*Post written by Aaron Allen, student assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.
Most people would never think of Virginia as part of the United States’ western boundary; however, this was not always the case. Through much of the late eighteenth century, America’s early territories did not extend past the Mississippi River. Virginia, a state that today is only 42,775 square miles was more than twice that size between 1755 and 1792. Even after the formation of Maryland, Carolina, and Pennsylvania reduced, its size Virginia still had more than 100,000 square miles (Exploring land Settling Frontiers, 2016).
Records of ownership and receipts of sale of this vast land are currently preserved today. Inside of the Schlamp-Meyer Family collection at Rice Library, there are multiple land grants from the commonwealth of Virginia in 1786. Three of these documents in particular award. “tracts or parcels” of land to three different men. Three land grants are signed Patrick Henry, then governor of Virginia and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Patrick Henry is famous for his role in the American struggle for Independence, namely for his quote “Give me liberty or give me death”. He served as the first governor of Virginia and served two different terms (1776-1779; 1784-1786) (Meade, n.d.).
In 1786, America’s western border did not stretch past the Mississippi River. At the time, Virginia was comparable to Great Britain in land mass (Exploring land Settling Frontiers, 2016). Documents from the period make it possible to literally touch a tangible piece of our country’s past. Bearing the signature of a prominent early American political figure makes them even more significant.
The University Archives and Special Collection at Rice Library, Patrick Henry’s land grants from the Schlamp-Meyer Family Collection (MSS 157) is available for viewing online, 24/7. If you are interested in viewing these documents in person, feel free to come in during the archives’ normal business hours or set up an appointment.
Exploring land, settling frontiers (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.virginiaplaces.org/settleland/
Meade, R. D. (n.d.) Patrick Henry. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Patrick-Henry