Lee family

Lee family


Members of the family include Thomas Lee (1690–1750), a founder of the Ohio Company and a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses; Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734–1797) and Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794), signers of the United States Declaration of Independence; Thomas Sim Lee (1745–1819), Governor of Maryland and, most famously, General Robert E. Lee (1807–1870) Confederate States of America commander in the United States Civil War. President Zachary Taylor and Chief Justice Edward Douglass White were also descendants of Richard Lee I. Confederate President Jefferson Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Zachary Taylor.

Most recently, family members have marked over two hundred years of political service in the United States, as Blair Lee III, a descendant of Richard Henry Lee, served as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland from 1971-1979 and Acting Governor of Maryland from 1977–1979.


They are widely believed to have descended from the Lees of Shropshire; however, there is no conclusive proof. In fact, genealogist William Thorndale wrote an article for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly [December 1988 issue] which showed that Richard Lee I was actually the son of John Lee, a clothier, and Jane Hancock, that he had been born in Worcester (some ways down the River Severn) and "not" at Coton Hall, and that several of their immediate relatives had been apprenticed as vintners.

On the other hand, in the book "Old Virginia and Her Neighbors" [Published in 1897 by Houghton, Mifflin, and Co.] , by John Fiske, the following can be found:

:"In the seventeenth century, when the migrations to America were beginning, it was customary for members of noble families to enter these guilds as apprentices in the crafts of the draper, the tailor, the vintner, or the mason, etc. Many important consequences have flowed from this. Let it suffice here to note that this fact of the rural aristocracy keeping in touch with the tradesmen and artisans has been one of the safeguards of English liberty; it has been one source of the power of the Commons, one check upon the undue aspirations of the Crown."

In any event, the Lees of Shropshire did have a substantial estate near Alveley for hundreds of years. Coton Hall itself dates back to 1348. Their name may have been originally "de la Lee"; alternatively, a "Delee" was listed in the Battle Abbey Roll as having accompanied William the Conqueror.

Colonial Virginia

In the U.S., the family began when Richard Lee I emigrated to Virginia and made his fortune in tobacco. They first gained wider significance with Thomas Lee (1690–1750). He became a member of the House of Burgesses and later went on to found the Ohio Company.

Revolutionary War era

Thomas Lee [ [http://www.stratfordhall.org/thomaslee.html? HISTORY STRATFORD Thomas Lee 1690-1750] ] (1690–1750) married Hannah Harrison [Her first cousin twice removed was Benjamin Harrison V] Ludwell: their children, like the descendants of Thomas Lee's brother Henry Lee I, included a number of prominent Revolutionary War and pre-Revolution political figures.

Thomas and Hannah Lee's two eldest children were Philip Ludwell Lee (1726–1775) and Hannah Lee (1728–1782).

Thomas Ludwell Lee (1730-1778) was a member of the Virginia Delegates and a major editor of George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), a precursor to the United States Declaration of Independence, which was signed by his brothers Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794) and Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734-1797).


right|thumb|General_Henry Lee III, "Light Horse Harry," also served as Governor of Virginia, and was the father of Robert E. Lee. (portrait by William Edward West)]

Richard Henry Lee was a delegate to Continental Congress from Virginia and president of that body, 1774, later serving as President of the United States in Congress assembled under the Articles of Confederation, and United States Senator from Virginia (1789–1792) under the new United States Constitution.

Younger siblings included Alice Lee (1736-1818), who married American Chief Physician William Shippen, Jr. [Shippen's father, Continental Congressman William Shippen, was a cousin of Peggy Shippen wife of Benedict Arnold] and diplomats William Lee (b. 1739, d. 1795) and Arthur Lee (b. 1740, d. 1792).

Henry Lee's grandson, Henry Lee III (1756 - 1818), known as "Light Horse Harry," was a Princeton graduate who served with great distinction under General George Washington in the American Revolutionary War, and was the only officer below the rank of General to receive the "Gold Medal," awarded for his leadership at the Battle of Paulus Hook in New Jersey, on August 19, 1779. He was Governor of Virginia from 1791-1794. Among his six children was Robert Edward Lee, later the famed Confederate general during the American Civil War.

Henry Lee III's brothers were the noted Richard Bland Lee, a two-term U.S. Congressman from Virginia, and Charles Lee (1758–1815), Attorney General of the United States from 1795–1801.

Thomas Sim Lee, a second cousin of Henry Lee III, was elected Governor of Maryland in 1779 and 1792 and declined a third term in 1798. He played an important part in the birth of Maryland as state and in the birth of the United States of America as a nation.

Civil War Era

Robert E. Lee (1807–1870), was the son of Henry Lee III, and probably the most famous member of the Lee family. He served as Confederate general in the United States Civil War.

He was married to Mary Anna Randolph Custis [http://www.nps.gov/frsp/fitzchm.htm] , who was a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington and also was Lee's third cousin once removed through Richard Lee II, fourth cousin through William Randolph, and third cousin through Robert Carter I.

R. E. Lee's children included George Washington Custis Lee and William H. Fitzhugh Lee.Other Lee relations who were General Officers during the Civil War were Fitzhugh Lee (Confederate Army),Samuel Phillips Lee (US Navy); Richard Lucian Page (Confederate Army and Navy); Edwin Gray Lee (Confederate Army). Indirect relations of R.E.Lee who were C.S General Officers were William N. Pendleton and Virginia Military Institute graduate William H. F. Payne.

Later Generations

Francis Preston Blair Lee (1857-1944) was a Democratic member of the United States Senate, representing the State of Maryland from 1914-1917. He was also the great-grandson of American patriot Richard Henry Lee, and grandfather of Blair Lee III, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland from 1971-1979 and Acting Governor of Maryland from 1977–1979.


ee also

* Zachary Taylor

Further reading

* Nagel, Paul C., "The Lees of Virginia: Seven Generations of an American Family", Oxford University Press, reprinted 1992, ISBN 0-19-507478-5.
* Lee, Edmund Jennings (editor), "Lee of Virginia", Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, Maryland. reprinted 1983, ISBN 0-8063-0604-1

External links

* [http://www.stratfordhall.org/history.html?PRESERVE The Lees of Virginia]
* [http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0829234.html Profile of Richard Lee]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/shropshire/content/articles/2005/04/08/history_lee_house_feature.shtml BBC on Shropshire Lees]
* [http://www.leearchive.info/index.html Lee Family Digital Archive]
* [http://thesocietyoftheleesofva.org/ Society of the Lees of Virginia]

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