Colonel Richard Lee ("the Immigrant"), our first ancestor in America

Colonel Richard Lee

Colonel Richard Lee's signature

Colonel Richard Lee, also known as "the Immigrant" was the founder of the Lee family in Virginia. A member of the Coton branch of the Lees of County Shropshire, England, he immigrated to Virginia circa. 1640, settling first in York County and later in Northumberland County. A tobacco planter, Lee became wealthy and was an important figure in Virginia, being at various times justice, burgess, member of the council, attorney general, and secretary of state.

About Richard Lee

BORN: 1613, Nordley Regis, Coton, County Shropshire, England
PARENTS: John Lee and Jane Hancock
BAPTIZED: March 22, 1617, Worcester, Saint Martin, Worcester
MARRIED: Anne Constable Owen, 1641, Jamestown, Virginia
John Lee(1645-1673)
Richard Lee(1647-1714) - The Stratford Hall Lees
Francis Lee(1648-1714)
William Lee(1651-1697) - The Bedford, Virginia Lees
Hancock Lee(1653-1709)
Elizabeth Lee(1653)
Anne Lee(1645-1701)
Charles C. Lee(1656-1701)
DIED: March 1, 1664, Cobb's Hall, "Dividing Creek", Northumberland County, Virginia

More About Richard Lee

There are many records about Richard Lee, who beside being the emigrant and ancestor to a number of historical figures, he was also a prominent and distinguished colonist. He apparently came to Virginia from England in about 1640. He apparently was settled in York County in about 1642. He became a significant land owner, a member of the House of Burgesses, and a Justice of the court while he lived in York County. He is described a s a planter, and with the title of Colonel. He apparently was fairly wealthy. He traveled back and forth between England and Virginia, and maintained connections in England until his death. He apparently moved to Northumberland County in about 1654, where he died in 1663/64. His estate remained in his family for many years, known as "Cobbs Hall," although that home was not built until about 1720.

An early account of Richard Lee is given in Lees of VA, p. 49, in a passage written by William Lee in 1771

Richard Lee, of a good family in Shropshire (and whose Picture I am told is now at Coton, near Bridgenorth, the seat of Launcelot Lee, Esq.), some time in the Reign of Charles the first, went over to the Colony of Virginia, as Secretary, and one of the King's Privy Council.

He was a man of good Stature, comely visage, and enterprising genius, a sound head, vigorous spirit and generous nature. When he got to Virginia, which was at that time not much cultivated, he was so pleased with the Country that he made large settlements there with the servants he had carried over; after some years, he returned to England, and gave away all the lands he had taken up, and settled at his own expense, to those servants he had fixed on them; some of whose descendants are now possessed of very considerable Estates in that Colony. After staying some Time in England, he returned again to Virginia, with a fresh band of Adventurers, all of whom he settled there.

In 1646, Richard Lee sat on the York bench as a magistrate, with a Dr. Henry Lee, who married Marah Adkins. Richard patented 1,250 acres in York Co., VA in 1648, and named, amongst his head rights, Henry, Matthew, and George Lee, who may have been his relatives. That Richard settled first in York Co., is proven by the grant of 1,000 acres, dated 10 Aug 1642; the patent states that his land was due unto the said Richard Lee by and for his own personal Adventure, his wife Ann, and John Francis and by assignment from Mr. Thomas Hill, Florentine Paine and William Freeman of their right of land due for the transportation of Seaventeene persons.

This land was the plantation, Paradise in his will, and bequeathed to his second son, Richard . This name is frequently applied to subsequent records to this plantation; as on the 22n d of July, 1674, in a patent issued to Major Richard Lee for 1,140 acres in Gloster, called Paradise, on a branch of Poropotank Creek; 1,000 thereof being due to said Richard Lee by two former patents, and the residence now found to be within the bounds. 94 Richard represented York County as Burgess in 1647, and in 1651 Mr. Lee was paid for services as Burgess of Northumberland County. It seems possible that Richard Lee was engaged in commerce as well as agriculture, and that he had an interest in vessels trading between England and Virginia, as had many of the large planters. In his will, he bequeathed to his son, Francis, his interest in two ships, which was 1/8th part in each vessel. He appears to have made frequent voyages to and fro; being in England in 1654-55, again in 1659, and later in 1661 and in 1663.

Richard's first home in Virginia was on the York River, near the head of Poropotank Creek, where he had a store or warehouse. His next home was located on the Dividing Creeks in Northumberland, which afforded a very safe harbor. The main creek is only a mile or two long; then it divides into branches, which makes several small peninsulas or necks as they were formerly called. On two of these necks Richard Lee located his two plantations, where we can find grants for 800 and 600 acres in 1651 and 1656 respectively. Richard was not only Burgess for several counties, but served in several capacities, having been Justice, member of the Council and Secretary of State. He also served on various commissions. While in England in 1663, his wife and children being there also, Richard made his will; the wording of this will indicates that he had given up his intention of settling permanently in England. For he ordered that his estate there should be sold, gave minute directions for the payment of his debts, and closing up of his interests in that country, and made arrangements for the settlement of his children in Virginia. The account of his property given in his will shows him to have been possessed of considerable wealth for that day. If his tobacco crop was actually worth L2000 a year, as Gibbon estimated, and his estate at Stratford-Langton, L800 a year, as stated by William Lee, then Richard Lee must have enjoyed an income larger than most of the early planters.

From Virginia Vital Records, The Grave of Richard Lee, the Emigrant, by Ludwell Lee Montague

"The Grave of Richard Lee, The Emigrant- In March 1664 Colonel Richard Lee, then of London and Stratford Langton in Essex, died at his plantation on Dividing Creek in Northumberland County, Virginia, and was buried in the garden of his home there. As late as 1798 his tombstone was still to be seen at the site. Pursuant to Richard Lee's will, his widow (nee Anne Constable) and younger children returned from England to live at the Dividing Creek plantation, which was eventually inherited by his youngest son, Charles (1656-1701). In the course of time, Anne Constable, Charles Lee, and Charles' wife, Elizabeth Medstrand, were in their turn buried near the grave of Richard Lee. About 1720 Charles Lee II (1684-1734) abandoned the original Lee home in Dividing Creek and built "Cobbs Hall" at a site about a half mile to the east. However, the "Cobbs Hall" family continued to use the burying ground at the original site. Thus Charles Lee II (but not his widow, Elizabeth Pinckard, who remarried and lived and died elsewhere), Charles Lee III (1722-1747), and the latter's two wives, Mary Lee of " Ditchley" and Leeanna Jones of "Hickory Neck, " were also buried there. This Leeanna Jones was herself a great-granddaughter of Richard Lee and granddaughter of Charles Lee I.

In her will, probated in 1761, she ordered the erection of "a proper brick wall round the Burying place of myself, and ancestors on this plantation." In 1923 Cazenove Lee undertook to find the grave of the emigrant Richard Lee. At the "Cobbs Hall" burying ground the only evidence above ground was the tombstone of Susan Lee (1802-1852), the wife of William Harvey. Probing in the vicinity, however, Cazenove Lee discovered the foundations of the wall erected pursuant to the will of Leeanna Lee. (Cazenove Lee, "Locating the Grave of Colonel Richard Lee, " Magazine of the Society of the Lees of Virginia, V, 43-49.) The grave of the emigrant Richard Lee was certainly within that enclosure. In 1956 E. Walter Harvey, Sr. the present master of "Cobbs Hall, " presented the old family burying ground to the Society of the Less of Virginia, which undertook to clear the site, to restore Leeanna Lee's wall, and to erect a suitable marker. This work has now been accomplished. On May 3, 1958, with appropriate ceremony, the site was rededicated to the memory of the first Richard Lee, of Anne Constable, his wife, and of their "Cobbs Hall" descendants buried there."

Richard Lee's Will

In the Name of God, Amen. I, Richard Lee, of Virginia and lately of Stratford Langton, in the county of Essex , Esquire being bound upon a voyage to Virginia afore said, and not knowing how it may please God to dispose of me in so long a voyage, utterly renouncing, disclaiming, disannulling, and revolking[sic] 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 receiving salvation and my body to be disposed of whether by land or sea or according to the opportunity of the place, not doubting but at the last day both body and soul shal[sic] be reunited and glorified. Next, my will and desire is that all my estate aforesaid, both lease land, freeland and copyhold land, and houses be, with all convenient speed that may be, sold for the payment of my debts to John Jeffries Eqs. 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 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 improvement 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, 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 chldren (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 everyone of them, a competent and convenient maintenance according as the product of the estate will bear, relation being had to the payment of my debts and the annual supply of my several plantations, all of 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 the my household staff at Stratford 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 of 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 his heirs forever, when he comes to the age of 18 years, all my land and plantation at Machotick, all of 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 comes 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 Papermakers 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 Biship's Neck and to the utmost extent of my land towards Brewer's and also 4,000 acres upon Potomac, 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 stuffs, 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 debt s are paid. I desire may be employed upon said plantation 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 labours whether moendy 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 unto 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 where of to be and belonging 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 of 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 dies 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, of the females married, then their parts to be divide among the three eldest or survivors or survivor of them.

Item. My will is that my son William Lee have all that land on the Maryland side, where 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 toward 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-eigth 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 case that by the blessing of Go  upon the industry and labour 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, on 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 education of John and Richard, equally, to assist the one of his travels for attainment of reasonable perfection in the knowledge of Physic's, the other at the Unveirstity or the inns of Corut 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 foresaid, 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 overseares[sic], 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 f or 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 everloving friends, Mr Thomas Griffith and Mr 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 management of my will upon the care and trust of 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 thereof I have heresoto set my hand and seal this the 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 they year of our Lord 1664.

This will was probated in London, the next year: 1664-5 Richardus Lee. January. Decimo die p robatum fuit Testamentum Richardi Lee nup de Stratford Langton in Com Essexine sed apud Virgi nia in ptibus transmarinus ar defunct hents, &c. Jurament Thomae Griffith et Johis Lockey duo r Execut, & c, guih. & c., de bene & c. Jurat. Reservata ptate Similem Comnem faciend Johi e t Richo Lee alt Execut & c."

Johis P C C Probate Act Book fo 3.