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The Fry-Jefferson Map of Virginia

Joshua Fry, Peter Jefferson, and the Map

The Fry-Jefferson Map 1755
Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson, A Map of the most Inhabited part of Virginia.
Thomas Jefferys, engraver. London, 1755. State 3.
Engraving with outline color and watercolor.
The Library of Virginia.
    Prior to the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), surveyors were equal participants with large land companies, such as the Ohio Company and the Loyal Land Company, which owned huge tracts of land in areas west of the Allegheny Mountains. Many of those holdings encroached on territory claimed by the French. The Treaty of Utrecht that ended Queen Anne’s War (1713–1714) determined the boundaries of French and British claims to lands in North America. The territorial delimitations, however, were not specific and, as a result, the British and French had different interpretations of their mutual boundary. By 1750 the British were convinced that the treaty had failed and that the French were encroaching on British territory. Possessing few detailed maps of North America, the Board of Trade and Plantations in London determined that a more accurate map of the colony was needed.

When the Board of Trade and Plantations requested information concerning activities on the frontier, Lewis Burwell, acting governor of Virginia, commissioned Colonel Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson to prepare a map of the colony. Fry and Jefferson were experienced surveyors who had worked together in determining the Fairfax Line in 1746 and who also had served as joint commissioners to extend the western portion of the boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina in 1749. They worked also as surveyors for Albemarle County, a recently created county in Virginia’s Piedmont region.

The pressure to produce the map compelled Fry and Jefferson to rely on their own surveys and experiences to supplement existing published maps, manuscript maps, and field notes. In 1751 Fry and Jefferson delivered a draft to Burwell, who then forwarded it to the Board. Fry and Jefferson’s published map dominated cartographic representations of Virginia until the publication of Bishop James Madison’s map in 1807. In their map, Fry and Jefferson included their completed border survey for the western bounds of the Northern Neck and of part of the dividing line between Virginia and North Carolina. For the first time the entire Virginia river system was properly delineated, and the northeast-southwest orientation of the Appalachian Mountains was fully displayed, although John Lederer had suggested that alignment, even without the benefit of surveys, as early as 1672.

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