This page is about Leedstown, Virginia
Leedstown Resolves which was the forerunner to the
Declaration of Independence.
This is where by 1678, Edward Bray
had built a brick church, an ordinary, ferry, and wharf at the
present Leedstown. Up to this date the site was known as
After 1678, it was known as Bray's
Wharf or Bray's Church.* By 1742, it was known as Leeds. Later it was
known as Leedstown.
Leedstown is located on the
Rappahannock River in Westmoreland County, Virginia. From this now
sleepy community on the Rappahannock River began the spark of
independence from England and a revolution not seen since against
taxation. The revolt was against the Stamp Act formulated by
Sovereign George the Third, King of Great Britain.
In 1608, when Captain John Smith
and his party first explored the Rappahannock River Leedstown was a
thriving Indian village, the home of King Passassack, of the
Rappahannock tribe. Captain Smiths' party was attacked by these
Rappahannocks, and Richard Featherstone was killed. He was buried on
the southside of the Rappahannock river near the waters edge, a few
miles below Leedstown.
Leedstown was created a town by an
act of the Burgesses in 1742. Though little evidence remains now,
Leedstown was a thriving port in colonial days.
Leedstown's claim to fame comes,
however, from the Leedstown Resolutions. The historic event is
immortalized with a tablet on the walls of the Courthouse at
Montross, the county seat of Westmoreland County. It has been said
by a Northern Neck historian, that "here in the clerks office are
recorded writings of ancestors of more statesmen that we can find in
all county clerk's offices of any state outside of Virginia. On the
walls of the courtroom hang portraits of more men of national
fame--native sons of the county--than we can find at any other
county seat in America."
In 1765, the British Parliament, to
raise revenues for the King, passed the Stamp Act. This act laid a
stamp duty on all papers used for legal documents, liquor licenses,
academic degrees, newspapers, pamphlets and almanacs, and it met
with immediate opposition in the Colonies because it was direct
taxation without representation in Parliament.
Archibald Ritchie, a Tappahannock
merchant, announced he had stamped paper he'd use to clear his own
ship with a cargo of grain to be shipped to the West Indies. There
was quick response from the gentlemen of the surrounding counties.
Thomas Ludwell Lee invited the planters to meet at Leedstown to make
plans to stop Ritchie. One hundred and fifteen patriots responded to
Lee's call and signed the resolutions, drafted by Richard Henry Lee,
on February 27, 1766. The Church or tavern, depending on which story
you believe, in which they met stood until ca. 1932. The Leedstown
Resolves was the first of its kind to declare independence from
England. This document antedated a similar paper signed at
Mecklenburg, N.C., by more than nine years, and the national
Declaration of Independence by more than ten years. The original
manuscript, believed to be in Richard Henry Lee's handwriting, is
preserved by the Virginia Historical Society.
General George Washington often
visited Leedstown. He and his bride dined here in May, 1759. Their
occasion was on their return to Williamsburg, following Marthas
first sojourn at Mount Vernon. Washington spent the night of June 2,
1763, at Leedstown, and dined here July 13, 1771.
From a point below Leedstown a
ferry operated to Laytons, on the south side of the river in Essex
County, in Colonial days--it operated until about 1927 when the
Downings Bridge to Tappahannock opened.
Following the Revolutionary War
shipping at Leedstown began to decline as many planters moved west
into the Kentucky and Ohio territories. In less than one hundred
years since its beginning the colonial port had disappeared.
Late in the 19th century, Leedstown
had a slight revival steaming from visits of the Rappahannock River
Today there is little left of the
town save a few houses.