INTRODUCTION The two transcribed letters below are found in the Prince Edward Chancery case Gdns. of Jacob Michaux vs. William Smith, 1788-001. The case has been scanned and is available through Virginia Memory.
The first letter is from William Tompkins, a London silk weaver with mercantile aspirations, and is written to Jacob Michaux, his wife’s cousin in Cumberland County, Virginia. (The part of Cumberland County in which Michaux lived became Powhatan County in 1777.) Tompkins’ wife was a member of the Michaux family, Huguenots who fled France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and settled in England and in Virginia. Tompkins lived in Spittlefield, an area of London with a high concentration of Huguenot weavers. His letter concerns family matters and a recent shipment of goods he made to Virginia. Unfortunately the shipment arrived a few days before the flood of 1771, one of the worst floods in eighteenth-century Virginia.
The second letter is Jacob Michaux’s reply to William Tompkins. Jacob Michaux, grandson of Abraham Michaux of the Manakin Town (Virginia) Huguenot settlement, was a planter and ran a ferry across the James River. Michaux’s letter describes in detail the flood of 1771, the loss of Tompkin’s goods, consumer tastes along the upper James River, and family matters.
Chris Kolbe, Archives Reference Coordinator