Col. Richard Lee I, "the Immigrant" (1617–1664) arrived in Jamestown in 1639 at the age of 22 with very little to his name other than the patronage of an influential man, Sir Francis Wyatt, the 1st Governor of Virginia and the great grandson of the poet, Sir Thomas Wyatt, whose brother-in-law Anthony Lee was Richard Lee's ancestor. Once there he became Attorney General of the Colony of Virginia, Colonial Secretary of State, and member of the King's Council. He became Clerk of the Quarter Court at Jamestown, within the Secretary of State's office.
Lee was a loyal supporter of King Charles I of England, and his public offices ceased when Oliver Cromwell seized power in England in 1649. In addition, he served as High Sheriff and was a Colonel in the Militia. He was also a tobacco planter, trader, owner and trader of slaves, and employer and importer of indentured English servants (who paid for their passage to America with 7 years of labour). Men like Richard Lee prospered greatly from Oliver Cromwell's Navigation Act and consequent War with the affluent Dutch to secure colonies and sources of slaves and commodities. He was the great-great-great grandfather of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and great grandfather of President Zachary Taylor.
At the time of his death, he was the largest landholder in the colony (13,000 acres) and perhaps the richest man in Virginia, and likely the owner of William Lee's ancestral mother from places like modern-day Ghana wherein Robert Edward Lee, 1920-2010 was likely a Lee descendent, a believer in the Living Christ.
Lee cultural dynamics generally included advancement via males marrying upward, not down but in some instances, such as the father of William Lee, children were not generated as a result. There are any number of reasons, including a lack of love, as to why John Lee's wife Mary Smith Bell did not have any children for him; but, we believe there obviously existed a special relationship between him and the unknown slave that was the mother of our ancestor William Lee and his brother Frank. Like it or not by scholars who claim a intellectualized need for documentation, there was a commonly known practice of men who could afford such, having slave concubines and in due time some even did so for love.
Men like the Fairfax, Washington, Lee, Carter, Jefferson, Randolph, Custis and other Virginia aristocrats with functional power knew but did not have to acknowledge or discuss the matter of slave concubines and offspring all around them. They trusted each other to do the right thing, and many did so by extraordinary privileges to the mothers and assuring their own White flesh and blood were not denigrated to lives as field slaves. White women married to men of power and means saw and heard the realities of concubine offspring; but knew that by law and custom, their role was to love husbands until death did them apart. The problem of course in the modern world of scholarship includes the factor of so many scholars imaging that men like William Lee did not exist: with Lee characteristics in him and his successor generations, such as a love of adventure and horses.
People of African heritage with the surname of Lee, were conceived by a union of man and woman and born like all other human beings, not made. There were fathers and mothers, often unknown to modern scholars except via dedicated research not excluding spirituality and DNA samplings. But, in most cases wherein reasoning is joined to the faith of believers, there are reasons to believe in existence of a Living Christ that existed in some minds among "the least of us" like William Lee who we believe:
... believed in such during years of the American revolution (1775-1783) and the republic that followed into existence with George Washington as its first President, beginning in 1787. There were very few plantation preachers known or allowed access to slaves. So, we are inclined to wonder as to who and how the Lee ancestors were evangelized to believe in Jesus Christ during and after the lifetime of George Washington?
Beginning with William Lee, born around 1756 in generation #59 of Christ, and eight additional generations to-date in memory of him and his beloved brother Frank Lee born around 1758. And, their wives in Christ, if not the law that did not acknowledge marriage among slaves, ... were indeed the real chosen people to bring forth lives of many who now understand the gift of everlasting life for believers. Much of what we think about the Lee generations are speculative and better inputs are welcomed. In many cases, the only thing certain is that such persons did indeed exist and our quest is to learn how. What did they (not simply slave owners) do with their lives. Were they believers?
For us, the first challenge is to believe the brothers William and Frank were believers, ... though unlikely educated or allowed baptism and worship in the Episcopal church of their father John Lee or their slave-master George Washington. So, such being the likely denial, how would such youth come into the faith that generated eight generations with thousands of human beings via their DNA chain? Does it matter, and to who? It certainly mattered to George Washington who by choice entrusted William Lee with his personal papers and mail.
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