Role in Ravensworth: founder of Ravensworth – owner Parcel 1.0

William Fitzhugh was born in England in 1651, the son of a successful woolen merchant. He studied law and immigrated to Virginia about 1670-71. In 1674, he married Sarah Tucker (1663-1703+) and together they had six children.1

Fitzhugh established himself as a successful lawyer, public official, plantation owner and investor in land. Settling on the Potomac River near today’s Fredericksburg, Virginia, he served Stafford County as an officer in its militia and a representative in Virginia’s colonial legislature, the House of Burgesses. Eventually he established the family’s principal residence at Eagle’s Nest Plantation on the Potomac River and also owned nearby Bedford, his original residence plantation.

At his death in 1701, Fitzhugh owned 54,000 acres, including Ravensworth’s 21,996 acres. He had served as an agent for the Proprietors of the Northern Neck Grant and, therefore, likely had good knowledge and access for buying prime land. His will2 divided the land among his five sons. Ravensworth went in equal shares to the two oldest, William, Jr. and Henry (Captain).

Dozens of Fitzhugh’s letters have survived that give insight into his life and times – especially his business affairs. They reveal the management of his land, harvests and sales of tobacco crops, worries about the perils of shipping across the Atlantic (sometimes splitting cargo between ships), purchases from London merchants, educating his children, and many other topics.

About 200 letters are examined in Richard Davis’ book William Fitzhugh and His Chesapeake World, 1676-1701. Around the turn of the 20th century, the Virginia Historical Society published many of these letters in its yearbooks, which are accessible online through Google Books (page numbers cited denote beginnings of sections where the letters appear).


 

  1. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol 7 (1900) (Virginia Historical Society), p. 317 (Google Books); Maddy McCoy, Genealogical Research for Fairfax County, Virginia Slavery Inventory Database (Unpublished manuscript, 2009) and Mason Web: Mason Family genealogy online research tool.
  2. For an abstract of William Fitzhugh’s will, see page 276 in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol 7 (1900) (Virginia Historical Society) (Google Books).