• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 curator, Colin Woodward, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Lexington Va: 26 May 1866


My dear Robert

I recd your letter of the 9th Inst: last evg. In replying I will state at the offset that I desire you to Consider Romancoke with its appurtanances [sic] your own; to do with as you Consider most to your interest; to sell, farm or let; subject however to the conditions imposed by your Grd Fathers will, as construed by the desire of the court of appeals of Va: which declares “if the legacies are not paid off by the personal property, hires of slaves, rents, & sales of the real estate, charged with their payment at the end of five years, the portion unpaid remains a charge upon the White House & Romancoke estates, until paid, The divisus take their estates ‘cum onere’”.

The result of the war having deprived the estate of the benefit of the hire of the slaves, & the sale of Smiths Island; & the personal property having all been swept off by the Federal Armies, there is nothing left but the land of the two estates named. A Court might make some deduction from the amt: of the legacies to be paid in consideration of these circumstances, & I should think it would be fair to do so. But of that I cannot Say. Now with this understanding, make your own arrangements to Suit yourself, & as you may determine most conducive to your interests. In Confirming your action as the Executor of your Grd Father, I must however, take such measures as may be necessary to carryout the purpose of his will. I have told Fitzhugh substantially, what I have here written to you, in his relation to the White House.

If you determine to hold the estate, I think you ought to make it profitable. As to the means of doing so, you must decide for yourself. I am unable to do it for you, & might lead you astray. Therefore while always willing to give any advice in my power; in whatever you do, you must feel that the whole responsibility rests with you.

As I stated to you when here, I can let you have $1000. to improve your mill, or farm in any way you think best, free of interest; & think I will be able to add to it, after July $500, more if necessary. When you want it, write for it, & I will send a check to the care of Mr Caskie, so that you can get it when you go to Richmond.

I advise to sell the ship timber, which is cut, & such as may be standing, on the estate, & to apply the proceeds to the benefit of the farm. any fire wood, timber or lumber that you think advisable to sell & for which you can get a fair price I would advise you also to dispose of, & I particularly recommend you to take measures to cultivate your farm, if you retain it, so as to make it profitable.

The mill though profitable has always been expensive, owing as I believed to bad arrangements of the dams &c. I constantly intended, & hoped to be able, to adopt a system to remedy this, & I advise you to do so, if practicable. Study the subject & understand it yourself, & get all the information you Can.

I wish my dear Son I Could be of some advantage to you, but I can only give you my love & earnest prayers, & Commit you to the keeping of that God, who never forgets who serve Him.

May He watch over & preserve you!

Your affectionate father





Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c, Section 31, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2019 January 24  

Latin, literally meaning “with the burden.”

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