7 An American Archive: Lee Document

The Lee Indenture Document
14.5 inches wide, 12.5 inches high.
Written with brown ink in a legal script, with several words and phrases doubled or tripled in size.. Laid paper with watermark, a hunting horn placed on a shield topped by a crown, with the capital letters LVG below. Similar to Jefferson letter, 1791, in the Library of Congress, Box 24, #10905 54- 63.
Document badly damaged, water stained, separated at several folds and may not be complete as at least one line is missing from the bottom.

The document reads as follows…
This Indenture made the twenty fifth Day of August In the Year of our Lord One thousand seven hundred and sixty one Between the Honorable Col°. Philip Ludwell Lee L.L.D. of Stratford in the County of Westmoreland in Virginia of the one part and John Augustine Washington of the same county and colony Esquire of the other Part. Witnessth that the sa Philip Ludwell Lee for and in Consideration of the Yearly Rents and Covenants herein after mentioned to be paid and performed by the said John Augustine Washington Hath demised, leased and to farm Cotton and by these presents Doth demise lease and to farm unto the said John Augustine Washington during his natural life Four hundred and fifty acres of Land in two tracks the one containing three hundred acres called Willingtons situate lying and being in the Parish of Cople in the said County of Westmoreland in the Colony of Virginia aforesaid which said land was demised to the said Philip Ludwell Lee in fee paid by the last will and testament of his Father the late Honorable Thomas Lee Esquire who purchased it by deed of John Willington and Elizabeth his Wife as by the said Will and Deed relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear the said three hundred acres of land being bounded as follows beginning at a mark’d white cane standing at the head of a branch that falls into a marsh opposite to a Swamp called the Old Field Swamp and extending the River course NorthWest one hundred and fifty Poles to a marked red oak opposite to the Plantation of Daniel Hull, Merchant, thence Northeast to the Land of Thomas Howell and so parallel to the first Course to a marked Popular or sweet Gum thence Southwest to the first station; the other containing one hundred and fifty acres called Thomas’s lying in the said parish and County and colony of Virginia aforesaid which was devised to the said Philip Ludwell Lee by the last will and testament of his said Father Thomas Lee Esquire who purchased it by deed of James Thomas and Sarah his wife as by the said Will and Deed relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear the same being the Plantation where Edward Baxter deceased lately lived and all houses Outhouses Edifices Buildings Yards Gardens Orchards Trees Waters, Watercourses Profits Commodities and appurtenances whatever to the same four hundred and fifty acres of land belonging or in anywise appertaining (accept such timber as the said Philip Ludwell Lee his heirs or assigns shall at any time during the life of the said John Augustine Washington think proper to carry off from the said four hundred and fifty acres of land with the liberty bringing any such timber away so as the said Philip Ludwell Lee his heirs or assigns in getting and carrying off the same do no damage so prejudice to the said John Augustine Washington in his crops or Inclosures or in any manner whatever the said Philip Ludwell Lee his heirs and assigns leaving always on the said two tracts of land timber sufficient for the use of the same as well for the repair of houses and fences as for every other necessary purposes to have and to hold the said Land and all after the promise with their and every . the appurtenances except as before excepted) hereby . and demised unto the said John Augustine Washington for and during his natural life and no longer, He the said John Augustine Washington yielding and paying yearly and every year during his said life on or before the first day of December in each Year five thousand six hundred and twenty-five Pounds of crop tobacco inspected five thousand of which to be in four casks and the remainder in one cask at the now dwelling house of the said Philip Ludwell Lee called Stratford And the said John August Washington doth hereby promise covenant and agree to and with the said Philip Ludwell Lee 25 that he the said John Augustine Washington shall and will well and truly pay or cause to be paid unto the said Philip Ludwell Lee his heirs or assigns or the Person or Persons to whom the inheritance of the said Land shall come the yearly Rent hereby reserved annually at the home and place before writed as the said John Augustine Washington doth further covenant and agree that in case the said annual Rent or any Part thereof what be behind or unpaid by the space of one Calendar Month (that is to say the last day of December) after the same shall become due that then it shall and may be lawful for the said Philip Ludwell Lee his Heirs or assignsor he she or theyin whom the Right of Inheritances shall be into the above granted Promises to reenter and hold the same to as if the Lease had never been made And the said John Augustine Washington for himself and his assigns covenanteth and granteth to and with the said Philip Ludlow Lee his Heirs and assigns that the said John Augustine Washington and his assigns at his or their own profess Cost and Charges all and singular as they said demised Profess with all manner of necessary Reparations well and sufficiently shall repair supply and sustain and amend from time to time xxx as need be during the said Term or with the.. (The final lines are missing at the paper fold.)

Verso “Sealed and delivered in the Presence of Als XXXX Sir Bishop? Fosel Sherman Memorandum that Living xxxx of the within Promises was delivered on the same by Philip Ludwell Lee Esq to the said to said John Augustine Washing and the said John Augustine Washington was put in quiet and peaceable possession these of the 25 day of August 1761 in the Presence of the underwritten persons Txxx Xxxxlane Sir Bishop Fosel Sherman”

There is some additional side script added as an address(?) after the document was folded and sealed. “Philip L Lee to John Augustine Washington Lease” Also a faint column of numbers… 46 20 26 This appears to be a subtraction, and… 26 32 46 104 20 84
This appears to be an addition and a subtraction, ending with a total of 84.

When I finally finished transcribing this document I was naturally curious to see the name John Augustine Washington, and considering the locale of Westmoreland County, I assumed that John was part of George Washnigton’s family. It didn’t take long to verify that John Augustine Washington was a younger brother to George, and very interested in becoming a successful planter. This was a fascinating find and, while it didn’t have the signature of our first President, it did have the signatures of Col. Philip Ludwell Lee and the President’s younger brother John. The probably was that nothing helped to explain the documents presence in the archive. Witin the huge collection of personal letters I found three more documents from the Lee family so it was clear that I needed to study the family in more detail. Stratford Thomas Lee built Stratford, or Stratford Hall, between 1730-1738.

Designed in the Georgian style, its Great Hall is often said to be the greatest “American room”. Col. Philip Ludwell Lee had made many improvements to the plantation, including replacing the wooden steps for the entrance with an imposing flight of stone. The building and plantation was the home of generations of Lees until Henry Lee IV was forced to sell it in 1822 to William Somerville. Somerville died a few years later and his heirs sold the property to Henry D. Storke, who was married to Elizabeth “Besty” McCarty, the sister of Henry Lee’s wife Ann Robinson McCarty. Unfortunately, there is a sad tale concerning the end of the Lee family ownership of Stratford. “But nobody forgave the transgression of Harry’s son Henry Lee IV. Henry married the orphaned heiress next door, Ann McCarty of Pope’s Creek, whose 2,000 acres bordered Stratford. Ann spruced up threadbare Stratford munificently, bore a daughter Henry modestly allowed was “said to be beautiful,” and brought along her younger sister Betsy, whose guardian Henry became.

But at a highspirited family party, Henry’s beautiful two-year-old plunged down Stratford’s steep front steps to her death, just like Colonel Phil’s son 40 years earlier. Ann, inconsolable, turned to morphine—and died of it alone in a Paris garret at age 43. Henry turned to Betsy, who believed he had made her pregnant, though no one knows if that part of the story was true. Betsy complained, and a public scandal ensued. Henry didn’t see what was such a big deal. Couldn’t a moment of “unguarded intimacy,” he reasoned, “surprise” anyone into sex with his 20-year-old sister-in-law and ward? He couldn’t understand why “recent events here have shattered my amicable and social relations.” It was totally unfair: “For one transgression, one fatality rather, I am left in total darkness.” But there were two transgressions: Henry had also squandered Betsy’s fortune, of which he was guardian, and to pay her back, he had to sell Stratford in 1822. When the buyer died six years later, the house went on the auction block. The new owners, for $11,000: Henry D. Storke and his wife—Betsy McCarty, who presided as mistress of Stratford for half a century, until she died in 1879

While Anne did die alone in Paris in 1843, Henry was with her for many years. Several years passed after Henry sold the plantation. The neighborhood people of Stratford were still aghast at what Henry had done, so he removed himself to Washington D.C. and eventually made amends with his wife Ann. Henry continued to write about his father Henry ‘Lighthorse Harry’ Lee, and moved to Paris, France where he died in 1837. The following is from Frontier Tales of Tennessee, by Louise Littleton Davis “In the fall of 1818 the only child of Anne and Henry Lee was born. The baby’s tragic death two years later led to the ruin of the whole family, and the end of Stratford for the Lees. In early 1820, two-year-old Margaret Lee was killed when she tumbled down the steep flight of stone steps leading from the front entrance of the mansion. (Strangely enough, it was the same flight of steps four generations earlier that another heir to Stratford, little Philip Ludwell Lee, had fallen to his death.)
Myron Magnet, “Conservative Revolutionaries”, City Journal, 2009,
http://www. city-journal.org
Anne McCarty Lee was inconsolable. In her grief over her daughter’s death she began to depend on morphine to deaden the hours, soon she was a “hopeless” addict, shut in her room and quite beyond the reach of her household. The gloom that enveloped Stratford struck so suddenly that Elizabeth McCarty was stunned. A short, plump, even-tempered girl who loved music, poetry, and flowers-as well as parties- Elizabeth had only her brother-in-law’s company as they roamed the house. Day after day, month after month, Henry Lee and Elizabeth were thrown ‘into a state of the most unguarded intimacy,’ as Henry himself explained later. The scandal that was being whispered over the countryside came into the open when Elizabeth bore Henry a child. In Westmoreland County, seat of Stratford, tradition has it that the illegitimate child of Henry Lee and Elizabeth died at birth. At any rate, the scandal shook Virginia society to its foundations. Henry’s political and social careers were ended. Elizabeth withdrew into hermitlike seclusion, shrouding herself in penitence for the rest of her long life. Her first move was to return to her own home and take steps to have her stepfather made her legal guardian again. That involved nine years of litigation and wrecked Henry Lee’s already sad finances, for he had dipped into Elizabeth’s holdings to bolster up his own. Part of Elizabeth’s penitence was to cut her gorgeous brown hair. The rest of her life she wore it cropped short. And for the rest of her life she wore mourning, and never left her home except to go to church or to care for the sick. Meantime, Henry Lee, staggering under the blow of public disgrace and poverty, was forced to sell Stratford, the home of his ancestors for six generations. His wife stayed at Stratford only long enough to sign her name to the deed passing the estate out of the Lee family forever. She left her husband and went to Tennessee, to a health resort near Nashville, to try to break the ‘dope’ habit. Called the Fountain of Health, the resort near the Hermitage, was known throughout the South for its beneficent springs. While taking the cure there, Anne Lee met Rachel and Andrew Jackson and was often a guest in their home. And Henry Lee kept writing Anne of his deep penitence. He moved to Fredericksburg, about forty miles from Stratford, and settled down to writing a history. But in Fredericksburg, as in Washington and Richmond, the doors of former friends were closed to him. In desperate need of money, he tried to get government jobs, but all jobs were closed to him. One of the first to support Andrew Jackson for the presidency, Lee was horrified to learn that his very enthusiasm for the Tennessean had been used by Jackson’s enemies for propaganda purposes against him. Lee was so shocked at that turn of events that he wrote a long letter to Jackson in 1825, explaining what had occurred since he became ‘an active friend of your election.’ Immediately Jackson wrote Lee, inviting him to visit him at the Hermitage. There began one of the strongest friendships of Lee’s life. Jackson put Lee to work at writing his official letters and speeches and his campaign messages. Lee undertook writing a biography of Jackson, and was one of his closest advisers throughout Jackson’s campaign for the presidency in 1828. Meanwhile, Anne Lee had broken herself of the drug habit, and it is said that Andrew and Rachel Jackson had a part in effecting reconciliation between Anne and Henry Lee. For a while both of them lived at the Fountain of Health. Then they moved to a little house ‘within 2 ½ miles of Nashville,’ Lee said, where the still-ailing Anne could be near a doctor.
“Frontier Tales”, by Louise Littleton Davis, Gretna, LA, Pelican Pub. 1976
Project Gutenberg Etext Recollections and Letters of General Lee by Captain Robert E. Lee, His Son, December 25, 1861

There are other reports that Anne never fully recovered from her addiction, but managed it better with her husband’s help. After being appointed consul for Algiers by a grateful Andrew Jackson, the Senate refused to confirm due the scandal that was still fresh. Disappointed the couple moved to Paris where Henry finished a history of Napoleon that was quite successful, and started several volumes trying to restore his famous father ‘Henry Lighthorse Lee’s’ reputation. In 1837 he was struck by an influenza epidemic and died. Anne struggled on for three more years, then passed with only a small dog for company. The fact that the Stratford passed into Betsy McCarty hands is perhaps only fair. Unfortunately, Henry D. Storke died in 1844, and for thirty-five years Betsy lived alone in the mansion, never remarrying and always dressed in black. It may be that the archetype of the blackclad widow in the dark mansion started with Betsy. For the next fifty years the mansion and property passed from one Storke heir to another, with little maintenance, until a group of women purchased it, wishing to honor the memory of Robert E. Lee who was born at the mansion in 1807. A letter General Lee wrote to his wife in 1861, “In the absence of a home, I wish I could purchase ‘Stratford.’ That is the only other place that I could go to, now accessible to us, that would inspire me with feelings of pleasure and local love. You and the girls could remain there in quiet. It is a poor place, but we could make enough cornbread and bacon for our support, and the girls could weave us clothes. I wonder if it is for sale and at how much.”

So it is fitting that now the plantation, grounds and mansion is once again honoring the Lee family.
“The Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization first incorporated in New York, purchased the Stratford Hall property in 1929 and began raising the funds to pay off its $240,000 price tag in the midst of the Great Depression. By the time of its dedication in 1935, Stratford Hall was paid for and most of the historic buildings and gardens had been restored. When the Foundation incorporated in Virginia in the 1970s, our name was changed to the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association. The Association is currently comprised of around forty directors from across the country and Great Britain. Stratford Hall, which occupies around 1900 acres along the Potomac River, is still farmed and has a public dining room, gift shop, research library, and visitor center. We offer guided tours of the original eighteenth-century Great House, and visitors can hike our nature trails, walk through the restored gardens, see museum exhibits, and view the cliffs from our overlook high above the Potomac. Our educational programs for school groups address a wide range of learning opportunities.”

The Lee Indenture document is certainly connected to some of the most famous families in early American history, but again, how is it connected to this particular archive? I had looked carefully at the family histories, but nothing hinted at a Southern connection. The Truesdells were New England proud, with even some connections to the Mayflower. There was nothing remotely explaining the presence of the Lee document. Perhaps it was collected as an artifact, knowing the historical value of the Lee family. And there was a further complication that there were three individual letters written by Henry Lee IV to a Henry Garnett. The very same Henry IV mentioned above that lost Stratford due to a scandal. Now having four documents relating to the Lee family seems to point to more than just a historical collection. The letters were written to Henry while he was in exile from Westmoreland County, and just after becoming friendly with Andrew Jackson. Garnett was reading ‘the signs of the times’ and had written Henry with the hopes that Henry could influence the Post Master General to appoint Garnett to a position, although Henry had yet to be fully accepted as an influencer in Washington.

After a few years of confusion I finally found a slim connection possibility. Colonel John Fessenden was the father-in-law of Charles Truesdell. Col. Fessenden remarried after the death of his first wife Mary Pierce Bumstead, the mother of Charles’ wife Mary Bradford Fessenden. The colonel’s second wife was Sally Ann Murphy of Westmoreland County, Virginia. I knew that Colonel Fessenden had once taught at West Point at a time when Robert E. Lee was a cadet, but I felt that connection was far too tenuous. Sally Murphy was, however, a very real possibility. Sally was the daughter of Dr. Robert Murphy and Elizabeth Bland Newton. Sally’s mother, Elizabeth, had family that was very well connected in Westmoreland society. Elizabeth Bland Newton, Sarah’s mother, was the daughter of Willoughby Newton and Sarah Poythress and they had 5 children together. However, Sarah had been married before and had four children with her deceased husband. His name was Richard Lee, son of Henry Lee, Henry’s brother was Thomas Lee, the builder of Stratford Hall. It was a very convoluted connection but it was a connection. Elizabeth had step-brothers who were Lees, which meant that Sarah Fessenden had stepuncles that were Lees. In addition, I found that Willoughby Newton’s grandfather was also named Willoughby Newton and he married Sarah Eskridge in Westmoreland County.

Sarah’s father was George Eskridge, and he was a fascinating individual. He was born in 1660 in Lancaster, England. When he was ten years old he was in Wales where a press-gang marched him off to a ship were he was forced to be a cabinboy on a voyage to America. Once he arrived he was sold to a planter as an indentured servant for a term of 8 years. At eighteen he was set free and he made his way back to England, where he somehow managed to get a law degree, and in 1696 he was back in Virginia, buying a plantation of 12 thousand acres in Westmoreland County. He also served in the Virginia House of Burgesses for ten years. It seems that a neighbor of his had fallen on hard times. The father had died leaving the widow with a three year old girl. Ten years passed and then the mother died, stating in her will that the guardianship of her daughter should pass to George Eskridge. George already had 5 children and would have three more, so taking care of little Mary Ball was not a bother. He cared for her a great deal, and she adored him. When she met and married another neighbor, the wedding was held at George’s family home at Sandy Point, Westmoreland County, VA. Mary’s husband and neighbor to Eskridge was Augustine Washington. Augustine and Mary had six children, the oldest was named after Mary’s favorite person, George Eskridge. George Washington also had a younger brother, John Augustine Washington, who had leased the 450 acres from Col. Philip Ludwell Lee of Stratford Hall. It is unbelievable that once again I had found a family connection, however convoluted, to the Lee Indenture document. Oh yes, to be perfectly clear, Mary Ball’s son, George Washington- did finally become a military man, and the first American president. The only curious thing to me is that I, along with hundreds of thousands of school children, knew something about George Washington’s character because of an incident with the cherry tree. The actual truth of his character probably in part comes from his namesake, George Eskridge. Mary Ball certainly admired, respected and loved her foster father, and passed those characteristics on to her son

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