ABT 1608 - England
BEF 20 APR 1664 - Cobb's Hall, Northumberland, VA
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Richard Lee was an immigrant to the Virginia Colony in about 1640. He became a tobacco merchant and planter. He served in many political offices including Secretary of State and Attorney General. He was the progenitor of the Lee family in Virginia.
Richard came to the Jamestown in the Virginia Colony about 1640. One legend about him is that he came to the colony on the same ship as Anne Constable and the newly appointed governor, Sir Francis Wyatt. The story goes that Richard and Anne were married at recently built brick church at Jamestown just a few years later and that Governor Wyatt gave the bride away. For many generations the Lee family did not know Anne's maiden name. Eventually she was found to be the child of Francis Constable, baptized in London in 1621. Before her marriage she was identified as a ward of Sir John Thorowgood (Attendant of King Charles I and brother of Adam Thorowgood). Between her connections to Wyatt and Thorowgood her family appeared to be very well connected, her social status may have helped Richard rise to prominence in Virginia so quickly. Richard and Anne had at least nine children.
Richard acquired his first lands in 1640 at Tindal's Point on the York River in what is now Gloucester County. In 1642 he received a patent for 2,000 acres on Poropotank Creek 20 miles up the river. Richard became a tobacco planter and merchant, eventually became part owner of two tobacco shipping vessels. He lived at various times in in York and Gloucester County, depending on the current relations between the settlers and the Native Americans. His estate in Gloucester was named "Paradise." Early on Richard relied on indentured servants to work his tobacco but eventually he acquired slaves too. In his will left various numbers of slaves and indentured servants to his children.
In 1643 Richard was appointed as Attorney General of the Colony. He served as the Sheriff and Burgess for York County in 1646. In 1649 Richard was named as Secretary of State under the royal governor, Sir William Berkeley. Lee and Berkeley were both royalists and supporters of King Charles I. With the English Civil War and the overthrow of Charles in 1649, Richard was technically out of job since the colony's system government depended on a royally appointed governor. Richard sailed to the Netherlands to meet with Charles II in exile and report Virginia's allegiance to him. Eventually Lee did meet with representatives from the new parliamentarian government in England and negotiated how Virginia would be ruled. Governor Berkeley was removed and Richard retired from public life for the most part.
Richard focused on growing his business in the tobacco trade. He began acquiring lands in the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. During this time he made frequent trips to London and used his ships to bring back indentured servants to the colony. He then claimed this workers as headrights and was able to apply for more land grants. After returning from England in 1656, Richard moved his family to Northumberland to live at his newest plantation, named "Dividing Creek." This land was later divided by his children into two parts that are still known today as Cobb's Hall and Ditchley. It is thought that at the time of his death Richard was the wealthiest man in Virginia and largest landholder, owning 13,000 to 15,000 acres. During on his trips to England Richard even purchased an estate in a suburb of London. The family lived there briefly while the oldest sons were attending university at Oxford.
In 1660 the government established by Parliament in England weakened after the death of Oliver Cromwell. King Charles II returned to claim the throne and the monarchy was reestablished. William Berkeley was named again as Governor of Virginia and Richard Lee was named to serve on his council. The council was essentially the upper house of House of Burgess and a forerunner to the Senate. Richard also became the Colonel of the Northumberland County Militia.
In late 1663 or early 1664 Richard began moving his family back to Virginia to live in Northumberland. Just before leaving he registered a will in London on February 6th, 1664. Richard returned to Virginia but died soon after. If his will was recorded into the records of Northumberland County it was destroyed by a fire at the clerk's office. Richard died before April 20th, 1664, on that date his son John applied for a patent for land due to his father, "now deceased."
Richard is believed to be buried at the family cemetery at the Dividing Creek plantation, now known as Cobb's Hall Burying ground. In 1958 a marker was placed at the site by the Society of Lees in Virginia, it reads:
Within this enclosure was buried
of an ancient family of Nordley Regis in Shropshire, who emigrated from London to Virginia in 1639. He was successively clerk of the quarter court at Jamestown, Attorney General of Virginia, Secretary of State, and a member of the council. Having long traded with the nearby Wicomico Indians, in 1656 he established his home on Dividing Creek, at a point 400 feet to the Northeast of this stone. He died there in 1664 and was buried here in his garden.
Also buried within this enclosure were; Anne Constable, the wife of Richard Lee; their son, Charles Lee (1656-1701), and his wife Elizabeth Medstand; their son, Charles Lee of Cobbs Hall (1684-1734); and his son, Charles Lee (1722-1747), and his wives, Mary Lee of Ditchley and Leeanna Jones of Hickory Neck.
In 1761 this Leeanna Lee ordered the erection of the original enclosing wall. Later members of the Cobbs Hall family, Lees and Harveys, were buried nearby outside the wall.
~ Erected by The Society of the Lees of Virginia ~ 1958
The Will of Richard Lee, Johis Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Probate Act Book Folio 3:
IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. I, Colonel Richard Lee of Virginia, and lately of Stafford Langton in the County of Essex, Esquire, being bound upon a voyage to Virginia aforesaid, and not knowing how it may please God to dispose of me in so long a voyage, utterly renouncing, disclaiming, disannulling, and revoking all former wills, either script, nuncupative or parol, and schedules or codicils of wills whatsoever, do make, ordain and declare this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following, first: I give and bequeath my soul to that good and gracious God that gave it me and to my Blessed Redeemer Jesus Christ, assuredly trusting in and by his meritorious death and passion to receive salvation, and my body to be disposed of whether by sea or land according to the opportunity of the place, not doubting but at the last day both body and soul shall be reunited and glorified.
Next, my will and desire is that all my estate aforesaid, both lease land, free land and copyhold land and houses be with all convenient speed that may be, sold for the payment of my debts to John Jeffries Esq. and what the sale of that shall fall short of, to be made good out of my crops in Virginia, to be consigned to my good friends Mr. Thomas Griffith and Mr. John Lockey, or one of them in that behalf, and in case the estate of Stratford be not as speedily sold as I desire, that then the best improvements possible may be made from year to year of my said plantation, and my servants labour with such directions and appointments as the said Griffith and Lockey shall order for the better and sooner payment of my debts, and that my number of servants be still kept up, and continued out of the labors by the said Griffith and Lockey, or one of them, for the better managing and effecting thereof.
Also my will and earnest desire is that my good friends will with all convenient speed cause my wife and children (all except Francis if he be pleased) to be transported to Virginia, and to provide all necessary for the voyage, and from time to time till my estate be disentangled and free of all my debts, to provide and allow for them, and every one of them, a competent and convenient maintenance according as the product of estate will bear, relation being had to the payment of my debts and the annual supply of my several plantations, all which I absolutely refer to the said Thomas Griffith and John Lockey, and after my debts are paid, I give and bequeath my estate as followeth:
To my wife, during her life, I give the plantation whereon I now dwell, ten English servants, five negroes, 3 men and 2 women, 20 sows and corn proportionable to the servants; the said negroes I give to her during her widowhood and no longer, and then presently to return to those of the five youngest children, also the plantation Mocke Nock.
Item. My will and earnest desire is that my household stuff at Strafford be divided into three parts, two of which I give to my son John, and bind him to give to every one of his brothers a bed, and the other part I give to my wife Anna Lee.
Item. I give all my plate to my three oldest sons, or the survivor or survivors of them, each to have his part delivered to him when he comes to the age of 18 years.
Item. I give to my son John and heirs forever, when he comes to the age of 18 years, all my land and plantation at Machotick, all the stock of cattle and hogs thereupon, also 10 negroes, viz. five men and five women, and 10 English servants for their times, all the corn that shall be found there, all tools, household stuff and utensils thereupon.
Item. To Richard and his heirs forever, when he come to the age aforesaid, I give my plantation called Paradise, with all my servants thereupon, all my stock of cattle and hogs, all working tools and utensils, and corn that shall be found thereupon to be for the provision of the said servants.
Item. To Francis and his heirs forever, when he comes to the age aforesaid, I give the Paper-makers Neck and the War Captains Neck with five negroes, three men and two women, and 10 English servants, and the stock of cattle and hogs, corn and tools and utensils upon the said several Necks.
Item. I give and bequeath to the five younger children, viz.: William, Hancock, Betsey, Anne, and Charles, the plantation whereon John Baswell now lives and so all along including Bishop's Neck and to the utmost extent of my land towards Brewer's and also 4,000 acres upon Potomack, also the two plantations before bequeathed to my wife, after her death to be divided between them or their survivors or survivor of them, also all the rest of my cattle, hogs, corn, household stuff, tools or whatsoever is or shall be found upon the said plantations at the time of my death, all which said estate so bequeathed to my younger children, after my debts are paid, I desire may be employed upon the said plantations for a joint stock to raise portions of the said children against they come of age aforesaid or the females married. The said servants and what other products of their labors whether money or whatsoever to be equally divided between them or their survivors or survivor of them, but the said land only to be divided between the male children.
Item. I give and bequeath to my eldest son John, three islands lying in the Bay of Chesapeake, the great new bed that I brought over in the Duke of York, and the furniture thereunto belonging.
Item. My will is that my horses, mares, and colts be equally divided in two parts, one whereof to be and belong to my three eldest children, and the other to my five youngest, and shall be sold as they increase toward raising money for their portions, and in case any of the three eldest children die before they come to the age of 18 years, that then his or their portion come to the survivors or survivor of them, and in case they all die that the whole personal estate equally to return to the five youngest children, but the land only to the male children, and if the five younger children die before they come to the age aforesaid, or the females married, then their parts to be divided among the eldest or survivors or survivor of them.
Item. My will is that my son William Lee have all that land on the Maryland side, whereon George English is now seated, when he comes to the age aforesaid; also my will is that goods sufficient be set apart for the maintenance of the gangs of each plantation for the space of two years, and all the rest of my goods to be sold to the best advantage and the tobacco shipped here to Mr. Lockey and Mr. Griffith towards the payment of my debts.
Item. I give and bequeath unto my son Francis, after my debts are paid, my whole interest in the ship called Elizabeth and Mary, being one-eighth part, also one-eighth part in the ship called The Susan, and in case of the death of Francis, I give the same to Charles, and in the case of his death to the two girls Elizabeth and Anne.
But in the case that by the blessing of God upon the industry and labor of my people upon the several plantations, my said debts be fully satisfied before the said land at Stratford be sold, nevertheless I will and entreat my good friends, Mr. Griffith and Mr. Lockey, or one of them, [that] it may be sold to the most and best advantage, and the produce thereof put out at interest, and the interest thereof be employed for and towards the better education of John and Richard, equally, to assist the one in his travels for the attainments of a reasonable perfection in the knowledge of Physick, the other at the University or the Inns of Court which he shall be most fit for, and the principal money to be equally divided between the two daughters when they come to age or be married, and that the said daughters be utterly debarred from all former legacies given to them as aforesaid, but in case of their death then the sale and produce of said estate at Stratford to be equally divided between my eldest son John and my youngest son Charles. Also I desire and order that my wife, my son John, and all my overseers, that either all or one, shall from time to time keep a correspondence with the said Griffith and Lockey, and order all my affairs in Virginia to the best advantage, as they or one of them shall direct them, and ship all my tobacco and what else shall be raised upon the said plantations to the said Griffith and Lockey for satisfaction of my debt and advantage of my children and do yearly give them an account of all horses, mares, negroes, goods, and all other things according as they shall receive directions and instructions from the said Mr. Thomas Griffith and Mr. Lockey.
Lastly: For the use aforesaid I make and ordain my ever loving friends Mr. Thomas Griffith and Mr. John Lockey, Merchants, John and Richard Lee, my full and sole Executors of this my Last Will and Testament, but in respect to my son Richard, till he cometh of age, I do absolutely place all the management of my will upon the care and trust of my first mentioned executors till my said son, Richard Lee, comes to age as aforesaid, hoping the same friendship to mine after my death which they have always done unto me.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Sixth day of February, in the 16th year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord Charles II., King of Great Britain, &c., &c., and in the year of our Lord 1663. 
(Signed) RICHARD LEE. (Seal)
Signed, sealed and delivered before us
W. Carter Seaward
- 1642 Land Grant (Charles River, 1,000 acres)
- 1653 Land Grant (Lancaster County, 300 acres)
- 1657 Land Grant (Northumberland County, 600 acres)
- 1657 Land Grant (Northumberland County, 800 acres)
- 1661 Land Grant (Westmoreland County, 4,000 acres)
- 1664 Land Grant - 2 (Northumberland County, 2,600 acres)
- Edmund Jennings Lee. Lee of Virginia, 1642–1892: Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of the Descendants of Colonel Richard Lee (Philadelphia, 1895) pp. 61–64.
- Lee, Richard. Land Grant 10 August 1642. N.p., 1642. Print.
- Lee, Richard. Land Grant 14 November 1653. N.p., 1653. Print.
- Lee, Richard. Land Grant 4 March 1657. N.p., 1657. Print.
- Lee, Richard. Land Grant 21 May 1657. N.p., 1657. Print.
- Lee, Richard. Land Grant 26 November 1661. N.p., 1661. Print.
- Lee, Richard. Land Grant 1 December 1664. N.p., 1664. Print.