This page is about Leedstown, Virginia and the 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 Rappahannock.

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 Steamboat Line.

Today there is little left of the town save a few houses.

From Orville's World 2005

*  Leedstown in Westmoreland County, on the Rappahannock River was founded in the same year with Philadelphia, Pa., (1681) and in its beginning was far more prosperous. Its warehouses were better filled and its intercourse with England was greater and more profitable than that of Philadelphia. It is now a wharf on the Rappahannock River. It is not populated sufficiently to make it even a voting precinct.

Compilation by FAHT 2006 2014, rivahresearch.com

 

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