Martin Dawson (1772-1835) was the youngest of nine children of John and Sarah Carroll Dawson. He was born at the family home near Faber's Mills in Nelson County, not far from the Albemarle County line. When he came of age, he moved to Milton, in Albemarle County, and became connected with Brown, Rives, & Company. After amassing a considerable fortune, he moved his business from Milton to Scottsville. From 1808 until his death, Dawson was a county magistrate. He was also one of the first school commissioners in Albemarle County. He never married.
Dawson lived in Milton until 1822, when he purchased and moved into Bellair, the former home of Charles Wingfield, Jr., on the Hardware River near Carter's Bridge. In the late 1820s, he became president of the Rivanna Navigation Company, created by the Virginia General Assembly to develop a channel near where the Rivanna River meets the James.1 In his will, he freed his slaves and left them each $200 to start a new life. He also left a tract of land to the University of Virginia, and money for the foundation of three free public schools, two in Albemarle County and one in Nelson County. To do this, the money was transferred to the Literary Fund of Virginia, a constitutionally created fund to build public schools in the state.
Thomas Jefferson's relationship with Dawson was primarily financial. He was not Jefferson's chief supplier, but he did supply Jefferson with staples from time to time. Dawson also bought 256 acres of land from Jefferson below Milton in 1817, land that Jefferson had bought in 1801.2
1816 June 21. "Gave Roland Goodman ord. on Martin Dawson for 1. barrel fish 8½ D. 100. ℔ bacon @ 1/ 16.67 = 25.17. See post July 17."33
1816 July 17. "Roland Goodman informs me he made no use of the order on M. Dawson ante June 21. but instead of it got from James Leitch 100. ℔ bacon @ 1/3 on my acct."34
1817 July 20. "Recd. of Martin Dawson cash 1657.44 ... being the price of the lands I sold him below Milton."35
1818 April 1. "Gave to Charles Vest ord. on Martin Dawson for 87.43 the balance due from him to me for 256. as. of Henderson's tract of land sold him."36
1820 March 23. "[P]d. M. Dawson my note for Laporte 305.62."37
1820 April 13. "Accepted Edmund Meeks's ord. in favr. Martin Dawson for 166.67."38
1820 October 23. "Drew on B. Peyton in favr. Martin Dawson for 339.52 to wit."39
1820 October 27. "Accepted Edmd. Meeks' ord. in favr. Martin Dawson for 18.35 payable Jan. 1."40
1821 March 5. "Drew on him in favr. Martin Dawson 94.42."41
1822 June 12. "Martin Dawson store acct. 65.26."42
1822 September 4. "Drew on do. in favr. Martin Dawson for 49.54 the amt. of my acct. from Aug. 1. 21. to Aug. 5. 22 and including an assumpsit of 21.79 for Ewen Carden which charge to him accordingly."43
1822 October 16. "Accepted do. in favor Martin Dawson for 80. payable June 1."44
1823 March 21. "1823. Mar. statement of debts ... Dawson Martin (for E. Bacon) 80."45
1824 February 13. "Gave Martin Dawson ord. on Bern. Peyton for 120.73."46
1825 March 30. "Gave Martin Dawson ord. on Raphael 15.67 store acct."47
Jefferson-Dawson Correspondence. Transcriptions available at Founders Online.