George Washington Archives



Prepared by Jeanne Mozier
March 2002

Although he spent fewer than six months total time working and visiting in the area that is today Berkeley Springs, George Washington is a major figure in the history of the springs and town.

He was among the first visitors to the “fam’d warm springs” in 1748, ’50 and ’51 when the area was still frontier and part of the extensive land holdings of Washington’s neighbor and mentor, Thomas Lord Fairfax.

Washington eventually owned land both in town and along the Potomac; he wanted to own more. During the mid-1750s and the French and Indian War, Washington was involved in pursuing the “enemy” — native Indians — around the springs.

In the 1760s, he visited several times with his family to “take the waters.” Warm Springs or Frederick Springs as it was also called, was a popular resort among Washington’s social group.

Along with members of his family, friends and colleagues, Washington purchased lots at the springs when the town of Bath was established there by the Virginia Legislature in December 1776.

In 1784, Washington visited, began a long association with steamboat inventor James Rumsey, and hired Rumsey to build a house for him at the springs.

Washington visited at least once during the 1790s and his properties in the area were included in his will. Washington died in 1799.

These archives collect many of Washington’s writings, including diary entries, about his visits and dealings in Berkeley Springs and surrounding area so interested people can experience colonial and federal Bath in George Washington’s own words. In addition, there are letters written to Washington related to his activities in Bath.

To actively follow in Washington’s footsteps, journey the Washington Heritage Trail. A self-guided tour brochure is available at the Visitors Center at 127 Fairfax St. “George Washington and Us” is a 70-page softcover volume of Washington’s writings about Morgan County and surrounding area explained and put into context by prize winning mystery writer and editor of the Morgan Messenger, John Douglas. Copies can be purchased at the Berkeley Springs Visitor Center or available by mail for $8.95, plus $2.25 postage and handling.

This archival material was developed through funding from the National Scenic Byways program of the U.S. Department of Transportation and is available on

Source key:

GWD — George Washington Diaries. 6 volumes. Donald Jackson and Dorothey Twohig, Editors. University Press of Virginia. 1979. A set of the Diaries is located in the Morgan County Public Library. All other collections are available in the Manuscript Room of the Library of Congress.

PGW — Papers of George Washington. W.W. Abbot, Editor. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville. 1984

WGW/S — Writings of George Washington. 12 volumes. Jared Sparks, Editor. American Stationers Company. Boston, MA 1837.

WGW — Writings of George Washington. 14 volumes. Worthington Chauncey Ford, Editor. GP Putnam’s Sons, New York. 1889.

WGW/F — Writings of George Washington. 39 volumes. John Fitzpatrick, Editor. USGPO, Washington, DC. 1944.

Ferling, John — The First of Men. University of Tennessee Press. Knoxville. 1988.

Freeman, Douglas Southall. George Washington. Charles Scribner’s Sons, NYC 1948

NOTE: For Washington, and especially for James Rumsey, spelling, capitalization and punctuation were not of prime concern. To make it easier on contemporary readers, all three, for the most part, have been made consistent by this editor.


Washington was 16 years old on this trip, his first onto the frontier. He accompanied a surveying crew employed by Thomas Lord Fairfax which included Fairfax’s nephew, George William. Washington began his diary on this trip; a journal he would keep his entire life and would eventually include 8 volumes.


3/18/48 — GWD

“We travell’d up about 35 miles to Thomas Barwicks on Potomack where we found y. river so excessively high by reason of y. great rains that had fallen up about y. Allegany Mountains as they told us which was then bringing down melted snow and that it would not be fordable for severall days. It was then above six foot higher than usual and was rising. We agreed to stay till Monday. We this day call’d to see y. Fam’d Warm Springs. We camped out in y. field this night. Nothing remarkable happen’d till Sunday y. 20th.”


3/20/48 — GWD

“Finding y. river not much abated we in y. evening swam our horses over and carried them to Charles Polks in Maryland for pasturage till y. next morning.”


7/25/50 and March 1751… Ledger A – folio 4 …..

Washington’s ledger shows loans to older brother Lawrence for “going to Warm Springs” on both occasions. They attended the spring in hopes of improving Lawrence’s health. He suffered from tuberculosis and died in 1752.


Washington served as a Colonel in the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War with the responsibility of protecting the western frontier. He was based in Winchester, Virginia where his office still stands. It is unlikely that there were any colonials “taking the waters” at the springs at this time.

4/17/56…. letter from John Mercer/ from Jos. Edward’s on Great Cacapon…..

“I have engaged one of the country men to go as a pilot to the Warm Springs Mountain and could engage two or three more to go as spies….” PGW3:11

4/17/56…..Washington letter to Mercer/ from Winchester….

“You must endeavor to procure some good woodsmen, well acquainted with the place; and honest people, to send out as spies to the Springs…you are not to delay one minute transmitting me intelligence, if you find the enemy is at the Warm Springs.” PGW3:10

4/18/56….Washington letter to Governor Dinwiddie from Winchester….

“Cpl John Mercer, who being with a scouting party of 100 men, has been ordered to search the Warm Springs Mountain where it is lately reported the Indians rendezvous. WGW/S


11/22/57…..from Robert Rutherford at Winchester….

more on scouring the woods at Warm Springs for the enemy. PGW5:57.


5/11/60 …..GWD….

“Proposd a purchase of some lands which Col. Fairfax has at the mouth of the Warm Springs Run join’g Barwick’s bottom. He promisd me the preference if he shd. sell, but is not incld to do it at prest.”

Washington came to the Warm Springs three times during the 1760s.


8/26/61 ….letter to Reverend Charles Green sent from Warm Springs.

“These last for 20-25 miles from hence are almost impassible for carriages, not so much from mountainous county (but this in fact is very rugged) as from trees that have fallen across the road and rendered the way intolerable. We arrived here yesterday. I think my fevers a good deal abated tho my pains grow worse and my sleep equally disturbed…

“We found of both sexes about 250 people at this place, full of all manner of diseases and complaints; some of which are benefitted while others find no relief from the waters — two or three doctors are here, but whether attending as physicians or to drink the water I know not. It is thought the springs will soon begin to lose their virtues, and the weather gets too cold for people not well provided to remain here. They are situated very badly on the east side of a steep mountain and enclosed by hills on all sides, so that the afternoon’s sun is hid by 4 o’clock and the fog hangs over us till 9 or 10, like ghosts with occasional great damps and the mornings and evenings to be cool.

“The place I am told and indeed have found it is already, is supplied with provisions of all kinds — good beef and venison, fine veal, lamb, fowl and all may be bought at almost any time; but lodging may be had on no terms but building them, and I am of the opinion that numbers get more hurt by their manner of lying, than the waters can do them good. Had we not succeeded in getting a tent and marquee from Winchester, we should have been in a most miserable situation here.

“In regard to myself I must beg leave to say, that I was much overcome with fatigue of the ride and weather together — however I think my fevers are a good deal abated, though my pains grow rather worse, and my sleep equally disturbed; what effect the waters may have upon me I cannot say at present, as I expect nothing from the air — this certainly must be unhealthy….”

8/30/61 — PS to Green letter:

“I think myself benefitted from the water and am not without hope of their making a cure for me – a little time will show now.” WGW-F. 2:364



Expenses from trip to Warm Springs with Colonel Fairfax. PGW8:21-24

Sept. 1767 – page one (.pdf)

Sept. 1767 – page two (.pdf)

9/21/67….to Col John Armstrong from Mt. Vernon…

“Since I had the pleasure of seeing you at Warm Springs….(several paragraphs about land issues unrelated to springs, then concludes….) I heartily wish that Mrs. Armstrong and yourself may find all the good effects from the waters of the Frederick Springs that you should desire…” WGW/F 2:473

At this time, the spring were in Frederick County. Washington, as with others of the period, referred to them by both Frederick Springs and Warm Springs. They were also noted on some maps as Medicinal Springs.


This was another long visit to the springs with his family filled with social engagements. The pages from Washington’s diary are included following these entries.

6/18/69….to Burwell Bassett from Mt. Vernon….

“As we have come to a resolution to set off (if nothing unforseen happens to prevent it) for the Warm Springs about the 18th of next month, I do according to promise give you notice thereof, and should be glad of your company with us, if you still entertain thoughts of trying the effects of those waters…” WGW/F 2:511

GW Parke Custis in “Recollections of Mount Vernon” prints a fascimile of Washington’s accounting of expenses of this trip.


“At home all day preparing for my journey to the Springs.”

7/31/69 ….GWD….

“Set out with Mrs. Washington and Patcy Custis for the Frederick Springs. Dined at Wm. Car Lains, and lodged at Mr. Chs. West’s.”

8/3/69 — 9/9/69 ….GWD…duration of visit to Warm Springs. (copy from Diaries follows.)

8/18/69 letter to Col. John Armstrong sent from Fredk Warm Springs:

“About a fortnight ago I came to this place with Mrs. Washington and her daughter, the latter of whom being troubled with a complaint, which the efficacy of these waters it is thought might remove, we resolved to try them, but have found little benefit as yet from the experiment. What a week or two more may do, we know not, and therefore are inclined to put them to the test…..”

“…..that you stand in no need of assistance from these springs which I find are applied to in all cases, although there be a moral certainty of them hurting in some. Many poor miserable objects are now attending here, which I hope will receive the desired benefit, as I dare say they are deprived of the means of obtaining any other relief, from their indigent circumstances.” WGW-F 2:521

August 1769 – page one (.pdf)

August 1769 – page two (.pdf)

August 1769 – page three (.pdf)

Aug/Sept 1769 (.pdf)


7/3/71….to Rev. Jonathan Boucher from Mt. Vernon….

“You will please make my compliments to Mr. Dulaney, and assure him that I have not the least vestige of a house at the Frederick Springs, otherwise it should have been, if unengaged, much at his service. The two seasons I spent there was in a house of Mr. Mercer’s.” WGW/F 3:52


6/10/74…to George William Fairfax from Williamsburg …..

“I have not heard the most distant insinuation of Lord Dunmore’s wanting Belvoir nor am I incllined to think he does as he talks much of a place he has purchased near the Warm Springs.” WGW/F 3:223

In December 1776, responding to a petition from more than 200 individuals interested in the springs, the town of Bath was established on land belonging to Thomas Lord Fairfax. Washington’s brother Samuel was one of those assigned to lay out the town and arrange for a sale of lots. The sale was held in August 1777. Washington was engaged in the Revolutionary War near Philadelphia.


8/25/77….George Washington Atlas….

Fielding Lewis secured lots 58 and 59 in new town of Bath at cost of 100 pounds 15 shillings Virginia. Deed of Trustees of Bath.

10/27/77….to Samuel Washington from Philadelphia…..

“I am very glad Colo Lewis purchased a lott or two for me at the Warm Springs, as it was always my intention to become a proprietor there if a town should be laid off at that place. Two lotts is not more than I wished to possess, but if he is altogether disappointed, and cannot be otherwise supplied, I will, under those circumstances, part with one of mine, of this you will inform him; and I shall not only depend upon, but thank and pay you cheerfully, for the improvements which are necessarily erected for the saving of the lotts. As I do not know what sort of buildings the Act of Assembly requires to save the lotts, I can give no directions about them; but, if I hold both lotts which I had rather do I would reserve the best spot for a tolerable convenient dwelling house to be built hereafter, and if a house which may (hereafter) serve for a kitchen, together with a stable, would be sufficient to save the lotts, they might be so placed as to appear uniform and clever, when the whole are finished, and in that case, content myself with building for the present, no more than the kitchen and stable.” PGW9:449.

The war over, Washington made a long trip to check on his lands in the west. Bath was one of the first stops on his way. Here he stayed with Martha in a newly opened lodging place — At the Liberty Pole and Flag. The place was owned by Mrs. Throgmorton, a distant relative of Washington’s. Another partner was James Rumsey, an inventor and builder who was living and working in Bath. At this time, George Washington was one of the most famous and respected men in America. The relationship Washington began with Rumsey on this trip continued for several years and included support for Rumsey’s inventions and hiring Rumsey both to build him a house in Bath and build locks on the river for his Potomac Company. It was not the smoothest of business relationships.


9/4/84….GWD …..

“having finished my business with my tenants (so far as partial payments could put a close to it) and provided a waggon for the transportation of my baggage to the Warm Springs to give relief to my horses, which from the extreme heat of the weather began to rub and gaul. I set out after dinner, and reached Captn. Stroads, a substantial farmer’s betwn Opecken Creek and Martinsburgh ….”


“Dispatched my waggn at day light; and at 7 o’clock followed it. — bated at one Snodgrasses, on Back Creek and dined there; about 3 o’clock pm we arrived at the Springs, or Town of Bath after travelling the whole day through a drizzling rain.”

Snodgrass’ still stands along SR9 just west of Hedgesville.


“Remained at Bath all day and was showed the model of a boat constructed by the ingenious Mr. Rumsey, for ascending rapid currents by mechanism; the principles of this were not only shown, and fully explained to me, but to my very great satisfaction, exhibited in practice in private under the injunction of secresy, untill he saw the effect of an application he was about to make to the Assembly of this State, for a reward.

“The model, and its operation upon the water, which has been made to run pretty swift, not only convinced me of what I before thought to be next to, if not quite impracticale, but that it might be turned to the greatest possible utility in inland navigation; and in rapid currents; that are shallow — and what adds vastly to the discovery, is the simplicity of its works; as they may be made by a common boat builder or carpenter, and kept in order as easy as a plow, or any common impliment of husbandry on a farm.”

“Having obtained a plan of this Town (Bath) and ascertained the situation of my lots therein, which I examined; it appears that the disposition of a dwelling house, kitchen and stable cannot be more advantageously placed than they are marked in the copy I have taken from the plan of the Town; to which I refer for recollection of my design; and Mr. Rumsey being willing to undertake those buildings, I have agreed with him to have them finished by the 10th of next July. The dwelling house is to be 36 feet by 24, with a gallery of 7 feet on each side of the house, the whole fronts, — under the house is to be a cellar half the size of it, walled with stone, and the whole underpinned. On the first floor are to be 3 rooms; one of them 24 by 20 feet, with a chimney at the end (middle thereof) the other two to be 12 by 16 feet with corner chimneys — upon the upper floor there are to be two rooms of equal sizes, with fireplaces; the staircase to go up in the gallery — galleries above also. The kitchen and stable are to be of the same size — 18 by 22; the first with a stone chimney and a good floor above. The stable is to be sunk in the ground so as that the floor above on the north, or side next the dwelling house, shall be level with the yard, to have a partition therein, the west part of which to be for a carriage, harness, and saddles — the east for hay or grain.”

9/7/1784….GWP …. Washington’s certificate to Rumsey.

“I have seen the model of Mr. Rumsey’s boats, constructed to work against the stream; examined the powers upon which it acts; been eye-witness to an actual experiment in running water of some rapidity, and give it as my opinion (although I had little faith before) that he has discovered the art of working boats by mechanism and small manual assistance against rapid currents; that the discovery is of vast importance, may be of the greatest usefulness in our inland navigation, and if it succeeds (of which I have no doubt) that the value of it is greatly enhanced by the simplicity of the works which, when seen and explained, may be executed by the most common mechanic. Given under my hand at the town of Bath, County of Berkeley, in the state of Virginia, this 7th day of September, 1784.”

Rumsey used Washington’s certificate above to obtain patents and support from various state legislatures. One of the motivations for the development of a Constitution for the United States was the need to establish a unified patent system so that inventors like Rumsey would no longer have to run from state to state.


“Set out about 7oclock with the Doctr, his son William, and my nephew Bushrod Washington, who were to make the tour with us. — About ten I parted with them at 15 Miles Creek, and recrossed the Potomack (having passed it abt. 3 miles from the Springs before) to a tract of mine on the Virginia side which I find exceedingly rich and covered with walnut of considerable size, many of them. I requested a Mr. McCracken at whose house I fed my horses, and got a snack, and whose land joins mine — to offer mine to any who might apply for 10 pounds the first year, 15 pounds the next, and 25 pounds the third — the tenant not to remove any of the walnut timber from off the land; or to split it into rails; as I should reserve that for my own use.”

“After having reviewed this land I again crossed the river and getting into the Waggon Road pursued my journey to the Old Town where I overtook my company and baggage — lodged at Colo. Cresaps….”

In his will, Washington mentions both pieces of property he owned in today’s Morgan County.


“Rumsey’s discovery of working boats against stream, by mechanical powers principally, may not only be considered as a fortunate invention for these states in general but as one of those circumstances which have combined to render the present epoche favorable above all others for securing (if we are disposed to avail ourselves of them) a large portion of the produce of the Western Settlements, and of the fur and peltry of the lakes also — the importance of which alone, if there were no political considerations in the way, is immense.”


Washington letter to Governor Harrison ….”not only a fortunate invention for these states but as one of the circumstances which have been combined to render the present epoch favorable above all others for securing (if we are disposed to avail ourselves of them) a large portion of the produce of the western settlements and of the fur and peltry of the lake also.”

10/19/84 GWP…Rumsey to Washington….

“I have been geting of Mr. Herbert a few coarse clothes for my workmen, and a few materials toward building and has taken the liberty to draw on you in his favour for forty pound currency payable at twenty days light. I thought it my duty to give you notice of it. The honor you did me at Bath by giveing me so ample a certificate I shall evermost gratefully acknowledge. It convists every person that see it and puts quite a new face on my scheme. I long to have the opertunity of convinceing those that remain unbelievers that you are not mistaken in your opinion.”


In the long letter that follows, Rumsey discusses two important parts of his relationship with Washington — the houses he was supposed to be building in Bath, and his boat inventions. This was the first time Rumsey wrote to Washington about his work on a boat using steam.

3/10/85….GWP…. Rumsey to Washington….

“Respecting your houses Sir, they will shorely be built agreeable to your directions, and would have been had I not have heard from you at all as I had spoke to a man before I went to Richmond that kept two or three workmen to build me the kitchens and stables of all the houses I had to build. My stay was so long that before I got home the loggs were all hewed the shingles got and are all on the spott ready for raising. I hope Sir you will not disaprove when I tell you of my proceedings respecting your big house, nor constry it into a desire of me to revive our old agreement, but I have it underway. The window, shutters, doors and sash are all made and most of the moaldings. Every inch of the stuff is sawed and I have agreed with a man to frame and raise it against the first day of May. I shall not call upon you nor draw any orders more for money nor do I desire that you should lend me any except you can spare it with the greatest convenance. And I now give you my word that I will not distress myself to finish it. If I find I cannot do it without, I will quit when I have it inclosed which I can do with but little more expence, and it will then be as secure against the weather as if it was done….”

“I have taken the greatest pains to perfect another kind of boat upon the principles I was mentioning to you at Richmond. I have the pleasure to inform you that I have brought it to the greatest perfection. It is true that it will cost sum more than the other way but when done is more manageable and can be worked by as few hands. The power is amence (immense) and I am quite convinced that boats of passage may be made to go against the current of the Mesisipia or Ohio River, or in the Gulf Stream from the Leeward to the Windward Islands, from sixty to one hundred miles per day. I know it will apear strange and improbeble and was I to say thus much to most people in this neighborhood, they would laugh at me and think me mad. But I can ashore you Sir, that I have ever been very cautious how I aserted anything that I was not very certain I could perform. Besides it is no phenomna, when known, but strictly agreeable to philosophy. The princeples of this last kind of boat, I am very cautious not to explain to any person, as it is easy performed and the method would come very nateral to a Rittenhosue, or an Eliot. The plann I mean to persue is to build the boat , with boath the powers on board on a large scale and then Sir, if you would be so good enough once more, the asemblys will alow me something clever which will be better for the public as well as my self, than to have the exclusive right. I am astonished that it is so hard to force an advantage on the public, admit it did make the fortune of one man.”

3/15/85…..GWW….Washington to Hugh Williamson …. responding to McMechen’s explanation of Rumsey’s boat;

“…Further than this I am not at liberty to explain myself; but if a model, or thing in miniature, is a just representation of a greater object in practice, there is no doubt of explanation, removed the principal doubt I ever had in my mind of the practicability of propelling against a stream by the aid of mechanical power; but as he wanted to avail himself of my introduction of it to the public attention, I chose previously to see the actual performance of the model in a descending stream before I passed my certificate; and having done so, all my doubts were satisfied….”

6/5/85….GWP ….Washington to Rumsey….

“Your letter of the 10th of March came safe, but not in a short time after the date of it. The reason which you have assigned for giving me an order on Mr. Ryan, is perfectly satisfactory. I wish that that or any other, expedient would have extracted from him what he owes you. From the accot. given of his circumstances and conduct I fear you have incurred a bad debt with the manager of the theatre.

As the large house you was to build for me was in such forwardness at the date of the above letter, and as you expected to have had it raised by the first of May last; I am very well satisfied with the advance it has made, and that it should continue, provided you can make it convenient to wait a while for your money; but I should be wanting in candor were I to give you assurances of speedy payment. The kitchen and stable I would gladly have finished as soon as possible and what ever the cost of them amounts to, I will settle for without delay.

It gives me much pleasure to find by your letter, that you are not less sanguine in your boat project than when I saw you in Richmond, and that you have made such further discoveries as will render them more extensively useful than was at first expected, you have my best wishes for the success of your plan.”

Inclosed are the proceedings of the Directors of the Potomac navigation. I pray you to have them set up at some public place. If the manager advertised for, can come well recommended, liberal wages will be given him. It were to be wished that the following qualities could be readily combined in the same person, integrity, abilities, indefatigable industry, and if he has not experimental knowledge of this particular kind of work, at least that he may be possessed of a genius which may soon fit him for it.”

In this remarkable letter from Rumsey, Washington is confronted with a series of disasters related to building his houses that will be familiar to contemporary owners working with contractors.

6/24/85…GWP….Rumsey to Washington….

“I had the honor of receiving your favour of the 5th Inst. with the inclosures and am happy to find that you excuse my imprudence respecting Mr. Ryans note. But the following account I fear will give you sum disapointment. The number of houses I undertok was four, yours included that was large. The stuff for the (w)hole was sawed but from the badness of the road, ocationed by so much rain the greatest part of it lay at the mill untill the beginning of April when unfortunately the sawmill took fire in the night and was not discovered untill next day by which time the mill was intirely consumed with a great part of the plank and scantling. This stroke put it intirely out of my power to proceed with your large house and not withstanding my outmost exertions at other mills to get the stuff necessary, it has put me so far back that I shall be under the disagreeable nesesaty of disapointing at least one of the three gentlemen that I have obligated with for the present season.

But I have prepared him a house should he insist on being furnished with one. I should have gave you this information much sooner but I saw your brother Col. John Washington at April Court and he said he would inform you of it as he went home. Perhaps he did not see you or multiplisity of business may have caused it to have slipped his memory. I have got my boat nearly done the machinery excepted. Inclosed I send a letter for you and the Directors of the Potomack Compny and if you please be kind anough to read it and have it dilivered or suppressed as you may think best. I can only add that should I have the honour of apointment I will exert myself to the outmost of my power to afect the business.

Your small houses are nearly done. The chimney, cellar &c will be very compleat. There will be sum money coming to me and I am sorry I am under the nesesity of requesting the favour of you to answer the first draft towards my share of the Potomack navigation.”

7/2/85 … GWP…Washington to Rumsey…no one showed up for Potomac Company job.

“As I have imbibed a very favorable opinion of your mechanical abilities, and have had no reason to distrust your fitness in other respects, — I took the liberty of mentioning your name to the Directors, and I dare say if you are disposed to offer your services, they would be attended to under favourable circumstances”

7/14/85 ….GWD …

“Agreed with Mr. James Rumsey to undertake the management of our works…” Potomac Company.

One of Rumsey’s chief rivals in the steamboat inventing business was a John Fitch. Their rivalry would continue for a number of years. As a prestigious supporter of Rumsey’s, Washington found himself in the middle of this conflict. His support was always for Rumsey.

11/4/85 ….GWD….

“in the evening a Mr. Jno Fitch came in, to propose a draft and model of a machine for promoting navigation by means of a steam(boat.)”


1/31/86…..Washington to Rumsey…

“If you have no cause to change your opinion respecting your mechanical boat, and reasons unknown to me do not exist to delay the exhibition of it, I would advise you to give it to the public as soon as it can be prepared conveniently. The postponment creates distrust in the public mind: it gives time also for the imagintion to work, and this is assisted by a little dropping from one and something from another to whom you have disclosed the secret. Should a mechanical genius, therefore, hit upon your plan or something similar to it, I need not add that it would place you in an awkward situation and perhaps disconcert all your prospects concerning this useful discovery. For you are not, with your experience in life, now to learn that the shoulders of the public are too broad to feel the weight of the complaints of an individual or to regard promises if they find it convenient and have the show of plausibility on their side, to retract them. I will inform you further that many people in guessing your plan have come very near the mark, and that one who had something of a similar nature to offer to the public, wanted a certificate from me that it was diferent from yours. I told him that, as I was not at liberty to declare what your plan was, so I did not think it proper to say what it was not. Whatever may be your determination after this hint, I have only to request that my sentiments on the subject may be ascribed to friendly motives and taken in good part.

I should be glad to know the exact state in which my houses in Bath are. I have fifty pounds ready for which you may draw on me at any time, and I will settle for the whole as soon as possible……..” GWP-F 28:375

2/3/86…..GWD….Rumsey visits Mt. Vernon. Stayed overnight.

Rumsey was employed by the Potomack Company scarcely a year. His departure did not damage Washington’s opinion and support of Rumsey’s invention.


“Mr. Rumsey having signified his disinclination to serve the company any longer for the pay and emoluments which had been allowed him, and the Directors not inclining to encrease them, they parted….”

In spite of Rumsey’s reassurances about Washington’s houses at Bath, firsthand observation raised serious questions.

8/25/86….letter from George Lewis to Washington / Bath VA.

“By the particular request of Dr. Lemare, I have examin’d your houses at this place, and from the discription which the Doctor sayes you gave him of them he is induced to think you have been impos’d on . This supposition prompts him to wish of me an accurate and impartial discription of them, in there present situation. On viewing the houses I find them to be two of logs 19 by 17 each, hew’d inside and out, in hight what they call here story and half, cover’d with long shingles, one of them floor’d above and below with a wall’d cellar, which the Doctor sayes was intended for a stable to contain nine horses; I think four might stand in it and no more; the other house has a floor above only, some stone under one end and side. The other logs lay on the ground; this house has a chimney but slightly built, and from appearances must certainly burn the house whenever there is a warm fire made in the harth. In short, the houses are esteem’d badly built, and of bad timber. The Doctor call’d in a workman to examine the work, who agreed in opinion that it was badly done.

I hope to have it in my power to pay you a visit with Mrs. Lewis the fall. She is at this place for her health, and has receiv’d considerable benifit from the trip, and flatters herself another season will be the means of establishing her halth. She joins me in love to my aunt and yourself.”

J.A. Washington added PS… “Doctor Lemare who is living in General Washington’s house at Bath, and much attached to his interest, conceiving the work not to be done properly and agreeable to bargain prevailed on Mr. G. Lewis to examine it, and has also requested me since to do the same, I find the work executed as our young friend has stated it.” PGW4:228-9

8/28/86 …from J LeMayeur in Bath…

“I should have wrote three weeks ago to your Excellency had not Mr. Rumsey deceived me in his departing from this place, probably he suspected my informing you of the situation of your building — which he has not done well — Colo Jno Washington and Mr. Georges Lewes agree with me in oppinion of Mr. Rumsey’s performance…..” PGW p231

11/30/86….Instructions to Tobias Lear from Mt. Vernon….

“When you are at Bath, enquire the way to a piece of land I have on the river, about 14 miles above the town in the way to Old Town; and see if it is in the occupation of anyone, and on what term they hold it. A Col. Brown at Bath or one McCrachen near the land will, I expect, be able to give you information on this head…” WGW/F 29:95


11/22/87 … GWP…Washington to Gov. Thomas Johnson… supports Rumsey over Fitch

“It is proper for me herewith to add, that some time after this Mr. Fitch called on me, in his way to Richmond, and explaining his scheme, wanted a letter from me introductory to the Assembly of this (Virginia) state, the giving of which I declined, and went so far as to inform him, that though I was enjoined not to disclose the principles of Mr. Rumsey’s discovery, yet I would venture to assure him, that the thought of applying steam was not original, but had been mentioned to me by Mr. Rumsey.”

12/17/87….GWP….Rumsey to Washington …

“Inclosed you have coppies of two Certificates of what the boat performed at sum tryals we have been making. I have a number more but as they are the same in substance I thought it not necessary to coppy them. We were under many disadvantages and should not have come forth publicly untill spring if it had not been for Mr. Fitches stealing a march on me in Virginia. I have sent down a number of certificates to the assembly of the first day’s performance. The second was not then made. I also inclose you a contract drew by Captain Bedinger between Mr. Fitch’s boat and mine. I met with Governor Johnson here. He toald me of a letter he wrote you respecting sum conversation that him and me had about my applying steam and spoke to him for to cast cylinders for me. He said that from what little he could gather on the subject, he suposed it quite another kind of a machine. I toald him that the modle which I showed to you was. He then said he thought I had used you. I toald him that I believed not, for that I had informed you of my intention to try steam. I can recollect no more that was said upon that subject, but it seems that Governor Johnson has taken up a wrong idea of the matter and supposed that I had informed you of my intention to apply steam at the time I obtained your certificate. Nor did I know untill now that he viewed my information in that light, nor did I ever conceive that I had gave you any information respecting it, only that I had such a thing in idea untill the letter that I wrote you on the 10th of march 1785. Nor did I before near about that time reduce it to any form suficiantly promising to determine me to make the tryal. I was then determined, as I wrote you as follows:

‘I have taken the greatest pains to perfect another kind of boat upon the principles I was mentioning to you at Richmond. I have the pleasure to inform you that I have brought it to the greatest perfection. It is true that it will cost sum more than the other way but when done is more manageable and can be worked by as few hands the power is amence (immense) and I am quite convinced that boats of passage may be made to go against the current of the Mesisipia or Ohio River, or in the Gulf Stream from the Leeward to the Windward Islands, from sixty to one hundred miles per day…..’

— this was certainly an information and was what I aluded to when I toald Governor Johnson that I had informed you of it, a little farther on in the same letter is the following paragraff:

‘The plan I intend to persue is to build the boat , with boath the powers on board on a large scale’ —

— as you did not make any objection to the plann proposed when you wrote me an answer to the letter, I considered myself at liberty to go on upon the steam pan conected with the other nor did I drop the idea of doing so untill long after I had the honor of seeing you last. But not being able to accomplish the building of an other boat and finding by the little experiment I made that one boat would not do alone, I was at a great loss to know how to act and if it had not been on account of your Certificate I would then nearly have quit it, being under so many embarrasments and nearly a new machine to be made before anything could be done as my new constructed boiler made such hot steam as to melt all the soft solder, and news coming frequently that Mr. Fitch would soon come forth. Add to this that the ice carryed away my boat and broke thirty feet out of her middle, a large family to suport, no business going on, in debted, and what little money I could rake together expended. A gentleman has since assisted me to whom I have mortgaged a few family negroes which must soon go if I do not raise the money for him before long. My present plan is so simple, cheap and powerfull that I think it would be wrong to attent the former plan. I would wish to say sumthing to the public about it, on your account but doubt my own abilityes to give that satisfaction I would wish. It has gave me much uneasiness especially as I have by a train of unforseen events so often appeared to you as a person acting inconsistantly and I can say in truth however unfortunate I have been in the attempt that my greatest ambition is and had been to deserve your esteem — I intend to go to Philadelphia before my return, and in January I will (if in my power) go to South Carolina and Georgia — Your letter to Governor Johnson prevented Mr. Fitch from getting an act here. You have Sir my sincerest thanks for the many favors you conferred on me …”


3/27/88….GWP….Rumsey to Washington…

“Tomorrow morning I throw myself upon the wide world in pursuit of my plans, being no longer able to proceed upon my own foundations. I shall bend my course for Philadelphia where I hope to have it in my power to convince a Franklin and Rittenhouse of their utility by actual experiment.”

5/15/88 ….GWP….Rumsey to Washington….

“When last I had the honor of writing to you, I was about setting out on a very uncertain expedition. I came to this place with an intention of establishing my prior right to the invention of the steamboat and have met with great oppozition from Mr. Fitch’s company who seem to stop at nothing to carry their point. By advice of several friends we attempted a negotiation of the matter and I was met several times by deputies from his company in the course of which I offered to make an equal join of the matter with them which they refused, when all negotiations ceased.

I laid the draft of several machines before the Philosophical Society expecting thereby to secure such inventions to myself. Among the drafts was my new invented boiler for generating steam. My papers was in possession of his excellency Dr. Franklin several days before the day of meeting. But on that day, three other drafts was handed in of boilers on the same principples of mine but varyed as little in form. Two of these was a Mr. Voight’s, a partner of Mr. Fitch’s, the other by a person of influence, a teacher in the college. I found who it was by axedent. Inclosed you have the report of a committee of the Philosophical Society on the above mentioned meshines. Also the proposals of a plan I published to form a company and the names of the persons that has subscribed to it. When this was known, Mr. Fitch’s party immediately sent a draft of the boiler to Europe, with letters and instructions to apply for a pattent for it. The gentlemen that formed my company was roused at such treatment and at the next meeting after the first formation of it, they subscribed 1000 dollars more for the express purpose of sending me to Europe and I am to set off in the morning. Dr. Franklin and a number of gentleman write letters by me to their friends in Europe. If you think Sir that you could with propriety mention me in a line the first opportunity to the Marquis La Fayette, Mr. Jefferson or any other gentlemen that you may think proper, the favor should always be gratefully remembered. Benjamin Vaughan Esqr, Jeffereys Square and Mr. Robert Barclay, Thrales Brewery, Southwark, London are to be two of my confidential friends. Docttr. Franklin is to name one or two more in his letters which I have not got yet but am to call on him in the evening for them.

PS If Mr. Hartshorne would give me credit for the boat and sum other small accounts that lie with him it would nearly pay what was collect for by the company before I came from home.”

7/28/88….in Letter Book Washington wrote permit to Robert Hanson Harrison:

“The bearer hereof, the Honorable Judge Harrison of Maryland, is hereby authorized to take possession of houses and lotts in Town of Bath in the County of Berkeley and to have free and uninterrupted use of them during his stay at that place. Whoever may have them in care or occupation is requested to surrender them accordingly.” WGW/F 30:25n

Washington was elected President of the United States in 1789 and served two terms until 1797.


8/91….George Augustine Washington visits Berkeley Springs.

He was ill. Stayed at least a month. His wife wrote to Martha Washington on 8/25:

“…..the Major was getting better.” (papers of Martha Washington)

George Washington mentioned his nephew’s unexpected indisposition and stay at Bath instead of overseeing Mt. Vernon in several letters explaining why Washington had to go back to Mt. Vernon before meeting of Congress. (G.A.W. died in 1793)

Although there is no indication in Washington’s papers that he had visited the springs since 1784, he never sold his land in the area and for some reason — perhaps a notion that he might visit again — his concern about the property is stimulated.


4/29/93….to Robert Lewis….

“I repeat my wish that you would attend to that small tract of mine of Potomac, about a dozen miles above the town of Bath, and to the lots which I have in that place…I request you will make particular enquiry into the condition of a lot which I have in that Town, and an out lot belonging to it in the common adjoining thereto and know if some advantage cannot be made of them.” WGW/F 32:439.


3/16/94 to Robert Lewis…..

“you have not informed me yet …of house conditions…in town of Winchester and Bath and my land above the latter.” WGW/F 33:295

5/18/94 to Robert Lewis….

“With respect to my lots in Bath, something ought to be done with them. The buildings thereon, together with the lots, stand me in at least 200 pounds: but whether common interest can be obtained in a rent for them, you, who know the state of things in that quarter can judge better of than I am able to do; and therefore I leave it to you, to act for me as you would for yourself. If they were even to let to some one who would keep the buildings in repair it would be more desireable by far than, without a tenant, or some person to take care of them, to suffer them to fall to ruin.

I do not know whether I clearly understand your proposition of an exchange of the land on Potomac for a lot in Berkeley County. The first contains 240 acres instead of 140, as mentioned in your letter; 200 of which is rich river bottom, which must, as the navigation of the river improves, become extremely valuable from the produce it is capable of; besides the fine black walnuts which grow thereon, and would fetch a good sum at the Federal City; if others can be restrained from pifering them…” WGW 33:370

8/10/94…. to Burges Ball from German Town….

“I am sorry to hear that your bad state of health requires the waters of Bath, but hope they will restore you.” WGW/F 33:462

8/31/94 ….to Robert Lewis….

“I am very well satisfied with what you have done with my property in Winchester, Bath and on Potomac River but wish you had mentioned the terms on which you had offered the latter, and whether there was no condition made with the tenant at Bath, that if I should want the house for myself, or a friend, during the season of resort to the waters, it was to be cleared and got in order for me or for such friend, without such reservation I might as well be without house. Nor do I recollect (not having your letters by me) whether you have, in any of them mentioned in what condition they are. They cost me 150 pounds cash to build them.” WGW/F 33/487.

In what may have been Washington’s final visit to Bath, he was traveling with his Secretary of the Treausury, Alexander Hamilton to deal with armed conflict in western Pennsylvania known as the Whiskey Rebellion.

10/14/94 GWD

….”we breakfasted at one — 13 miles on our way and crossing the Potomac a mile or two below Hancock Town, lodged at the Warm Springs , or Bath….”

10/15/94 GWD

….”Left Bath by seven oclock; and crossing the Cacapeton Mountain, and the Potomack River by a very rough road…”


There is no indication in any of Washington’s writings that he visited Bath in 1796 while he was still President. His comments about the current state of life at the springs is interesting and must have derived from reports others gave him since we have no record of him paying a sopcial visit after 1784.

7/16 Latrobe Journals on visit to Mount Vernon and conversation with Washington.

…..”the conversation turned upon Bath to which they were going. He said he had known the place when there was scarce a house upon it fit to sleep in. That the accommodations were he believed very good at present. He thought the best thing a family regularly visiting Bath could do, would be to build a house for their separate accommodation, the expence of which might be 200 pounds. He has himself a house there, which he supposes must be going to ruin. Independent of his public situation the encreased dissipation and frequency of visitors would be an objection to his visiting it again, unless the health of himself or family should render it necessary. At first THAT was the motive, he said, that induced people to encounter the badness of the roads and the inconvenience of the lodgings, but at present, few, he believed, in comparison to the whole number, had health in view. Even those whose object it was, were interrrupted in their quiet by the dissipation of the rest. This, he observed, must naturally be the case in every large collection of men, whose minds were not occupied by any pressing business or personal interest.”


2/11/98….to George Lewis from Mt. Vernon….

“With regard to my land above Bath, I am really at a loss what direction to give concerning it. To have the valuable walnut trees, with which it abounds, taken off by a parcel of lawless intruders, is extremely disagreeable (if they cannot be punished) on the one hand — and for the sake of obtaining a better rent, to engage to take them off myself, within a given period and that perhaps a short one, would be attended with great inconvenience, perhaps expence and loss, on the other. For unless I could get them to this place the cost of felling, preparing them for transportation, and attending them down the river would be a dead charge — and without the latter was done — that is to attend the logs down — I should not get one of them; of course all that preceeded would be lost. I see but two modes by which I can be benefitted by these logs; one to let some person occupy the land without paying rent, for the sole consideration of taking care of them. The other, if a good rent could be obtained, to oblige the tenant to deliver them to me — noting the quantity of the trees, at a certain price — to be allowed out of the rent. A third method indeed occurs, but it is one by which I should, apparently, get little for them — namely, to sell them on the spot: and yet, ultimately, if they would sell there for near their value, it might be the most productive mode of the three.

Under this dilemma, make the best investigation of the subject you can & act as shall seem most conducive to my interest. I am not inclined to give a lease for more than seven years and if the tenant is permitted to kill the walnuts by girdling the trees, I do not believe that the crops would sustain much injury by their standing. They would season in this manner, and a few years hence, when the navigation of the river is in a more improved state might be brought down with more ease and safety. Perhaps, upon the whole, this may be found the most eligible plan….” PGW p85.


7/9/99…..Washington will…..

“Bath — or Warm Springs. Two well situated, and had buildings to the amt of 150 pounds. The lots in Bath (two adjoining) cost me, to the best of my recollection, betwn. fifty and sixty pounds 20 years ago; and the buildings thereon 150 pounds more. Whether property there has increased or decreased in its value, and in what condition the houses are, I am ignorant but suppose they are not valued too high.”

“240 acrres on the Potomac River to the amt. of $3600…..This tract, though small, is extremely valuable. It lies on Potomac River about 12 miles above the Town of Bath (or Warm Springs) and is in the shape of a horse shoe — the river running almost around it. Two hundred acres of it is rich low grounds; with a great abundance of the largest and finest walnut trees; which, with the produce of the soil, might (by means of the improved navigation of the Potomac) be brought to a shipping port with ease, and at a smaller expense than that which is transported 30 miles only by land.”