Richard Lee, the Emigrant 1613 (?)–1664
Ludwell Lee Montague

Note: The following is taken from the January 1954 issue of The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (volume 62), pp. 3–49.

1613 (?)–1664

THE Richard Lee with whom we are concerned was the emigrant ancestor of such distinguished Virginians as Thomas Lee of Stratford, Richard Henry Lee and “Lighthorse Harry” Lee of Revolutionary fame, President Zachary Taylor, and Robert Edward Lee. The basic work on this family is Lee of Virginia by Edmund Jennings Lee (Philadelphia, 1895). In The Lees of Virginia (Boston, 1935) Burton J. Hendrick has presented a “biography of a family.”1 Neither of these works, however, affords a satisfactory account of the Emigrant’s English origin or of his career in its historical context.2 In 1895 Edmund Jennings Lee could present only in conclusive evidence of Richard Lee’s descent from the Lees of Coton in Shropshire, a list of his public offices in Virginia, a contemporary account of his mission to Charles II at Breda, and transcripts of his land grants and his will. Forty years later Hendrick, with no better information, made no attempt to construct a narrative of the Emigrant’s career, but rather sought to interpret his character. In doing so Hendrick drew largely on the general social history of the period and on his own imagination.

Now, however, it is possible to write with assurance regarding Richard Lee’s parentage and to trace his career after 1640 in some circumstantial detail. This difference is attributable in part to research conducted in England by Mr. Edward Forrest (1926–1928) and Colonel William LeHardy (1939, 1949–1951),3 and in part to further research in Virginia made feasible by the publication of Dr. Swem’s Index and Mrs. Nugent’s Cavaliers and Pioneers.

Regrettably, many questions relating to the Emigrant remain answerable only in speculative terms. It appears,h owever, that no further information will be forthcoming except by lucky accident. It therefore seems appropriate to present a comprehensive account of Richard Lee’s origin and career on the basis of the information now available.

The Lees of Shropshire

The name Lee is manifestly of Saxon origin.4 For that reason it has been mistakenly supposed that the Lees came into Shropshire with the Saxons. Actually they were of Norman origin, their English surname being derived from their original estate, the manor of the lea under Pimhill.

The earliest provable ancestor of the Lees of Shropshire was the Norman Reyner de Lega (or de Le’) who flourished about the year 1200. He appears to have been the first to bear the generic Lee arms: gules, a fess chequy or and azure between ten billets argent, four in chief and three, two, one in base.5

Through successive generations the descendants of Reyner de Lega prospered, achieving knighthoods, marrying well, acquiring additional manors. In the sixth generation two sons of the house, both named Roger, married two notable heiresses. Roger, the son of John Lee of Lee and Pimhill, married Johanna Burnell of Acton Burnell and Langley. Roger, the son of Sir John Lee of Roden and Stanton, married Margaret Astley of Coton and Nordley Regis.

Roger Lee and Johanna Burnell had an only daughter, Petronella, who married her cousin Robert, the elder son of Roger Lee and Margaret Astley. This marriage united all the Lee estates in Shropshire except Coton and Nordley Regis, which passed to Robert’s younger brother John. From Robert were descended the Lees of Langley, from John those of Coton. By 1569 those two families were the only ones known to the Heralds as entided to bear the arms of Reyner de Lega.6

Coton and Nordley Regis

Coton Hall, in the manor of Nordley Regis and the parish of Alveley, at the southeastern extremity of Shropshire, is no ordinary English country house. The site, a high hill overlooking the Severn valley, has been of special local importance since pre-Roman times.7

In late Saxon times the height of Coton was the site of a collegiate church probably founded by Bishop Oswald of Worcester (960–992). The earliest document relating to the place is a deed of 1058 whereby Bishop Eldred of Worcester granted to Canon Dodda life tenure of Northtun, the manor pertaining to this ecclesiastical foundation.8

At the time of the Norman Conquest the manors of Alveley and Nordley, surrounding Coton, were held by Edwin, the last Saxon Earl of Mercia. (This manor of Nordley was identical with the Northtun of the deed of 1058). After Edwin’s defeat and death in 1069 King William gave Alveley and Nordley to Roger de Montgomery, the Earl Palatine of the Welsh frontier. Earl Roger and his successor, Robert de Belesme, dispersed the college at Coton, established a new parish church at Alveley, and gave the ecclesiastical endowment of the parish to support a new collegiate church at Bridgnorth.

In 1102 King Henry I seized the lands of Robert de Belesme (who had resisted his succession to the throne) and took Alveley and Nordley into the royal desmesne. Despite the removal of its collegiate church, Coton had continued to be a distinct administrative center. The King maintained a garrison there at the Portway Gate (apparently a toll house on the highway from Worcester to Bridgnorth). A common manorial court for both Alveley and Nordley was held at Coton, which was also the seat from which the chief prebend of Bridgnorth administered his endowment in the parish.

The captain of the King’s guard at Coton was one Fitz Ulky, to whom Henry I granted the vill of Astley (east ley) within the manor of Nordley Regis. Fitz Ulky’s descendants adopted the surname de Astley and in time came to hold both Astley and Nordley Regis as separate manors, with their seat at Coton. Eventually the manor of Astley passed to a son-in-law, but Coton and Nordley Regis remained to become in 1376 the inheritance of that Margaret Astley who married Roger Lee.9

In the time of Queen Elizabeth, Humphrey Lee, fourth in descent from Roger Lee and Margaret Astley, rebuilt the mansion house at Coton. In doing so he not only filled in the moat, but also raised up a terrace which completely concealed the ground floor of the medieval structure. His mansion showed three stories above ground. Built in the shape of a reversed “L,” it measured 51 feet in length on the west side, 83 feet across the south front, 97 feet along the east side, and 42 feet on the north. This building remained substantially unchanged until 1812, when Harry Lancelot Lee removed the third story and built in the open sides of the “L” to form a quadrangle.10

Humphrey Lee’s only son, John, was born in 1530 and succeeded to the manor of Nordley Regis in 1588. John Lee married Joyce Romney in 1553 and had eight sons: Thomas, William, Edward, Gilbert, Jasper, Richard, Ferdinand, and Josias. Richard Lee, born in 1563, was the father of Richard Lee, the emigrant to Virginia.

The Emigrant’s Parentage

The problem of Richard Lee’s parentage has long baffled genealogists. In recent years, however, information has been brought to light which permits older evidence to be interpreted with new assurance.

Richard Lee was unquestionably descended from the ancient Shropshire family of that name, for he used the generic arms of Lee of Shropshire, and a contemporary officer of the College of Arms attested his right to do so.11 It has been argued that, using those arms without quarterings, he might have been any one of the presumably innumerable descendants of Reyner de Lega in the thirteenth generation. This argument overlooks the fact that, to have used the arms of Lee of Shropshire after the Visitations of 1569 and 1623, Richard Lee must have been a scion of either Coton or Langley.

It may be noticed incidentally that in the one certain example of Richard Lee’s use of armorial bearings, the inscription on the silver tankard which his son John presented to Queen’s College, Oxford, convenience and good taste alike required the use of the generic Lee arms without quarterings.12 The same maybe said of the well-known Cobbs Hall woodcarving (which may once have adorned the Emigrant’s home on Dividing Creek) and of the Lee arms on the communion cup which Hancock Lee presented to Lee (i.e., Wicomico) Parish. The woodcarving does include a crescent label, a heraldic difference commonly used by the Coton Lees to show that they were the younger branch of the Shropshire family.13

In addition to his use of the Lee arms, the Emigrant left direct testimony regarding his origin. The inscription on John Lee’s famous tankard (which must have been executed pursuant to his father’s instructions) declares that Richard Lee was of “Morton Regis” in Shropshire. This inscription has perplexed generations of genealogists because it could not be found that any place called Morton Regis had ever existed in Shropshire. It was supposed that “Morton Regis” was somehow a mistake for Nordley Regis, but it was hard to see how “Nordley” could have been transcribed as “Morton.” This difficulty disappears when it is considered that Nordley was commonly called Norley.14 In old English script “Norley” could easily have been misread as “Morton,” particularly so in the Emigrant’s very difficult handwriting. The only possible explanation is that Richard Lee wrote “Norley Regis” in his instructions, the engraver made it “Morton Regis,” young John Lee knew no better, and no one who did ever noticed the mistake or had it corrected.

This mistake was repeated on the tombstone of Richard Lee II, who died in 1714. It declares that he was “of an ancient family of Merton Regis in Shropshire.”15 This tombstone was probably ordered by Richard Lee III, then resident in London. Richard III was three generations removed from Nordley Regis and unable to consult any family records in Virginia. He presumably relied on John Lee’s tankard for a statement regarding the family’s origin.

In Virginia, however, it was known that the family had come from Nordley Regis, despite the “Merton Regis” on Richard II’s tombstone. When Thomas Lee of Stratford sought information regarding his ancestors he addressed his inquiry to Coton. (A letter addressed to “Merton Regis” could not have been delivered.) The reply of Lancelot Lee is of no value to us except as proof that Thomas Lee knew that Coton was his ancestral home. Lancelot Lee, admitting that he knew nothing of the collateral branches of the family, mistakenly identified the Emigrant as the sixth son of John Lee of Coton.16

If we may conclude that the Emigrant was indeed a scion of the Lees of Coton, then in point of time he must have been a grandson of John Lee (1530–1605). He could not, however, have been a son of John Lee’s eldest son and heir, Thomas: the children of Thomas Lee, being in the line of succession to the manor, were well recorded. It has been proved that six other sons of John Lee died without issue. By their elimination only Richard, the sixth son, remains as a possible father for Richard Lee the Emigrant.17

The probability thus indirectly established is confirmed by the only surviving direct and positive evidence. That evidence is found in a Bible record kept by the Lees of Cobbs Hall, the first entry in which reads as follows:

        Colonel Richard Lee
“[Son of Richard Lee] of Nordley Regis in
Shropshire died at Dividing Creeks in the Co
of Northumberland Va. March 1 1664” From old Lee Bible)18

It must be acknowledged that this entry is not a contemporary record. The Bible in which it appears was printed in London in 1765 and was the property of Charles Lee IV of Cobbs Hall (1744–1785).19 The record of his descent must have been taken from an older Cobbs Hall Bible. Moreover, it is evident on the face of the record that the first entry had been copied into that older Bible from a still older Lee Bible. Thus the entry which concerns us has been copied twice.

That fact, however, does not destroy the validity of this record as evidence. When the copying was done there existed no motive for fabrication: the good faith of the copyists can be assumed. They intended to make an accurate record and their work can be accepted as such, subject only to the possibility of inadvertent error in detail in the process of transcription. They can have had no personal knowledge of the existence in Shropshire of a place called Nordley Regis, yet they, like Thomas Lee of Stratford, were not misled by the “Merton Regis” on the tombstone of Richard Lee II. They must have had access to a more authoritative source. Their quotation marks show that the first entry in their record was not a later restatement, but was rather a precise quotation from a contemporary, or nearly contemporary, document.

The brackets within the quotation marks are puzzling. Except for their position at the beginning of the quotation, they might be taken to mark an interpolation by one of the copyists. However, close examination of the spacing in the manuscript text shows that the line “Son of Richard Lee of Nordley Regis” was first written without brackets: the first is crowded directly under the first quotation mark, the second is inserted into the normal space between “Lee” and “of.” In these circumstances the brackets do not appear to affect the integrity of the indicated quotation, but rather to have been used as an afterthought to single out and emphasize the fact stated within them.

In evaluating this first entry in the Cobbs Hall Bible it must also be considered that the two copyists were able to check their facts against an authoritative source known to have been available to them, though not available to us. This source was the tombstone of the Emigrant himself, which was still to be seen near Cobbs Hall as late as 1798.20 Both copyists must have been familiar with the inscription on this tombstone, which presumably included some statement as to the Emigrant’s origin. It is unlikely that they would have copied into their record anything at variance with it.

In view of these considerations and of the mass of corroborating circumstantial evidence given above,21 the Cobbs Hall Bible record can be accepted as conclusive proof that Richard Lee, the Emigrant, was indeed the son of Richard Lee of Nordley Regis and the grandson of John Lee of Coton. In November 1930 it was so accepted by the College of Arms.22

Coton Lees in London

In accordance with English law and custom, the eldest son in each generation at Coton could expect to inherit the ancestral estate. Consequently he would remain on the land, living with his father or else occupying one of the constituent farms of the manor. Thus Thomas, the eldest son of John Lee of Coton, occupied The Hay, the dower house of Nordley Regis, until his father’s death in 1605.23 The younger sons also might occupy farms within the manor as tenants, or, having no prospect of inheritance, they might go off in search of better fortune.

Gilbert, John Lee’s fourth son, sought his fortune at sea, becoming a ship captain. His ship, the Rat, was among those which met the Spanish Armada in 1588. (That name suggests spoliation: she may have previously been a raider in the Spanish Main.) By 1594 Gilbert Lee was a prosperous merchant of London, licensed by letters patent to trade overseas in sheepskins and wool on a grand scale. His prosperity enabled him to match his favored elder brother at Coton: he became himself an important landholder at Tolleshunt Darcy in Essex.24

Gilbert Lee led an exodus from Coton to London. He was followed by his nephew John, second son of Thomas Lee of Coton, and eventually by four great-nephews, younger sons of John’s elder brother.

John Lee was born at The Hay in 1601. He must have joined his uncle Gilbert in London at an early age, for he qualified as the executor of Gilbert’s will in 1621. He succeeded Gilbert as a prosperous trader in saddlery, leather, hides, and pelts.25

Very little is known of Gilbert Lee’s younger brother Richard. He was born at Coton in 1563, and apparently he was still resident in Alveley Parish in 1599 when he married Elizabeth Bendy there; he being then thirty-six. He had a life interest in a farm in the parish. He was still living in 1621, when he received a bequest from his brother Gilbert.26

The fact that Richard Lee was described as “of Nordley Regis” would suggest that he remained on the manor as tenant of one of its farms, perhaps of Nordley Farm itself, a mile northeast of Coton. On the other hand, it has been suggested that he followed Gilbert Lee to London soon after his marriage.27 In this connection it has been stated that he acquired, in 1599, the estate at Stratford Langton in Essex near London, which his son the Emigrant later possessed.28 It has even been supposed, on the basis of Lancelot Lee’s letter of 1745, that the elder Richard was the original Lee emigrant to Virginia, in 1616.

These suppositions, that “Richard Lee of Nordley Regis” became a London merchant, a landholder in Essex, and an early settler in Virginia, cannot be sustained. Had he been closely associated with Gilbert Lee in London, he, rather than the youthful John Lee, would have been named as Gilbert’s executor. As will be shown, the Emigrant acquired his estate at Stratford Langton by purchase, not by inheritance. There is no record of the presence of a Richard Lee in Virginia before 1640. It is evident that Lancelot Lee did indeed understand Thomas Lee to have said that his emigrant ancestor Richard came to Virginia in 1616, but the probability is that Thomas wrote “1640,” which Lancelot misread as “1616.”29

Considering such evidence as there is, positive and negative, one can only suppose that “Richard Lee of Nordley Regis” lived and died at Nordley Regis.

The Emigrant’s Early Life

There is no certain evidence regarding the Emigrant’s career prior to his first appearance in Virginia in 1640. Some aspects of his early life, however, are subject to fair inference from known facts.

There is no surviving record of the Emigrant’s birthplace, unless it be his own statement: “oriundi de Morton [i.e., Norley] Regis.”30 However, if his father lived out his days at Nordley Regis, as we suppose above, then the Emigrant must have been born there and all speculations regarding his boyhood “on the banks of the Thames” are vain.

It has been supposed that the Emigrant was born in 1600, but that date is derived from nothing more than the date of his parents’ marriage, 1599. A more likely date is 1613. It is the proved birthdate of a Richard Lee who may well have been the Emigrant. It is more consistent with his arrival in Virginia in 1640 as an unmarried man and junior colonial functionary. It is also more consistent with his appearance in a portrait painted in 1661, which is that of a man of forty-eight rather than that of a man of sixty-one.

With due allowance for the uncertainty of the evidence, we may tentatively conclude that the Emigrant was born at Nordley Regis in 1613.

At an early age, however, the Emigrant must have been sent up from Nordley Regis to John Lee in London, just as John had been sent up to his uncle, Gilbert. John Lee was Richard Lee’s first cousin, only twelve years his senior, but John was already an established merchant as the heir of Gilbert Lee. As will be shown, there is direct evidence of a close personal association between John and Richard Lee, an association which must have existed prior to Richard’s emigration to Virginia.

Richard Lee’s education under John Lee’s supervision must have included legal studies. The point cannot be proved by the records of the Inns of Court, for they were destroyed by enemy action during the late war. It is notable, however, that Richard Lee went to Virginia to be Clerk of the Quarter Court and that three years later he was appointed Attorney General.

In May 1635 a Robert Lee, aged thirty-three, and a Richard Lee, aged twenty-two, embarked together in the ship Alexander bound from London for Barbados.31 It has been suggested that this Richard Lee was the Emigrant and this Robert Lee his brother. These suggestions cannot be proved. It can be noted, however, that both men were of proper age to have been sons of Richard Lee and Elizabeth Bendy; that the younger of the two was of an age consistent with the known facts regarding the Emigrant; and that later a Robert Lee was associated with the Emigrant in a certain landholding in Virginia.

The idea of a voyage to Barbados in 1635 also brings to mind an obscure family tradition that the Emigrant came to America and returned to England prior to his final settlement in Virginia. William Lee’s statement of this tradition in 1771 is full of manifest error in circumstantial detail. It was evidently influenced by his knowledge of Lancelot Lee’s letter of 1745 to Thomas Lee of Stratford.32 Lancelot Lee knew nothing of such a voyage, but mistakenly supposed that Richard, the sixth son of John Lee of Coton, had settled in Virginia in 1616.33 William Lee, who was barely eleven when his father died, probably never heard any correction of the misleading statement which he found in Lancelot Lee’s letter. He compounded the confusion by inferring that the Emigrant himself had made a voyage to Virginia prior to his actual settlement in 1640. Given this notion, his imagination supplied the circumstantial details of his account.

These confused statements by Lancelot Lee in 1745 and William Lee in 1771 cannot be used to prove anything whatever. It is altogether improbable that Richard Lee of Nordley Regis was ever in Virginia, or that Richard, his son, ever came to Virginia before 1639 or 1640. The only truth in the tradition of a prior settlement is probably a distorted recollection of Richard Lee’s actual return to England in 1661. However, there is nothing inherently improbable in the idea that Richard Lee may have gone to Barbadosin 1635, returning to London by 1639.

In sum then, the Richard Lee who came to Virginia late in 1639 or early in 1640 was a young man of twenty-seven, still unmarried. He had had some legal education and considerable commercial experience with John Lee of London. He may have had some colonial experience in Barbados.

Emigration to Virginia

The Virginia to which Richard Lee came was in turmoil resulting from the maladministration of Sir John Harvey. In 1635 the Council had actually “thrust out” the Governor—had shipped him home to England. King Charles had sent him back again as an assertion of royal authority in the face of such mutinous proceedings. Harvey’s second administration, however, had been worse than his first. He had to be replaced. His successor was Sir Francis Wyatt, who arrived at Jamestown in November 1639.

The earliest evidence of Richard Lee’s presence in Virginia is in the land records for April and May 1640, where he appears as Clerk of the Quarter Court.34 The presumption is that he was then newly arrived in the colony and that he had come with his appointment as clerk in his pocket.

The Clerk of the Quarter Court was a subordinate of the colonial Secretary of State and normally owed his appointment to the patronage of that official. The incumbent secretary was Richard Kemp, a member of the Harvey faction. Kemp, however, had not been in England during 1639. The coincidence of Richard Lee’s arrival in Virginia with that of Sir Francis Wyatt and their subsequent relationship strongly suggest that Wyatt had engaged Lee as clerk before leaving England and that Lee had accompanied him to Virginia or had followed soon after him. The new Governor was under instructions to retain Kemp as Secretary of State, but could readily have foreseen that he would need to have his own man as clerk of the court when he came to deal with the situation existing in Virginia.

It has long been customary to regard Richard Lee as having been a devout Royalist like Sir William Berkeley. The patronage of Sir Francis Wyatt suggests an entirely different political background. Wyatt was a nephew of Sir Edwin Sandys, the last Treasurer of the Virginia Company, of whom it was said that no man “carried a more malitious hart to the Govemmt of a Monarchie” and that he aimed at nothing less than to make “a free popular state” in Virginia. Besides being a leader in arousing Parliamentary resistance to King James’s tendency toward absolute monarchy, Sandys had been primarily responsible for establishing the House of Burgesses, the first representative assembly in America. Wyatt himself had been Governor of Virginia, 1621–1626—the last governor under the Company’s charter and the first royal governor. When the charter was revoked he had acted to preserve the practice of popular participation in the government of the colony. He now came, in 1639, with a final confirmation of the Virginians’ “liberty of general Assembly.” His return as governor was attributable to a scheme in the Virginia committee of the Privy Council to revive the Virginia Company.

After their arrival in Virginia Richard Lee’s association with Sir Francis Wyatt was strengthened by a new tie. Sir Francis had brought with him, as a member of his household, a young lady named Anne Constable. She and Richard Lee may have become interested in each other during the long voyage to Virginia. Certainly they met frequently in the small society of Jamestown. At some time in 1640 or 1641 they were married, presumablyin the new brick church at Jamestown, with the Governor giving the bride away.35

To judge by her later portrait, Anne Constable was a young lady of quality, perhaps as much as ten years younger than Richard Lee (i.e., about eighteen at the time of her marriage). Nothing is known of her antecedents, except that apparently she had been a ward of Sir John Thorowgood, a brother of Adam Thorowgood of Lynnhaven. Sir John had served successively as personal attendant to the Earl of Pembroke, the Duke of Buckingham, and King Charles himself: he was a man of considerable influence at court and in the Privy Council. Later, however, when the issue was drawn between absolute and constitutional monarchy, Sir John took his stand on the side of Parliament.36 Anne Constable’s position in the Wyatt household can only be surmised, but she would appear to have come to Virginia as, in effect, the ward of the Govemor.37

Sir Francis Wyatt and Sir John Harvey had clashed once before, when Harvey came to Virginia in 1623 seeking evidence to be used against the Virginia Company. In 1640 Wyatt haled both Harvey and Kemp into court to answer for their misrule of the colony. (Thus Richard Lee came to participate in proceedings against the Secretary, his nominal patron.) There were ample grounds for legal action, but Wyatt had also an ulterior political motive. By discrediting royal government of Virginia, he would strengthen the case for a revival of the Virginia Company.

When Harvey and Kemp finally got away to England they sought Wyatt’s dismissal. The decisive factor, however, was the King’s intense displeasure in the conduct of George Sandys (Wyatt’s brother-in-law) in submitting to Parliament, rather than to the Crown, a petition of the Virginia Burgesses for the restoration of the Company’s charter. In April 1641 Sir William Berkeley was appointed to replace Wyatt as governor. Wyatt’s friends in the Privy Council, however, delayed Berkeley’s departure from England until he had pledged himself in writing to refrain from reprisals against Wyatt and his supporters in Virginia. Consequently Berkeley did not reach Jamestown until February 1642.

The new Governorw as then thirty-six, only seven years older than Richard Lee. He was an M.A. of Oxford, a successful playwright, and an accomplished courtier. It is evident that he was specially selected as one who could be relied upon to assert and maintain royal authority. The retention of Richard Kemp as Secretary of State was indicative of a determination not to yield to popular clamor. At the same time, the Privy Council understood that Sir John Harvey’s arbitrary and provocative conduct would not do. Berkeley was not only pledged to refrain from reprisals; three ringleaders in the “thrusting out” of Harvey were included in his council. Berkeley’s mission was to put an end to recriminations, to bring about a reconciliation of all factions in the colony. He did in fact so conduct himself as to win great personal popularity. His first achievement was to persuade the Burgesses to repudiate George Sandys and any thought of reviving the Virginia Company.

Sir William Berkeley’s reputation has been tarnished by Bacon’s Rebellion and its cruel aftermath. It is well to remember that he began his career in Virginia as a successful conciliator.

As a Wyatt man, Richard Lee can have expected no favor from Sir William Berkeley and especially none from Secretary Kemp. He must have doubted that he would be retained as clerk in the new regime. The fact that he was retained may be attributed to Berkeley’s policy of reconciliation, but it also indicated confidence in his future loyalty to Secretary, Governor, and Crown.

In October 1643 Richard Lee was appointed Attomey General of Virginia, an evident mark of Sir William Berkeley’s growing personal regard for him. He was the first of record to hold that office, in which he served until 1649.38 By that time even Secretary Kemp regarded him as a “beloved friend.”39

Richard Lee of York

As a colonial official Richard Lee must have spent much of his time at Jamestown, but his duties as Clerk of the Quarter Court and later as Attorney General were not such as to require his presence there between sessions of the court. In fact he established his residence, not at the colonial capital, but on the Indian frontier in Charles River (later York) County. His home was on the north side of the river, at the head of Tindall’s Creek40 and near the Indian community of Capahosic Wicomico. He was living there when his eldest son John was born in 1641 or 1642.41 In modern terms, his home was a half-mile southeast of Hayes on Route 17 in lower Gloucester County: that is, some two miles northeast of Gloucester Point and two miles southeast of Wicomico.

Richard Lee, the Emigrant

Anne Constable Lee

The statement on John Lee’s silver tankard at Oxford that he was born at “Capahowasick Wickacomoco” has caused much confused and confusing speculation. Family historians have identified “Capahowasick” with modern Capahosic, on the north shore of York River twelve miles above Gloucester Point. In disregard of the plain sense of the inscription, they have interpreted “Wickacomoco” as a reference to the Lees’ later home in Northumberland. However, Richard and Anne Lee could not have been living near modern Capahosic when John Lee was born, and it is unnecessary to go to Northumberland to find a Wicomico when the name still survives two miles from their known home on Tindall’s Creek.

“Wickacomoco,” in the Indian tongue, was a common noun signifying a group of dwellings, a village. Thus “Capahowasick Wickacomoco” was simply “Capahowasick Town,” a single Indian community. The problem is complicated, however, by the fact that “Capahowasick” also was a common noun signifying any sheltered or enclosed (“bottled-up”) place.42 It may have been equivalent to the ubiquitous English term “neck.” In any case, there were at least two “Capahowasicks” on the north shore of York River. An old map, believed to be a copy of John Smith’s map of 1608, shows a “Cappahowsack” at the site of modern Capahosic. The name has persisted there from that day to this. On the other hand, an official map made for King James in 1610 and John Smith’s published map of 1612 both show a “Capahowasick” in the Shelly-Timberneck area. The map of 1612 is the only one which expressly identifies its “Capahowasick” as an Indian town: i.e., as “Capahowasick Wickacomoco.”43 By 1642 this Indian community could readily have moved to the east side of Timberneck Creek.

It happens that Richard Lee did acquire lands in the vicinity of modern Capahosic, but not until 1648. In 1642 those lands belonged to others who resided on them. It is reasonably certain that Richard and Anne Lee never lived there at any time. On the other hand, it is definitely known that they did live before 1644 near the “Capahowasick” shown on the maps of 1610 and 1612, which must be the “Capahowasick Wickacomoco” of the inscription on John Lee’s tankard.

[Richard Lee’s Virginia, 1640–1664]

Richard Lee’s home on Tindall’s Creek was on leased land. He did not patent any land of his own until August 1642—until assured of an agreeable future in Sir William Berkeley’s Virginia. He then patented 1,000 acres “called by the name of the Indian spring” near the head of Poropotank (Freshwater) Creek. He claimed this land by virtue of his own personal adventure, his wife’s, that of a third person (presumably his manservant), and seventeen other headrights acquired by assignment. Some of these headrights were assigned to him by Florentine Paine, a ship captain with whom he continued to be associated. Lee immediately assigned 150 acres of the tract to Miles Dixon, a gentleman-merchant with whom also he continued to be associated.44

At this point it is proper to inquire why Richard Lee took his young bride to live near an Indian village and why he located his first land grant inland at a place frequented by Indians when he might have made his home at Jamestown or on the shore of York River. In this connection it must be noted that neither his leased land on Tindall’s Creek nor his own land on the Poropotank was accessible to seagoing ships, although the contrary is often asserted. Both sites, however, were accessible to the shallops used on the Bay and the rivers in the Indian trade. These indications, his early and continuing association with Florentine Paine and Miles Dixon, and the nature of his earliest interests in Northumberland all suggest that from his arrival in Virginia, Richard Lee was engaged in the Indian trade as a factor for his cousin John Lee of London, who traded in skins and pelts.

Richard Lee did not establish his residence at the Indian Spring on Poropotank Creek. Had he done so, he and his family would surely have perished in the Great Massacre of April 18, 1644. No one can now say what harrowing experiences they underwent by reason of their proximity to “Capahowasick Wickacomoco.” They evidently made good their escape from Tindall’s Creek, presumably in Richard Lee’s trading shallop.

During the ensuing Indian war the English abandoned the north shore of York River to the Indians. In December 1644 Richard Lee patented 91 acres “upon the Ridge of the New Poquoson.”45 This safe place on the lower Peninsula was the family’s home, at least until 1649, probably until 1653.

Richard Lee himself appears to have taken part in the counteroffensive against the Indians during the summer of 1644. He was not named among the officers commissioned to lead the troops under the general command of Captain William Claiborne, but he may have had charge of the boats provided to support their operations.47 On the Pamunkey River seven miles above West Point these boats met Claiborne’s force, marching from the Indian villages on the upper Chickahominy, and ferried it over the river for an attack on the Pamunkey villages. Two years later Richard Lee patented 1,250 acres “where the foot Company met with the Boats when they went pommunkey March under ye comand of Capt. William Claiborne,” language which establishes a strong presumption that he was among those present on that memorable occasion. William Claiborne patented the opposite shore in 1653 and made it the site of his last home Romancoke.47

Richard Lee did not retain and develop his lands on the Pamunkey. In December 1648 he surrendered that patent and took in exchange another for 1,250 acres on the north shore of York River. In modem terms this tract extended for three and a half miles along the river, from Sandy Creek to Purtan Bay, including Capahosic. This land was available to Richard Lee because its previous owners had perished in the Massacre leaving no heirs. Lee immediately sold off 850 acres, retaining only 400 at Capahosic.48 This residual tract he called “War Captain’s Neck.” That name was probably suggested by the Indian name, “Cappahowsack,” but it seems also to have been given in recollection of Richard Lee’s adventures on the Pamunkey and in testimony of his high regard for Captain Claiborne.

[Richard Lee’s Landholdings in Western Gloucester]

Peace was made with the Indians in 1646, but its terms precluded settlement north of the York River. Until that ban was lifted, in September 1649, Richard Lee could do nothing to develop his landholdings in that quarter: the 100 acres on Tindall’s Creek where he had lived before the Massacre (he had purchased this property in 1646); the 850 acres at the Indian Spring on Poropotank Creek; the 400 acres of War Captain’s Neck. Lee continued to reside at the New Poquoson. He no doubt resumed his Indian trade. He also served as Sheriff of York County in 1646 and as a Burgess for York in 1647, in addition to his duties as Attorney General.49

During these years Anne Lee bore four sons, one of whom died in infancy, probably as a direct or indirect consequence of the Massacre and the Indian war. Those who survived were John, Richard (born in 1646), and Francis (born in 1648).50

Secretary of State

Richard Kemp died in 1649 and Richard Lee was called to succeed him as Secretary of State. Thus, at the age of thirty-six, he became Sir William Berkeley’s principal lieutenant on the eve of a new crisis in the affairs of Virginia.

Preoccupied by their own bitter struggle with the Indians, the Virginians had paid scant attention to the Civil War at home in England. The conflict there had had no material effect upon life in the colony. Whatever the King’s fortunes in England, he remained the only source of authority in Virginia. The Virginians nevertheless carried on their normal trade with his enemies, the merchants of London, as a matter of established custom rather than of absoluten ecessity, for the Dutch were also heavy traders to Virginia. It seems to have been assumed that, whichever party prevailed at home, the contest between King and Parliament would eventually be settled on terms which would not radically alter either the English constitution or Virginia’s political and commercial relationships. Meanwhile Virginia would carry on as usual.

The King’s execution, on January 30, 1649, created a totally different situation. The belated news was received in Virginia with shocked surprise. The General Assembly on October 10 denounced as lawless tyrants those who had committed the outrage and declared guilty of treason anyone who questioned the right and title of King Charles II.51

This bold defiance was not so foolhardy as it might appear by hindsight. In 1649 the Regicides did indeed control England and Wales, while New England maintained an equivocal attitude, but the remainder of the king’s dominions—Scotland, Ireland, the Channel Islands, Bermuda, Barbados, Antigua, and Maryland, as well as Virginia—loyally acknowledged Charles II. In England itself there was a shocked reaction against the Army’s purge of Parliament as well as the execution of the King. An immediate restoration was not inconceivable.

A normal consequence of the Assembly’s action was that Sir William Berkeley should at once communicate with King Charles II, not only to report Virginia’s allegiance, but also to obtain a new commission, his old one having expired with the late King. It was also normal that, unable to go himself in the circumstances, he should have sent his Secretary of State. Thus it was through no romantic personal devotion to the house of Stuart, but in the performance of his official duty, that Richard Lee chartered a Dutch ship and sought out King Charles, whom he found at Breda in the Netherlands.52

A romantic notion that Richard Lee went to Breda to urge Charles II to take refuge in Virginia has gained wide acceptance. Nothing could be more unlikely. Charles was not then seeking a refuge. He was actively preparing to return via Scotland to his throne in Whitehall, which is precisely what Sir William Berkeley and Richard Lee wanted him to do. They wanted a king in England, not a royal refugee in Virginia.

On June 3, 1650, on the eve of his departure from Breda for Scotland, King Charles signed Sir William Berkeley’s new commission as Governor of Virginia.53 The Council named therein included such men as Samuel Mathews (a ringleader in the thrusting out of Sir John Harvey), Richard Bennett (who had recently led a Puritan exodus from Virginia into Maryland), William Claiborne (recently dismissed as Treasurer on suspicion of disaffection), and Thomas Stegg (Speaker of the Burgesses, who was also disaffected). Sir William Berkeley, who must have nominated these men, was evidently making one more attempt at conciliation in his effort to hold Virginia for the Crown.

Richard Lee presumably returned to Virginia as soon as he had received the new commission. His voyage to Breda had won for him no mark of royal favor, unless confirmation as secretary could be so construed. In particular, he was not named to the Council. It was, however, a profitable voyage. He had freighted the Dutch ship on his own account. Presumably he brought back a return cargo. Certainly he brought to Virginia a number of immigrants, thirty-eight of whom were unable to pay their own passage. Their services were his for a term of years and their headrights were the basis for three new land grants which he obtained in 1651. These grants were for 550 acres adjoining War Captain’s Neck, 500 acres on Poropotank Creek, and 800 acreso n Dividing Creek in Northumberland County.54

Richard Lee had probably been at home for at least three months before the news of Charles II’s utter defeat at Worcester reached Virginia. At about the same time came news that the authorities in England had prohibited all commerce with Virginia under any flag. Now the prospect was desperate. Even within the Council there were those who advocated a realistic submission to the Commonwealth. Sir William Berkeley remained defiant, however. Finding it impossible to prevail against him, Thomas Stegg, the late Speaker, took ship for England. There he obtained a commission authorizing Richard Bennett, William Claiborne, and himself to secure the submission of Virginia with the aid of an English naval expedition.

It was during this crisis that Richard Lee was first admitted to the Council,55 apparently by Sir William Berkeley’s appointment to replace one of the defectors. It was also at this time that he was granted the title of Colonel,56 presumably as a necessary consequence of his position in a period of active preparation for military defense. However, in view of the ease with which he subsequently accommodated himself to the Commonwealth, it may be doubted that Richard Lee ever shared Sir William Berkeley’s determination to make a desperate armed resistance.

Late in 1651 the English frigate Guinea entered the Chesapeake, and Richard Bennett and William Claiborne went on board. After some delay waiting for the Guinea’s consort, which had been lost at sea with their colleague, Thomas Stegg, the surviving commissioners on January 19, 1652, summoned the Governor and Council of Virginia to surrender. As Virginians, however, they were reluctant to resort to force of arms. Instead, they tarried in the Bay and waged a strictly psychological warfare against the doughty Governor, working particularly on their late colleagues in the Council. By March even Sir William Berkeley could see that his position had been undermined and that he must capitulate.57

The capitulation, dated March 12, 1652, was probably negotiated between Richard Lee and William Claiborne. Lee’s office made him the appropriate representative of the Governor and Council. Claiborne, as the prospective Secretary of State, held a corresponding position. Lee and Claiborne had probably been personal friends at least since the Pamunkey expedition of 1644. Moreover, both were one-time protégés of Sir Francis Wyatt. Despite their apparent opposition on this occasion, their fundamental political views were probably very similar. They were probably equally pleased with the terms which they drew up together.

In the public treaty, to be ratified by the House of Burgesses in their behalf, the Virginians acknowledged due allegiance to the Commonwealth and obedience to the laws in force in England, on the same basis as any other Englishmen. It was expressly declared that they made this submission freely, under no coercion of arms. Well might it have been so! The remainder of the capitulation, negotiated by Virginians on both sides, conferred upon the Virginians liberties then unknown in England, liberties which their descendants had to fight to obtain in 1776. In a separate protocol the Governor and Council were granted immunity for all past acts of opposition to the Commonwealth. Those who took an oath of allegiance might enjoy all the privileges of citizenship. Those who refused were granted a year in which to emigrate.58

Richard Lee undoubtedly swore allegiance to the Commonwealth. Sir William Berkeley did not. He intended to join his Prince in exile, but the outbreak of war with Holland prevented him from doing so. He therefore remained in retirement on his estate, Greenspring, where he maintained a hotbed of Royalist disaffection.

The House of Burgesses elected Richard Bennett to be the new Governor of Virginia, with William Claiborne as Secretary of State. Samuel Mathews was sent to London to secure ratification of the capitulation by the Commonwealth authorities and also to seek the retrocession of Maryland to Virginia. He remained there five years without accomplishing either purpose. The “Keepers of ye Liberties of England” regarded with disapproval the liberties which the Virginians had conferred upon themselves, but were too preoccupied with home and European affairs to take definite action to restrict them, so that the terms of the capitulation remained in effect by default. As regards Maryland, the Catholic peer, Lord Baltimore, proved to have more influence at Cromwell’s court than had the Puritan republican from Virginia. Behind this paradox there may have been a Machiavellian calculation that it would never do to let the too independent Virginians, Cavalier or Puritan, regain control of the entire Chesapeake Bay region, then England’s only lodgment between New England and the West Indies. Divide et impera!

Richard Lee of Gloucester

The lands north of the York River were reopened to settlement in September 1649. Such was the influx of settlers that two years later a new county was established between the York and the Piankatank. It was named Gloucester in honor of Henry, Duke of Gloucester, the third son of the late King Charles. In the circumstances of 1651 the adoption of that name was a purposeful Royalist flourish.

Richard Lee’s landholdings in the new county, including the grants which he receivedin 1651, amounted to 2,400 acres: 100 acres at the head of Tindall’s Creek; 950 acres in and near War Captain’s Neck; and 1,350 acres near the head of Poropotank Creek.

Richard Lee cannot have given much attention to the development of these holdings prior to his return from Breda in the summer of 1650. He then probably set his newly acquired indentured servants to work establishing a plantation at War Captain’s Neck. As Secretary of State, however, he must have been himself kept busy at Jamestown during the crisis of 1651–1652. It seems unlikely that he could have taken up residence in Gloucester, or that he would have sent his family thither until he was able to go himself.

When Richard Lee surrendered the secretaryship to William Claiborne in March 1652, he was at last free to give personal attention to the development of his landholdings in Gloucester. His first act as a private citizen, however, was to take ship for London.

In London in July 1652 Richard Lee signed as a witness three deeds whereby John Lee acquired an estate at Ankerwycke in Buckinghamshire.59 This evidence of a familiar association with John Lee of Ankerwycke affords circumstantial corroboration of Richard Lee’s relationship to the Lees of Coton. To have been on familiar terms with John Lee soon after his arrival in England after an absence of thirteen years, Richard Lee must have known John intimately before going to Virginia and must have sought him out immediately on his return. Indeed, his presence at the signing of these deeds would suggest that he was then John Lee’s house guest.

It is not apparent how long Richard Lee remained in England. He probably returned to Virginia before the end of 1652.

It was probably in the spring of 1653 that Richard Lee moved his family from the New Poquoson to a new home in Gloucester. The plantation at War Captain’s Neck was presumably well advanced by that time: it was the lands on the Poropotank which now required his personal attention. The new home was therefore located at the Indian Spring, a site which the Lees renamed “Paradise.” After all the troubles and separations of the past ten years—the Massacre, the Indian war, the threat of civil war, the cares and distractions of high office—their wilderness retreat must have seemed like paradise indeed to them.

In the spring of 1653 the Lee family included six sons: John, now eleven; Richard, six; Francis, four; William, two, and a twin brother whose name is unknown to us (he was later drowned off the coast of Accomack); and the infant Hancock.60 During that year twin daughters were born at Paradise. They were named Elizabeth and Anne, presumably for their paternal grandmother and their mother.61

During 1653 Richard Lee sold his former home on the ridge of the New Poquoson and also 200 inland acres near War Captain’s Neck. During the same year he patented 300 acres on the York River side of Tindall’s Neck and another 300 acres on the south side of the Rappahannock at the head of the south branch of Matchepungo (now Whiting) Creek.62

Of more interest than Richard Lee’s land transactions of 1653 is the “store” which he established on Poropotank Creek some two miles south of his home at Paradise. (It stood approximately at the bridge where Route 14 now crosses the Poropotank—in Richard Lee’s day the Mattapony Path crossed at a point some two miles further up the Creek.) Not until 1656 did Lee patent the five-acre tract on which this store stood, but by then it was in full operation.63 The “store” was actually a commercial warehouse, the site of a considerable export-import business. It shows that Richard Lee was not only shipping his own tobacco and importing supplies for his own plantations, but was also offering plantation supplies to his neighbors in exchange for their tobacco.

Another circumstance is notable in this connection. In 1642 and again in 1646 Richard Lee had purchased the headrights by means of which he acquired land grants. In 1651 he had used headrights of his own, but these were evidendy acquired through his extraordinary voyage to Breda in a chartered vessel. From 1653 onwards he regularly patented new lands with his own headrights. The inference is that from 1652 onwards Richard Lee was owner, or part owner, of a ship trading between England and Virginia. As a shipowner he could assure himself of ample cargo space, protect himself against exorbitant freight rates, procure for himself adequate numbers of indentured servants, and acquire the headrights necessary for a steady expansion of his landholdings.

Richard Lee of Gloucester, then, had turned from a career in public office to become a merchant and shipowner as well as a great landholder and planter. There can be no doubt that this metamorphosis was effected during his visit to London in 1652.

Richard Lee’s affairs did not permit him to remain quietly at Paradise. In February 1654 he again sailed for London, leaving one John Woodward in charge of his interests in Virginia. He evidently anticipated a lengthy stay in England, for he took with him his wife and the family silver. All the children, however, were left at home in Virginia.64

Richard Lee went to London as a lobbyist for the tobacco planters of Virginia. The Navigation Act of 1651, requiring that all colonial tobacco be shipped to England in English ships, had cut off Virginia’s profitable trade with the Dutch and had put the colonial planter at the mercy of English shipowners and merchants. The result was increasing freight rates, declining prices for tobacco in England, and a general depression of the colonial economy. To make matters worse, tobacco was being increasingly cultivated in southwestern England. This English-grown tobacco, free of freight charges and customs duties, could readily undersell the colonial product in the English market. The Virginians sought relief by petitioning for a prohibition of tobacco planting in England.

It may be doubted that the prospective ruin of Virginia would have elicited much consideration in Whitehall, but the planters could show that, if English tobacco were permitted to drive Virginian from the market, two important English interests would suffer: English merchants trading to Virginia would lose their business in that quarter, and the customs revenues would be seriously reduced. It was probably concern for the customs revenue that persuaded the Lord Protector in the spring of 1654 to prohibit the planting of tobacco in England. His decree was generally obeyed, except in the vicinity of Cheltenham and Winchcombe in Gloucestershire.

On April 27, 1655, Richard Lee and five other “Merchants & Traders to Virginia” humbly represented that, as a result of the impunity enjoyed by the “Rebellious Crew” of Cheltenham and Winchcombe in 1654, many thousands of acres of tobacco were again being planted in southwestern England. They prayed that the Lord Protector would cause his previous order to be duly enforced.65

It is of interest that in this petition Richard Lee presented himself, not as a Virginia planter, but as an English merchant trading to Virginia. No doubt it was necessary to assume the latter character in order to obtain consideration. The facts were not seriously stretched, however, for by this time Richard Lee was indeed a considerable merchant in the Virginia trade. Nevertheless, he remained primarily a Virginian, as he himself soon had occasion to testify.

On September 11, 1655, Richard and Anne Lee were going aboard the good ship Anthony at Gravesend, bound for Virginia, when customs officers, charging a violation of the laws forbiddingt he exportation of precious metals, seized a trunk containing 200 ounces of their silver. Lee went ashore and made affidavit before the Mayor of Gravesend that he was a resident of Virginia, that all of the silver was marked with his arms and intended for his personal use, and that most of it he had possessed for years in Virginia before bringing it into England in 1654. This affidavit was drawn up by the Mayor’s clerk. Richard Lee, using a strange quill pen, made a mess of his signature. The big, black blots which he left on the page probably expressed his outraged feelings.

The Anthony sailed away with Richard and Anne Lee, and it devolved upon John Jeffreys, a London merchant, to petition for the recovery of the Lee family silver. After reciting the facts of the case, Jeifreys declared that Colonel Lee had ever been “faithful and useful to this Commonwealth.”66 This statement, as reported by Sainsbury, has long been a stumbling block for those who preferred to think of Richard Lee as an irreconcilable Royalist.67 The full text, however, shows that “this Commonwealth” cannot be interpreted as an exclusive reference to the Cromwell regime, for Jeffreys said that Lee had been faithful and useful “both before his settlement in Virginia [in 1640] and ever since.” Jeffreys may have intended some reference to Lee’s Parliamentary political associations before going overseas and to his part in the capitulation of Virginia, but it is likely that he had nothing more in mind than the recovery of the silver. His statement was phrased to produce a favorable impression on the Commonwealth authorities, particularly to assure them that Colonel Lee had not emigrated to Virginia after fighting on the Royalist side in the Civil War. It was no misrepresentation insofar as it implied that Lee had been and would be loyal to whatever de facto authority there might be in England.

On the basis of Lee’s affidavit and Jeffreys’ petition the Commissioners of the Customs did release the Lee family silver.68 This silver can be traced in wills and inventories to 1715. It was probably lost in the fire which destroyed the Lee home at Machodoc in 1729.

Richard Lee of Northumberland

Although there had been an active Indian trade on the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers from the earliest times, the first settlers in the Northern Neck were fugitives driven from Kent Island by the Maryland authorities. Such a group was seated near the Indian town of Chicacoan (near Walnut Point) in 1639.69 During the Indian war of 1644–1646 the Northern Neck remained at peace, a condition attractive to settlers from the lower parts of Virginia. In 1647, indeed, the Virginia Assembly ordered the evacuation of these “remote and straying plantations,” as being weak, disorderly, and provocative to the Indians, but this order was ignored and in 1648 the area was formally organized by the Assembly as the county of Northumberland.70

In 1651 Lancaster County was formed embracing both shores of the Rappahannock. The Piankatank River was its boundary with Gloucester on the south. That with Northumberland was a line through the forest generally along the ridge of the Northern Neck. Northumberland still included the entire watershed of the Potomac in Virginia. In 1653, however, its western boundary was set at the Machodoc River and its territory to the westward became the county of Westmoreland.

Richard Lee’s earliest interest in the Northern Neck was probably in the Indian trade: it was the only area in which he could trade during the Indian war of 1644–1646. At some time prior to 1650 he acquired from local Indians title of sorts to certain lands on Dividing Creek and on the Machodoc River.71 He neglected to patent any of these lands until 1657. Even then his patents did not cover all his holdings by Indian title, for when the Assembly in 1658 authorized the governor to grant lands to be ceded by the Wicomico Indians, it expressly reserved the prior rights of Colonel Richard Lee.72

In 1651 Richard Lee did patent 800 acres on Dividing Creek adjo[in]ing the land which he already held there by Indian title.73 When the boundary was drawn between Northumberland and Lancaster counties, it was turned out of its natural course in order to put these Lee holdings in Northumberland rather than in Lancaster. (It may also be noted that the division between Northumberland and Westmoreland in 1653 was made in such a way as to leave Richard Lee’s Machodoc landholdings in Northumberland.)74

It is commonly supposed that Richard Lee established his residence on Dividing Creek in 1651. That idea was derived from the date of his first patent for land there and from the fact that a Mr. Lee was Burgess from Northumberland in 1651. The date of Richard Lee’s patent of 1651 is without significance, however, for he already held lands on the creek at that date and, when he eventually settled there, he built his home on this earlier holding. Likewise, the Mr. Lee who represented Northumberland in 1651 was probably Hugh Lee, a landholder in the county since before 1650. In 1651 Richard Lee was calling himself “Colonel” rather than “Mister,” and was a member of the Council rather than of the Burgesses. Finally, it is inconceivable that Richard Lee, as Secretary of State, could have established his residence at a place four day’s journey away from Jamestown in the circumstances of 1651.

Reasons have already been given for believing that Richard Lee did not move his family from the New Poquoson to Paradise until the spring of 1653. Presumably he was living at Paradise when he established his “store” on Poropotank Creek. He can hardly have moved to Dividing Creek until his return from London in the autumn of 1655. He probably did move thither soon thereafter. Charles, the tenth and last child of Richard and Anne Lee, was born at Dividing Creek on May 21, 1656.75

It is remarkable that Richard Lee should have moved away from Paradise only three years after establishing his home there. (He had actually been in residence at Paradise for only a year, the remainder of the interval having been spent in London.) The most likely explanation would seem to be that by 1656 his two plantations and his “store” in Gloucester were in effective operation and that he wished to give personal supervision to the similar development of his landholdings in Northumberland.

Richard Lee’s home on Dividing Creek was built on the unpatented tract which he had held there since before 1651. It never had any other name than that of the creek. The tract, however, was subsequently known by the name of Cobbs Hall, a house built a half-mile east of the site of the Emigrant’s home by Charles Lee, his grandson, about 1720.76 Thus it is in a sense true, but imprecise and anachronistic, to say that Richard Lee lived at Cobbs Hall.

In March 1657 Richard Lee finally patented the 600-acre tract on which his new home stood. On the same day Miles Dixon (to whom Lee had assigned a portion of the Paradise grant in 1642) used headrights assigned to him by Lee to patent 500 acres adjoining Lee’s Dividing Creek grant of 1651. On the same day also Hugh Wilson used headrights assigned to him by Lee to patent the 500 acres next below Dixon’s grant.77 It is evident that these three men—Lee and Dixon, merchants, and Wilson, master mariner—were acting in concert. They had probably been associated in trade for many years, and they appear to have made a joint settlement on Dividing Creek in 1656.

[Richard Lee’s Lands on Dividing Creek]

[Richard Lee’s Lands on Machodock River]

Richard Lee’s two patents on Dividing Creek amounted to 1,400 acres. He later extended his holdings northward to include an additional 500 acres patented by George Colclough in 1651 and escheated at Colclough’s death without heirs in 1659.78 With this addition, Lee’s holdings and those of Dixon and Wilson included the entire western shore of Dividing Creek from its head to Chesapeake Bay.

In October 1657 Richard Lee also patented 1,000 acres on the Machodoc River which he had held without benefit of patent since 1650. In 1658 he repatented this tract as 2,000 acres, and in 1664 it was again repatented as 2,600. (The village of Hague now stands at the approximate center of this holding.)79

On moving to Dividing Creek Richard Lee not only consolidated his landholdings in Northumberland, but also disposed of certain lands south of the Rappahannock. It was probably at this time that he sold his holdings in Tindall’s Neck (100 acres purchased in 1646 and 300 acres patented in 1653). In March 1657 he conveyed to Miles Dixon the 300 acres at the head of Matchepungo Creek which he had patented in 1653 and 50 adjoining acres deeded to him in 1656. He abandoned 850 acres on Piankatank Swamp (Dragon Run) patented for him by John Woodward in 1655 and repatented in 1656.80 In February 1658 he assigned to one Robert Lee 200 acres on the Dogwood Spring Branch (near War Captain’s Neck) which Woodward had patented for him in 1655. This tract, which can be identified with Valley Front, was repatented as 542 acres by Robert Lee in 1662 and as 692 acres by Robert Porteus in 1704.81

It has been suggested that this Robert Lee was Richard Lee’s older brother, with whom he had sailed to Barbados in 1635.82 In point of age he must have been a nephew, if indeed he was any kin at all. His widow married a neighbor, Edward Porteus. Robert Porteus, born in 1679, was their son, and indirectly, Robert Lee’s heir.83

By these transactions Richard Lee consolidated his landholdings into four important plantations—750 acres at War Captain’s Neck, 1,350 acres at Paradise, 1,900 acres on Dividing Creek, and 2,600 acres on the Machodoc River. He had also his “store” on Poropotank Creek and perhaps other centers of plantation trade, and he was still engaged in the Indian trade on the Pamunkey and Potomac rivers.

Richard Lee of London

In the late spring of 1658 Richard Lee sailed once more for London, accompanied by his son John, now about sixteen. John Lee entered Queen’s College, Oxford, on July 2 of that year.84

Another aspect of Richard Lee’s business in England is revealed by the petition which he and eight other “Merchants & Traders to Virginia” signed on August 3, 1658.85 As in 1655, the subject was the planting of tobacco in England. It appears that “divers persons [had], in a hostill manner, rebeliously opposed ye operation of ye Lawes & Orders” for the suppression of that practice. The petitioners prayed for the instant and effectual enforcement of these “Lawes & Orders.”

One should not infer too much from this second appearance of Richard Lee as an English merchant trading to Virginia. Another signer of this petition was Edward Digges, a Virginian who had served as the elected governor of the colony, 1655–1656.

Other evidence, however, introduces a new note. In November 1658 and in March 1659 Richard Lee purchased certain properties at Stratford Langton, a village in the parish of West Ham and county of Essex, about five miles northeast of the center of London. At that time Stratford was becoming a fashionable residential suburb. (Today it is a depressingly urban working-class district.) The record of these transactions describes the purchaser as “Richard Lee of London.”86

Richard Lee’s estate at Stratford Langton consisted of “lease land, free land and copyhold land, and houses.”87 William Lee stated in 1771 that it had produced an income of about £850 a year, a handsome sum indeed in Richard Lee’s time.88 The negative result of a thorough search of pertinent records establishes a presumption that none of this property came to Richard Lee by inheritance. No record of his leaseholds could be expected to survive to this day; identification of his copyholds must await the rediscovery of missing West Ham Manor Rolls. Even the discoverable records of his freeholds—two deeds of purchase in 1658 and 1659 and a deed of sale in 1678—manifestly do not cover the entire estate in that category. They refer to eleven messuages (houses and gardens), including an inn, and to five small tracts of land. In particular, they do not account for Richard Lee’s own residence at Stratford. Its size is indicated by the fact that in the hearth tax return for 1662 he was assessed for nine hearths. On the basis of that return his house was eighth in size in Stratford Ward. (Sir William Humble was assessed for fifteen hearths, most of the householders for less than five.)89

Such evidence as there is strongly suggests that Richard Lee’s interest in Stratford Langton originated in 1658. We know further that in August 1659 he embarked for Virginia with the firm intention of putting his affairs there in charge of a steward (John Gibbon) and moving his family to Stratford.90 What were the motives which underlay this radical decision? Gibbon says simply that “hee was willing to end his days in England.” After all, England was “home” to Richard Lee and all other Virginians of his generation. But perhaps there were more particular considerations.

Let us first consider the political circumstances. Oliver Cromwell had been three months dead and buried when Richard Lee made his earliest recorded purchase of property at Stratford Langton. Richard Cromwell was deposed three months before Lee embarked for Virginia. This coup was the work of die-hard republicans antagonized by the quasi-royal pretensions of the house of Cromwell, but during the summer of 1659 Royalist hopes were high for an early restoration of the house of Stuart, and it was in this atmosphere that Richard Lee developed his plans. A restoration would presumably restore Richard Lee to a position of political prominence in Virginia. It offered no prospect of preferment in England. Yet Richard Lee resolved to move to England. He may have foreseen that there would be occasion to press a new government for greater consideration for colonial plantation interests—e.g., for revocation of the Navigation Act. Except for that, the prospect of a restoration would seem to have had no bearing on his decision.

A more personal consideration was that, although Richard Lee was a great planter in Virginia, he had also become a considerable trader to Virginia. Since leaving public office in 1652, he had actually spent some thirty-six months in England as against only forty-six in Virginia. It was only natural that he should wish to establish a proper home in or near London.

Another consideration with Richard Lee must have been the education of his children. He was now a wealthy man, ambitious for them as well as for himself and well able to provide for them. John was already a student at Oxford; the others were growing up. At the edge of the wilderness in Northumberland, among Indians and indentured servants, there was a want not only of schools, but even of polite society. In England they could be brought up as proper ladies and gentlemen, which would be to their advantage even if (as he probably intended all along) they should eventually return to Virginia.

Whatever Richard Lee’s motives, he was not making a choice between mutually exclusive alternatives. Residing in Virginia, he had been a considerable trader in London. Residing near London, he would maintain and even expand his interests in Virginia. It was simply that a time had come when it was more convenient for him to conduct his trans-Atlantic operations from London.

The man whom Richard Lee selected to be his resident manager in Virginia was John Gibbon (an uncle of the historian). Gibbon was thirty years old in 1659. He was a graduate of Cambridge, experienced as a soldier and traveler, and had served in the household of Thomas, Lord Coventry. Among the inducements which persuaded him to emigrate to Virginia were promises of 1,000 acres and of the hand of one of Colonel Lee’s daughters (then six years old).91

The success of the Royalist uprising of August 1659 was seriously in doubt when Richard Lee and John Gibbon embarked in the good ship Charles, lying in the Downs, on the nineteenth of that month. They tarried in the Channel, putting in from port to port along the south coast of England, until at Plymouth on August 27 they learned of Sir George Booth’s utter defeat. Thereupon they went ashore at Plymouth, where they remained for forty days. When the Charles finally put to sea, on October 7, the Commonwealth of England seemed as securely established as ever. Once at sea, the Charles made the Atlantic crossing in twenty-four days, entering the Virginia Capes on October 31. Two days later the voyagers landed at Dividing Creek.92

John Gibbon was fascinated by the Virginia Indians, especially by Indian royalty. The future Bluemantle Pursuivant witnessed an Indian war dance and saw in the war paint and decorated shields a primitive heraldry.93 He proudly noted that in Virginia he had met not only the Kings of Wicomico, Chicacoan, and Chiskiack, but also the Queen of Pamunkey, widow of the famous Totopotomoy.94 The King of Wicomico was a near neighbor of the Lees in Northumberland; the King of Chicacoan had come to visit them at Dividing Creek. The King of Chiskiack lived near Paradise. The Queen of Pamunkey, however, lived near no Lee plantation. John Gibbon is likely to have met her only in the course of an initiation into the Indian trade on the Pamunkey River. It is well to remember that even as late as 1660 the Indians were still a conspicuous feature of the Tidewater scene.

In January 1660 Samuel Mathews, the third elected Governor of Virginia under the Commonwealth regime, died in office. The Commonwealth of England was by then sinking into an anarchy of contending factions. The House of Burgesses, reading the signs of the times, chose none other than Sir William Berkeley to be Mathews’ successor. Sir William made a great display of conscientious scruple about accepting office by republican election rather than royal appointment, but he did accept. William Claiborne continued as Secretary of State. The collaboration of those old antagonists, incongruous as it might seem in remembrance of 1652, was quite in keeping with Berkeley’s conciliatory policy of 1642 and 1650. Richard Lee’s political ambitions were probably satisfied by his election to the Council.95 He might expect to be in Virginia frequently enough to accept that office, but any more responsible position would have frustrated his intention to spend most of his time in England.

Richard Lee’s continuing interest in Virginia real estate is evidenced by a new patent for 4,000 acres which he took out in November 1660.96 These lands were in three separate tracts on the Potomac. The first, 1,000 acres, cannot now be precisely located. The other two were on “the Petomack ffreshes above Piscataway.” One tract, 1,000 acres, was the site of Mount Vernon. The other, 2,000 acres, was on the south shore of Hunting Creek, opposite the site of Alexandria.97

Richard Lee’s venture into the “ffreshes above Piscataway” was highly speculative. Virginians had been in contact with the Piscataways since 1608, but had found them a fiercer tribe than the Indians to the southward. The first patents in the area had been taken out in 1657 and were now deserted. It remained to be seen whether Richard Lee could make a successful settlement where others had failed.

A point of special interest in relation to Lee’s patent of 1660 is the source of his headrights. Until 1655 the names at the foot of Richard Lee’s patents had always been English. These English men and women, or most of them, had been bound to serve him for a term of four or five years, but they had accepted that obligation voluntarily in order to get passage to America, to begin a new life in a New World. In 1655 and 1656 the names had been distinctly Irish. These immigrants are unlikely to have come voluntarily: their transportation to Virginia was a consequence of Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland. In 1660 Richard Lee claimed his 4,000 acres by virtue of headrights for eighty nameless Negroes.

Richard Lee was not the first man to bring an African into Virginia, but he was perhaps the first to bring in as many as eighty. In his early resort to Negro slavery on a large scale he showed shrewd economic sense. It was by the substitution of African slaves for English indentured servants that Virginia planters cut their costs of production, overcame the depressing effects of the Navigation Act, and achieved the prosperity which they enjoyed in the first half of the eighteenth century. But the baronial mansions which later rose along the Virginia rivers were not the only result of this transition. Apart from any question of injustice to the Negroes, it marked the end of the purely English and rather democratic Virginia which had been the dream of Sir Edwin Sandys and Sir Francis Wyatt, a Virginia in which even an indentured servant might become a freeholder. Negro slavery offered a solution only to those able to operate on a grand scale. It tended to depress the condition of the small holder and to deter further English immigration.

Richard Lee must be judged, however, in terms of his own age. There was not much difference between the transportation of an unwilling captive from Ireland and that of another from Africa, except the fact that the African could be held for life and his progeny after him. In resorting to Negro slavery Richard Lee shrewdly solved his immediate economic problem. He could not have foreseen the consequences which in 1759 caused his greatgrandson, Richard Henry Lee, to make an impassioned plea to the House of Burgesses for abolition of the slave trade.98 He could not have foreseen the tragedy of his most famous descendant, Robert Edward Lee.

In October 1659 young John Lee at Oxford contracted a dangerous disease, supposedly smallpox. In consequence his tutor, Joseph Williamson, received sundry letters from parents anxious concerning the health of the college and from John Currer as Richard Lee’s agent. When King Charles returned to his throne he summoned Williamson into his service. So it came to pass that these private letters concerning John Lee’s illness were accidentally preserved among certain state papers.99

From these letters three points of interest emerge. John Lee of London and Ankerwycke was regarded as young John Lee’s next of kin in England. John Jeffreys was still Richard Lee’s commercial representative in London. (John Currer was apparently connected with Jeffreys’ firm.) In January 1660 John Currer anticipated Richard Lee’s early return to England.

The Restoration

On May 8, 1660, Charles II was proclaimed King in England; on May 26 he landed at Dover. Meanwhile Richard Lee lingered in Virginia, instructing John Gibbon in his duties as manager, resuming his seat in the Council, patenting new lands on the upper Potomac. The news was late in reaching him, but he might have anticipated it. His prolonged delay tends to show that it had not been part of his design to be in London when King Charles came into his own.

Eventually Richard Lee had “newes from Newe England of ye Kings Restauration” and hastened to return to London. Only then did he learn, to his probable dismay, that John Gibbon wanted to return to England too
in these exciting circumstances. It was not until February 1661 that Lee was able to complete the new arrangements required for the management of his affairs in Virginia and to embark his family. They had a slow voyage, for they cleared the Virginia Capes on February 5, but did not land at Margate until March 22.100

On June 5, 1661, Charles Lee, then five years old, was christened at Stratford.101 The Lee family was at last established in its English home.

On learning of “ye Kings Restauration” Sir William Berkeley, already governor by election, continued in office under his royal commission of 1650. William Claiborne retired as Secretary of State and was replaced by Thomas Ludwell. There were no retributions: the Commonwealth party in Virginia had treated the Royalists with too much consideration for that to be proposed. On April 30, 1661, Sir William Berkeley himself sailed for England to present his own claims for royal favor and to speak for the common interests of all Virginians, for repeal of the Navigation Act and for suppression of tobacco planting in England.

During Sir William Berkeley’s prolonged stay in London, he, Richard Lee, and Anne Lee all had their portraits painted by Sir Peter Lely.102 The artist, in his portrait of Richard Lee, depicted a prosperous and self-confident London merchant and councilor of state. He caught something of the determination which had enabled Lee to reach that eminence from his beginnings as a poor relation in Shropshire. One must look twice, however, to see the man who discovered the Indian Spring near the head of Poropotank in the days before the Massacre, the recent intruder upon the lands of the dreaded Emperor of Piscataway.

A document of this period provides the earliest evidence of Richard Lee’s association with Sir Henry Chicheley, afterwards a close friend of the Lee family.103 In September 1661 Chicheley, Lee, and others petitioned the Treasury for release of a quantity of malt seized by the Customs on board the ship Susan for lack of an export license. The petitioners declared that this malt was for use on their own plantations, not for sale, and that Sir William Berkeley would testify that such shipments had long been permitted without specific license. The Lord Treasurer promptly ordered release of the malt upon payment of customs duties and reasonable satisfaction to the customs officers concerned.104

Sir William Berkeley, Sir Henry Chicheley, Edward Digges, Richard Lee—every prominent Virginian in London at that time—must have plead with the new regime for repeal of the Navigation Act, which the Convention Parliament had reenacted in 1660. Failing in that, they sought by other means to reduce the glut of tobacco in the English market. Their petition for an Order in Council forbidding the planting of any tobacco in Virginia and Maryland during 1663 was summarily rejected—a cessation of shipments from the Chesapeake would have had disastrous effect on the royal revenue, which then derived as much as £100,000 a year from customs duties on colonial tobacco. However, despite a stern injunction never again to present such a proposal, they did succeed in obtaining authorization for a conference between Virginia and Maryland regarding joint measures to curtail the 1663 tobacco crop.105 To supplement this concession, Berkeley, Chicheley, Digges, Lee, and others on August 26, 1662, submitted the familiar petition for stricter enforcement of the law against tobacco planting in England.106

By October 7, 1662, Sir William Berkeley had sailed for Virginia, and Richard Lee was preparing to follow him. On that date Lee addressed a note to an “Honored ffriend” regarding “the busines of Virginia.” This note is very inexplicit and obscure. It is evident, however, that Richard Lee relied upon his “Honored ffriend” to obtain the King’s signature on a letter very necessary to him in his “goeing over.” For prompt service in this respect Lee offered “ten peeces” in addition to inducements previously given or offered.107

It is impossible to say what purpose the desired letter was intended to serve. Perhaps with special pleading, Richard Lee insisted that it could clash with no interest, that the King and Council could have no objection to it, and that he had seen several of the same sort from King Charles I. His offer of “ten peeces” was not exactly a bribe. It was rather a tip to ensure prompt service. That was the custom of the time—Richard Lee himself must have received such inducements as Secretary of State. Indeed, the practice is not unheard of today, though greater indirection is usually observed in it.

Richard Lee was in Virginia on March 28, 1663, when he signed the remonstrance of the Governor and Council against the King’s grant of the Northern Neck to certain favorites. This grant, originally made in 1649 when the King was a refugee in France, had been a dead letter throughout the Commonwealth period. Its revival was signalized by instructions from the King to the Governor and Council dated December 5, 1662. The Virginians, who had objected violently to the grant of unsettled lands within their bounds to Lord Baltimore in 1632, were even more incensed by this grant of settled territory which jeopardized all land titles in the Northern Neck.

Richard Lee’s signature on the remonstrance came next after those of the three principal colonial officials: the Governor (Sir William Berkeley), the Deputy Governor (Francis Moryson), and the Secretary (Thomas Ludwell).108 This position may have been his in tacit recognition of his standing as the principal private citizen in Virginia. Certainly he was the signer most seriously threatened by the Northern Neck grant.

Richard Lee’s purchase of certain lands in Maryland may have occurred at this time when Northern Neck lands were a doubtful investment and when he was brought into contact with Marylanders through negotiations regarding the curtailment of tobacco planting. His acquisitions included a large tract at Cedar Point (at the Maryland end of the Potomac River Bridge) which was known for a hundred years thereafter as “Lee’s Purchase,” and three islands in Chesapeake Bay (presumably among the islands enclosing Tangier Sound).109 What use he had for three islands in the Bay is not apparent, unless he was exploiting the Chesapeake fisheries to feed the multitude of servants on his several plantations.

The conference with Maryland regarding the curtailment of tobacco planting was held at Machodoc on May 12, 1663, with Richard Lee at the head of the Virginia delegation. The conferees agreed that both colonies should prohibit the planting of any tobacco after the twentieth of June each year. This agreement was promptly ratified by Virginia, but the Maryland Assembly refused to give its consent.110

Aftert his frustration Richard Lee set sail once more for England. His pleasure in returning to his family at Stratford must have been clouded over by worry regarding both the security of his land titles in the Northern Neck and the economic prospects of Virginia. He could forsee the deepening depression of the tobacco economy; he may also have foreseen the social and political disorder which would ensue. (Bacon’s Rebellion was now only a dozen years away.) Even without anticipating the more flagrant instances of King Charles’s cavalier disregard of colonial interests which were yet to come, Richard Lee and other Virginians could already have begun to reflect that the Restoration had been disastrous for Virginia.

Richard Lee of Virginia

“I, Colonel Richard Lee, of Virginia, and lately of Stratford Langton, in the County of Essex. . . .” So began the last will of Richard Lee, signed in England on February 6, 1664, on the eve of a new voyage to Virginia. He left strict instructions that, if he did not survive the voyage, his executors were to sell the property at Stratford and to send his family to Virginia “with all convenient speed.”111

This identifying statement and these instructions have been interpreted as the denouement of a prolonged conflict within Richard Lee’s heart and mind between the competing attractions of England and of Virginia.112 That would seem to overdramatize the situation. Richard Lee described himself as “of Virginia, and lately of Stratford Langton” because he had property to dispose of in both places. In this context “lately” meant, not “formerly,” but “now also”—its only implication was that he had been “of Virginia” before becoming also “of Stratford Langton.” The request that his family be returned to Virginia tends only to show that he had never regarded his home at Stratford as more than a temporary convenience. A review of his estate, as described in the will itself, wills how that he must all along have regarded his family’s future as lying in Virginia.

There is no reason to suppose that Richard Lee felt any special premonition of death when he drew up this particular will. Voyaging was a risky business, not only because of perils of the sea, but also because of the danger of ship-borne disease. He probably reviewed his will every time he went to sea. Apart from the customary revocation of previous wills, there is internal evidence which suggests that this one was but the latest edition in a series.113

Richard Lee, accompanied by his son John, probably sailed from England almost immediately after signing this will. He arrived at Dividing Creek a dying man. At the April session of the Northumberland County Court, John Lee obtained an order for headrights due to his deceased father.114

Richard Lee presumably died of a disease contracted on shipboard. He was only about fifty-one and was at the height of his career when death overtook him.

Richard Lee’s will was probated in London in January 1665. His executors were Thomas Griffith and John Lockey, London merchants, and his eldest sons, John and Richard.

The will showed special concern for the early discharge of a debt due John Jeffreys, who had been Lee’s commercial correspondent in London prior to his return to England in 1661. This debt appears to have amounted to more than a planter’s normal adverse balance with his London merchant. It would seem most likely that it was for funds advanced toward the purchase of the estate at Stratford Langton. Richard Lee directedt hat his property at Stratford be sold to discharge this debt. Meanwhile its curtailment was to be a first charge on the production of his Virginia plantations after provision for their upkeep and for the maintenance of his family. If the debt were to be paid off by this means before an advantageous sale of the Stratford property could be effected, that property must nevertheless be sold and the proceeds put out at interest. In this case, the interest was to be used to complete John’s education as a physician and to maintain Richard at the University or the Inns of Court. Ultimately the principal was to be divided between Betsey and Anne.

It appearst hat Richard Lee’s debts were in fact discharged prior to the sale of the entire estate at Stratford and that the alternative provisions of his will were at least partially carried out. John Lee did not go on with the study of medicine, but Richard did go to Oxford, where he distinguished himself as a scholar. As late as 1678 a fragment of the Stratford estate remained to be sold for the benefit of Betsey and Anne, who were by then the wives of Leonard Howson and Thomas Youell.115

To his widow, during her life, Richard Lee left his home on Dividing Creek and all of his land there except the Bishop’s Neck tract. He also left her five Negroes “during her widowhood and no longer.” He well knew that she would soon be remarried, in accordance with the custom of the country and the necessities of plantation life. In September 1666, in fact, her new husband, Edmund Lister, brought suit against John Lee regarding the execution of Richard Lee’s will.116

John Lee was twenty-two when his father died. He was left the Machodoc plantation (then rated at 2,000 acres), with its complement of ten English servants and ten Negroes, and also the three islands in Chesapeake Bay. As heir-at-law he also inherited his father’s outstanding headrights, good for 4,700 additional acres. John established himself at Machodoc and served as militia captain, justice of the peace, sheriff, and burgess for Westmoreland. He is best remembered for the Banqueting Hall which he and three adjoining landholders established at their common corner “for the better preservation of that friendship which ought to be between neighbors.” He died unmarried in 1673, at the age of thirty-one.117

Richard Lee II, eighteen in 1664, inherited the Paradise plantation (rated at 1,350 acres). After his graduation from Oxford he went to live there, but at John’s death he inherited his lands and moved to Machodoc. There he married Letitia, the daughter of his neighbor, Councilor Henry Corbin. At about the same time Richard Lee himself was elevated to the dignity of a seat in the Council.118

The 750-acre plantation on York River, including War Captain’s Neck (Capahosic) and Paper-Maker’s Neck (Cowpen Neck) was left to Francis Lee, who was sixteen in 1664. It is evident, however, that Richard Lee expected Francis to become a merchant rather than a planter. He authorized Francis to remain in London when the rest of the family returned to Virginia and left him an eighth share in two ships, the Elizabeth and Mary and the Susan. Francis Lee probably served a commercial apprenticeship in London with Griffith and Lockey before returning to Virginia about 1670. He then sold his plantation in Gloucester, made himself at home at Dividing Creek, and became a justice of the peace for Northumberland. By 1677, however, he had returned to London, where he remained in business as a Virginia merchant.119

The younger children—William (fourteen in 1664), Hancock (twelve), Betsey and Anne (eleven), and Charles (eight)—lived with their mother and stepfather at Dividing Creek. To them Richard Lee left the Bishop’s Neck tract and the reversion of their mother’s life estate. Inasmuch as Betsey and Anne received their inheritance through the sale of the Stratford property, these lands on Dividing Creek were eventually divided among the three younger sons under the alternative provisions of Richard Lee’s will. William, the first to leave his mother’s home, received the Bishop’s Neck tract (rated as 500 acres). Hancock received the 800-acre patent of 1651, which became the Ditchley estate. Charles, the youngest, remained with his mother at the old homestead (the 600-acre patent of 1656) and eventually inherited it.120

The Lee’s Purchase tract in Maryland was left directly to William Lee, in addition to his share in the lands on Dividing Creek.

The 4,000 acres on the upper Potomac which Richard Lee had patented in 1660 were also left to be divided among his younger sons. He had been no mores uccessfult han his predecessors in actually settling those lands. The Lee title to them was clouded by that default and by conflicting interests arising from the establishment of the Northern Neck proprietary. Perhaps on the supposition that only the head of the family could adequately defend the Lee claim, the younger sons somehow conveyed their interest to John Lee before 1673, or to Richard Lee II soon thereafter. Nevertheless, all these lands were eventually lost.121

William Lee died in 1696, leaving his lands to one Mary Heath, a widow who soon thereafter married Bartholomew Schreever. It has been supposed and denied that this Mary was William’s daughter. In tracing the disposition of the Emigrant’s estate we need only note that in 1707 Richard Lee II, rereading his father’s will, observed that it contained no “words of inheritance” (i.e., “and his heirs forever”) with respect to the lands left to the younger children. Taking advantage of what was presumably an inadvertence, Richard II, as heir-at-law in succession to John, brought suit to recover William’s lands on the ground that he had had only a life estate in them. He did recover Bishop’s Neck in 1710. His Maryland suit for Lee’s Purchase was still pending in 1715, but was eventually successful.122

It is impossible to say what considerations moved Richard II to dispossess the Schreevers. Certainly greed for land was not the motive. The same legal contention, upheld by the courts of both Virginia and Maryland, would have served to dispossess the heirs of Hancock and Charles. In 1707, however, Richard II took immediate action to clear and confirm their titles, with specific reference to the natural affection he bore them.123 It is evident that he did not regard Mary Schreever as a niece and that he was moved by some special animus in reclaiming William Lee’s lands.

Thus, in the end, Richard Lee’s lands on York River were alienated, those on the upper Potomac were forfeited, and the remainder of his estate in Virginia was divided among only three heirs: Richard II, Hancock, and Charles. The two latter received relatively modest appanages. The bulk of the estate devolved to Richard Lee II.

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In summation, what can be said of the Emigrant’s life and character? He began life as a poor relation in Shropshire. He died perhaps the wealthiest man in Virginia. He could have accomplished that result only by an aggressive pursuit of fortune. He owed something to the start in life which he received from his cousin, John Lee of London and Ankerwycke, and something to the patronage of Sir Francis Wyatt. He owed far more to his own restless energy and shrewd economic foresight. Had his object been merely to become a squire like the contemporary master of Coton the development of Paradise plantation would have sufficed, but there was no limit upon the scope of his enterprise. His personal adjustment to the Navigation Act of 1651 was the foundation of his later fortune, for it was as a merchant and shipowner that he acquired the means for the steady expansion of his landholdings. He again showed keen economic sense in his early resort to Negro slavery, though certainly he was blind to the ultimate social, economic, and political consequences—as were many who came after him.

In contrast to his economic purposefulness, Richard Lee had no firm political convictions. He participated in public life because he valued public office, first as a means of advancing his fortunes, later as a mark of the dignity he had achieved, but he could readily adjust his politics to suit the occasion. A protègè of Sir Francis Wyatt, he could become the “beloved friend” of Richard Kemp and the principal lieutenant of Sir William Berkeley. He could declare the loyal adherence of Virginia to Charles II in 1650, swear allegiance to the Commonwealth in 1652, and hail the Restoration in 1660.

Richard Lee’s political behavior is of no significance whatever in relation to that of his descendants, despite some speculations on that point.124 He would have regarded as absurd the “scruple of conscience” which caused Richard Lee II to yield his seat in the Council and the remunerative office of collector for the south shore of the Potomac rather than foreswear his allegiance to his deposed King, James II. He would have been better able to understandt he considerations which led Richard Henry Lee to advocate American independence, although that idea was inconceivable during his lifetime.

The descendants whom Richard Lee would have best appreciated were his son Hancock, who improved upon a limited patrimony by patenting frontier lands on the upper Rappahannock, the Chopawamsic, and the Occoquan; his grandson Thomas Lee of Stratford, who did likewise on the upper Rappahannock and upper Potomac, who was President of the Ohio Company as well as President of Virginia; and his great-grandsons, Willis and Hancock Lee and Hancock Taylor, who led the way into Kentucky—for in the last analysis Richard Lee was most significant as an empire builder. His pursuit of fortune was not made by “adventures” in a London counting house, but by adventuring his own person in a strange land beyond the seas. In creating a personal fortune and founding a family he also brought the wilderness under cultivation and so contributed to the founding of a new nation.