Tag Archives: Francis Lightfoot Lee

Reflection on Menokin Sleepover Conference by descendant of Northern Neck Enslaved

GUEST BLOGGER: TOM DUCKENFIELD, MENOKIN TRUSTEE
Menokin Trustees Tom Duckenfield and Ro King at the Menokin Sleepover Conference.

Last weekend, 23-24 September 2017, I had the fortune to partake in the Menokin Sleepover Conference from the unique perspective of a Menokin Trustee, as well as from the various perspectives of a descendant of Virginia Northern Neck African American slaves, free African Americans, and White slaveholders.

Featuring facilitators Frank Vagnone (One Night Stand) and
Joseph McGill (The Slave Dwelling Project) in their first joint project, the Conference fostered an incredible amount of dialogue and reflection about Menokin, the home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his wife, Rebecca Tayloe Lee of Mount Airy Plantation.

After an authentic mid-19th century open-fire meal, Vagnone and McGill facilitated a lantern-lit discussion among the Conference participants about Menokin’s historic inhabitants; its current stewards; its mission, its intrepid melding of colonial architecture and modern glass structural building techniques; and its potential role as a catalyst of racial understanding, reconciliation, and unification.

Following the riveting discussion, several participants and I emulated Vagnone and McGill by pitching tents amidst the Menokin House ruins or in the nearby sward where the former Menokin slave dwellings once stood.  At first, my immediate impression was that I was just experiencing a familiar camping-out experience under a clear star-spangled sky, not unlike those of past scouting trips, school outdoor adventures, Army bivouacs, or family mountain getaways.

Tents pitched on the site where Menokin slave dwellings once stood.

As I gazed at the twinkling constellations and reacquainted myself with camping accoutrements, it suddenly dawned on me that this was not an ordinary camping experience at all.  Rather, the purpose was to contemplate what it would have been like to be an inhabitant or visitor in a Menokin slave dwelling or in the Menokin House.

Accordingly, via a time and memory conduit constructed by interlacing the “rings” of my family tree with www.ancestry.com DNA dendochronology, I traveled back in time to 1792 — the penultimate year of the second term of Northern Neck son President George Washington – and I began to imagine what several of my Northern Neck ancestors might have been doing then at Menokin.

Portion of Richmond County, Virginia 1818 “List of Free Negroes and Mulattoes” enumerating John Newman, emancipated in 1791 by Robert Carter III.

First, I conjured up the image of my 4th great-grandfather John Newman, who was born a slave in 1770 at Nomini Hall in neighboring Westmoreland County and freed in 1791 by Robert Carter III (1727-1804) as part of the latter’s manumission of more than 500 of his slaves.  There are references in peripatetic tutor Philip Vickers Fithian’s Diary about Robert Carter III and his visits to Menokin.

Still savoring his newly acquired freedom, my ancestor John Newman may very well have spent many nights visiting friends and relatives in the Menokin slave dwellings, an example of how many ante-bellum African American families — similar to today’s mixed status immigrant families — had members of mixed free and slave status.

Second, I thought of my fifth great-uncle Moses Liverpool, who was born in 1773 as a slave of Lt. Col. William Fauntleroy (1716 – 1793) on his “Old Plantation” in Naylors Creek, a short paddle ride up the Rappahannock River from Menokin, which is located along the shoreline of Cat Point Creek, a tributary of the Rappahannock River.

Because Moses was described by the Fauntleroy family as “… a very smart, smiling fellow, who is a good cooper, a house carpenter, and  ‘a little acquainted’ with the ships’ carpenter business,” I imagined Moses might have spent a few night in the Menokin slave dwellings, perhaps having been hired out to Francis Lightfoot Lee to create or repair Menokin House’s interior woodwork or, alternatively, to build or repair the ships, casks, barrels, and hogsheads used to transport commodities produced at Menokin.

Third, I contemplated how my White slave-holding ancestor Henry Lee III (1756-1818) — my 2nd cousin, 8x removed and known as

Maj. Gen. Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee.

“Lighthorse Harry” because of his daring in the Revolutionary War — might have spent an evening with his cousin Francis Lightfoot Lee.  Henry III’s great-grandfather, Henry Lee I, was a brother of Governor Thomas Lee (1690-1750), the builder of Stratford Hall in neighboring Westmoreland County, Virginia, and Governor Thomas Lee was the father of Francis Lightfoot Lee of Menokin.  Henry Lee III married his distant cousin Matilda, granddaughter of Governor Thomas Lee, niece to Francis Lightfoot Lee, and heiress to Stratford Hall.

On the canvas of my mind, I painted a picture of Henry Lee III dining at Menokin in 1792 with his cousin Francis Lightfoot Lee and Francis’ brother Arthur Lee (1740-1792), a physician and opponent of slavery in Virginia, who served as an American diplomat during the American Revolutionary War.  I considered that, among other topics, these cousins may have debated slavery and the tension and cognitive dissonance between the institution of slavery and the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, which expresses:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Taken together, the fervent and introspective discussions of the Menokin Sleepover Conference participants, my own musings concerning how some of my racially diverse ancestors may have inter-related with Menokin, and the social, political, and economic issues revolving around it, Menokin occupies a singularly unique position.

Menokin can not only be the focal point and catalyst for preserving and rebuilding a national historic landmark, but also be the focal point, catalyst, and host of future conferences – a la the Aspen Institute — to foster discussions that can promote understanding and reconciliation to dissipate the long shadow of slavery by actualizing the shining ideals of the Declaration of Independence signed by Francis Lightfoot Lee and 55 other American patriots.

CULTURAL LANDSCAPES OF MENOKIN: AN HISTORICAL ANALYSIS – PART III

Originally prepared in October 2012 and revised in November of 2013, this research conducted and prepared by C. Allan Brown is part of the The Menokin Glass House Project.
The report will be shared in a serial fashion with the intention of a weekly post as time allows.

PART III

Immediately south of Stephens’ property, (see Part II) Thomas Beale II settled on 929 acres at Chestnut Hill about 1673.[1]  Like Fleete and Fauntleroy, Beale had true Cavalier origins which gave this neighborhood even at its earliest settlement an incongruous aristocratic air amid a near wilderness.  His elegant tombstone (probably carved in England c. 1680) is emblazoned with the family’s coat-of-arms and was the oldest standing marker in the county until it was recently removed from Chestnut Hill for safekeeping.[2]  (Further research on Chestnut Hill plantation, especially deeds and plats, may provide clues for understanding Menokin better in relation to its roads, fields, etc.)

Figure 7

It seems likely that the earliest “road” to Menokin entered from what became the Chestnut Hill property to the south and originally may have been an Indian path linking the sites of the so-called “ Mt. Airy burials” and the “Town of the Great Rappahannocks,” both identified on Figure 7.  Keep in mind that in the mid-seventeenth century most travel in the vicinity was by water routes.  Even so, the open character of the understory did not impede travel through the virgin forests.  Robert Beverley in 1705 described the “Oaks, Poplars, Pines, Cedars, Cypress and Sweet-Gums; the trunks of which are often Thirty, Forty, Fifty, some Sixty or Seventy foot high, without a branch or limb.”[3]  Using GIS technology, the Virginia Department of Forestry has located

Fig. 11. Road traces at Menokin as identified by the Virginia Department of Forestry

a trace (which it judged to be “over 250 years old”) that “extends from the high ground at Menokin . . . south, southeasterly and today terminates in Muddy Run marshlands” (see Fig. 11).[4]  In the 17th century, that track likely crossed Menokin “swamp” below a beaver dam that had accumulated there.

The initial “opening” (i.e., clearing and cultivating) of land at Menokin occurred perhaps as early as the late 1650s, following John Stephens’ 1657/58 patent of the original 1,000 acres.[5]  Of course, the Rappahannocks, if indeed they were resident there, may have cleared and cultivated part of the land prior to Stephens’ patent.[6]  Stephens returned to England for a brief period (c. 1662-1664?) and after his death in 1678, his heirs sold the property to John Grymes of Gloucester County in 1685.[7]Grymes eventually owned sizable acreage in Middlesex, King and Queen, and Richmond counties, as well as his home plantation in Gloucester.[8]  At his death in 1709, Menokin passed to his second son Charles Grymes along with another plantation, Morattico, lower down the Rappahannock River.[9]  Charles Grymes was among the foremost gentry planters in early eighteenth-century Virginia and erected an imposing residence at Morattico (but like Fauntleroy’s, too near the river!).[10]Grymes operated Menokin as an outlying “quarter” with 17 slaves, 36 cattle, 32 sheep, and 56 hogs, according to a 1743 inventory.[11]

Grymes’ son-in-law and daughter, Philip and Frances (Grymes) Ludwell inherited Menokin about 1750, after a protracted settlement of Charles Grymes’ substantial estate; yet they soon sold the property to John Tayloe II who already owned much land nearby.[12]  In 1751 when he acquired Menokin, Tayloe was one of the wealthiest gentlemen in Virginia.[13]  However he had not yet begun to build his impressive new house at Mount Airy (constructed c. 1761-1765) and it seems noteworthy that he passed over the opportunity to establish his seat at Menokin.[14]  (For the location of Tayloe’s earlier house, see Fig. 10.) Indeed, he continued to operate Menokin as but one of a number of outlying quarters until he gave the property to his daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, Francis Lightfoot Lee.[15]  Thus, by the early 1770s when Menokin at last became a principal residence, its lands had been in the process of being cleared and cultivated, to some unknown degree, for more than a century.

That circumstance surely influenced the site-planning decisions made by the Lees and their generous benefactor, her father, John Tayloe II.  It seems logical to assume that the approximate 1,000 acres of Menokin were first “entered” and “opened” from the south; with sequential clearing of the several, adjacent plateaus proceeding generally northward over time.  A chronicler of agricultural practices in late colonial America explained why large tracts were required for tobacco cultivation, in the constant search for “fresh” fields as old ones were exhausted of their fertility: “This want of land is such, that they reckon a planter should have 50 acres of land for every working hand.”[16]  A field typically was considered “worn out” after 3-4 years of tobacco cropping; and required about 20 years lying fallow to regain its fertility.[17] Selective felling of the most useful hardwood trees within the surrounding ravines (yet with care not to denude the “highly erodible soil”)[18]  had likely also been ongoing for some decades.  The extensive canebrakes of the adjacent tidal marshlands may have been left largely intact until the nineteenth century.  Most significantly, an existing pattern of fields, fences, and (at least rudimentary) roads no doubt was already in place by 1769 when Menokin house was begun.  And, of course, the resident laborers long had known it as their home (some for perhaps more than one generation).[19]


[1]Virginia Land Office Patent Book 6, p. 24.  The plantation remained in the Beale family through the early nineteenth century.

[2]Harper, Richmond County, p. 32.

[3] Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia ed. Louis B. Wright (Chapel Hill, 1947), pp. 123-124.

[4]Virginia Department of Forestry, “Forest Stewardship Plan for Menokin” (July 2002), p. 28.

[5]Wells, “Menokin in Time,” p. 8.

[6] For native American agricultural practices, see Michael Williams, Americans and Their Forests:  A Historical Geography (Cambridge, U.K., 1989), pp. 35-43.

[7] Wells, “Menokin in Time,”., pp. 8-9.

[8] Ibid., pp. 10-12.

[9] Ibid., pp. 12-13.

[10]  For information on the elegance of Morattico, see Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Mansions of Virginia, 1706-1776 (Chapel Hill, 1945), pp. 62-67, 409-410.

[11]Wells, “Menokin in Time,” p. 14.

[12]Ibid., pp. 14-15.

[13]See Laura Croghan Kamoie, Irons in the Fire:  The Business History of the Tayloe Family and Virginia’s Gentry (Charlottesville, 2007), p. 33.

[14] See William M. S. Rasmussen, “Palladio in Tidewater Virginia:  Mount Airy and Blandfield,” in Building By the Book ed. Mario di Valmarana (Charlottesville, 1984); Camille Wells, “Dower Play/Power Play:  Menokin and the Ordeal of Elite House Building in Colonial Virginia,” in Constructing Image, Identity and Place ed. Alison K. Hoagland and Kenneth A. Breisch (Knoxville, 2003), pp. 2-21.  William Tayloe, the original settler, had built a house nearer to the Rappahannock River, about 1682; it reputedly burned in the early eighteenth century.

[15]Wells, “Menokin in Time,” pp. 18, 28.

[16] Harry J. Carman, ed., American Husbandry (London, 1775; reprint, New York, 1939), p. 165.  See also Lois Green Carr and Russell R. Menard, “Land, Labor, and Economies of Scale in Early Maryland:  Some Limits to Growth in the Chesapeake System of Husbandry,” Journal of Economic History v. 49 (1989), pp. 407-418; Paul G. E. Clemens, “The Operation of an Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake Tobacco Plantation,” Agricultural History v. 49 (1975), pp. 517-531.  At Menokin, the most productive soil has been considered to be the Kempsville Sandy Loam found as the topsoil of the upper plateaus.  For an interesting account of period clearing practices, see Carville V. Earle, The Evolution of a Tidewater Settlement System:  All Hallow’s Parish, Maryland, 1650-1783 (Chicago, 1975), pp. 30-34.

[17] Earle, Evolution, p. 25.

[18]Wildlife Service, “Rappahannock River,” section 3-2.  This is the Rumford soils of the slopes.

[19]Camille Wells has noted that listings of slaves by their given names “suggest that when [John] Tayloe arranged to buy Menokin in 1751, he agreed to buy its inhabitants as well,” idem, “Menokin in Time,” p. 18.  (See also Ligon Brooks’ research notes in Menokin Foundation files.)

 

Hard Hat Tours and Birthday Party

The Menokin Foundation is here to make your dream of wearing a hard hat and getting up-close and personal with historic preservation come true…

frank_flattenedJoin us on Saturday, October 15th from 1:00 to 4:00 for a birthday celebration in honor of Francis Lightfoot Lee’s 282nd birthday! (And he doesn’t look a day over 178.)  Tickets are $25 (children ages 6 and under are free) and are available for purchase online at Menokin.org/Events.

Your $25 ticket includes:

A hard hat tour of the current stabilization and construction at the Menokin house and the opportunity to meet the preservation team

One “Frank”furter and one tasting ticket for wine from two local vineyards: Caret Cellars and Vault Field Vineyards  (additional food available for purchase; Valid ID required for wine tasting ticket; Non-alcoholic beverages also available).

 The celebration features:

elliottA kissing booth with Elliott the weiner dog

Tastings and bottled wines for sale from local vineyards

Menokin hard hat tour t-shirts for sale

tshirt

 

Make sure to enjoy:

Flat Frank selfies  (Move over, Stanley. We have a Signer!)img_4008

A hike to Cat Point Creek  (Bring your canoe or kayak and go for a paddle)

 Please join us for this opportunity to interact with history and preservation in a unique and fashionable way! For more information, call us at (804) 333-1776 or visit Menokin.org/Events.

We’re looking forward to seeing you October 15th at Menokin!

The best 2.5 minutes you will ever spend watching a video.

Have you watched this video? It doesn’t take long. Saving Menokin is important. This video tells you why. (Here’s a hint: there’s something in it for all of us.)

Don’t Forget Why We’re Celebrating This Weekend

Thanks, Frank.

IMG_2345
Menokin Road view of a summer sky

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Wheat field at Menokin
Wheat field at Menokin

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Silent wilderness
Silent wilderness

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

The grave of Francis Lightfoot Lee
The grave of Francis Lightfoot Lee

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

February 27, 2016 Marked 250th Anniversary of the Leedstown Resolves

BY CHRISTINA MARKISH,
MENOKIN DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR

Saturday February 27, 2016 was the 250th anniversary of the Leedstown Resolves. Our own, Francis Lightfoot Lee, signed this historic document along with his brothers: Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Ludwell Lee, and William Lee.

 What were these Resolves? They were one of the first public acts against the crown, paving the road to revolution. These Resolves, penned by Frank’s brother, Richard, were in response to the Stamp Act of 1765 and taxation without representation by Parliament.

“As we know it to be the Birthright privilege of every British subject (and of the people of Virginia as being such)… that he cannot be taxed, but by consent of Parliament, in which he is represented by persons chosen by the people, and who themselves pay a part of the tax they impose on others. If, therefore, any person or persons shall attempt, by any action, or proceeding, to deprive this Colony of these fundamental rights, we will immediately regard him or them, as the most dangerous enemy of the community…”

To commemorate the anniversary of these Resolves, the Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society co-sponsored an event with Stratford Hall (Frank’s boyhood home) at their Council House. Former Board of Trustee and current chair of the President’s Council for the Menokin Foundation, Steve Walker, spoke eloquently on the history of the Leedstown Resolves and the people who signed this historic document. Frank, who was living in Loudon at the time, was the only representative of his county to sign the Resolves.

 The event also featured guest speakers, descendants of the original Signers, living history interpreters, and more. Friends from around the community came together to commemorate the anniversary of this monumental event that took place in Virginia’s Northern Neck and sparked a revolution.

Stamp Act Spoon, 1766

Excellent story. Would love to see those spoons in person.

stampactspoon-1972-12_front

Silver serving spoon, back 18th C. Stamp Act spoon made for Landon Carter (1710–1778). Needing spoons for his home, Sabine Hall in Richmond County, Carter ordered a set from London, stipulating that if the Stamp Act was repealed they be of silver; if not, of lowly horn or bone. The act was repealed and Carter's agent had the silver spoons engraved with Carter's initials, the date 1766, and the triumphant inscription "Repeal of the American Stamp Act."
Silver serving spoon, back
18th C.
Stamp Act spoon made for Landon Carter (1710–1778). Needing spoons for his home, Sabine Hall in Richmond County, Carter ordered a set from London, stipulating that if the Stamp Act was repealed they be of silver; if not, of lowly horn or bone. The act was repealed and Carter’s agent had the silver spoons engraved with Carter’s initials, the date 1766, and the triumphant inscription “Repeal of the American Stamp Act.”

Virginia Historical Society's Blog

One in 8.5 Million

250 years ago today, the British Parliament repealed the controversial Stamp Act of 1765.

In order to help fund the expense of defending its American colonies, Great Britain instituted a tax on printed paper used by the colonists. Many in America opposed the Stamp Act, not because the tax was high, but because without representation in Parliament they had no voice in the decision. In the Virginia House of Burgesses, Patrick Henry introduced the “Virginia Resolves,” which argued that Virginia was subject to taxation only by a parliament to which the colony itself elected representatives. Eight other colonies followed Virginia’s lead and passed similar resolves by the end of 1765.

Among those opposed to the act was Landon Carter (1710–1778) of Richmond County. His form of protest was more personal. When he directed his agent in London to purchase several tablespoons for his home, he ordered that if the Stamp…

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