Thomas Lee

Thomas LeeHannah Harrison Ludwell LeeChartered in 1957, our chapter was named for Thomas Lee, a prominent Virginian with great influence on American history. Thomas, the fourth son of Richard Lee and Laetitia Corbin, was born in 1690 on the family plantation in Virginia. Lee was formally educated at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg; however, his studies were the equivalent of an elementary school education. After finishing instruction, he returned home to help manage the family plantation.

During his time at home, Thomas Lee continued to educate himself. At age 20, he assumed his father’s responsibilities as Naval Officer of the Potomac River. Lee’s personal success impressed his uncle, and in 1711 his uncle helped him to procure a job as Virginia agent for the Northern Neck Proprietary.

In 1722, he married Hannah Harrison Ludwell, a woman of wealth and position. Shortly after their marriage, Thomas began his political career as an appointed Justice of the Peace for Westmoreland County. Thomas Lee was also a member of the House of Burgesses, 1723-1733, and served on the Council of the State of Virginia, 1733-1750.Thomas and Hannah suffered many tragedies in their personal lives. Their first child died almost immediately after birth. Then in 1729, Thomas and Hannah and their 3 young children barely escaped as their house burned to the ground; sadly, their unborn child was not so fortunate. The fire was thought to be arson resulting from Lee’s position as Justice of the Peace.Stratford Hall

After the fire, Lee began construction of Stratford Hall, a beautiful mansion worthy of his government position. His 1733 appointment to the Council of Virginia was one of extreme prestige. In addition, Thomas was an advisor to the royal governor, a Judge in General Court, and a member of the Upper House of the Legislature.

Even though Thomas spent a great deal of time in Williamsburg, he and Hannah continued family life at Stratford Hall. They had four more children. Most notable of his children are Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, both signers of the Declaration of Independence.

In 1749, Thomas Lee was named President of the Council and Acting Governor of Virginia, a position he served in for only a short time. In early 1750, Hannah Lee died and Thomas Lee followed in November.

However, the Lee name and family influence continued at Stratford Hall. Thomas Lee’s granddaughter, Matilda Lee, inherited Stratford Hall and married “Light Horse Harry” Lee, her second cousin. After Matilda’s death, Lighthouse Harry remarried. His second wife gave birth to Robert E. Lee. Robert E. Lee went on to be General of the Confederate Army in the Civil War.

Stratford Hall, owned by the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association, has been open to the public since 1929.