Mount Pleasant at 250 Years

In 1765, 250 years ago this month of May, Mount Pleasant was completed. Thomas Nevell, his journeymen and apprentices along with sub- contractors in other trades, were putting the finishing touches on the “plantation” that included a main house, two pavilions, a barn, a stable and carriage house, a smoke house, and a necessary. On May 10th, Nevell charged John Macpherson 8 shillings, his usual day rate, for “hanging 4 Luking glasis.”

looking glass

On May 18th Nevell and a young apprentice spent one day “putting up furniture” at Mount Pleasant and the same day Nevell charged Macpherson for “making the bottom for the organ case & fixing casters.”

organ case

At the end of the month, on May 29th, 1765, Nevell charged Macpherson £1.3.9 for measuring the completed interior plastering work done by John Bezer.

measuring plaster

The end of a large building project usually occurs over weeks or even months. Perhaps it is impossible to pinpoint the precise “day” a project of this scale ends. In addition to the choice of any of above dates as the “official” completion date of Mount Pleasant, we can add two others. The debits and credits to Macpherson in these entries in Nevell’s account book shed light on the both the full cost of the carpenter’s work and the compensation  Nevell ultimately received for his time and materials building Mount Pleasant. On July 24, 1765 Nevell debited John Macpherson £1084.1.7 “To All the Remainder of Carpenters work measured by Mr. Smith & Thornhill not here to fore charged.”

Carpenters work

What came next was…well, silence. Macpherson’s name does not appear in Nevell’s account book for almost a year and ten months. On April 28th 1767 Nevell credits John Macpherson £418.11.9 for cash received and £39.9.9 “By an Abatement on the general Acct.” According to Nevell’s records he was still owed £400 for the carpentry work at Mount Pleasant, money he never received. Macpherson would never again appear in Nevell’s account book for an obvious reason, Macpherson had stiffed Nevell for an amount equal to three years of his labor.

last payment

In May of 1765, it was spring in Philadelphia but the hot, humid summer would not be far behind. In the coming weeks John Macpherson, with his wife Margaret, their two sons, two daughters who were both born during the three years of construction, Margaret’s mother, and their servants and slaves, would escape the city and move to Mount Pleasant for the summer. Their looking glasses were installed, their furniture “put up” and repaired, but their debts were outstanding, never to be paid for in full.

Mount Pleasant

One thought on “Mount Pleasant at 250 Years

  1. So interesting, Chris. It sounds like a very familiar plight from the perspective of the contractor, craftsman, maker that time has only enforced. Coming from a family of one, the story of the “swindling” contractor is so often reinforced while that of the “swindled” or undervalued one remains ignored.

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