Complaint, 11 May 1801, of Eskridge v. Gerry

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Page one from a bill of complaint in the chancery case of Eskridge against Gerry, c. 1801. Private collection.

From May 11, 1801, this manuscript (with the judgment and signature of George Wythe on the reverse) is a bill of complaint from the plaintiff in the case of Eskridge against Gerry, in the High Court of Chancery in Virginia.[1]

Hugh Holmes (1768 – 1825) writes for the plaintiff, William Eskridge, asking for an injunction in a case brought by one Loyd Gerry. Hughes complains that a title bond for ownership of 211 acres in Hampshire County (in what is now West Virginia), was not returned to his client by the defendant from a contract made years earlier (in 1785 or 1786, involving another tract of 405 acres), and asks that receipts or other evidence be produced before proceeding. Holmes would later be elected judge of the Virginia General Court, in 1805.[2] Eskridge is likely the father of William S. Eskridge, later Clerk of the Superior Court of Chancery in Staunton, Virginia, under Judge John Brown (1762 – 1826).[3]

Statements made by Eskridge are attested to by one Dr. Cornelius Baldwin, justice of the peace for Frederick County, Virginia. Baldwin was formerly a surgeon for 8th Virginia Regiment during the Revolutionary War.[4]

Wythe wrote his judgment on the second page, simply as: "The injunction is awarded on usual terms 18 of May 1801." By this time, Wythe was suffering from gout or rheumatism in his dominant right hand, and was writing with his left.[5]

Manuscript text, 11 May 1801

Page 1

To the Honble George Wythe Chancellor of Virginia respectfully complaining Sheweth unto your honor his orator William Eskridge

That some time in or about the year 1785 or 1786 a certain Loyd Gerry Df.t herein after named bargained with your Orator for a certain tract of land lying in Hampshire County on North River containing four hundred & five acres for the sum of one hundred and twenty pounds Virgin.a Cur.y whereof your Orator then rec.d the sum of £35 or £40 or there abouts and afterwards about the year 1787 received a further sum of £15.            and your orator further sheweth about the year 1788 the Df.t came to your Orator and told him that he had been disappointed in procuring one Edmund Wayman to join him in the purchase of said 405 acres of land and consequently was unable to perform the contract by paying the balance. Your Orator then told him that he held a patent for 211 acres lying on the Waters of Cabbin run in Hampshire County            and that he would agree to convey that land instead of the 405 acres to the Df.t and he might go and look at it first. This 211 acres was valued at the sum already paid your Orator accordingly your Orator passed a bond for the Conveyance of said 211 acres to said Df.t, gave him the patent and he went to Hampshire to view the land returned in some short time & said he did not like it and returned the patent, but your Orator thro neglect forgot to demand the said title bond. Your Orator then observed to Df.t that as he was a poor man, as he had paid your Orator about £50, and as he could not procure Wayman to join him in the purchase he, your Orator would convey unto Df.t the 405 acres upon the paym.t of £10 and your Orator & Wife did convey said 405 acres pursuant to contract and that Df.t was present when the conveyance was executed. But not so it is the said Df.t hath after an acquiescence of six or seven years brought a suit upon the bond of conveyance for 211 acres as afores.d which ought to have been delivered up to your Orator and recovered a Judg.t law in the county court of FredR where your Orator could not unfold the ease in evidence as in

Page 2

Page two from a complaint in the case of Eskridge v. Gerry, c. 1801. Private collection.

this court he will be enabled to do. To the end therefore that the Df.t may answer the promises upon Oaths and particularly how many receipts did your Orator pass for monies? Where are those receipts? If they are pretended to be lost? by what accident and what was their tenor? did they not specify that so much money was paid towards the 405 acre tract? And the Df.t may be compelled to produce those receipts and enjoined from all further proceedings at Law until the matter can be heard in equity & that he may have such other relief as unto the Court may seem Meet.

May it please &c
Holmes P.L.

FredR Co. [?]

William Eskridge made Oath before me a justice of the peace for the said county that the facts stated in this bill of Complaint are true as far as they come within his knowledge and those stated from the information of others he believes to be true. Witness my hand this 11th day of May 1801. Baldwin

The injunction is awarded on usual terms 18 of may 1801,

G. Wythe.

Detail of Wythe's judgment in the case, and signature (writing with his left hand), May 18, 1801. Private collection.

See also


  1. Manuscript in a private collection.
  2. See biographical note to "To Thomas Jefferson from Hugh Holmes, 17 December 1801," Founders Online, National Archives.
  3. See note to "Thomas Jefferson to Chapman Johnson and John H. Peyton, 9 June 1819," Founders Online, National Archives. Both Eskridges (as well as Hugh Holmes and Cornelius Baldwin) appear in a 1796 "Pension Application of William Eskridge," Southern Campaigns Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters, accessed April 14, 2021. For a sketch of Judge John Brown's life, see Thomas D. Ranson, "Judge John Brown," Washington and Lee Historical Papers, No. 4 (Baltimore: John Murphy, 1893), 176-179.
  4. Lt. Col. Louis C. Duncan, Medical Men in the American Revolution, 1775-1783, Army Medical Bulletin, no. 25 (Carlisle, PA: 1931), 381.
  5. "After the seventh decade of my years began I learned to write with the left hand...." See Wythe's letter to Thomas Jefferson, April 10, 1800.

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