First Families of Virginia – The Fitzhughs

Reading through William Fitzhugh the Immigrant’s letters allows us to reach back into 17th Century Virginia in a tangible way. We get a taste of life that we don’t get from the other First Family patriarchs. William shares his thoughts, feelings, and ambitions, thus making him arguably the most accessible figure from his era. Indeed historians often point to William and his letters as the single most important first hand accounts from this pivotal period in Virginia’s history.

William descended from a long line of successful Bedfordshire Fitzhughs who have been traced back to at least the 13th Century. Their family history, though in bits and pieces, makes for interesting research as it melded into the English countryside and into the Royal Court. Though successful for generations, disaster struck, which affected William directly. He chose to look for new opportunities, which he found in Virginia.

The Fitzhugh family built upon William the Immigrant’s solid foundation, and became extraordinarily important figures throughout not only Virginia, but also the new Country. They married into all of the most important families, befriended all of the leading figures, and together built a lasting legacy. They might not be a house-hold name for many, but their importance is undoubted, which is why we discuss them in this next podcast installment.

*The original podcast recording stated that Mary and George Washington Parke Custis had 7 children, which is incorrect. They had 4 children. That correction has been made in the current podcast recording.

LINKS TO THE PODCAST:



SOURCES:

  1. Billings, Warren M.; Selby, John E.; and Tate, Thad W. Colonial Virginia: A History. White Plains, NY: KTO Press. 1986.
  2. Billings, Warren M. Sir William Berkeley and the Forging of Colonial Virginia. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press, 2004.
  3. Billings, Warren. A Little Parliament: The Virginia General Assembly in the Seventeenth Century. Richmond, VA: Library of Virginia, 2004.
  4. Browne, John. The Story of Ravensworth: a History of the Ravensworth Landgrant in Fairfax County, Virginia. 2018.
  5. Bruce, Phillip Alexander. Social Life of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century: An Inquiry into the Origin of the Higher Planting Class. New York: JP Bell Company, 1927.
  6. Dabney, Virginius. Virginia: The New Dominion, A History from 1607 to the Present. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1971.
  7. Davis, Richard Beale. “Chesapeake Pattern and Pole-Star: William Fitzhugh in His Plantation World, 1676-1701.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 105, no. 6, 1961, pp. 525–529. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/985162.
  8. Evans, Emory G. A “Topping People”: The Rise and Decline of Virginia’s Old Political Elite, 1680-1790. Charlottesville, VA: UVA Press, 2009.
  9. Fischer, David Hackett. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a cultural history). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
  10. C. A. FitzHugh. “The Fitzhugh Family.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 40(2), 187-204. www.jstor.org/stable/4244454
  11. Fitzhugh, Henry A. & Terrick V.H. The History of the Fitzhugh Family: In Two Volumes. Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2007.
  12. Fitzhugh, Henry A. “The Foundations of the Fitzhugh Family in Virginia.” Magazine of Virginia Genealogy vol. 22, no. 4, 1984, pp. 3-11.
  13. Fitzhugh, William. William Fitzhugh and His Chesapeake World: 1676-1701. ed. Richard B. Davis. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1963.
  14. Freeman, Douglas Southall. George Washington: A Biography. New York: Charles Scribners, 1957. (Specifically Volume 1).
  15. Horn, James. Adapting to A New World: English Society in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
  16. Lawrence, Liza. The Vistas at “Eagle’s Nest.” Fredericksburg, VA: The Fredericksburg Press.
  17. Mapp, Alfred J. Virginia Experiment: The Old Dominion’s Role in the Making of America, 1607-1781Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2006.
  18. McCartney, Martha W. Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers: A Biographical Dictionary, 1607-1635. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007.
  19. Meade, William. Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia. in Two Volumes. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1891.
  20. Neill, Edward D. Virginia Carolorum: The Colony under the Rule of Charles The First and Second, A.D. 1625-A.D. 1685. Albany, NY: Joel Munsell’s and Sons, 1886.
  21. Pecquet du Bellet, Louise. Some Prominent Virginia Families, 4 Volumes. Lynchburg, VA:  J.P. Bell Company, 1907.
  22. Rothbard, Murray N. Conceived in Liberty. Auburn, AL: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 1999.
  23. Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. The Cradle of the Republic: Jamestown and the James River. Richmond, VA: The Hermitage Press, 1906.
  24. Walsh, Lorena S. Motives of Honor, Pleasure, and Profit: Plantation Management in the Colonial Chesapeake, 1607-1763. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
  25. Washburn, Wilcomb E. Virginia Under Charles I and Cromwell 1625-1660. Kindle Edition.
  26. Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson. Virginia Under the Stuarts: 1607-1688. New York: Russell and Russell, 1959.
  27. Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson. The Planters of Colonial Virginia. Kindle Edition.
  28. Wright, Louis B. First Gentlemen of Virginia. Charlottesville, VA: Dominion Books, 1982.
  29. “The Fitzhugh Family.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 7, no. 2, 1899, pp. 196–199. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4242247.
  30. “Fitzhugh Family (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 8, no. 3, 1901, pp. 314–317. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4242364.
  31. “Fitzhugh Family (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 7, no. 4, 1900, pp. 425–427. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4242289.
  32. “The Fitzhugh Family (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 8, no. 2, 1900, pp. 209–211. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4242338.
  33. “The Fitzhugh Family (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 8, no. 4, 1901, pp. 430–432. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4242388.
  34. “The Fitzhugh Family (Concluded).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 9, no. 1, 1901, pp. 99–104. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4242410.
  35. “The Fitzhugh Family (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 8, no. 1, 1900, pp. 91–95. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4242318.
  36. “The Fitzhugh Family (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 7, no. 3, 1900, pp. 317–319. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4242268.
William Fitzhugh “The Immigrant” by John Hesselius

SPECIAL LINKS:

All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of the proper Fitzhugh Family Crest. The “Robert E. Lee Boyhood Home” is from wtop.com. The Ravensworth picture is from “The Story of Ravensworth.” The “Barons Fitz Hugh Crest” improperly used by William the Immigrant is from jstor.org. Finally, the William “The Immigrant” portrait by John Hesselius is from Colonial Virginia Portraits.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and “Ulysses” by Josh Garrells also available on Apple Music.

K.I. Knight Interview – First Africans and Slavery’s 17th Century Virginia Evolution (Pillars of 17th Century Virginia Society, Part 4)

1619 was a pivotal year in Virginia for many reasons, but author K.I. Knight says that one key issue that did not begin in 1619 was slavery. The “Twenty and odd” did arrive in August 1619, but according to Ms. Knight’s meticulous research the “Twenty” were in fact 14 at first, and many of those 14 went on to help save the colony after the 1622 uprising before securing land of their own. Some of them, like Anthony Johnson, even owned slaves themselves.

For sure, slavery seems to have been around the Virginia landscape in some form by the 1640s,  but it wasn’t the institution that it became by the 18th and 19th centuries. Kathryn puts together an astounding narrative weaving extant court and genealogical records together to prove that the immoral institution evolved over time, before it became legally organized by the late 1690s and early 1700s. Exact beginning dates are hard to pin down, largely due to lost records. Regardless, the foundations for American slavery were being set during the 17th Century, and this episode discusses those foundations as they occurred in Virginia.

LINKS TO THE PODCAST:

K.I. Knight’s Books and Links:

 

 

All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author. The Featured Image is of author Kathryn Hall Knight at Fort Monroe.

**Special thanks to Terry Brown at Fort Monroe, who graciously lent his office to Kathryn and me for this interview. If you haven’t heard my interview with Terry, please, find that here.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 60 “Leningrad”: IV. Allegro Non Troppo by Dmitri Shostakovich, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra directed by Leonard Bernstein, also available on iTunes.

Tony Williams Interview – Economic Influences on and from Early Virginia (Pillars of 17th Century Virginia Society, Part 3)

Economics is at the heart of why Virginia existed. Colony founders wanted to become wealthy, the Crown saw it’s own mercantilistic opportunity, and settlers risked their lives in order to find a better station in life.

How did Virginia’s key players accomplish their goals? Were their policies sound? If not, what impact did they have on the colony? My guest, Tony Williams answered those questions and more in his book The Jamestown Experiment.

Tony argues that in a changing world the Virginia settlers figured out that the key to economic growth hinged upon private property. Once the Virginia Company extended private land ownership to the colonists the Colony began to emerge from her macabre past. The emergence wasn’t perfect, but it was the beginning of a profound economic explosion that made Virginia wealthy.

The lessons learned in 17th Century Virginia influenced later generations and laid the foundation from which the United States built itself into the wealthiest country in the world. As such, it is still wise to take a look back into Jamestown’s experiment today.

LINKS TO THE PODCAST:

SOURCES:

 

 

All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author. The Featured Image is of author Tony Williams in his magisterial library.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and La Danse Macabre Op. 40 by Camille Saint-Saens performed by l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France also available on iTunes.

Rev. John Ericson Interview – From Religious Wars to Religious Freedom: 17th Century Virginia’s Religious Transformation (Pillars of 17th Century Virginia Society, Part 2)

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Rev. John Ericson

Religious wars plagued Europe. The Thirty Years War claimed up to 40% of Germany’s population. Many towns were completely destroyed in the conflict that pulled not just the Germans, but so many of Europe’s other leading powers into the abyss.

Such a conflict inevitably spread beyond the European continent. The Dutch, who were also fighting their own religious war against the Spanish took advantage of the crumbling Portuguese and Spanish overseas empire during this time, while constant pressure from the Turks added bloodshed in Southeastern Europe.

King James anxiously watched from his island haven, especially as many of his relatives played key roles in the continental fight. He had to navigate those stormy times, but his piloting the English ship of state soon led to fallout that erupted into the English Civil War during which James’ son Charles lost his head.

Politics and religion mixed with devastating effect. The combination scarred the European landscape literally and figuratively for generations to come. Because of these horrific events many looked to escape the scene. They wanted to exchange the centralized, top-down governmental religious control responsible for Europe’s implosion.

Those settlers who wanted to escape sought refuge in the New World, and many of them leaving England found freedom to exercise their faith in Virginia.

Virginia was officially an Anglican colony, especially after 1643, but Puritans, Catholics, Huguenots, Baptists, and other groups filled the landscape. In time these groups started to work together in a way that influenced America’s religious thought, and brought about toleration. No longer would people be tied to whatever belief the king or government held. Individuals would be allowed to hold personal convictions that they’d be responsible for in front of God alone.

LINKS TO THE PODCAST:

SOURCES:

VISIT ST. LUKE’S

 

 

 

All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author. The Featured Image is of Historic St. Luke’s Church in Smithfield, Virginia.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major BWV 1007:1 Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Yo-Yo Ma, also available on iTunes.

Dr. Jon Kukla Interview – Political and Social Stability: Order or Chaos in 17th Century Virginia. (Pillars of 17th Century Virginia Society, Part 1)

For decades prevailing thought said that 17th Century Virginia was chaotic, had little to build upon, and therefore left a scanty legacy. Historians such as Bernard Bailyn prominently argued that 17th Century Virginia was untamed and chaotic, but in 1985 Jon Kukla challenged that opinion.

While working at what is today the Library of Virginia, Dr. Kukla was asked to undertake a project concerning the General Assembly which led to his thesis challenging research. His work was packaged in the brilliant “Order and Chaos in Early America: Political and Social Stability in Pre-Restoration Virginia” which was featured as the lead article in the April 1985 American Historical Review.

Dr. Kukla argued that Pre-Restoration 17th Century Virginia was anything but chaotic and did indeed have order. That order may not be what we think of today, yet the foundations that Virginia settlers laid down in the 17th Century allowed for subsequent generations to build a strong colony. That colony would then go on to profoundly influence America’s founding generation, which in turn built what was then a radically different governmental/political entity that the world had never seen.

LINKS TO THE PODCAST:

WORKS BY JON KUKLA:

  1. Kukla, Jon. Speakers and Clerks of the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1643-1776. Richmond, VA: Virginia State Library, 1981.
  2. Kukla, Jon. Bill of Rights: A Lively Heritage. Richmond, VA: Library of Virginia, 1987.
  3. Kukla, Jon. Political Institutions in Virginia: 1619-1660. Taylor and Francis, 1989. (Dr. Kukla’s Ph.D. Dissertation)
  4. Kukla, Jon; Rosal, Angelita; and Lemmon, Alfred, E . A Guide to the Papers of Pierre Clement Laussat. New Orleans, LA: Historic New Orleans Collection, 1993.
  5. Kukla, Jon and Kukla, Amy. Patrick Henry: Voice of the Revolution. Powerplus, 2002. (Great Children’s book!)
  6. Kukla, Jon. A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America. New York: Anchor, 2004.
  7. Kukla, Jon and Kukla, Amy. Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Powerplus, 2005. (Great Children’s Book!)
  8. Kukla, Jon. Mr. Jefferson’s Women. New York: Vintage, 2008.
  9. Kukla, Jon. Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017.

 

 

All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author. The Featured Image is of Dr. Jon Kukla from our interview at the Library of Virginia.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan-Williams performed by the Sir Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra also available on iTunes.