Nicholas was one of fourteen children born to Henry (Colonel) and Sarah (Battaile) Fitzhugh. In 1788, he married Sarah Ashton (1769-1820), daughter of Major Burdett Ashton and Anne Washington Ashton of King George County. They had 12 children:1
- Henrietta Sarah Fitzhugh (1789-1879), married her cousin Henry Fitzhugh (son of her father’s brother George), together they settled and are credited as founders of Ravenswood, West Virginia on land inherited through her mother from George Washington’s estate.
- Augustine Washington Fitzhugh (1791-1875)
- Lucy Battaile Fitzhugh (1793-1850)
- Dr. Edmund Fitzhugh (1796-1832)
- Burdett Fitzhugh (1796-1814)
- Henry William Fitzhugh (1797-1855)
- Hardiman Charles Fitzhugh (1799-1862)
- Lawrence Fitzhugh (1801-1855)
- Ann Elizabeth Jane Fitzhugh (1802-1866)
- Mary Conway Mason Fitzhugh (1804-1842)
- Sarah Nicholas Fitzhugh (1808-1820)
- Sophia Bland Fitzhugh (1810-1863)
Nicholas Fitzhugh is likely the first Fitzhugh to actually reside at Ravensworth where he built Ossian Hall c.1783 (so named by a later owner) for his residence on a part his inherited land. He is listed in the 1789 tax rolls along with seven slaves. He expanded his holdings by purchasing additional Ravensworth acres from his brothers and from a neighbor.
A successful lawyer practicing in Fairfax County, Nicholas was educated at William and Mary College. He represented Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1790-91 and 1802. President Thomas Jefferson appointed him a judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of the District of Columbia in 1803, where he served until death in 1814.2
He sold Ossian Hall along with a portion of his Ravensworth inheritance in 1804 and was living on Washington Street in Alexandria, VA close to his court when he died. His will divided the remaining Ravensworth land among his living sons: Augustine, Charles, Edmund, Henry, and Lawrence.
Hosting President Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson’s personal account books indicate that he was Nicholas’ overnight guest at Ossian Hall on July 19-20, 1803.3 The next year, Nicholas assisted with Jefferson’s April 1-2, 1804 visit and travel to Monticello in an exchange of letters that also reveal something about local roads and travel challenges at that time.
- Maddy McCoy, Genealogical Research for Fairfax County, Virginia Slavery Inventory Database (Unpublished manuscript, 2009);
Nannie Cotton Woodman, The Fitzhugh Family in America: Treating in Particular the West Virginia Branch (Charleston, West Va, 1928); and
The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol 8 (1901) (Virginia Historical Society), 314 (Google Books). ↩
- Volume 1 of Reports Of Cases Civil And Criminal In The United States Circuit Court Of The District Of Columbia, From 1801 To 1841 covers cases through 1809, which gives insight into Nicholas Fitzhugh’s first six years as Assistant Judge on the court. ↩
- Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767-1826 (Princeton University Press, 1997), 1105. ↩