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Arthur Lee

For a time, the careers of Thomas Lee’s youngest sons, William (1739-1795) and Arthur (1740-1792), seemed sure to eclipse those of their older brothers. Ingratiating themselves with the British aristocracy, they soon abandoned their promising careers as “Englishmen” and risked their lives and fortunes in the cause for American independence. Their contributions to the Revolution are often overlooked; their work frequently was done in secret and well away from the visible sphere of American politics. From their base in London, they gained access to invaluable information on the motives of King George III and Parliament, which, at the risk of treason charges, they passed on to their brothers in America.

Labeled “vagrant Americans” and “pestilent traitors” by an increasingly suspicious English Parliament, they were America’s first spies and worke tirelessly in that capacity for governmental as well as popular support for the American cause.

From their years in England, the brothers were well acquainted with British political and social life. In July 1773, to the astonishment of all, William Lee was elected Sheriff of London. He went on to claim the title of City Alderman, which made him a powerful American political figure in England. Eyeing a seat in Parliament, William became increasingly vocal in his support for the rights of the colonies and believed his political influence in the English capital would further the cause for independence. His brother Arthur, meanwhile, used entirely different methods to attain the common goal.

Well educated, Arthur Lee was considered an intellectual presence in London. Graduating with honors from Edinburgh University with a degree in medicine, he also studied law in London before abandoning these careers to write political tracts in support of the colonies. Under various pen names, Arthur was as prolific as he was patriotic. His pamphlets were distributed throughout Europe and America and served to rally sympathizers in support of the American cause. A 1775 editorial in the Virginia Gazette praised “the amiable Dr. Lee, admired by all for his literary abilities and excellent pieces in Vindication of the colonies, shines conspicuously as one of the first patriots of his age.”

With war imminent, the Continental Congress named Arthur its secret agent in London. In this role he made contact with the French agent, Beaumarchais, and initiated a flow of supplies between France and America. A few months later, Congress named Arthur, along with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, as Commissioners to the court of Versailles. It also made William its commercial agent in French ports. By June of 1776, both brothers were in Paris.

William later became commissioner to the courts of Berlin and Vienna. Arthur, in concert with Franklin and Deane, made overtures to the Courts of Madrid and Berlin. Neither Germany nor Spain intended to establish diplomatic relations with the new nation until France entered the war; thus their efforts to secure international support for the American cause proved futile.

The careers of William and Arthur were impeded by bitter debates with Silas Deane, each questioning the other’s allegiance to his country. The controversy divided Congress in a vituperative debate. The political infighting resulted in the reorganization of the diplomatic corps and all but one of the positions held by the two brothers were eliminated. Neither brother was ever reappointed to an important government post.

The Silas Deane affair seemed to have embittered not only William and Arthur but the Lee family as a whole. Accusations, though unproven and unfounded, tarnished the Lee family name. Ever courageous, the brothers defended one another with the same vigor and spirit that brought them so much respect and admiration in their pursuit of American liberty.

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In Memoriam: Paul C. Reber, Ph.D.

Dr. Paul C. Reber, 55, loving husband, devoted father, and passionate historian, died on Thursday, July 23, 2015 at VCU Medical Center in Richmond following a bicycle accident. Dr. Reber, the Executive Director of Stratford Hall and an avid cyclist, had been training for an upcoming amateur cycling race.

His lifelong devotion to history began in his teenage years when he visited museums such as Mt. Vernon and Independence Hall, and served in the fife and drum corps near his home in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. He pursued this passion throughout his studies, earning a B.A. from Gettysburg College, an M.A. from George Mason University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park. History for Dr. Reber was not a purely academic interest; he strove to engage audiences and engender a similar passion in others throughout his 25 year career.

In the years prior to his leadership at Stratford Hall, home of the Lees of Virginia, Dr. Reber served as an Adjunct Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, President of Old Salem in Winston-Salem, N.C., Executive Director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Decatur House in Washington, D.C., Director of Development at Mount Vernon, and Director of the White House Endowment Fund and White House Preservation Fund. During his tenure at the National Trust, he also served as the Associate Campaign Director for Historic Sites, where he managed seven site capital campaigns totaling $6 million. As Director of the White House Endowment Fund, he managed a $25 million campaign to create an endowment for the public rooms in the White House.

Throughout his time as Executive Director, Dr. Reber led the restoration of the Great House at Stratford Hall. During this process, he was responsible for new and innovative education programs, initiated changes that increased visitation, and spearheaded Stratford’s $17 million fundraising campaign. While there, he also served as an Historian in Residence at American University, where he instructed master's degree students in museum management.

Intense and focused on preserving the mystic chords of memory, Dr. Reber was an active volunteer and supporter of numerous historic causes including the Pennsylvania German Society and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. He served on the boards of the Association for the Preservation of the Historic Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. and Great Camp Sagamore, a National Historic Landmark in his beloved Adirondacks, including as its president from 2006-2008. His family has deep roots in the nearby village of Raquette Lake, New York, where they have vacationed for many years. At the time of his death, he was Vice Chairman of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, a gubernatorial appointment, and President of the Northern Neck Tourism Commission.

In the course of his career and volunteer pursuits, his thirst for learning and quest for knowledge made him a master in his field. A man of unusual integrity and intelligence, he possessed a natural ability to lead and to accomplish every endeavor no matter what challenges the winds of change presented. He thought in the long term and acted effectively in the short term.

Dr. Reber enjoyed being a member of historic Yeocomico Episcopal Church in Kinsale, Virginia. His faith and love for God was emboldened by an ardent Lutheran’s academic curiosity of the many facets of Christianity.

While Dr. Reber did not live long enough to reach his goal of hiking the 46 peaks of the Adirondacks, he scaled other peaks while touching the hearts of others with his knowledge and passion and enlisting them to preserve the historical homes and artifacts that constitute the fabric of history. He will be deeply missed. He is survived by his wife, Shannon, his son, Alexander, and his father, Richard. He was preceded in death by his mother, Joanne.

A memorial service will be held at Stratford Hall on August 21st at 10:30am. His burial at the Reber family plot at the Charles Evans Cemetery in Reading, Pennsylvania, will be private.

Memorial donations may be made to Stratford Hall, Great Camp Sagamore, the Kinsale Foundation, or the Pennsylvania German Society, Ephrata. Cards and letters of sympathy may be mailed to: The Reber Family, P.O. Box 277, Kinsale, Virginia, 22488.

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Time is running out on this super deal!

Located between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, Virginia’s Northern Neck is one of the most historic areas in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The five counties that comprise the region were home to some of the earliest and most influential colonial leaders, as well as patriots, statesmen and presidents. Centuries before that, the area was teeming with pre-historic life, whose relics can be found along the Potomac beaches and cliffs.Take the road less traveled and visit the historic Northern Neck this year! Call 804-493-1966 for more information.

“Declare Your Independence with a Northern Neck Getaway” package for two consists of the following amenities:

Two nights stay at the Inn at Stratford Hall.
Tours of Stratford Hall, George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument and Francis Lightfoot Lee’s Menokin.
Premium wine tasting at Ingleside Winery.
Complimentary bicycle rental at Stratford Hall.
A 10% coupon for use in Stratford Hall’s gift shop.
A gift basket that includes souvenirs from the four attractions, products grown on the Northern Neck, and discounts to area businesses and restaurants.

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