. 7, 1769, George Washington wrote a letter to Robert Hanson Harrison stating:
“I believe it no easy matter to find the Captain at home and still more difficult to take him in trim capable of business, and yet to do him justice, he came here on Monday last perfectly Sober and proposed of his own voluntary motion to sell his Estate finding it in vain to struggle on longer against the Terms of Debt that oppresses him”.
In Oct. of 1769, John advertised in the Maryland Gazette, the Virginia Gazette, including Dumfries, Fredericksburg, Boyd’s hole and other newspapers of the area that a sale would be held on the 23rd of Oct. naming almost all of the mortgaged property that was held by GW. On Oct. 7, 1769 John was in the hands of the sheriff again and Elizabeth had taken refuge, after John had beat her, with Colo. Fairfax at Gunston Hall. She was very drunk and was upbraiding John, however, the next morning when she was sober, she told them of a plot that John had hatched wherein he would take all his and her slaves and all the household goods except some of the stock, hire a ship from the eastern shore and transport them all to Pensacola, Florida where he would sell all.
On Oct. 9, 1769, George Washington wrote to Hector Ross, a merchant of Colchester, who was a credit holder of John and GW had acted as security. Mr. Ross had filed a claim in court against GW as John had failed to answer his demands. GW advised Mr. Ross to press his claim forward and force the sale of John’s estate. He also told him of Posey’s plot to ship all the assets out of the courts jurisdiction.
GW stated; “ I have taken occasion since of mentioning this matter to Posey who of course denied it, that is, the intention only; but acknowledges that he had made use of such expressions to his wife in Order to plague her.” GW goes on to say: “However there is a circumstance or two lately happened which makes his Conduct appear extremely Suspicious and that is his removing her Negroes over to his own House ( where he has no earthly employment for them for his Corn is already lost to the weeds.--- He has also under very frivolous pretences forbid two or three of my people who had Wives In his Family from coming there again and expects a Vessel from the Eastern Shore with his Wife’s goods. Which Vessel may for ought I know, be the one he intends to Imbark in and these Advertisements and promised Sale only a finess to bespeak Security.”
Evidently Posey was in jail again around this time and Elizabeth was hiding out with the Fairfax family because Hanson Posey got word to George Washington that he and the children were alone and without food. It appears that GW took the Posey children into his household at this time and didn’t let them return until long after the sale, in fact, Millie stayed with Mrs. Washington until way past the end of the war.
On Oct, 10, 1769, George Washington ran a survey on the 6 acres of land, both for himself and John and to help settle the claim against it. (map made) Oct. 23, 24, 25, the 3 day sale occurred and all the debts were satisfied except for £12 and John was in jail again. With John in jail, Washington sent Price Posey down with the £12 that he owed and got him released. “Rover’s Delight” was transferred to George Washington at this time as payment of debt. The fishing and ferry operations were his too. The slave, Jack was not in the sale and GW hired him, which gave John some income. The slave, Herculas continued on as ferryman and received many tips from customers. These he continued to save and became known as the most stylish and best dressed man to hit the streets of Alexandria.
12 days later on Nov. 6, 1769 Elizabeth Adair Posey was dead. In Jan. 1770, John was removed as vestryman from the Trubo Parish. In April 1770, John was still living on the 6 acres that has passed into GW possession and he was very depressed and incompetent so on April 27, 1770, he gave his power of attorney to Daniel McCarty. On June 8, 1772, John finally signed the deed to the 6 acres over to George Washington. Posey stayed in the area for about 2 more years and Washington gave him periodic gifts of cash and on April 7, 1774, after dinner, Washington gave him a final £12 and John left Mount Vernon for Maryland and never returned again as far as records show. He died about 1790 in Chester Co. Pennsylvania and was buried from Brownback’s Church East Coventry, West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was the father of 7 children, the eldest being the child of Elizabeth (the first) and the rest of Martha. The Ferry was discontinued by the same Maryland Authority on Oct. 18, 1790 after the war.
Mount Vernon's Mystery Midden 
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