Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

By Boynton Merrill Jr. | Go to book overview

2
THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM

DURING THE decade just prior to the Revolution, the children of Shadwell and Buck Island reached their maturity. The oldest Jefferson son, Thomas, completed his education and was admitted to the bar. In 1769, he began his illustrious political career, when he was chosen to be a member of the House of Burgesses. In that same year, Charles L. Lewis, the oldest son of Charles Lewis, Jr., married Thomas Jefferson's sister, Lucy. Lucy was seventeen and Charles L. Lewis was twenty-two. If the ceremony was held at Shadwell, it was one of the last festive occasions in the old Jefferson home, for five months after the wedding, Shadwell burned to the ground. Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, had not been completed at that time, and Lucy's mother, Jane, may have stayed, for a while at least, at Buck Island with her sister, Mary Lewis. The newlyweds, Charles L. Lewis and Lucy, eventually established their home on the section of the Buck Island plantation which lay south of the Rivanna River.

These were years of increasing tension between Virginians and their British rulers. At issue were economic as well as political and religious freedoms. Of all the patriots in Albemarle before and during the Revolution, the men of the Lewis family were among the most zealous. For reasons of health or age, Charles Lewis, Jr. of Buck Island was evidently not involved in military service at this time, but both his sons, Charles L. Lewis and Isham, volunteered, and at least three of his sons-in-law served as well.

Following the Boston Tea Party, the Virginia Assembly expressed its sympathy for Bostonians by setting aside a day for the colony to fast and pray. The governor, Lord Dunmore, in a fit of choler, dissolved the assembly, which promptly reassembled in a tavern and agreed to sample public opinion to see if Virginians would support a governmental association. The result was the formation of the Virginia Convention a few months later. In each county a committee was elected to enforce the resolutions of the convention. The popular support of the committeemen enabled them to function as an effective local

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