Williamsburg, Virginia: 1774. Framed. This partially-printed parchment land grant measures approximately 12.5” x 14.5” and is complete with its hanging royal seal pendant. It attests that King George III does “Give, Grant and Confirm . . . a Tract of Land containing seven hundred and thirteen acres” in Pittsylvania County to Thomas Duncan and his heirs. It is boldly signed “Dunmore” (Lord Dunmore, John Murray, the last Royal Governor of Virginia). The document is in nice shape with some minor toning and light wear at the margins and along its original folds; there is a small (1/4”) hole in the center where the storage folds converge. The royal crown pendant is firmly attached. Archivally mounted inside an attractive 17” x 20” frame; it has not been examined outside of the frame. Very good. Item #009084
Lord Dunmore was originally appointed as the Governor of New York in 1770, but soon transferred to Virginia just as discontent with England began to reach a fever pitch. There, one of his first acts was to dissolve the House of Burgesses where revolutionary firebrands like Patrick Henry had begun to hold sway. He found his colony was also beset by Native American raids upon its western communities and the fear of a slave revolt. In 1775, after unsuccessfully preventing Virginia delegates from attending the Continental Congress, Patrick Henry gave his famous “Liberty or Death” speech in Richmond, and Dunmore recognized he would be unable to maintain control of Virginia despite the presence of British soldiers and the threat of martial law. On 20 April, after ordering marines and sailors from HMS Magdalen to seize the stores of the militia’s gunpowder held at Williamsburg, he fled, first to his coastal hunting lodge, Porto Bello, and from there to the HMS Fowey, lying at anchor in the York River. Once safely aboard the vessel, Dunmore, although a slave-owner himself, issued his famous proclamation offering freedom to any slaves who would desert their masters and take up arms as part of an Ethiopian Regiment. Approximately 800 slaves joined Dunmore’s force and along with a company of Tories he christened the Queen’s Own Loyal Virginia Regiment augmented the British 14th Regiment of Foot (the Prince of Wales’s Own). Dunmore’s force was soundly defeated at the Battle of Great Bridge (just south of Norfolk) by the colonial militia losing about one-quarter of the regulars and untold numbers of Ethiopians and Tories. The colonial militia suffered only one wound; a soldier injured his thumb. Before fleeing Virginia for good, in retaliation for his humiliating defeat, Dunmore used naval cannons and raiding parties to set fire to Norfolk, burning almost the entire city to the ground. Although the details regarding the arrival of the Duncan family in Virginia are sparse and often conflict, it appears that members originally settled in Dumfries, a town of Scottish immigrants located along the Potomac River near present-day Quantico about thirty miles south of present-day Washington, DC. At least six Duncans, including Thomas, moved west to settle in Culpeper County, and in 1774, Thomas was able to secure this land grant from fellow Scotsman, Lord Dunmore, for a tract of land along what is now the North Carolina border in central southwestern Virginia somewhere within what today are Patrick, Henry, and Pittsylvania Counties. In 1781, Thomas’s 17-year old son, Thomas Jr., joined William Dix’s Company of Militia and later fought with General Nathaniel Green’s army at Guilford Courthouse, where he was wounded in the arm. Shortly after Thomas Jr. returned home, his father was drafted for three months to serve in the Siege of Little York (Yorktown) against Lord Cornwallis. Thomas Jr once more volunteered and took his father’s place in John Winn’s Company of the Pittsylvania militia. Before departing for Yorktown, the company was first ordered to collect prisoners from Halifax Court House and transport them north to Winchester. While at Winchester, the company’s term of service expired just as Conwallis surrendered at Yorktown. (See Pension Application of Thomas Duncan W1577 in Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters.) After the war, Duncan returned to his family’s Pittsylvania lands. He was likely, as almost all Scots-Irish of the time, a Presbyterian, and like many Scots-Irish immigrants—along with Baptists and other dissenters—he was chaffed by the fact that the Vestry of the Anglican Church—a quasi-state institution—was empowered to sell glebes (church land granted by the state) and keep the profit. Even more galling, all Virginia citizens, regardless of their religion, were required to pay a significant tax levied by the Vestry which was used not just to support the poor, but to maintain Anglican Church properties and clergy. Opposition was strong in Pittsylvania, and Duncan was one of 311 county men who signed petitions delivered to Richmond demanding the Anglican religion be separated from the state and stripped of its special privileges. Their effort, no doubt, influenced Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as their Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, which struck down the taxation of citizens to support an established state church in Virginia, was passed in to law in 1786 and, in turn, used as the model for the First Amendment in the U. S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights. (See “The Pittsylvania Petitions Opposing Religious Assessment: Roots of Religious Freedom November 1785” in The Pittsylvania Packet, Summer 1997.) A very attractive land grant issued during the revolutionary intensity of the mid-1770s by the infamous loyalist Governor of Virginia to a family of colonial patriots. Quite scarce. As of 2018, nothing similar is in the trade. Only one similar partially-printed George III-Lord Dunmore land grant (condition unknown) is held by an institution, the College of William and Mary. Additionally a facsimile of a similar, but damaged, land grant is held by the History Museum of West Virginia. Per ABPC and the Rare Book Hub, one similar, but damaged, partially-printed land grant which was missing its hanging pendant was sold in 1971.