In 1999, Mount Vernon had the good fortune to acquire a manuscript entitled "List of Workmen Employed at the great falls by the Potomack Company under Richardson Stuart [Stewart] from the 11 th of April last up to the 12th of May 1787, and Certified by the Subscribing Overseers."
This fascinating document illustrates in microcosm the basic organization of the company during the time of its existence. The 25inch long payroll lists the names and wages of 53 workers--including five overseers, two blacksmiths, a cook, one carpenter, and 44 laborers--during a 30-day period in the spring of 1787.
A ranking by skill and management level is indicated: the overseers earned the most, followed by the skilled carpenter and blacksmiths, and finally by the laborers. Although the overwhelming majority on the project were men, it is interesting to find the name of Mary Tuinch, the lone cook for the group. (A laborer named George Tuinch was probably related to Mary.) This wage tally was written by Richardson Stewart, manager, and verified by James Smith, assistant manager, and by the five overseers.
On the reverse Stewart notes receipt of the last portion of the payroll from William Hartshorne, company treasurer. The document is signed and approved by George Washington, president of the company until 1789, and two of the company's four directors, George Gilpin and John Fitzgerald.
Throughout the life of the project, bad weather, labor problems, and mounting expenses plagued the operation, and tensions and jealousies occurred among the field managers. In July 1785, when no applicants applied for the job as superintendent to initiate and oversee the fieldwork, George Washington offered the position to James Rumsey. Washington had witnessed Rumsey's demonstration of a mechanical boat propelled by poles and had learned of his ideas for developing a steamboat, both promising inventions for navigating upstream. Richardson Stewart was chosen assistant manager to Rumsey, and later James Smith was appointed as another assistant manager.
Rumsey held his position for less than a year, resigning in July 1786 because of poor pay, difficulties in managing the workers, and his desire to further his experiments. He made a formal complaint against Stewart, which included "want of truth and candor, disobedience of his orders, misrepresentations to the board, [and] interfering with the overseer's men .... "The board dismissed these charges and Stewart was appointed as Rumsey's replacement. By June of 1788, however, charges were once more brought against Stewart, who was this time relieved of his position, and James Smith was promoted to manager of the project.