Role in Ravensworth – owner Parcel 1.2

William Fitzhugh (of Chatham)

Portrait of William Fitzhugh (of Chatham) via Wikimedia1

William was the third child and only son born to Henry (of Eagle’s Nest) and Lucy (Carter) Fitzhugh. His father died in William’s second year. His mother soon remarried to Nathaniel Harrison, a widower who brought two children to the household, and they had another child together.

William married Ann Bolling Randolph (1747-1805) in April 1763. They had six children; just three lived to adulthood:2

  • Lucy Fitzhugh (1771-1777)
  • Betty Randolph Fitzhugh (1773-1774)
  • Ann Randolph Fitzhugh (1783-1806)
  • Martha Carter Fitzhugh (1786-1793)
  • Mary Lee Fitzhugh (1788-1853), married George Washington Parke Custis (1781-1857)
  • William Henry Fitzhugh (1792-1830)

William inherited extensive properties from his father, including the half share of the original Ravensworth landgrant (Parcel 1.2) and Eagle’s Nest. He later sold Eagle’s Nest and built Chatham, near Fredericksburg, VA, and maintained his residence there until the 1790s.

Besides managing his extensive plantations, William was a political leader, statesman and member of the Continental Congress in the struggle for American independence. The Biographical Directory of the U. S. Congress summarizes his career succinctly:3

“a Delegate from Virginia… pursued classical studies with private teachers; engaged in agricultural pursuits; member of the State house of delegates in 1776 and 1777; Member of the Continental Congress in 1779; again a member of the State house of delegates in 1780, 1781, 1787, and 1788; served in the State senate 1781-1785…”

In about 1796, he built Ravensworth Mansion – a country house on his Ravensworth property, where he finished his years. He also maintained a townhouse in Alexandria.

A friend and neighbor of George Washington, William’s daughter Mary married Washington’s step-grandson. He was visited by Washington on his last trip outside Mount Vernon before his death in 1799.

William (of Chatham) was a slaveowner whose wealth depended on slave labor to work and maintain his extensive lands. In the 1799 tax rolls, 96 enslaved people were recorded under his name, and the 1810 federal census counted 235 slaves living on his Fairfax County properties.4

Appending “(of Chatham)” to his name helps differentiate this William from many other Williams in several generations of the Fitzhugh family.


 

  1. By Not credited (Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, Vol II (1)) (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Fitzhugh.jpg.
  2. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol 8 (1901) (Virginia Historical Society), Fitzhugh genealogy, pp. 94, 209, 314, 430 (Google Books). and Maddy McCoy, “Genealogical Research for Fairfax County, Virginia Slavery Inventory Database” (Unpublished manuscript, 2009).
  3. Biographical Directory of the U. S. Congress (online): Fitzhugh, William.
  4. 1810 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Fairfax, Virginia, William Fitzhugh household, jpeg image, (Online: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010), Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC, subscription database, http://www.ancestry.com/, accessed 6 July 2010.