• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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            Richd. Lee of a good Family in Shropshire, & whose Picture I am told, is now at Cotton, near Bridgenorth, the Seat of Lancelot Lee Esqr. some time in the Reign of Charles the 1st, went over to the Colony of Virginia; as Secretary, & One of the Kings Privy Council; which last Post will for Shortness, hereafter be called of the Council. He was a Man of good Stature, comely Visage, an enterprising genius, a Sound head, Vigorous Spirit, and generous Nature.

            When he got to Virginia, which was at that Time not much cultivated, he was so pleased with the Country, that he made large Settlements there, with the Servants he carried over: After some Years he return’d to England & gave away all the Lands he had taken up, and Settled, at his own expence, to these Servants he had fixd on them; Some of whose descendents are now, possessed of very considerable Estates in that Colony. After staying sometime in England, he returned again to Virginia with a fresh band of Adventurers, all of whom he Settled there.

            During the Civil War here, Sr. Willm. Berkeley was Gover. of Virginia, He, & Lee, being both Loyalists, kept the Colony to its Allegiance, so that after the Death of Charles the 1st; Cromwell was oblig’d to send some Ships of War and Soldiers to reduce the Colony, which not being well able to resist, a Treaty was made with the Commonwealth, of England, where in Virginia was stiled an independant Dominion. This Treaty was ratified here, as made with a foreign Power upon which Sr. Willm. Berkeley (who was of the Same Family with the present Earl of Berkeley) was removed & another governor appointed in his room: When Charles the 2d was at Breda; Richd. Lee came over from Virginia & went there to him, to know if he could undertake to protect the Colony, if they return’d to their Allegiance to him; but finding no Support cou’d be obtain’d, he return’d to Virginia, & Remain’d quiet till the Death of O. Cromwell; when he with the assistance of Sr. Wm. Berkeley, contrived to get K. Charles the 2d proclaimed there, King of England, Scotland, France, Ireland & Virginia; Two years before he was restored here; & Sr. William, was reinstated as his Governor; in which Station he continued, till some time after the Restoration, when became over here & dyed presently.

            It was in consequence of this Step, that the Motto to the Virginia Arms, always till after the Union, was, endat Virginia Quintam[1]; but Since the Union it was changed to, en dat Virginia Quartam; that is King of Great Britain, France, Ireland, & Virginia.

            Here by the way, I cannot help remarking, the extreme ingratitude of this Prince, Charles the 2d. Oliver Cromwell, to punish Virginia & Some other parts of America for adhering so firmly to the Royal Cause, after he had got himself quite fixed in his Supreme Authority, both here & there, contrived the famous Navigation Act; upon a model he borrowed from the Dutch; by which the American Colonies, were deprived of many of their antient & Valuable Privileges. Upon the Restoration, instead of repealing this Act, it was confirm’d by the whole Legislature here, & to add to the ingratitude, at two other periods in his Reign, Taxes were imposed on American commodities, under the pretext, of regulations of Trade; from which wicked Source, have flowed, all the bitter Waters, that are now likely to overwhelm America or this Country, & most probably, will be in the end, the ruin of both. But to return, This Richard Lee, had several Children, the two Eldest, John & Richard, were educated at Oxford; John took his degrees as Dr of Physic & returning to Virginia, Dyed, before his Father. Richard was so clever & Learn’d that some great Men, offer’d to promote him to the highest dignities in the Church, if his Father would let him stay in England, but this offer was refused, because, the old Gentleman was determin’d to fix all his Children in Virginia & so firm was he in this purpose, that by his will, he order’d an Estate he had in England. I think near Stratford by Bow in Middlesex at that Time worth 8 or £900 per Annm to be Sold & the Money to be Divided among his Children. He Dyed and was buried in Buried in Virginia leaving a numerous progeny whose Names I have chiefly forgot. His eldest Son, then living was Richard, who spent almost his whole Life in Study, & usually Wrote his Notes, in Greek, Hebrew, or Latin; many of which are now in Virginia; so that he neither improved or diminished his Paternal Estate: tho at that Time, he might with ease have acquired what wou’d produce, at this Day, a most princely Revenue. He was of the Council in Virginia, & also in other Offices in Honor & Profit, tho they yeilded [sic] little to him. He married a Corbin, into which Family, his Predecessors in England, had before marryed; but the Name was then Spelt Corbyn or Corbyne, I think of Staffordshire, from this Marriage, he had & left behind him, when he dyed, in Virginia, which was some time after the Revolution, Five Sons, Richd, Philip, Fran’s, Thomas, Henry & one Daughter. Richard settled in London as a Virginia Merchant, in partnership w’th One Thomas Corbin, Brother of his Mothers; He married an Heiress in England of the Name of Silk & by her left one Son George & two Daughters, Lettice and Martha. All these three Children went to Virginia, & Settled; George married a Wormley there, who dyed, leaving One Daughter, then he Married a Fairfax, nearly related to Ld. Fairfax of Yorkshire & dyed, leaving by his last marriage 3 Sons, that are now Minors’ & are at School in England, under the Care of Mr. James Russell. Lettice Married, a Corbin & her Sister Married a Turberville, their Eldest Children intermarried, from which Union George Lee Turberville, now at School at Winton College is the Oldest Issue. Philip, the 2nd Son went to Maryland, where he married and Settled. He was one of the Proprietors Council & dyed, leaving a very numerous Family, that are now branch’d out largely, over the whole Province; & are in plentifull circumstances. The eldest Son Richard, being now a Member of the Proprietors Council. Francis the 3rd Son dyed a Batchelor. Thomas the 4th Son tho’ with none but a common Virginia Education, yet, having strong natural Parts, long after he was a Man, he Learn’t the Languages without any assistance, but his own Genius & became a tolerable adept, in Greek & Latin. He married a Ludwell of whose Genealogy I must give a short account, being materially Interested therein. The Ludwells tho the Name is now extinct, are an Old & honorable Family of Somersetshire in England; The Original of them many Ages Since, coming from Germany. Philip Ludwell & John Ludwell, being Brothers & sons of a Miss Cottington who was heiress of James Cottington, the next Brother & Heir to the famous Lord Francis Cottington of whom a pretty full Account may be seen in Ld. Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion; were in Court favor after the Restoration of Charles ye 2nd. John was appointed Secretary & one of the Council in Virginia where I believe he dyed without Issue. Philip the Eldest Brother, went to America Governor of Carolina from whence he went to Virginia and Married the Widow of Sir Willm. Berkeley, by whom he had a Daughter [written in pencil in margin: “this is said to be an error & the daughter to be by a former marriage”], that married a Col’l Park, who was afterwards Governor of the Leeward Islands, in the West Indies, & dyed in Antigua, the Seat his Government: and one Son nam’d Philip. After some time, Old Philip Ludwell, return’d to England & Dying here, was Buryed in Bow Church near Stratford; his Son Philip, remain’d in Virginia where his Father had acquired a very Capital Estate & married a Harrison, by whom he had two Daughters, Lucy the Eldest, who married a Col’l Grymes, who was of the Council in Virginia, & Hannah, who married the before mentioned Thomas Lee, & One Son Philip. This Philip was, as his Father had been, of the Council in Virginia. He married a Grymes, by whom he had several Children, most of whom Dyed, in their Infancy, & in the Year 1753, His wife Died, in 1760 he came Over to England for his Health, & in 1767 he Dyed here, when the Male Line of Ludwell became Extinct. He left Heiresses 3 Daughters, Hannah Philippa, Frances & Lucy, the 2nd Daughter is Since dead unmarried.

This Thomas Lee by his industry & parts acquired a Considerate Fortune, for being a Younger Brother with many Children, his Paternal Estate was very small. He was also appointed of the Council & though he had very few acquaintances in England he was so well known by Reputation that upon his receiving a Loss by Fire, the late Queen Caroline sent him over a bountifull present out of her own Privy Purse. Upon the late Sir William Gooch’s being recalled; who had been some time Governor of Virginia, he became president & Commander in chief over the colony; in which Station he continued for Some time. Still the King thought proper to appoint him Governor of the Colony, but he dyed in 1750, before his Commission got over to him. He left by this Marriage with Miss Ludwell Six Sons, Philip Ludwell, Thomas Ludwell, Richard Henry, Francis Lightfoot, William, Arthur, & two Daughters, all well provided for in Point of Fortune.

            Philip Ludwell is now of the Council in Virginia is married, has two Daughters & Lives at Stratford, on Potomack River Virginia. Thom Ludwell is married has several Children & Lives at Bellveue, Potok. River Virga. Richd. Henry, is married & Lives at Chantilly, Potok. River Virginia, & has several Children. Francis Lightfoot two Years ago married a Daughter & One that will be a Coheiress of the Honble. John Tayloe of Virga, he has no Child & Lives at Menokin on Rappahannoc River in Virginia. William (the Writer of this Acct) In June 1769 married in London Miss Hannah Philippa Ludwell. He has no Children & is Settled as a Virginia Merchant on Tower Hill London.

Arthur Studyed Physic at Edinburg, where he took his degrees; but disliking the profession he enter’d about two Years ago as a Student of Law at Lincoln’s Inn, & is now at No. 3 Essex Court in the Temple prosecuting his Studies. The Two daughters, Hannah & Alice, were both well married & are Settled in America. [written in the margin: “Son of Richard Lee and Miss Corbin see page 4”]. Henry, the 5th Brothr & next to Thomas, Married a Bland & left John, Richard, Henry, & Lettice, John is dead without Issue; Richard is still Living & unmarried, tho 45 Years Old, which is a great Age in Virginia to be single; & his Seat is called Lee Hall, on the Potomack River, Virginia. Henry is married & has several children, his Seat is called Leesylvania, on Potok. River Virginia. The only Sister of these five Brothers married a Fitzhugh, a considerable family in Virginia & Children, Her descendants are now Living.

London, September 1771

[letter included in file with 1771 letter]

Copy of an account written by a William Lee (great-grandson of Richard Lee Secretary of State in Virginia) and sent by him to the Rev. Harry Lee Warden of Winchester and son of Eldred Lancelot Lee of Coton Hall Bridgworth, in the year 1771. This account is accompanied by a b letter in which the writer signs himself “Your most obedient humble “Servant and Relation.”

c Richard Lee of a good Family in Shropshire (& whose Picture I am told is now at Coton near Bridgeworth the Seat of Lancelot Lee Esqr) some time in the Reign of Charles the 1st went over to the Colony of Virginia as Secretary and one of the Kings Privy Council; which last Post will for shortness hereafter be called of the Council. He was a Man of good Stature, comely Visage, and enterprizing genius, a sound head, Vigorous Spirit, and generous Nature. When he got to Virginia which was at that Time not much cultivated, he was so pleased with the Country that he made large settlements there, with the Servants he carried over: After some years he returned to England & gave away all the Lands he had taken up and Settled, at his own expense, to these Servants he had fixed on them; some of whose descendants are now possessed of very considerable Estates in that Colony. After staying some time in England, he returned again to Virginia with a fresh band of Adventurers, all of whom he settled there. During the Civil War here Sr. Willm. Berkeley was Gover:r of Virginia. He and Lee being both Loyalists, kept the Colony to its allegiance, so that after the Death of Charles the 1st Cromwell was obliged to send some ships of war and soldiers to reduce the Colony, which [pages missing]

Shropshire origin of the Virginian Lees.

As to fact 1      The record (as you pointed out to me) only proves the claim to have been made, not the truth of it. The claimant may for instance have been a plebian of no family at all who wished to pass himself off as a man of good descent. But he must have been either what he claimed to be or an impostor. If the latter is it credible that he was brother to Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley? There is a tradition that both families had a common origin in very early times. Both at any rate were of great antiquity and had produced some of the foremost men in their respective counties. The head of each was a baronet & in each the baronstey was created by James 1st. Why should a member of either wish to pass himself off as belonging to the other? It is of course possible that a far off descendant of some branch of either family might in ignorance of his ancestry assume the arms of the other. But that is not suggested. The suggestion is that the man as we have seen claimed to be a Lee of Shropshire & whose son did the same was own brother to Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley. To me this is inconceivable.

As to fact 2. The cup not only makes assurance doubly sure as to the arms (for it would have been safe to assume that the arms used by a boy in his fathers lifetime must have been those borne by his father) but it is interesting as leading to the information contained in the college books that John entered 1658 and took him B.A. 1662. It is not likely that he was more than eighteen when he entered so that in all probability his father was married somewhere about 1639 or 1640. Now the marriage of Robert L. of Hulcott took place in 1561. He had fourteen children the seventh son being Richard who according to F.G.L. makes a will on starting on a fresh voyage to Virginia in 1663. (In this will it is to be observed that he leaves a plantation to John “When he comes to the cage of eighteen years” but John took his B.A. degree in 1662). All this may be true but it needs looking into. In those days people married early and if Richard did not marry till he was about 30 the probabilities seem to the point (his eldest son being say 18 in 1655) to his having been born not much before 1610, 39 years after his eldest brother if his eldest brother was Sir H. Lee, and 49 years after his parents marriage.

As to fact 3. It is of course possible that Richard the younger may have called this house Ditchley (he too was at Oxford & no doubt knew the place); that; if he did so as Sir H. Lee’s nephew and in commemoration of the relationship, how came those words on his tombstone?

As to fact 4. We have the testimony first of Richard Lee himself, then of this son John, then of his son Richard representatives (on the tomb), then of his greatgrandson William who wrote the account I have and who died in 1795. Since then another member of the family came and stayed with Harry Lancelot Lee of Coton Hall being recognised by him as a relation. And I myself have had the pleasure of seeing another member of the family in London who told me that up till quite recently there had never been a question as to their Shropshire origin.

For myself I am inclined to think that Richard Lee (though of the Shropshire family) was neither of the two Richards in the Coton pedigree with whom he has been at at different times identified. He may have been, but present circumstances point rather to his being found in a collateral branch of the family. A clue which may possibly lead to his discovery in such a branch is in my hands and if it comes to anything I will communicate it to you. Meanwhile believe me yours very truly

W. B. Lee

To C. H. [Charles Herald] Athill Esqr[2]

Richmond Herald

 

 

Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, M2009.044, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 March 4


[1] Latin for “Lo! Virginia adds the fifth Dominion.”

[2] Charles Harold Athill (1853-1922) was an officer of arms at the College of Arms in London, which specialized in genealogical and family research.

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