William Douglas Meriwether (d. 1845) was a miller, a land speculator, a director of the Rivanna Navigation Company, a county magistrate for fifty years, and the Albemarle county sheriff in 1801 and 1828-1830. His mill produced wool, cotton, flour, and timber.1 He was cousin to Meriwether Lewis and, after Lewis's death in 1809, Meriwether settled his affairs.
He married Elizabeth, a daughter of Nicholas Lewis, and the couple's children were William H., Charles J., Mary, Margaret D., and Thomas. Through his wife, he inherited part of "The Farm," Lewis's estate near Charlottesville. In 1825, he sold that land to University of Virginia professor John A.G. Davis. Meriwether lived at Cloverfields, just down the road from Edgehill. The Meriwether house no longer exists on the property.
Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether discussed the trading of agricultural items, including peaches, apricots, and pecans. Meriwether also felt comfortable asking Jefferson for a bottle of port wine in order to treat an ill son,2 as well as able to recommend Jefferson's art collection to a visiting artist.3 By 1816, Jefferson turned over all affairs with Meriwether to Thomas Jefferson Randolph and the two friends never wrote again. The estrangement may have occurred because Meriwether was opposed to the development of Jefferson's mills on the Rivanna River and, subsequently, because of Jefferson's lawsuit against the Rivanna Navigation Company. The lawsuit involved title and responsibility for the canal and locks at Jefferson's Shadwell mills.4
Primary Source References
1804 April 10. "Planted in the orchard below the garden black soft peaches of Georgia from W Mer."5
1809 April 10. "Planted in the Nursery next below the little grass terras, in a bed ranging with the upper strawberry bed, 68. peach stones [W. Meriwether's Georgia black. unknown, but suppos'd good because saved]."6
1809 December 6. "W.D. Meriwether for lambs 12.D."7
1811 August 3. "Pd. Wm. D. Meriwether 26. ewes 12. ewe lambs 5. weather lambs = 43 @2D. 86. owe him for 3. lambs before rcd. @10/ 5/ payable 90. days from this time 91.D."8
1811 November 13. "Paid Wm. D. Meriwether for sheep 91.D. ante Aug. 3."9
1813 October 7. "Pd. at W.D. Meriwether's machine for carding cotton & wool 7.67."10
1816 March 14. (Jefferson to Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge). "We had scarcely wished Jefferson joy of his daughter when we recieved the news of the death of Mrs. Judy Randolph. Have they told you that our neighbor Mr. Sthreshly has sold out to Capt. Meriwether thus giving us a double subject of regret?"11
1817 March 4. "Pd. for carding wool at W. Meriwether's 1.67."12
Jefferson to Meriwether, November 24, 1807. Polygraph copy at Massachusetts Historical Society. Transcription available at Founders Online.