Most Americans have heard about the young French war hero who formed a solid bond with George Washington during the American War for Independence. Lafayette’s work to both create a Franco-American alliance and help win the War with Britain were pivotal in American and World History. Though his work during that watershed period was profound, Lafayette’s involvement in the United State was not complete.
The famous Marquis returned to tour the young country in 1824. His year long trek was met with incredible excitement in all parts of the country that he visited. Crowds came out to witness this key historical figure from an era that by that time was passing into print only. Lafayette understood his place in history very well, and used that understanding to address key societal issues with his adoring American crowds.
The Lafayette Trail’s Julien Icher, a Frenchman himself, has made it his profound duty to retrace and highlight Lafayette’s 1824 tour, and its legacy upon American History. We discuss this impact as well as plans to honor the 200th anniversary of the landmark visit. Do, please, consider joining alongside the Lafayette Trail’s wonderful mission after listening to the episode. Information will be listed below.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is The Lafayette Trail’s Logo. The Julien Icher Picture is from the Eagle Times December 2020 article.
The Ludwell family had arguably more impact upon Virginia’s foundations in the shortest amount of time. In just over a century three Philip Ludwells stood atop Virginia’s power structure, and then because of no male heirs, the name vanished in all but first and middle names used by other First Family relatives.
They hailed from Bruton, Somersetshire, England, the same area as Governor William Berkeley. In fact, they were most likely related to the powerful 17th Century Colonial leader, which appears to have aided the Ludwells from the very beginning.
Thomas Ludwell served in the Cavalier army during the English Civil War alongside Governor Berkeley’s brother John. John Berkeley recommended Thomas to become Virginia’s Colonial Secretary of State as a reward for his service to the Crown, and Charles II obliged. Thus, Thomas moved to Virginia. Philip, Thomas’s youngest brother, tagged along, and together they planted the Ludwell name firmly in Virginia’s history.
Virginia B. Price. “Constructing to Command: Rivalries between Green Spring and the Governor’s Palace, 1677-1722.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 113, no. 1, 2005, pp. 2–45. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4250232.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of Philip Ludwell Sr’s Crest. Greenspring Plantation is from Green Spring Plantation as seen by Benjamin Latrobe during the plantation’s Ludwell ownership. The Ludwell Paradise House is from Virginia Places.
Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and “Roots” by The Arcadian Wild also available on Apple Music.
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.
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.
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.
I suppose superlatives become cliche, or at least they’re overused when discussing Virginia’s leading colonial dynasties. The Randolph family, however, deserves those superlatives just as much as any of the preceding families that we’ve discussed in this series, if not more. They were an immense family that impacted Virginia and the United States in such a way that few others, even from this series, can claim.
William Randolph of Turkey Island is often credited as being the first Randolph to immigrate, but he followed his uncle, Henry, who was already established in the colony. Henry Randolph came to Virginia and soon settled just west of Bermuda Hundred on Swift Creek in today’s Colonial Heights in the early 1640s. From there Henry got involved in mid-17th Century Virginia politics, where he rubbed shoulders with all of the colony’s leading men, he even married one of their daughters when he wed Henry Soane’s daughter Judith.
Henry continued to expand his footprint throughout the 1650s and 1660s. He became friend with Sir William Berkeley, was involved in rewriting Virginia’s legal codes, and built one of the colony’s first grist mills at Swift Creek. Newly found wealth allowed Henry to return to England in the late 1660s, where he convinced his nephew William to join him in the New World.
William accompanied his uncle’s trip back to Virginia, and settled near him along the James River’s Curls section. It was from here that William Randolph earned his name as being from Turkey Island, and from here that an enormous family grew into being one of Virginia’s largest. Largest didn’t always mean best, as the family has a few interesting characters dotting the history books, but the Randolphs have do have some of American History’s stalwarts.
This First Family of Virginia episode takes a look into the Randolph patriarch’s life, and then summarily dives into some of those characters and stalwarts. Find the links below.
LINKS TO THE PODCAST:
William Randolph of Turkey Island
Turkey Island Marker
Swift Creek Mill
Mary Isham Randolph
Randolph Family Tree
William Randolph House at Colonial Williamsburg
Wilton Manor House
Anderson, Jefferson Randolph. “TUCKAHOE AND THE TUCKAHOE RANDOLPHS.” Register of Kentucky State Historical Society, vol. 35, no. 110, 1937, pp. 29–59. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23371542.
Jefferson Randolph Anderson. “Supplement to Tuckahoe and the Tuckahoe Randolphs: As Appearing in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XLV: No. 1, January, 1937.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 45, no. 4, 1937, pp. 392–405. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4244824.
Cartoon depicting the needed State votes to Ratify the US Constitution
John Randolph of Roanoke
First Page of the Virginia Ratification Convention
St. George Tucker House, Colonial Williamsburg
Peyton Randolph House, Colonial Williamsburg
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of the Randolph Family Crest. All Randolph Portraits as well as Swift Creek Mill are from Wikimedia Commons. The Turkey Island Mansion Marker and The Dungeness Marker are both from hmdb.org. Tazewell Hall is located at Skinner Family Papers.The Randolph Family Tree is located in Tess Taylor’s article, found in the Bibliography above. The Prayer in the First the First Congress, A.D. 1774 can be found at Boston Tea Party Ship. Edmund Randolph’s former home was accessed at RV Hub. The Virginia Ratification Convention Cartoon is part of Historically Thinking’s Shownotes page for Episode 78. Lastly, Edmund Randolph as Member of Washington’s Cabinet is found at the American Herigate.
The Lee family impact upon Virginia’s history is undeniable. Richard I, “The Immigrant” had a seemingly boundless energy attached to a shrewd business sense. He used that combination to establish the Lee Dynasty from which foundational descendants sprang. He and his wife Anne (aka Anna) Constable Lee bore 10 children, of whom 9 survived infancy. Those 9 children, perhaps not as boundless as their patriarch, ensured Richard’s legacy within the Commonwealth lived beyond one generation.
Richard purchased vast lands, and left them to his children to build upon. They built enduring monuments to the Lee name such as Statford Hall, created tight bonds with other leading families of the day, and shaped Virginia’s future, while also taking part in America’s founding. But the Lee name didn’t stop there.
When Virginia’s First Family dominance seemed lost a Lee stepped forward in the twilight to give one last performance. In the end, the sun set on the Lee family as well as the First Families of Virginia, which in profound manner also influenced Virginia’s future. No longer a leader, Virginia became simply another contributing member of the United States, and the Lees, ever faithful continued to play their part.
Today debates abound, but what is not debatable is the Lee impact as trailblazers, innovators, country-builders, heroes, and sometime villains. Without them Virginia and the United States’ story, both good and bad, would not be the same, and their story begins with that brilliant family founder in 1639.
Tune in to this episode where we introduce this important family’s founding, while highlighting just a few of the Lee’s who impacted history.
In this episode I begin making the case that perhaps Governor Berkeley’s greatest contribution to 17th Century Virginia and beyond was his encouraging Cavaliers to immigrate into the colony.
Beginning in the 1640s many of those Cavalier families took up Berkeley’s offer, and indeed moved many sons into the Old Dominion. The first family on our list, the Bollings, sent teen-aged Robert to the New World in 1660. He quickly worked his way into existing society, especially when he married Pocahontas’ granddaughter, Jane Rolfe in 1674.
Robert’s arrival was a case of old meets new in that the Rolfe line was one of the earliest prominent Virginia families, even if Thomas Rolfe, John and Pocahontas’ son, didn’t return to Virginia until the 1640s himself. The Rolfe’s still owned land, and it was in Thomas’ name. He received more lands over the next couple of decades, which made marrying his daughter Jane a highly prized choice.
Robert and Jane’s marriage extended genealogical links from John Rolfe and Pocahontas into the 20th Century. Their children and grandchildren were highly influential planters, merchants, and statesmen who helped shape Virginia into a powerhouse up to the American War for Independence and beyond. Because of that, as well as their connection all the way back to 17th Century Virginia’s most famous marriage, the Bolling family is my first episode in the First Family of Virginia Series.
I used to tell my students that history is a giant web. Cause effects change, and that change, sometimes unseen, is felt for generations.
Gloucestershire’s Berkeley Castle is a location at the heart of change. Even though the manorial seat has been in the same family for 27 generations, many of the people directly associated with the Castle moved to Virginia bringing profound influence with them to the New World.
The name Berkeley stands tall in 17th Century Virginia’s annals. The 1619 landing at what would become known as Berkeley Hundred put the Castle’s name on Virginia’s map forever. Decades later a Berkeley relative became Virginia’s most influential 17th Century colonial governor. But it wasn’t just Berkeley’s that came to Virginia from Gloucestershire. Skilled tradesmen, indentured servants, and merchants also moved from the old world, hoping to better there lives.
Berkeley Hundred soon suffered a horrific blow in 1622, but survivors endured and built a thriving colony. That colony became an early American leader, producing countless statesmen, scientific pioneers, westward explorers, military heroes, and seven United States Presidents. Two of those Presidents, William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison have immediate connections to Berkeley Plantation, and they were preceded by Benjamin Harrison V, a Declaration of Independence signer.
The various causes spurring Berkeley Hundred’s first settlers to leave Gloucestershire undoubtedly left a lasting impact upon Virginia’s and the United State’s history. For that we should be thankful, just as those first settlers were, for new opportunities. Today we can build upon those opportunities, while we trace our history back to places like Berkeley Castle and beyond.
Charles Berkeley, 27th Generation owner of Berkeley Castle, visited Berkeley Plantation in order to share in highlighting Berkeley Castle’s profound influence upon Virginia. His kind generosity made this interview possible, for which I’m thankful beyond measure.
Crowd enjoying Berkeley’s fabulous grounds
Jamestown Settlement’s Godspeed sailed up the James to pay a visit
Bill Bevins addressing 2019’s historic First Thanksgiving Festival crowd.
Berkeley Castle’s Charles Berkeley offers his reflections on his home and its influence upon Berkeley Plantation as well as Virginia’s history.
Reenactors portraying English North America’s First Thanksgiving.
The (Adam) Thoroughgood House has a lot of mystery surrounding it. At one time it was believed to be the oldest brick house in America, perhaps built by Adam Thoroughgood himself. Later work on the house put the house’s construction to 1719, almost 80 years after Thoroughgood died in 1640.
Other mysteries surround the famous Virginia Beach dwelling, such as whether or not the house is haunted. Many say no. Those who disagree on the otherhand tell rather compelling stories about eerie encounters.
Famed Virginia Ghost Storyteller L.B. Taylor paid the Thoroughgood House a visit in order to record some of those frightening stories for his book The Ghosts of Tidewater.
In 1652 it seemed like the Royalist cause was lost. Cromwell had firmly established the Protectorate, and the Stuarts just couldn’t organize a serious threat to Cromwell’s authority.
Berkeley and others like him hoped for Charles Stuart’s return, but news was slow, and generally contained awful stories. Other than a potential conspiracy in which funds were to be funneled to the royalist cause abroad, Virginians seemed to move on in their own independent way.
Then 1659-1660 brought conflicting news reports. Richard Cromwell succeeded his father and then resigned not too long thereafter. Samuel Matthews Jr. died. Who was in charge in Virginia, let alone England?
Two restorations brought familiar faces back onto the scene – William Berkeley and then Charles Stuart, who became King Charles II. Their restorations didn’t return both lands back to a status quo antebellum, for that matter, no one knew what their returns meant. When Berkeley came back to power, he wasn’t even sure if he could or should rule. But upon Charles’ restoration that question answered itself. Berkeley was Charles’ man.
Still, the situation was fraught with concern. Berkeley had ideas that he had already put into motion before Charles’ restoration occurred. After the king reclaimed his throne, he began governing the Old Dominion in a manner that threatened all Berkeley and his government’s plans.
What else was Berkeley to do? He chose to go back to England.
Virginia history is filled with many important names, dates, and events. One of those great names who influenced much of 17th Century Virginia is Sir William Berkeley. John Smith is more famous and certainly influenced Jamestown’s early survival, but Berkeley took the struggling colony and moved it into a position that the later First Families of Virginia inherited and made into a powerhouse.
Berkeley is a bridge. But he’s no ordinary bridge. For the time in question, he was an ornate spectacle that shined in a bleak world. His work ensured that the rule of law would expand and remain. He instigated building, better crops, better production, and expanded liberty through local courts and free trade. His work attracted a higher class that might otherwise have never come to the colony, but that class soon plagued him. They ultimately brought him down in the end.
Berkeley’s life spans many worlds, pre-Commonwealth England, the English Civil War, The Interregnum, the Restoration, the Powhatan Wars, Matthews-Claiborne Virginia, Dutch Wars, and Bacon’s Rebellion. He played a part in it all, and above all else, he left his mark on Virginia’s landscape.
No one speaks of this pivotal figure more completely than Dr. Warren Billings, my guest for this episode. Tune in and learn more about this amazing 17th Century figure’s influence on Virginia’s History.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of Dr. Warren Billings.
Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and “La Rejoussiance” from George Frideric Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks HWV 351 performed by Sir Charles Mackerras and the London Symphony Orchestra, also available on iTunes.