Lucy's Community in Albemarle County
Albemarle County changed significantly during Lucy’s lifetime. A census conducted in 1790, when Lucy was thirty-eight years old documented the population at 12,585 including 6,835 whites, 5,579 blacks and 171 free blacks. (Lay, p. 12) Three years after she died in 1840, the total population had almost doubled to 22,618. (Woods, p. 12) Healthcare during Lucy’s life depended first and foremost on self-care augmented by the services of healers found in the community or even in one’s family. Physicians were far-and-few-between, especially in Lucy’s earlier years, and were only engaged when all other interventions had failed. My goal was to create a picture of Lucy’s community, the homes they lived in and the people she may have helped, highlighting those occurrences that illuminate her reputation as a valued healer, as seen in this family member’s description of her:
“Her position as a head of a large family connection combined with the Spartan ideas in those stirring times of discipline developed in her, it is said, a good deal of the autocrat. Yet she is said by those who knew her well to have had much sweetness of character, to have been a devoted Christian, and full of sympathy for all sickness and trouble. As it was often impossible to obtain a physician in those days she became an authority in medical remedies and the “Locust Hill” garden yielded a group of medicinal herbs which she dispensed with her own sound judgment.” (Anderson, p. 181)
The map of Lucy’s neighbors and its accompanying chart depicts the community she served. Although we do not know the names of Lucy’s patients, it is likely that besides caring for those on her plantation, she cared for family members and neighbors who lived nearby. I used an eight to ten mile radius around Locust Hill to identify the properties on the map and the chart that describe the neighbors who lived there, many of whom were related to Lucy. I chose this distance because it could be easily covered on horseback in a day on the roads that existed. We know that her nephew, William Lewis on his way home from Kentucky, “stopped at Locust Hill to pay his respects to Aunt Marks. She was not home; though between seventy and eighty years of age she had gone on horseback eight miles to minister to someone who was ill.” (Anderson, p.181). However, I also included some plantations near her childhood home, Clover Fields, which is about 17 miles away from Locust Hill, since many of those homes were owned by family members, who no doubt would have desired Lucy’s company and skill. It was common for female family members to visit family or neighbors for an extended period during episodes of extreme or protracted illness and injury to assist with the nursing care. I imagine that many family and community members benefited from Lucy’s care and skill with medicinal plants.
Lucy’s great grandfather, Nicholas Meriwether II (b. 1665 – d.1744) was the largest landowner in Albemarle County. In 1727, he received a patent from Virginia’s Governor and Council for 13,762 acres at the first ledge of the mountains called Chestnut, later called the Southwest Mountains – the first deeded Albemarle soil. He added 4,090 adjacent acres in 1730 and it is in this second portion that Clover Fields was located and became the seat of the Meriwether family. Nicholas had a total of 17 land grants during his life including one 1,020 acres west of the Rivanna River, which became the location of “The Farm,” the home of Lucy’s cousin Mary Walker Lewis and her husband Nicholas Lewis.
The Clover Fields land was passed down through Lucy’s grandfather, David Meriwether, to his son Thomas Meriwether, Lucy’s father. The first house at Clover Fields was likely a log cabin built in 1747, which we presume was the home into which Lucy was born on February 4th, 1752. She was the eighth child of eleven children of Thomas and Elizabeth Thornton Meriwether. In 1768 or 1769, Lucy married Lieutenant William Lewis (her father’s first cousin) at Clover Fields and then moved about seventeen miles west, just off the Three-Notched Road to Lewis’ home at Locust Hill on Ivy Creek.
The Clover Fields log cabin was replaced by a frame house in 1760 by Lucy’s brother, Colonel Nicholas Meriwether, who served in the French and Indian War with General Braddock and was noted for his courage. The general’s sister in Ireland sent Braddock’s gold-laced, embroidered military dress coat to the family in appreciation for his service. For many years the jacket hung in the front hall at Clover Fields. (Saindon, p. 143) http://www.nortonfamily.net/fluvanna-deeds.htm Nicholas and his wife Margaret Douglas Meriwether had six children, of whom William Douglas Meriwether was the oldest. William inherited Clover Fields and was a surveyor like his father, who would later pass those skills on to his nephew, Lucy’s son, Meriwether Lewis, for whom he served as guardian. Meriwether lived with William while Lucy and his step-father, Captain John Marks, lived in Georgia, so that he could complete his education at the Reverend Matthew Maury’s school nearby. In addition, Meriwether learned about the management of Locust Hill, which was managed by William and his uncle Nicholas until Meriwether became of age. (Saindon, p.105)
Clover Fields has served as the home for eleven generations of the Meriwether family. The current Clover Fields was built on the original site in 1846 by Francis K. Nelson, who married Lucy’s second cousin Margaret Douglas Meriwether. Clover Fields has a nine-square garden aligned on center with the main house and with a mountain peak of the Southwest Mountains in the distance, in which the family grew vegetables and fruits. English boxwoods that are more than two hundred years old survive at Clover Fields today. (Lay, p. 72) A family cemetery still exists in a corner of the garden at Clover Fields, and includes the grave of Lucy’s first husband Lt. William Lewis, who in 1781 fell in the swollen Rivanna River developed a chill and died. http://files.usgwarchives.net/va/albemarle/cemeteries/cloverfld01.txt For more information about Lucy’s life at Clover Fields, see Patricia Zontine’s essay on this website entitled, "Lucy Meriwether Lewis Marks, Her Life and Her World."
Locust Hill was built on land patented by Robert Lewis in 1740, of which he gave 1,900 acres in 1757 to his son William, upon which he built his home. Locust Hill is located just a few miles north-west of Charlottesville, just off of Three Notched Road (present day Route 250) in the town of Ivy. We assume it was named for the property’s many locust trees, the descendents of which can be seen today.
“It stands on an elevated plateau and commands a magnificent view of the circle of mountain ranges more or less distant – some a mile, some twenty or thirty miles. This house was of three periods of construction – the original part being one room with a small hall and a stairway to the upper hall and to the half story chamber adjoining. The next addition was of two stories the rooms lower pitched and on a lower level, at the end of this addition was the usual shed of one story. The primitive house was of logs, very comfortable and filled with things of value, among other things much table silver. It was the gathering place of a wide circle of relatives and of many distinguished people.” The old Locust Hill burned just after Lucy’s death in 1837 and the present day Locust Hill was rebuilt by her grandson, Dr. Meriwether Lewis Anderson, Sr. (Anderson, pp. 504-5)
A more detailed description of Locust Hill is provided below by Sarah Travers Lewis Scott Anderson in a 1902 letter to Mrs. Dye. Sarah was married to Charles Harper Anderson, and their daughter married Lucy’s grandson, Dr. Meriwether Lewis Anderson. This animated description and sketch captures life on the plantation during the years that Lucy lived at Locust Hill.
Dear Mrs. Dye,
Your cards received and at last after much delay – I have a reproduction of the old Locust Hill house (burnt in 1838). Like many of the houses of that day it was built from time to time. The lad [sic] grant was in 1740. When the tide water [sic] families were beginning to feel themselves crowded in the thickly settle cost counties and branched cut into the mountain wilderness. William Lewis inherited it in 1757 and doubtless lived there all his married life. He was probably married in 1768 or 9 – his oldest child Mrs. Jane (Lewis) Anderson having been born March 1770. Family tradition says Meriwether Lewis was born at Locust Hill & he inherited it from his father under the primogeniture law.
Some years ago while talking with an old cousin, Mrs. Caroline Anderson of Kentucky, I got her to describe the plan of Locust Hill, (which had been her home in her childhood). I drew a plan of it as she talked - and enclose a copy so you may judge the reproduction of the house.
When the idea of making a picture of “Locust Hill” came to me, I wrote to Mrs. Anderson, for disputed points, and asked information from several old people who had known the old house. Mr. Jesse Maury (now 92 but in full possession of his faculties) says “It was a great long old Virginia house.” All speak of its unusual length.
I can’t draw – but took the plan and directed my sister Miss Nancy E. Scott (of “Lewis Congress” fame). I don’t think she gave length enough to the house (See figure to the right). We went over to Locust Hill and she filled in the fore & back ground of the yard in slope – and put in the described five locusts and Lombardy poplars instead of the present grove. The five Locusts were said to be large & heavily boughed [sic], but they would have hid the house, so my sister put them in a lighter form.
The stables are the present ones – I don’t know if they are on the old site – suppose so tho [sic]. And now to the draft. The oldest part of the house must have been the tallest end. Mrs. Marks room was evidently on a higher level that the later built dining room, no steps descended from the passage between, to the dining room floor. The sloping roof o f the room above Mrs. Marks room, and the dormer window show the height of the room beneath it. The “Passage Hall” at one side of Mrs. Marks room was an entry where clothes were hung, and contained a stairway to the dormer room above. On the upper floor of this passage Meriwether Lewis kept his chests containing his souvenirs of his exploration tour. The dining room & adjoining chamber, and the two rooms over them were evidently lower pitched then Mrs. Marks room. I could never get a description of the size of the windows – so followed period and proportioned them as I have noticed in several old houses of the same age. The windows in the original house must have been small and long. The windows in the dining room part of the house, broader and square, while those in the shed were as broad as those in the dining room and longer. The irregularity of windows on the down floor is in accordance with description. The outhouse contained weaving room, saddle passage and the kitchen was 30 or 40 ft. back of the line of the house and the kitchen fire was what originated the fire that destroyed all these buildings. The foot logs are a necessity – as the adjoining fields are red clay. The yard always had beautiful grass, but when worn off by much passing, red mud comes which sticks like putty to one’s feet.
The background of shrubs shut out the beautiful view of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the back of the house. While the place lies in a circle of mountain views – and the front of the house looks out on much of it – it is all lost in looking at the house itself – which being on a sort of elevated plateau overlooks a wide stretch of country bounded by mountains distant from one mile to thirty miles.
The enlarged picture is the one I supervised – the page was too cramped to put in the smoke house and the northern part of the yard – or the stables. My sister took it home with her and in making the fuller copy, failed to insert that log smoke house which should occupy a place in the fore ground just beyond the poplar, with the kitchen building showing between that and the house. I send you both pictures which after you have had the one you prefer copied – please return to me – as I wish to preserve them.
The group of trees running in a line back of the garden paling – in between the stable – and garden are supposed to be three cherry trees in their youth – (who in their decay were cut down just after I was married in 1872.) These trees were planted by Meriwether Lewis – grew to immense size – bore remarkably early – furnishing the Locust Hill family and all their neighbours [sic] with delicious fruit for nearly three generations.
I hope I have not bored you, but was interested and forgot you could not feel the same enthusiasm.
With kindest regards,
Sally T. Anderson
August 14th 1902
Will forward pictures tomorrow to Chicago address.
The smoke house described in the letter was no doubt used to age the wonderful hams that Thomas Jefferson’s overseer’s records notes, “Meriwether Lewis’ mother made very nice hams. – every year I used to get a few for his (Thomas Jefferson’s) special use.” (Bakeless, p. 16) Beyond her culinary skills, Lucy was known as a “yarb” doctor who used her simples to treat half the sick in Albemarle County. “No wonder Meriwether knew just the right decoction of choke-cherry twigs when fever assailed him on the wild Missouri, or that he was able to care for his sick soldiers so successfully that amid all the hardship and disease only one man died. No wonder either, that her two other sons Rueben and John, were both interested in medicine and in John’s case, became a physician. (Bakeless, p. 16)
Locust Hill Today
Locust Hill is privately owned today, having passed out of the family’s hands in 1892. It can be found about seven miles west of Charlottesville, just off of Route 250 in the town of Ivy. A Virginia Historical Highway Marker number W 181 is located on Route 250, providing directions to the birthplace of Meriwether Lewis.
K. Edward Lay, well known Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia and Mrs. Jane Sale Henley, founder of The Locust Hill Graveyard Foundation visited Locust Hill on September 14th, 2001 to document its architectural evolution, which can be seen in his field notes and drawings shown in this sketch.
Locust Hill Graveyard
The Locust Hill Graveyard was restored in 1993 by The Locust Hill Graveyard Foundation led by Mrs. Jane Sale Henley (Lucy was her great-great-great-great grandmother). Lucy, along with her daughter Jane Anderson and son Reuben and their spouses and descendents are buried there and their gravestones can still be seen. If you would like to visit the graveyard a tour can be arranged by contacting Jane S. Henley at MLewisNut@aol.com. More information about the Locust Hill Graveyard Foundation can be found at http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/lewisandclark/students/projects/homesteads/map/graveyards/locustmap.html
For more information about Lucy’s life at Locust Hill, see Patricia Zontine’s essay on this website entitled, “Lucy Meriwether Lewis Marks, Her Life and Her World.”
Eileen B. Malone-Brown