The letter will find a new home at the University of Houston
Earlier this year, The Raab Collection offered for sale a newly discovered, unpublished George Washington letter. Found in a small private collection in rural West Virginia, the 1787 letter was addressed to Israel Shreve (1739-1799), a retired colonel who had served with him at Valley Forge.
Shreve had expressed interest in buying some land in western Pennsylvania from Washington, and since Washington was strapped for funds at the time, he was eager to sell. “The land you mention is for sale, & I wish it was convenient for me to accommodate you with it for military certificates; but to raise money is the only inducement I have to sell it,” Washington wrote.
The letter received international media attention, which is how some descendants of Col. Shreve came to hear of it. (They have graciously agreed to let us share this story here.) As one descendant recalled, her great-niece had read one of the articles online and texted her a link with the note, “I thought you’d like this.” When she read the article a few hours later, she was “blown away” and contacted The Raab Collection.
“We were very excited about this letter, that it came out of the blue,” she told us.
She purchased the letter and intends to donate it to the University of Houston, which holds a large collection of Shreve’s Revolutionary War-era correspondence, including letters from Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and others. In the 1960s, the Shreve heirs donated a selection of papers that had long been safeguarded by the family. Those papers went on exhibit and are memorialized in a printed exhibition catalog.
In keeping with her family’s legacy of charitable giving, the buyer said she felt glad that she could act as a “conduit” and add this letter to that collection. “Part of the joy of this story is that a descendant was able to buy it. I am so grateful. I am thrilled to have this letter, and I know U of H is going to be thrilled to have this letter.”
Incidentally, she has also enjoyed showing the historical document to her extended family and friends. “It gave them the chance to see something that, I mean, we all know George Washington, and it is something special.”