A Learning Experience

When I first started working in the Visitor Center I was amazed at how many visitors were descendants of the Lees. We get several folks each month who are somehow related to this great family. Once in a while guests with other ties to Stratford will come to visit.

The story of Richard Mynatt is a great example. Some members of the Mynatt family came in and told me that their 5th great grandfather was an indentured servant under Thomas Lee, the builder of Stratford, and his son Philip Ludwell Lee. Although I am not intrinsically a history buff, I do enjoy investigations. I began researching the story.

On February 12, 1749, Richard Mynatt, a 20 year old cook, signed an agreement of servitude with Thomas Lee for a period of 4 years at 8 pounds sterling salary per year. He became the head cook at Stratford.Thomas Lee died soon after he hired Mynatt and his contract was passed on to Philip Ludwell Lee through inheritance.

At the end of the agreed upon term, Richard Mynatt asked for his freedom and salary. Philip Ludwell Lee refused. On July 31, 1754, Richard Mynatt petitioned the court in Westmoreland County, Virginia. The court adjudged him free with allotted wages. He was the first indentured servant in America to take his employer to court and win his case.

In 1754, Richard Mynatt moved to Prince William County (Virginia), married, and started a family. He later became a courier for General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. The Mynatt descendants are the rest of the story!Come find and learn history with me at Stratford Hall.

Thanks to Judy Hynson, Director of Research Library Collections and our Master Archivist, for her help and patience while this old dog learns anew!!

– John, Visitor Services