Major General “Light Horse Harry” Lee & Stratford Plantation
In 1801, Major-General Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee III, took out a policy with Mutual Assurance for his home, Stratford Plantation in Westmoreland County.
Built by Thomas Lee (1690-1750), a former Royal Governor of Virginia from 1737 to 1740, the home was named after his grandfather’s home in London. Thomas Lee and his wife, Hannah, had six sons and two daughters and left Stratford to their eldest son, Philip Ludwell Lee in 1750, who passed it on to his daughter, nicknamed “the divine Matilda upon his death in 1775.
As was the custom in the colonies at this time, Matilda married her cousin, Revolutionary War hero, “Light Horse Harry” Lee. After Matilda died in 1790, Henry Lee married Ann Hill Carter who lived at Shirley Plantation. One of their children was General Robert E. Lee.
Major General “Light Horse Harry” Lee – Henry Lee III
Henry Lee III was given his nickname because of his excellent horsemanship and expertise in guerilla fighting during the Revolutionary War. He was described as “blonde, blue-eyed, and full of spirit;” an ideal leader of “Lee’s Legion”, a mix of cavalry and infantry soldiers that won pivotal battles at Edgar’s Lane and Paulus Hook.
After the war, Lee served as a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation, and in 1788 at the Virginia convention; he favored the adoption of the United States Constitution. He went on to serve in the General Assembly and as Governor of Virginia. A new county of Virginia was named after him during his governorship.
Henry Lee III experienced many financial misfortunes and even spent one in Debtor’s prison before moving his family from Stratford to Alexandria in the winter of 1810. Their son, Henry Lee IV, took over the property but could never manage to pay its costs, so he sold it to a friend from Maryland in 1822.
The house was sold once more to one family who owned it until 1929 when the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association purchased it. Now known as Stratford Hall, the former plantation operates as a museum with 1900 acres of farmland that is used for agricultural research, grazing land, and farming.
The policy taken out by Henry Lee III in 1801 lists a total of 12 buildings at a value of $16,700. This includes the main house, stables, workshops, a kitchen, slave quarters, and a summerhouse. The building drawings include the make-up of the buildings, their sizes, purpose, and general location. There is also a paragraph that discusses the disrepair and poor condition of property. In it, the assessors state that the plantation would be valued at $20,000 if in fit condition.
The policy was signed on October 21, 1801.
For additional historical homes insured by Mutual Assurance:
Architecture is my delight.” Thomas Jefferson
“I am a Virginian.” Edgar Allan Poe & Moldavia
The Lost Northside Home of Magnate and Philanthropist Lewis Ginter
Unearthing History at James Monroe’s Highland