Loyal Company Grant. July 12, 1749.

In 1749 a number of prominent Virginia adventurers established the Loyal Company with the purpose of petitioning for a large grant of land west of the Allegheny Mountains. Charter members of the company included Peter Jefferson, Joshua Fry, Thomas Walker, James Maury, and Thomas Meriwether (Meriwether Lewis’s grandfather). In 1749 the company received a patent for 800,000 acres located along the southern border of Virginia (now southeastern Kentucky). The grant contained a provision that required settlement of the land within four years. The Loyal Company twice secured a renewal of the grant. In 1763, however, the crown rejected further extension of the grant as part of the ban on western settlements that accompanied the Proclamation of 1763. Nevertheless, by this time the Loyal Company had completed many surveys of its land patent and the company’s land claims were later upheld. Legal activities involving the company continued until 1842.

A short time after the founding of the Loyal Company, the Reverend James Maury (1717-1769) read Joshua Fry’s copy of Daniel Coxe’s A Description of the English Province of Carolana (London, 1722) that espoused symmetrical geography (see Item 12). Maury was minister of the Fredericksville Parish from 1751 until 1769 and an enthusiastic student of the geography of North America. The Coxe book described a powerful Missouri River flowing into the Mississippi and providing an easy route to the Pacific Ocean. This “passage” to the West aroused the enthusiasm of Maury and other members of the Loyal Company, many of whom served on the Fredericksville Parish vestry board.

In 1753 the Loyal Company acted on its enthusiasm for the West by planning an expedition up the Missouri River and to the Pacific Ocean. Thomas Walker was to lead the expedition but the adventure never took place because the French and Indian War intervened. It is likely that Thomas Jefferson, who was ten years old at the time, heard about this expedition from his father and from James Maury, who tutored him for two years. Meriwether Lewis also may have heard about this expedition from his family connections or from his tutor, James Maury’s son, Matthew.

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