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Ararat in Patrick County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Life after William Letcher

 
 
Life after William Letcher Marker image. Click for full size.
By TeamOHE, July 26, 2020
1. Life after William Letcher Marker
Inscription.  After the murder of William Letcher in 1780, the history of the fifteen hundred acre farm that would become the birthplace and boyhood home of James Ewell Brown Stuart is complex, in some instances vague and uncertain. Shortly after her husband's death, Elizabeth and her daughter Bethenia, left their home along the Ararat River in the presence of George Hairston, whom she would later marry. They would never return. If William Letcher owned the land on which he lived it was no longer in his or his widow's name by 1782. In 1785 John Dawson held title to this land, but no explanation is known as to how he acquired it. Dawson sold 2816 acres to John Marr from Henry County in 1790, which included the William Letcher site.

There is a link between Marr and Letcher that could explain why William settled this area. It appears that these two men were acquainted and their wives were related. John Marr owned an extensive amount of land in the area, and after Letcher's death in 1780, he was involved in the Letcher family's financial affairs. In 1792 John Marr conveyed 550 acres to Bethenia, the young daughter of William Letcher, which included the site

Life after William Letcher Marker image. Click for full size.
By TeamOHE, July 26, 2020
2. Life after William Letcher Marker
of their former home and her father's grave. Given Bethenia's age, it is likely that George Hairston purchased the property in his stepdaughter's name, and paid the taxes for a number of years thereafter. On Oct. 29, 1798, Bethenia Letcher married David Pannill, and they settled in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. A few years later David purchased an additional 1000 acres joining the 550 acres his wife owned along the Ararat River. Shortly thereafter in Nov. 1803, David, in poor health, died. He left a wife, a young daughter, Elizabeth Letcher Pannill, and an infant son, William Letcher Pannill. Over the next several years due to transactions within the immediate family, the siblings became the owners of the 1550 acres, and eventually, Elizabeth became the sole owner of this property. Bethenia Letcher Pannill died in Pittsylvania County, on Feb. 23, 1845, and is buried in the Chatham town cemetery along side her husband David.

Elizabeth Letcher Pannill, born on Jan.4, 1801 married Archibald Stuart at the age of sixteen. Born on Dec. 2, 1795, he was a son of Alexander Stuart and Nancy Anne Dabney. After his service in the artillery in the War of 1812, he began a career in law and politics. It seems that Elizabeth and Archibald were opposite in character. She was described as "a strictly religious women", with little tolerance for nonsense. He on the other hand was full of humor

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and wit, and processed a powerful speaking and singing voice which served him well as an attorney and legislator. It appears that financial and other problems plagued Archibald most of his life. Being away a great deal of the time due to his profession, it was probably Elizabeth, with her no nonsense approach, who ran the home and the family farm. Due to their marriage and the prevailing law at that time, all the land that came to her through William Letcher was now listed in her husband's name. They lived in Pittsylvania and Campbell County, Virginia, where Archibald was first elected to the state legislature. By 1821 they were living in St. Louis, Missouri, near his father, Alexander Stuart. By the fall of 1823, Archibald Stuart was practicing law in Patrick County, and most likely living here, in the William Letcher cabin. He brought three slaves with him, who no doubt were bringing the home and farm up to standard for his wife and children, who would arrive about 1825. It must be noted that until the arrival of Elizabeth Stuart, no descendent of William Letcher had lived here for the past forty-five years. Of the eleven children born to Archibald and Elizabeth, seven were born here on this farm in Patrick County. Two children, who died at a young age, are buried in unmarked graves on the property, In the time that the Stuart's occupied this land, the number of slaves varied
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from three, to as many as twenty-five. The main cash crops were corn, wheat, oats, and other foodstuffs. They also raised cattle, sheep and hogs, along with a number of horses and draft animals. The Stuart's built a new home which was completed about 1830, which they named "Laurel Hill". This house located across the Ararat River, high on a hill, had commanding views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and was described as an unpretentious comfortable farmhouse. It was here that J.E.B. Stuart was born on Feb. 6, 1833. Tragically, after only seventeen years the home burned to the ground in the winter of 1847-48, and no detailed description of the house has survived. It was a calamity from which the Stuart family never fully recovered, as the home was not rebuilt. After the fire some family members stayed with relatives in the area, and for a time, Archibald and a son, set up a domicile in the detached kitchen. Later, it is possible that the remaining family moved back into the William Letcher home from which they started. By 1855, Archibald Stuart was in declining health, and died on Sept. 20, of that year. He was buried a short distance on the east side of the home that burned a few years earlier. In 1859 J.E.B. Stuart made one last visit to his birthplace, and by that summer his mother sold the Laurel Hill farm to Robert R. Galloway, and Dr. Joseph Hollingsworth, of Mt. Airy, North Carolina. For the remaining years of her life, Elizabeth stayed with friends and family members. She died at the home of her son William Alexander Stuart on Aug. 20, 1884, and is buried in Saltvillle, Virginia. In 1952, descendants of Archibald Stuart had his grave moved to Saltville, to lie beside his wife.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial SitesWar, US Civil.
 
Location. 36° 34.034′ N, 80° 33.305′ W. Marker is in Ararat, Virginia, in Patrick County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Letcher Lane (Virginia Route 749) and Ararat Highway (Virginia Route 773), on the left when traveling west. On the grounds of the William Letcher Home Site. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Ararat VA 24053, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. William Letcher (here, next to this marker); William A. Mitchell Family (a few steps from this marker); The Dellenback Family (a few steps from this marker); Finding William Letcher's Home (a few steps from this marker); Stuart Well (within shouting distance of this marker); Elizabeth Stuart's Boxwoods (within shouting distance of this marker); The William Letcher Grave (within shouting distance of this marker); The Grave of William Letcher (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ararat.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 20, 2020. It was originally submitted on December 19, 2020, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 28 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on December 19, 2020, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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Mar. 5, 2021