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Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron
Born October 22, 1693
Leeds Castle, Kent, England
Died December 9, 1781
Greenway Court, Virginia

Thomas Fairfax, 6th Baron Fairfax of Cameron (October 22, 1693 – December 9, 1781) was the son of Thomas Fairfax, 5th Baron Fairfax of Cameron and of Catherine, daughter of Thomas Culpeper, 2nd Baron Culpeper of Thoresway.

The only resident peer in late colonial America, Fairfax administered his vast Northern Neck Proprietary — a Virginia land grant dating back to 1649 — from his wilderness estate at Greenway Court, Virginia. Various place names in Northern Virginia and West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle are named for him—most notably Fairfax County, Virginia.

Contents

Biography

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Youth and early adulthood

Born at Leeds Castle in Kent, England — owned by his maternal Culpeper ancestors since the 1630s[1] — Lord Fairfax succeeding to his title in 1709. He was educated at Oriel College, Oxford between 1710 and 1713 and afterward held a commission in the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards (1721-1733). He was a contributor to the early newspaper Addison's Spectator.

In 1719, Fairfax came into possession of the vast Culpeper family estates in Virginia's Northern Neck Proprietary between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. These lands included a great portion of the Shenandoah and South Branch Potomac valleys, in all consisting of some 5,282,000 acres (21,380 km²). Struggling to keep up an expensive lifestyle and maintain Leeds Castle, Fairfax relied on the income from his Virginia tract, both from the sale of land and the annual quit rents, paid by planters who settled in the Northern Neck.[2] These rents were collected by his resident land agent, Robert "King" Carter. In the fall of 1732, Fairfax read Carter's obituary in the London monthly The Gentleman's Magazine and was astonished to read of the vast personal wealth Carter had accumulated, which included 10,000 Pounds in cash: this at a time when the Governor of Virginia was paid an annual salary of 200 pounds. Rather than appoint another Virginian to the position, Lord Fairfax arranged to have his cousin Colonel William Fairfax move in 1734 from Massachusetts to Virginia to serve as his resident land agent.

In America

Lord Fairfax travelled to Virginia for the first time between 1735 and 1737 to inspect and protect his lands. In 1738, about thirty farms were established as part of his 9,000 acre Patterson Creek Manor near present day Burlington, West Virginia. The northwestern boundary of his Northern Neck Proprietary, which had been contested by the English Privy Council, was marked in 1746 by the "Fairfax Stone" at the headwaters of the North Branch Potomac River. Returning to America in 1747, he first settled at Belvoir (present-day Fort Belvoir), an estate which had been completed by Col. Fairfax six years earlier. He then became active in developing his lands and collecting ground rents.

Fairfax was the only resident peer in colonial AmericaWilliam Alexander's claim to be the Earl of Stirling was never fully successful and other peers held offices in the Colonies, but returned to Britain afterwards. In 1748, he made the acquaintance of George Washington, a distant relative of the Yorkshire Fairfax family who was then a youth of 16. Impressed with Washington's energy and talents, Lord Fairfax employed him (his first job ever) to survey his lands lying west of the Blue Ridge[3].

Fairfax, a life-long bachelor, moved out to the Shenandoah Valley in 1752. At the suggestion of his nephew Thomas Bryan Martin, he fixed his residence at a hunting lodge at Greenway Court, near White Post, Clarke County[4]. Here he and Martin lived together in a style of liberal hospitality, frequently indulging in the diversion of the chase. He served as county lieutenant and as justice of the peace for Frederick County which then included Clarke.

The Revolution

Though a frank and avowed Loyalist, Fairfax was never insulted or molested by the Whigs. His domain, however, was confiscated during the hostilities by the Virginia Act of 1779. Less than two months after the 1781 defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown, the 88 year old Fairfax died at his seat at Greenway Court. He was buried on the east side of Christ Church (Episcopal) in Winchester, Virginia.

Legacy

Notes

  1. ^ Seventeenth-century Political and Financial Papers, Nicholas Ferrar, Cheney Culpeper, David R. Ransome, Mark Greengrass, J. T. Cliffe (1996), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521573955, 9780521573955.
  2. ^ Cleggett, David A.H. (1992), History of Leeds Castle and Its Families, Leeds Castle Foundation, Chapter 6, pp. 100-102; ISBN 0 9518827 1 6
  3. ^ George Washington's elder half brother Lawrence Washington (1718-1752) was married to Anne (1728-1761) a daughter of Col. William Fairfax of Belvoir — a land agent and cousin of Lord Thomas Fairfax. Anne's brother, George William Fairfax, was married to Sally Fairfax (nee Cary).
  4. ^ Cartmell, Thomas Kemp (1909). Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants. Eddy Press Corp. p. 587. http://books.google.com/books?id=sdFczYzblKQC&pg=PA245&lpg=PA245&dq=bryan+fairfax&source=web&ots=scE80suo0s&sig=WqtMCiDqnW86fC_bnlVa0d60eLA&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=9&ct=result#PPA246,M1.  

References

  • Dictionary of American Biography
  • Men of the Time by Francis S. Drake; Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1872
  • Concise Dictionary of American Biography; ed. Joseph G.E. Hopkins; Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1964
  • Brown, Stewart (1965), Virginia Baron: The Story of Thomas 6th Lord Fairfax, Berryville, Virginia: Chesapeake Book Company  
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Thomas Fairfax
Lord Fairfax of Cameron
1709 - 1781
Succeeded by
Robert Fairfax

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