[Washington Family Estate Settlement: Armistead v. Armistead and Armistead v. Dandrige].
Legal papers on 18th and 19th century lawsuits involving the family of Martha Washington
Manuscript group primarily concerned with the case of Armistead v. Dandridge, a drawn out Virginia lawsuit with roots in the eighteenth century. Much information on various estate administrations is discussed (one line noting “sundry slaves & some bonds”) which came to the hands of one William Dandridge.
Several members of Martha née Dandridge Custis Washington’s extended Dandridge family are mentioned, including her nephew Burwell Bassett, Jr. (1764–1841), the son of Martha’s sister, Anna Maria.
The foundation of the case was originally Armistead v. Armistead. Seen here is the first memorandum; four folio pages of legal notes on this case, possibly compiled as a memorandum in the 1830s, that indicate that it was the “old suit, Foundation of ‘Armistead vs. Dandridge.’” These four pages refer to transactions or legal proceedings from 1784 to 1822. Names seen here include William Armistead, Bartholomew D. Armistead, Wm. Dandridge, and Bart. Dandridge.
The William Armistead whose name appears here in the Armistead v. Armistead notes for 1786 appears to have been a co-defendant, with one John Dandridge, in a separate lawsuit with George Washington concerning property and enslaved African Americans inherited by Martha Washington.¹
Accompanying these legal notes are two similar memoranda containing legal notes. The first memorandum comprises notes on Armistead v. Dandridge from 1826 to 1836 and mentions Bartholomew Dandridge, William Dandridge, and Burwel Bassett. (This has an 1843 note, serving as a “cover letter”), from John M. Gregory, transmitting the case notes to attorney George W. Southall of Williamsburg, Virginia.) The second memorandum — which has been completely crossed out with curlicues (though it remains entirely legible) — comprises notes of case-related events in 1826; docketing on the verso includes the date 1845.
Also included is a manuscript copy of an 1837 affidavit sworn to by Burwell Bassett, the nephew of Martha Washington. The affadavit refers to Bassett as a defendant in the case of Armistead v. Dandridge and mentions his having “retained Mr. Geo. W. Southall, as Counsel, to defend him in the said suit.”
Rounding out the manuscript group is a two-page letter of opinion from attorney G.W. Southall (likely George Washington Southall) addressed to Benjamin Watkins Leigh (1781-1849), (seen without an opening salutation). Appended to Southall’s letter, on the same bifolium, is Leigh’s reply, written from Richmond, a separate opinion on the matter.
Leigh was a Richmond lawyer and politician who rose to Virginia’s House of Delegates and then as a United States Senator. Southall appears to be named within the finding aid of William and Mary’s Southall Papers, 1807-1904.
Description: [Washington Family Estate Settlement: Armistead v. Armistead and Armistead v. Dandrige].
[Virginia, c.1830s–1840s]. [13¼] manuscript pages. 6 Items: 1 Autograph Note Signed. 1 Autograph Letter Signed. 3 Legal Memorandums. 1 Affidavit. Folios and bifoliums. Folds; short closed tears and minor losses, some stains, not affecting text; overall, very good.
Note. 1. From George Washington to Burwell Bassett, Jr., 3 February 1788 [National Archives] accessed online.