Storke Family

Elizabeth McCarty Storke: Owner of Stratford 1828-1879

Family History:  John Rose built a Federal style home in Westmoreland County near Leedstown around 1797, naming it Mont  Rose[1]; he married Mildred Williamson, widow of William Robinson of Westmoreland County, who had two daughters,  Margaret and Anne Robinson.  Margaret Robinson married Daniel McCarty IV of Pope’s Creek plantation[2], a property adjoining Stratford, and they had two daughters, Anne and Elizabeth (called Betsey).  After Daniel McCarty’s death, Margaret married Richard Stuart[3] of King George and had two more children, Richard Henry and Margaret Stuart, both born at Pope’s Creek plantation.

Anne McCarty Lee

Anne and Elizabeth McCarty spent their childhoods at Mont Rose with their grandmother Rose after their mother Margaret died at an early age in 1808; Anne was 10 and Elizabeth was only 7 years old.  Both sisters were sent to a finishing school in Philadelphia to complete their education and ready them for entrance into Washington, D.C., society.    Anne McCarty married Henry Lee IV, eldest surviving son of Henry “Light Horse Harry” and Matilda Lee of Stratford, on March 29, 1817.  Henry had been a major in the War of 1812, represented Westmoreland in the House of Delegates in Richmond, and had taken possession of the Stratford property in 1811.[4] After Anne’s marriage, her younger sister Elizabeth, seventeen years old, came to live with the Lees at Stratford and designated her new brother-in-law Henry as her guardian and manager of her inheritance.[5]

The unfortunate death of Henry and Anne’s only child, which precipitated an affair between Henry and Elizabeth and eventual loss of the Stratford property, is discussed in the short website biography of Henry Lee IV.  By February 1821, Elizabeth was again living with her grandmother and aunt at Mont Rose.[6]  She was still a fairly wealthy heiress, but lived with the stigma of her unfortunate past.  Elizabeth’s step-father, Richard Stuart, pressed charges against Henry Lee for mismanagement of her estate[7] and the court eventually granted in her favor.

In his attempts to get a loan for carrying on the legal battle with Stuart, Henry enlisted the help of a friend, Dr. Robert Mayo of Richmond.  Mayo, knowledgeable of all aspects of Henry’s predicament, proceeded to court Elizabeth, first with letters (they were returned) and finally with visits (he was not admitted).  A series of correspondence between the Lees, Mayo and Elizabeth McCarty in 1821-22[8] was said to be the reason why the Senate later rejected Henry Lee’s appointment as consul-general to Algiers.  Rather than proving that Henry Lee put Mayo up to his ardent courtship of Elizabeth, the letters clearly show that Mayo needed little encouragement.   A respected local gentleman, Richard T. Brown of Windsor, near Montross, feared that the correspondence had been brought before the Senate in a “garbled state or with gross misstatements,” since he had already perused it and found nothing “unfavorable” to Henry Lee’s honor.[9]

Meanwhile, the penitent Elizabeth remained at Mont Rose under the watchful eye of her grandmother, who made the following assessment of her situation: “I am well convinced no man of character [meaning Mayo] would make such proposals [of marriage] to Betsey. . . when you consider this piece of strange conduct in a total stranger to your unfortunate sister, who has only heard of her as a poor ruined girl who has a comfortable fortune at her own command and I suppose thinks her friends would be glad to get her off on any terms—but so long as she will permit me to advise her, she shall never risk her temporal and eternal welfare by throwing herself into the arms of an adventurer.”[10]  Elizabeth wrote in a note to her sister Anne, “I believe it would be madness in me to marry any one.”[11]

Henry and Anne Lee sold Stratford to William Somerville in 1822 to help pay some of his legal debts and moved to the Pope’s Creek property where Anne had received the acreage adjoining Stratford and the main house as her inherited portion of her father’s estate. 

Elizabeth married Henry D. Storke ( unknown – 1844), son of William Storke of Bunker Hill near Falmouth, in 1826—a marriage purportedly arranged by her step-father Richard Stuart.  Henry Storke was a merchant in partnership with his brother in William Storke & Son by 1813.  The Storkes lived on the portion of Longwood that Elizabeth inherited from her father.[12]  That same year, Henry Storke created a public stir when he burned the abandoned Pope’s Creek Church, built 1744 on land given by the McCarty family and surrounded by Elizabeth’s (now his) property.[13]

William Somerville, Stratford’s owner, died in 1826, leaving the property to his brother.  A set of circumstances prevented this from happening:  Henry Lee owed Elizabeth’s estate $11,000 and  Stratford had been put up as security to cover his debt to her.  William Somerville’s contingency of $3,000 to cover the original amount of Elizabeth’s claim against Henry Lee wasn’t enough, because the court had ordered Henry to pay interest—and the debt had more than tripled.   Henry Somerville, heir to Stratford, failed to apply for administration of the estate within the required three months after his brother’s death.  At Henry Storke’s insistence, the county court advertised the Stratford property to be auctioned on July 8, 1828.   Storke was the highest bidder at $11,000—the same amount that Henry Lee had originally owed Elizabeth.  

The Storkes moved into the empty house at Stratford in 1829-30[14] Elizabeth would more than likely have brought with them her portion of the glassware, china and books from the McCarty estate.   According to family and local oral histories, she kept her hair cut short[15] and wore black in public[16] as a penance for her single youthful indiscretion.  At home, however, Elizabeth was prone to wearing light-colored dresses.   A relative described her as “low in stature, short and plump, and she had the tiniest and prettiest little feet I ever saw….ever so many shoes and slippers.”  

Visitors at Stratford were very few.[17]  At this time, Henry Lee’s rejection by the Senate was being heartily protested by the men of Westmoreland County who may have directed some of the blame upon Elizabeth.

According to census records, the African American population in 1830 at Stratford totaled 61, which included a single free black female over 55, 17 slave children under 10, 3 slaves between 55 and 100, and the rest between 10 and 55.[18] Within ten years, the number of slaves had been reduced to around 49.  The number of persons engaged in agriculture was listed as 25.  By this time there were two white females listed in the household[19]; the additional female was likely Sarah Hodge who came to live as Elizabeth’s companion.[20]  Sarah, a relative, had lived with the girls at Mont Rose and was a skilled seamstress who had made Anne’s wedding gown.

During the 1830s, there was an avid interest in making improvements in agricultural lands.  Henry Storke may have tried some of the experimental efforts in fertilizer and crop rotation at Stratford, since he was an original subscriber to The Farmer’s Register published 1834 by Edmund Ruffin, Shellbanks, Virginia.[21]  But some of Storke’s pursuits must have been cut short by his early death in 1844.[22]  In his will, Henry Storke left all of his property to Elizabeth, naming her executor.[23]

After her husband’s death, Elizabeth started making changes to improve the appearance of the area close to the main house.  Sometime after 1857, she had the burial vault east of the house filled in and the brick house above it pulled down.  Bishop Meade described her intent to create “a mound over the place, and on the top of the mound to have the tombstone of old Thomas Lee fixed in some immovable way.”[24]  Elizabeth also remodeled the gardens with the help of the Cedar Grove slaves,[25] possibly adding the north-south brick walls, one of which still remained in 1929, and filling in the ha-ha wall south of the main house to make way for a circular drive lined with rose bushes.  A neighbor, Susie Reed, recalled seeing the “whole front yard on the river side. . .was a circle of roses.  Many of them had come from Europe. . .you drove in by the kitchen, right up to the front steps, and got out there. “[26]

Pieces of Elizabeth Storke’s china given to Stratford by Stuart family descendants

Elizabeth Storke was a collector of china and the best pieces filled one of the rooms on the main floor of her house. [27] Her bedroom and dressing room were in the southeast rooms on the upper level, where Dr. Richard Stuart later had his office and bedroom.[28]  The rooms on the east side of the lower level of the house were converted into kitchen and dining rooms.[29]  Several relatives and visitors remarked on the “old” furniture in the house, suggesting that Elizabeth had brought with her many antique pieces from the McCartys, as well as her own melodian which she played for visitors.[30] 

In December 1847, 10 slave children were baptized by the local Episcopal minister at Stratford Hall.[31] Elizabeth’s nephew, Charles Stuart, recalled that she “gathered the slaves each Sunday in the school house and taught them the catechism.”  One of the few places that Elizabeth visited besides her trips to see relatives in King George County was St. James Episcopal Church in Montross, and, when the weather was bad, the minister would visit Stratford.

The 1850 census showed that Elizabeth owned a total of 3,420 acres: 1673 acres at Longwood; 2440 acres at Stratford (which included the house valued at $2,500); and 106 acres elsewhere.[32]  Fortunately, an agricultural census was taken that same year which listed the crops grown on her 883 “improved,” or cultivated, acres: wheat (400 bu.); Indian corn (600 bu.); oats (15 bu.), peas & beans (15 bu.); Irish potatoes (40 bu.) and sweet potatoes (20 bu.).  Her 50 sheep produced 150 pounds of wool and her 9 milk cows produced 150 pounds of butter.  Elizabeth also owned 3 horses, 4 mules, 6 working oxen, 20 other cattle, and 27 hogs.  There were no mill products listed, so the Stratford gristmill was probably not in commercial operation.[33] 

St. James Episcopal Church records slave children baptized at Stratford

During the following decade, Elizabeth Storke, in her fifties, suffered from ill health.   In a letter to her step-father Richard Stuart, she mentions an “attack–. . . nerves are very much disordered and my head easily shaken.” The carriages, normally used by Elizabeth and Sarah Hodge, were both out of commission.  Her windows were being repaired and she was having plaster work done. 

By 1860, the value of Elizabeth’s real estate had dropped from $34,200 to $20,000; although the number of cultivated acres rose to 1250, the value of the farm was lower.  The only crops grown were hay (30 tons) and potatoes, in such a small quantity that indicated they were for personal consumption.  The livestock consisted of 2 horses, probably for pulling her carriage.  Evidently, the property had ceased to be a working farm or much of it had been rented out.  The gristmill was rebuilt in the late 1860s by Muse and Jenkins under a 20-year lease.  This mill was described as a one-story fieldstone building with high peaked roof and floored loft.[34]  This mill contained only one set of stones, on the ground floor, for grinding corn meal and had an overshot wheel fourteen feet in diameter. 

The 31 slaves at Stratford in 1860 consisted of 13 males and 18 females, including 7 females under age 10.  Four slaves were rented out to local persons.  The slaves occupied 7 slave houses on the plantation, possibly located in the vicinity of the Payne Memorial Cabin northwest of the main house along the road to Cliff Field. 

During the Civil War, the passenger steamboat, by which Elizabeth visited her relatives at Cedar Grove just up the Potomac River, stopped running.  Skirmishes along the shoreline, such as the engagement at the Stratford Mill[35] in October 1861 in which several Confederates were wounded by shells fired from a government boat, kept water traffic to a minimum.  Captain Samuel B. Foulke, the former steamboat operator, joined the Union forces and was given orders to burn Stratford and other homes along the river.  According to his daughter, Susie Reed, Capt. Foulke could not bring himself to destroy the homes of his friends and former passengers and disappeared with his boat to a property along the Rappahannock River.  Susie Reed also gave an account of Northern troops taking Elizabeth Storke’s slaves away and one of them, Bill Payne, escaping the troops and walking back to Stratford.[36]  This was probably during the summer 1864 raids by Northern troops stationed at Point Lookout Prison in which they landed at Pope’s Creek and marched toward Montross and Currioman Bay, looting plantations and liberating slaves. 

A lively account of the behavior of the Federal troops that looted Stratford was given by Evelyn Ward: “At Stratford they [the soldiers] had rummaged around, scaring old Mrs. Stork almost to death.  They found her bonnet in its bandbox and seemed to get a great amount of fun by tossing it about on their bayonets.  She said to them, “What good can destroying my best bonnet do you?” “Is this old thing your best bonnet?” they jeered.  “Mrs. General Lee ought to be ashamed to call such a thing her best bonnet.”  Because General Lee was born at Stratford, they thought Mrs. Stork must be his wife.”[37]  After the war, one of the daughters of the Reverend William N. Ward of Bladensfield painted a picture of the south front of the main house at Stratford and sent it to General Robert E. Lee.

Bill Payne

By 1867, Elizabeth Storke had only a few of her former slaves left on her property; those included Bill Payne and his family.  Bill and his wife were her paid houseman and cook.  There was no one left to take care of the farm or grounds.  Members of the small household all helped to care for the remaining livestock: a lamb, pigs (which inhabited part of the Hew yard), and chickens[38].  To these animals were added two pet cats which grew to gigantic proportions,[39] possibly accounting for the rectangular “cut-out” in the corner of the southwest outbuilding door for access to the building.  Elizabeth studied and raised herbs for healing and often administered aid to local infants.

By 1870, the household at times had seven members: Elizabeth, Sarah Hodge, two Stuart great-nieces and nephew (all children) and the two Payne family servants.  The children were descendants from her mother’s marriage to Richard Stuart.  Elizabeth Storke spent large sums of money on the Stuarts, as well as on the relatives of her husband.[40]  She helped to rear and to educate her step-niece’s five children, two of whom became her primary heirs.  She paid for Charles E. Stuart’s law education at the University of Virginia and for Richard Henry Stuart’s military schooling and training as a physician.

During Elizabeth’s final illness, she was cared for by the Stuarts.  She died on August 9, 1879, and was buried in a small plot in the garden, marked by a simple headstone.[41]  In her will, probated 1879, she left Stratford in trust for her great-nephews Charles E. and Richard H. Stuart. A codicil allowed them to dispose of the estate.  Her friend, Sarah Hodge, was given an annuity of $100.  Elizabeth’s interest in the Longwood estate was left to Rosalie E. and Margaret Stuart. [42] Dividing their Stratford inheritance equally, Charles Edward Stuart chose the major portion of the land while Richard Henry Stuart took the main house complex and surrounding 519 acres as his part. 

 

 


[1] Mont Rose, built around 1797 by John Rose, got its name because it is one of the highest points in the county and once had a magnificent view of the Potomac River; although the main house burned in the mid-1940s, a smaller contemporary cottage still survives.   

[2] Pope’s Creek, the seat of the McCarty family, was named for Nathaniel Pope who originally patented the property adjoining the creek.  This is not to be confused with the current property called Pope’s Creek Plantation where George Washington was born.  McCarty purchased the Pope’s Creek property from Pope just a few months after Pope sold the Clifts Plantation to Thomas Lee.  McCarty’s property was later renamed Longwood, probably by Henry Lee IV.

[3] Stuart lived at Pope’s Creek plantation until he inherited Cedar Grove plantation in King George County.

[4] Matilda and Henry Lee signed an agreement in 1790, just before Matilda’s death, to put the Stratford property in trust for their eldest surviving son.

[5]Anne and Elizabeth were co-heiresses of their father.  When Daniel McCarty’s estate was appraised in 1823-4, $7,670.71 was allotted to each daughter.  Elizabeth also received a maid Sally and James, the house servant, and the children of Maria.  Anne’s portion, allotted to her husband Henry, included Sally, her maid servant, Osborne, a house servant, and Aaron and family.  She came to her marriage with a substantial dowry.

[6] A letter from Elizabeth McCarty to Westmoreland Court, dated Mont Rose Feb. 26, 1821, requested that the court transfer her guardianship from Henry Lee to her step-father Richard Stuart. Jessie Ball duPont Memorial Library Collection, Stratford Hall.

[7] Ethel Armes, Stratford Hall: The Great House of the Lees (Richmond: Garrett & Massie, 1936) 373-4. McKenzie Beverley, owner of Twiford and a frequent visitor, recorded, “The family lived in an elegant and expensive style.  Miss McCarty’s friends, relations and visitors were often there and Miss McCarty had been required to contribute a proportion of the expenses of the family for the support of herself and servant.”

[8] Thirty-three letters written between August 21, 1821 and April 30, 1822 form the bulk of this correspondence; circa 1830 copies of the original letters are in the collection of the Jessie Ball duPont Memorial Library, Stratford Hall.  These letters, unavailable to previous researchers, exonerate Henry Lee from the motives ascribed to him by the Senate.  However, Mayo’s motives for his courtship of Elizabeth remain suspect.

[9] ALS Richard T. Brown to Hon. John Tyler, dated Westmoreland Court House April 27, 1833

[10] Lee-Mayo Correspondence: Margaret Rose to Ann Lee dated Nov. 24, 1821.

[11] Lee-Mayo Correspondence: Elizabeth McCarty to Ann McCarty Lee, dated Nov. 24, 1821.

[12] Armes, 426.

[13] George Carrington Mason, “The Colonial Churches of Westmoreland and King George Counties, Virginia, Part 1, Virginia Magazine of History & Biography, Vol. 56, No. 2 (April 1948), 154-172. The roof of Pope’s Creek Church was burned April 28, 1826 by Storke without authority with the excuse of preventing injury to persons who frequented the dilapidated building to carry off bricks.  Storke was acquitted and the structure was soon completely demolished.

[14] Armes, 429

[15] Ethel Armes research papers, duPont Library Archives: An oral history by Miss Ward of Bladensfield stated, “. . .she [Elizabeth Storke] cut off her hair and kept if short as a penance because her hair was the cause of her undoing.  She said that nothing would have happened if it had not been for her hair.”  Another source recalled, “always heard it said when she was young it [hair] was very, very beautiful—a sort of chestnut brown in natural curls and ringlets.”

[16] An exhibit at the Westmoreland County Museum showed one of her black dresses.

[17] Armes research; oral history by Miss Ward of Bladensfield.  “When Mrs. Storke first came back to Stratford all the people shunned her.  No one ever went to see her and she visited no one.”

[18] 1830 Federal Census, p. 132.

[19] 1840 Federal Census, p. 297.

[20] Recollections of Charles E. Stuart. Oral history transcribed by Ethel Armes.  Stuart, Elizabeth Storkes, great-nephew, recalled that Elizabeth and her companion/housekeeper, Sarah Hodge, occupied the upper east wing while Henry Storke occupied the west wing.  This gives credence to the suggestion that Elizabeth’s was an “arranged” marriage.

[21] Henry Storke was listed as subscriber from Westmoreland County, The Farmer’s Register, Vol. 1, p.774.

[22] Armes, 431. Henry Storke was probably buried on his family’s estate near Leedstown.

[23] Armes, 431.

[24] Bishop Meade, Old Churches, Ministers & Families of Virginia, Vol. 2, (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1857) 170.  In his account, Meade said, “Mrs. Eliza Turner, who was there at the time, that it was built by General Harry Lee. . . there is a brick house, perhaps twenty feet square, covered in.  A floor covers the cemetery.  In the centre is a large trapdoor, through which you descend by a ladder to the apartments below. . . The entrance to this house has of late years been almost prevented by a thick growth of young aspens and briars.”

[25] Armes, 433.

[26] Recollections of Susie Reed, oral history transcribed by Ethel Armes.  Ethel Armes’ Research Papers.  Jessie Ball duPont Library Archives.

[27] Recollections of Ruth Yeaton Stuart, oral history transcribed by Ethel Armes, 1936.  Ethel Armes’ Research Papers, Jessie Ball duPont Library Archives.  Stuart described “blue china sets” and Parian pitchers.

[28] Susie Reed recollections.

[29] Recollections of Charles E. Stuart, oral history transcribed by Ethel Armes.  Ethel Armes’ Research Papers, Jessie Ball duPont Library Archives.

[30] Letter from Henrietta Bedinger Lee to daughter Ida Lee Rust, c. 1870: “Everything in and about the house was queer, except the drawing room which was elegantly furnished in modern style. . . Mrs. Storke has a piano and melodian upon both of which she plays, most sweetly, of course old tunes and old music.”

[31] Records of St. James Episcopal Church for 1847.  The names include: Harry, William, Winney, Walter, Theodorick, Judy, Morer, Kitty, Sally and Charles; some of these children were members of the Payne family.

[32] 1850 Census, Cople Parish, p.311.

[33] 1850 Agricultural Census.

[34] According to J. B. Marmaduke who became the miller.

[35] Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Operations on the Potomac and Rappahannock, p.711-712; Letter from William T. Street, Acting Master’s Mate to Commander T. T. Craven, dated October 11, 1861, detailing rebel firing at U. S. Schooner Dana from the area of the Stratford Mill.

[36] Susie Reed recollections.  Ethel Armes Research Papers.  duPont Library.

[37] Evelyn D. Ward, The Children of Bladensfield during the Civil War (New York: Viking Press) 77-78.

[38] Letter from Elizabeth Storke to Richard Henry Stuart dated Dec. 24, 1867(?) mentions fox killing chickens and receiving gift of Cochin China fowl from the Stuarts.  These large, highly feathered chickens were introduced to America in the mid-19th century and became popular with poultry lovers.

[39] Letter from Henrietta Bedinger to Ida Rust c. 1870: “…two enormous cats, such curiosities of the breed I never beheld, nor did I imagine they could grow to such a size. . .I was told they had a chicken cooked for them every day, and their dessert was cream, and a mammoth growth was owing to this fine living.”

[40] Ruth Yeaton Stuart recollections, 1936.

[41] The Storke-Stuart cemetery is located on the south side of the East Garden middle terrace and is surrounded by a low brick wall.  The “headstone” must have been replaced in later years by the Stuarts since a ledger now marks her grave site.

[42] Westmoreland County Deed Book #41, 412.