On Friday, October 31, 2008, over 100 guests attended the unveiling of the
original “Bill of Sale,” documenting George Washington’s purchase of the
Great Meadows in 1771, the site of the Battle of Fort Necessity. The
unveiling and reception at the Fort Necessity/National Road Interpretive
and Education Center acknowledged the generous donors who made this rare
document available to the public.
On this warm fall evening in the Laurel Highlands, it was easy to see why
Washington described the meadow as a “charming field for an encounter,”
and why he decided to purchase it. Several guests remarked how they
enjoyed touring the battlefield prior to the event, with the surrounding
blazing orange and red fall colors of the trees.
Dr. Theodore Crackel, editor of the George Washington Papers at the
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, spoke of the importance of
preserving a document like the Bill of Sale. Though not one of
Washington’s speeches or a famous letter, this simple piece of paper
records the transaction in which George Washington participated as a land
speculator in the 1770’s
In his remarks, Crackel, a decorated military veteran himself, honored the
memory of the 800 who fought in the battle and the thirty-three soldiers
who died in the Meadow. Dr. Crackel told those assembled how significant
it was that George Washington came back in the 1770’s to visit the site of
his first battle and his only military surrender in July 1754.
Returning to western Pennsylvania in October of 1770, Washington saw the
economic benefits of owning the Great Meadows because of its proximity to
Braddock’s Road. In deciding to purchase the battlefield, Washington
himself may have unknowingly preserved the site of the opening battle of
the French and Indian War. With his purchase, he kept it from development
until his death in 1799. We can only speculate if the purchase held
sentimental value to Washington.
After Crackel’s brief remarks, guests gathered around the 237 year old
original document. Many had never before seen a document once owned by
Among the attendees was Jeremy Elliot, the fifth-great grandson of
Lawrence Harrison, the original owner of Great Meadows who sold it to
In 2006, the Bill of Sale was purchased through a private collector with
funds provided by R.K. Mellon Foundation, Katherine Mabis McKenna
Foundation, Anonymous, Mr. Charles J. Queenan, Jr., Esq., Mr. Robert P.
Bozzone, and Mr. Charles A. Fagan III. The document was donated to the
National Park Service with the assistance of Ms. Laura Fisher, Director,
French and Indian War 250th. At the time of purchase, the document was in
the possession of Dr. Joseph E. Fields, of Williamsburg, Virginia. Dr.
Fields is the largest donor of Washington artifacts to Mount Vernon.
The unveiling kicked-off a full weekend of receptions, seminars, lectures,
talks and tours focusing on the 250th Anniversary of the French and Indian
War. Related events took place at Fort Necessity, Jumonville, and Fort
A facsimile of the document is now on permanent display in the Visitor
Center. Please visit our website at www.nps.gov/fone for more information
on Fort Necessity National Battlefield.