Transcription of 1811 Letter from James Ware II in KY to his son, James Ware III, in Virginia by: Judy C. Ware

1811 Letter from James Ware II in Kentucky to His Son, James Ware III,  in Virginia
Transcription © Judy C. Ware    2009

On outside of folded letter

Mr. James Ware

Frederick County,  Battletown (would one day become Clarke County, Va.)


Postmark – Lexington

June 25      Kentucky

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

This letter has had some letters or words added (in italics) for clarification.  I have also included details & researched background information at the end in an effort to provide  further insights.    Judy Ware


David’s Fork

Fayette County

June 16th 1811

Dear James,

We got safe home to this place in sixteen days; all are well.   The horses held out well & the colt performed well.  I have them now in Charles Ware’s stables; up to their eyes in the best of feed etc.  We had a very good time, the roads were good and fine weather.

I should have written sooner but I got George Ware to go down to Shelby to see the sheriff so as I write, I can give you some account of the business you know about. He returned 2 or 3 days ago and says the sheriff has collected between 3 & 4 thousand dollars which he has now in his hands & is ready to pay it when called for, but he says you ought to get from Mr. Joseph Tidball the name of who it is that he is to pay this money to as the execution is in his name.  You can get from under his hand and have it certified from the clerk of the county and send it out; then you can draw that money.  He says that he expects to receive seven or eight thousand dollars (including what he has already got) in the course of this next month.  Then he says he will try at the Mansion House and large track.  He says he is afraid to try that until he has collected this sum now due.  He thinks the — of Lynchburg will pay the balance rather than risk that land to be executed, but he says he will cash it in all events as soon as he makes this collection.

We have the finest prospect just now for a crop that I most ever have seen.  All is fine but flax.  It was dry a month or two ago, which damaged flax.  Your buzzard colt here is fine & very large – upwards of fifteen hands high & I think the longest (?) that I have ever seen; young or old.  She is not halter broke yet.  I intend to do it soon when the weather is not too hot.  Charles was sick, he says, last fall or he would have had it done.

The sheriff from Shelby told George that he would write you the next day; it’s very likely you have gotten his letter before this one.  Charles Ware has written you.  Isaac Webb has got no money of Charles Webb’s estate in cash in his hand.  He takes bond for the hire of Negroes and never asks them for the money; just lets the notes go on interest.  Thompson Scott was married to Winny Webb the 12th of the month.

I have got a large young horse here, 2 years old this spring.  He’s nearly 15 hands high now and will make a fine wagon horse in a year or two more.  You may have him if you want.  Charles Ware has got one that is 3 years past that age and nearly 16 hands high.  He will fit a wagon to a tea.  He intends to send him to you if he has an opportunity.  Charles Ware made almost 3 tons of hemp last year and has sold it to John Belcherson for $7. – and weight 12 months he owes him a hundred – – 10 pounds.

Hemp now is $6.  Charles has got the greatest prospect this year.  He will make, I suppose, 4 or 5 tons of it, if it comes in well.  His corn is also very fine.  He will make, I think, 5 ht. barrels of it off of 40 acres.   Wheat is very good    though he has not more than 12 acres.

I want to hear who purchased the mill.  We stopped at Washington H & stayed two nights & a day.  We got there late in the evening.   I sent the letter directly to Mr. Taylor & word that we would breakfast with him the next morning.  We intended going on, but it was very hot & Mrs. Taylor persuaded us to stay.  We all went up to Thomas Marshal’s & dined with him & was very agreeably entertained.  Mrs. Taylor talked of going in next spring but she will let me know this summer.  It cost us 5 dollars there & we neither ate nor drank at the Public House; but the first night we had supper.  Betsy Scott was with us.  This trip has cost me sixty- two dollars.

Remember me to (your wife) Harriet & the children.

I am

James Ware


James III was the only child of his father who did not settle permanently in Kentucky.   His first wife, Elizabeth Alexander, passed away in 1806 and two years later, James married Harriet Milton Taylor.  They also stayed in Virginia.


“I have them now in Charles Wares stables; up to their eyes in the best of feed etc.”

When James II & Caty Ware moved from Virginia to Kentucky with their family in 1791, Charles was only 16 years old.  He obviously stayed with his parents for about two years and then went back to Virginia to live with his older brother, James III, for a while.  He mentioned in a letter to his niece that“I did not go to live with him (James) until the fall of 1793.  We then continued together almost until I married in 1803.” By the time of this letter, Charles was 36 years old and had been married for 8 years.  He, obviously, was doing well with his land and crops.

“I got George Ware to go down to Shelby to see the sheriff so as I write, I can give you some account of the business you know.”

There are several times that “Shelby” is mentioned in some family letters.  It refers to a section of land that rests between Lexington and Louisville; considered the heart of Bluegrass country.  When James lived in Kentucky before returning to Virginia, he“engaged with a Mr. Johnston, the clerk of Jefferson County, and wrote in his office until he became fully acquainted with the business.” Then “through the friendship of General Daniel Morgan, he obtained an introduction to General S. Smith of Baltimore, whence he commenced merchandizing in Louisville and continued this business until 1795. . . in which he made the beginning of his fortune.” It would seem that he may have still had some dealings with people in Shelby after moving back to Virginia, and his family (including brothers George and Charles) were helping him handle things on that end since he no longer lived there.

“Thompson Scott was married to Winny Webb the 12th of the month.”

Winny Webb was one of James III’s cousins by his Aunt Lucy and Uncle Isaac Webb.  The man she married was known as Thompson, but his full name was Matthew Thompson Scott. They eventually had 14 children together before Winny died during the cholera epidemic of 1833.

“I want to hear who purchased the mill.”

Possibly refers to Ware’s Mill in Frederick County, Virginia.  The mill was the property of James III.

We all went up to Thomas Marshall’s & dined with him & was very agreeably entertained.

Col. Thomas Marshall was the father of Chief Justice John Marshall.  He and his wife “came to Kentucky and located in Woodford County in or about 1782.” (ref. 1024) He built his estate, named Buck Pond within a few miles of Versailles.  Col. Marshall served in the Revolutionary War, first as a commander of the 3rd Virginia Regiment, Continental Line.  Afterwards, he commanded a regiment of Virginia artillery.  “In his native home of Virginia he was both a neighbor and a close friend of George Washington.” (ref. 1024)

Col. Marshall and his family came to Kentucky by way of the Ohio River, just as James Ware II did in 1796.  He and his wife had 15 children, and although he went to live with one of his daughters in his later years, he returned to Woodford County in 1803 where he died at Buck Pond. (ref. 1024)

Brief explanation of the crop Flax




This plant, from which linen is derived, never rivaled tobacco as a cash crop in the Chesapeake area, but most farmers and plantation owners grew small amounts well into the 1800’s for their own use.  Flax is an annual which grows two to three feet high on a slim, little-branching stem. It is this woody stalk, hollow when dried, which is harvested and ultimately manufactured into linen.  Additional properties of flax make it a desirable finished product, and even the seeds can be harvested and made into linseed oil (used in wood treatments.)

Brief explanation of the crop Hemp –



Hemp is the tough, coarse fiber of the cannabis plant, often used to make rope.It isthe oldest cultivated fiber plant in the world. It contains no toxins as it does not require pesticides.

The first Gutenberg bible was printed on hemp paper.

Christopher Columbus’ sails and ropes were made from hemp.

The first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were printed on hemp paper.

Hemp demands a rich, well-drained soil such as is found in the Blue Grass region of Kentucky or in central Wisconsin. It must be loose and rich in organic matter. Soil that will grow good corn will usually grow hemp.  There is much history about spinning American hemp into rope, yarn or twine in the old Kentucky River mill at Frankfort, Kentucky.  During the first third of the nineteenth century most of the rope made in Kentucky was spun and twisted by hand and by the use of horse power at one end of the walk.

The following was written in THE LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER by Dick Burdette (written on March 20, 2000)
VERSAILLES, Ky. – Near the east edge of town, along U.S. 60 at Payne’s Mill Road, there’s a bronze marker commemorating the important role hemp once played in Kentucky agriculture. It isn’t unique. There are similar signs in Boyle, Fayette, Franklin, Jessamine, Madison, Mason, Scott, Shelby and Clark counties.
Because of its rich soil and mild, ideal climate, “Woodford County was the hemp seedbed of Kentucky,” Gifford said. “Hemp seed from here was shipped all over the country.”  In another article written in the THE WOODFORD SUN (Versailles, Kentucky) June 10, 1999 by Stephen Peterson, it is stated that “at one time, Woodford County produced more hemp seed than any other single location in the United States.” In the past, hemp was the source of a vast array of products from oil to textiles to foodstuffs.


Letter from Charles Ware to his niece Sarah (Sally) Elizabeth Taliaferro Ware Stribling  in 1831.  Transcribed and researched by Judy C. Ware  April 2009

The Proceedings of the Clarke County Historical Association Volume XXIII 1983-1984 copyright 1985 by the Clarke County Historical Association – printed by Commercial Press, Stephens City, Virginia 22655

Transcription of Letter from James Ware to his son, James (written from David’s Fork) – Nov. 4, 1812   Transcribed letter and background information supplied by Judy C. Ware  March 2009  Original letter provided by Cornelia Ware Anker in 1945.

Information on all of James Ware’s family that settled in Kentucky – provided by the Hayes Presidential Center.

The World Book Encyclopedias by: Field Enterprises, Inc. Copyright 1954

The Ware Family Bible – This is kept in my home and has dates and names recorded in it that date back to the 1700’s.

VIRGINIA GENEALOGIES: A Genealogy of the Glassell Family of Scotland and Virginia by: Rev. Horace Edwin Hayden, M. A.  Printed in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 18

History of Woodford County written by William E. Railey published in 1938 from a series of articles which appeared the The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society from 1920-1929, The Thoroughbred Press, Lexington, Kentucky.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By submitting a comment here you grant this site a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution.