Dawson Block Historical Report, Block 44 Lot 188, 190, 191, 197, 198, 199 Originally entitled: "Mrs. Elizabeth Dawson of Williamsburg Block 44"

James R. Bentley


Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - 1334
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library

Williamsburg, Virginia


Mrs. Elizabeth Dawson of Williamsburg
Block 44
Colonial lots 188, 190, 191, 197, 198 and 199

James R. Bentley


Mrs. Elizabeth Dawson of Williamsburg

Mrs. Elizabeth Dawson is among the many lesser known citizens of Williamsburg during the time it served as Virginia's colonial capital. She has hitherto been an obscure figure and her role in the life of the city has been imperfectly understood. For some years it has been assumed that she operated a stylish boarding house in the town; but careful study proves this assumption false. In her day Mrs. Dawson was a prominent local figure and was well-connected to the leading personages in the colony. The purpose of this memorandum is to identify her, to provide the known facts of her life, and to determine the site of her Williamsburg home.

Elizabeth Dawson was born in 1708 or 1709, probably in Middlesex County, Virginia, the daughter of Col. William Churchhill the first of his family in the colony, and his wife Elizabeth (Armistead) Churchhill. Elizabeth was the youngest of three children born to parents who were among the leading residents of Middlesex County. Her father had served as a justice of the peace and burgess for Middlesex and had been a member of the vestry of Christ Church, Middlesex. At the time of her birth he was serving as a member of the Council.

William Churchhill was born in North Aston, Oxfordshire, England the son of John and Dorothy Churchill and was baptized 2 December 1649.1 It is not known in what year he removed to Virginia. The earliest date which can befound for his presence here is 3 December 1678, when he witnessed a deed.2 In 1690 Urbanna, a port town, was established in Middlesex and William Churchhill was named a feoffee of the town.3 He served as a Burgess from his county, 1691-1692 and 1704-1705. In the latter year he was elevated to the Council.4

Churchhill's wealth and land holdings had grown steadily during his residence in Virginia (by 1704, he was attributed with 1,950 acres in Middlesex)5 and with these assets had come increasing political and social influence. In 1699 William Churchhill was included in a list of fifteen names sent to England by Governor Nicholson as being suitable to serve on the Council. At this time his name was passed over in favor of Robert Carter, John Custis, and Lewis Burwell.6 In 1705 William Churchhill was granted a seat on the Council. His name first appearing as a member on 15 August 1705.7 He continued to serve as a Councillor until his death on 28 November 1710.8 His death was recorded in diaries and correspondence, because the vacancy on the Council created by his death would have to be filled.9 Lt. Governor Spotswood -2- recommended William Bassett for the position and the Bishop of London recommended Col. Edward Hill. William Bassett was selected. (This choice is interesting, since Bassett's son, William, was to marry Churchhill's daughter, Elizabeth.) Churchhill's will, written 8 November 1710, was proved 7 February 1710/11. Among the bequests listed is the following one to Elizabeth Churchhill:

I give unto my Daughter Elizabeth Churchhill two hundred pounds Sterling being in full of what I designe she shall have of my personal estate Leaveing her to the particular care of my wife to advance her fortune
I give unto my wife Elizabeth Churchhill one thousand pounds Sterling with which I hope she will advance my Daughters fortune before mentioned named Elizabeth Churchhill.11

William Churchhill also provided for his daughter Elizabeth during her minority that she should have "decent Cloaths and schooleing."

Churchhill's wife was born Elizabeth Armistead in Gloucester County, the daughter of Col. John Armistead, a member of the Council, and his wife Judith. She was first married to the Honorable Ralph Wormeley, as his second wife. Wormeley had first married in 1674 the daughter of Sir Thomas Lunsford, Katherine (Lunsford) Jenings, widow of Capt. Peter Jenings, Virginia's Attorney-General.12 Katherine Wormeley died 17 May 1685.13 Ralph Wormeley remarried 16 February 1687 Elizabeth Armistead of Gloucester.14 Ralph and Elizabeth Wormeley had several children, among them John, Judith who married Mann Page, Esq. of "Rosewell" and Ralph, Jr., who died before his mother. Ralph Wormeley was described in his time as "the greatest man in the government, next the governor."15 Wormeley died 5 December 1701 and his widow took as her second husband on 5 October 1703, Mr. William Churchhill.16

By her second marriage, Elizabeth (Armistead) Wormeley -3- Churchhill had three children. The eldest was Armistead Churchhill who was born at "Rosegill," the Wormeley plantation, 25 July 1704 and was baptized 1 August 1704. The next to be born was Priscilla Churchhill, born 21 December 1705 and baptized 1 January 1706.17 Elizabeth Churchhill's birth is not recorded in the parish register of Christ Church, Middlesex, nor in the register of Bruton parish in Williamsburg (where her father, and the family presumably on occasion, lived during the sessions of the Assembly). We know from the notice of her death in the Virginia Gazette of April 16, 1779 that she was seventy years old when she died; so we may deduce that she was born in 1708 or 1709.

Occasional glimpses of Madam Churchhill as a widow can be found in William Byrd II's diary. He records that she dined with the Byrds on 2 November 1711. The next day he mentions that he visited at Col. Robert Carter's lodgings in Williamsburg where he found Mrs. Churchhill and Mrs. Beverley, at which time he told her that he "owed her £40 of which her husband had left no account."18

Mrs. Elizabeth Churchhill died 11 November 1716 and was buried 16 November.19 Her death was noted by Philip Ludwell in a letter to Lt. Governor Nicholson of 27 March 1717, in which he ascribes her death to an epidemic of measles. The epidemic also killed her daughter Judith (Wormeley) Page, wife of Mann Page, Mr. Berkeley [of neighboring "Barn Elms," Middlesex County], Jenny Burwell, and Mrs. Gawin Corbin.20 Mrs. Churchhill's will was dated 9 November 1716 and was proved 4 January 1716/17. An inventory of money was returned by her executors 5 July 1720, showing assets in money alone of £3,657.13.2 3/4. 21

Madam Churchhill provided well for her daughter Elizabeth by her will:

I give to my loving Daughter Elizabeth Churchhill when she Sall [shall] attain to the age of twenty one years or Marry the Sum of one thousand pounds Sterling left me by -4- my late husband William Churchhill Esqr decsd and now is due to me from the Several Merchants in gre[at] Britain which I correspond with and not distinguished from any other money Due to me from Said Merchants wherefore my Executors hereafter named are to pay the Said one thousand pounds according to this bequest without regard to the above distinction of its being left by my Said deced husband William Churchhill also I give to my Said Daughter Elizabeth the Negroes I bought of Mr. Ranson (Viz) Milly, Poll, Doll, & Moss, also the Negro Wench Jenny att the hogg house and her Children & the Boy Billy which I had of Benja. Davis his Estate which Said Negroes I give in the said Manner that I give the above one thousand pounds Sterl that is to say when my Said Daughter Elizabeth shall attain the age of twenty one years or Marrys
my will and mind is that the one thousand pounds above by this my will designed to my Daughter Elizabeth Churchhill should with all convenient Speed after my decease be put to use and the Interest thereon arriving to be accounted for to my Said Daughters Elizabeth or Precilla as the principle is directed to be given.
I do hereby comitt the tuition & Guardianship of my aforesaid & Daughters Precilla & Elizabeth Churchhill to my said Son in law [Mann Page] and his said Wife Judith which Said Daughters are to be maintained by the appointment of their fathers will22

So Elizabeth Churchhill at the age of seven or eight was orphaned and grew up at "Rosewell" in Gloucester County, which was one of the grandest estates in Virginia. Her half-sister, Mrs. Judith (Wormeley) Page had died at almost the same time as her mother (according to Ludwell's letter). Judith Page's tomb at "Rosewell" states that she had three children, Ralph and Maria who survived, and Mann Page, Jr. who died aged -5- five days. Judith died three days after giving birth to her son Mann; her death occurring on 12 December 1716. Mann Page remarried, in 1718. His second wife, Elizabeth Carter, was a daughter of Robert "King" Carter by his first wife, Judith Armistead, a sister of Elizabeth (Armistead) Wormeley-Churchhill.23 The second Mrs. Page was, therefore, a first cousin of Page's first wife as well as of Armistead, Priscilla and Elizabeth Churchhill.

Mann Page and the Churchhills had close contact with the Carter family thereafter. Page was born in 1691 and died 24 January 1730.24

We have only meagre information on Elizabeth Churchhill during her early years. According to Robert Carter's diary, Betty Churchhill was godmother to John Wormeley (son of her half-brother John Wormeley) at his christening on 13 February 1723/4. The infant's other sponsors were Robert Carter, Matthew Walker and Mrs. Kemp, (probably the wife of Matthew Kemp). In his diary, Carter makes frequent references to his relations the Wormeleys, Pages and Churchhills. The ties were further strengthened on 17 June 1725 when Robert Carter of Nomini, son of "King" Carter, married Priscilla Churchhill.25 On 17 May 1726, Carter records the baptism of his granddaughter Elizabeth, daughter of Robert and Priscilla, and notes that Elizabeth Churchhill, Mary Carter (daughter of "King", who married George Braxton) and Charles Carter (son of "King" Carter, whose daughter was to marry William Churchhill, son of Armistead Churchhill) sponsored the child. Carter mentions his niece once more on 18 September 1726 when he writes "B[etty] Churchill went away," referring apparently to the end of a visit she made to "Corotomon."

On 29 January 1729, Elizabeth Churchhill married Col. William Bassett of "Eltham", New Kent County.27 Her husband, born -6- 8 July 1709, was the son of Col. William Bassett and Joanna Burwell, daughter of Major Lewis Burwell of Fairfield. The elder William Bassett had replaced Elizabeth Churchhill's father as a Councillor, had served as a Burgess and vestryman, and had held other distinguished offices. His wife Joanna Burwell's brother, Nathaniel Burwell was married to Elizabeth Carter, daughter of King Carter and first cousin of Elizabeth Churchhill.28

When Mann Page died in 1730, his estate was to be administered by his father-in-law, Robert Carter. When Carter died in 1732, shortly after the death of his son Robert Carter of Nomini, the husband of Priscilla Churchhill, Carter's sons, John of Corotoman and "Shirley", Landon of Sabine Hall and Charles of Cleve were named executors of their father's estate. They, in turn, became executors of the estates of their brother Robert, their brother-in-law Mann Page, and the remaining estate of Madam Elizabeth Churchhill still in the hands of the Page family. Elizabeth (Churchhill) Bassett's dowry had to be paid from the Page estate as executor of bequests for Mrs. Bassett's mother, and the Page estate was heavily encumbered. The Carter letterbooks record disbursements to Bassett as payment of his wife's dowry. We find references to Bassett's claims "for a part of his Wifes fortune that was paid into Colonel Pages hands" and records of bills of exchange being 29 given him in Carter letters from 1732 until 1737. We can assume, therefore, that the dowry was paid piecemeal over a span of several years from the Page estates into Col. Bassett's hands. That the dowry was large is attested to by reference to other Carter papers concerning the fortune of Mrs. Bassett's sister Priscilla, who had married Robert Carter, Jr.

Robert "King" Carter makes special provision in his will for Priscilla as follows: -7-

Whereas in the dispose of those slaves that are to belong to my Son Robert I have done my endeavor to annex them so to his Lands to prevent his sale and dispose of them from his posterity, however notwithstanding in Regard his present wife brought to her husband, my said son Robert, considerable fortune, I think it but justice to declare that it is my will that she, my said son Robert's wife, if she survive her said husband shall have her right of dower out of the said Slaves during her natural life.30
Since Robert Carter, Jr. predeceased his father, this provision had to be met. John Carter, writing to the English merchant William Dawkins referred to the situation as follows, "My Father some time before his Death, in a discourse with Sir John Randolph said he would settle the Estate he had design'd for his Son Rob.t (I suppose he ment by his Will) in the following manner first for the payment of his debts, then to raise a sum of Money for his wife equal to that she brought him in Marrage, then to rais a fortune for his Daughter, & his Son Robert to have the rest. to this purpose I intend at the meeting of our next Assembly, to propose that a Settlement be made of this Estate according to my Fathers Intentions."31 The act was passed through the Assembly as a private bill and enacted into law. Priscilla (Churchhill) Carter received by its provisions £2,500 sterling, being equivalent to the fortune she brought to Robert Carter, Jr. by marriage.32 We may assume, therefore, that Elizabeth Churchhill carried an equivalent fortune to her husband, Col. William Bassett.

The Bassett's family life was probably typical of most established planters of great estate. Running the plantation, raising and educating children and entertaining friends combined with attending to public business assumed as an obligation to the colony seems to have been the typical practice. The Bassett's had -8- at least five children: Elizabeth, born 13 December 1730, married Benjamin Harrison, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and thus ancestress of the two presidents Harrison; William, born February 1732 and died young; Burwell Bassett, born 3 March 1734, Burgess for New Kent County, 1762-1774, member of the County Committee of Safety, 1775-6, member of the Conventions of 1775, 1776, and 1778, State Senator 1780 and 1788, and member of the House of Delegates. He married (1) in 1753 Anne Chamberlayne who died in 1754, and (2) on 7 May 1757 Anna Maria Dandridge, born 30 March 1739, died 17 December 1777. Miss Dandridge was a sister of Martha (Dandridge) Custis-Washington; Priscilla, who married the Rev. Thomas Dawson, Commissary of the Bishop of London, President of the College of William and Mary and member of the Council. Priscilla (Bassett) Dawson died in March 1775; Joanna, who married prior to 1765 Anderson Stith, who died in 1768.33

An idea of the Bassetts' life is provided by William Byrd II of "Westover", who wrote to William Bassett 1 April 1739 about business and added, "We are much obligd to Mrs. Basset and Your Self for your civility to our Girles, and should be very glad if You would take your Revenge."34 Byrd's diary mentions the Bassetts often. On 13 December 1739, Byrd records that he and Beverley Randolph called on Col. Bassett for dinner and spent the evening. Under date of 7 April 1740 Byrd states that he wrote to his daughters who were at Col. Bassett's, and while in Williamsburg he called on Mrs. Bassett 28 April 1740. On 5 November 1740 Byrd prepared to go from Williamsburg to Westover accompanied by the Bassetts. This was quite a trip, Bassett and Byrd were in one "chariot" and Byrd's daughter and Mrs. Bassett followed in another coach; the party stopped on the way at Fornea's ordinary and arrived at "Eltham" for dinner. Again on 21 April 1741 Byrd dined in Williamsburg with Col. Bassett. Byrd records -9- other activities with William Bassett and in his secret diary of 1709-1712, he frequently mentions contacts with the older Col. William Bassett and his wife Joanna Burwell.35

From Byrd's diary we may presume that the Bassetts continued to maintain the Williamsburg property acquired by the elder William Bassett in 1717.

William Bassett was proprietor of the public warehouses at the Brick-house in New Kent County and on 30 May 1740 petitioned for an additional rent to pay the cost of building a warehouse there. This petition was allowed.36

Bassett served his last years in the House of Burgesses. At the session of 8 May 1742, he was appointed, along with twenty-seven others, to the Committee of Propositions and Grievances.37

Sometime after 19 June 1742, when the Assembly adjourned, and 4 September 1744, when it reconvened, Col. William Bassett of Eltham died. At the meeting of 4 September 1744 a new writ was ordered for the election of a burgess for New Kent County to serve in the place of William Bassett, Gent. deceased.38 We can narrow the date of his death to before 19 March 1744, for there survives a receipt of that date on account of Mrs. Elizabeth Bassett in payment for the hire of two slaves from Ellyson Armistead. This receipt shows that she was then a widow.39

During her widowhood, Mrs. Bassett conducted her affairs and took charge of her husband's estate. Aside from the above mentioned receipt, we find a receipt signed by William Gooch for interest on a bond dated 13 September 1745, and on 3 March 1746, William Nelson wrote from Yorktown about money due from the Bassetts to Thomas Roberts for staves.40 John Lidderdale made mention of Mrs. Bassett's pasture at the Brick-house in New Kent in an advertisement for a stray horse in the Virginia Gazette.41

Mrs. Bassett is mentioned in John Blair's diary. Under -10- date of 22 September 1751, Blair records a visit to Mrs. Bassett and on 24 September, he writes that a party of eight dined at Mrs. Bassett's. Again on 27 September, John Blair writes that he "had Company from Mrs. Bassets & the Attorneys."42

On 10 July 1752 Elizabeth Bassett remarried. Her new husband was a man of great distinction in the colony, the Rev. Dr. William Dawson, Commissary of the Bishop of London, President of the College of William and Mary and a member of the Council. Dawson had been married previously to Mary Randolph Stith, by whom he had a son and a daughter.43 Rev. William Dawson did not long survive his second marriage, dying ten days later on 20 July 1752. Francis Jerdone, a Yorktown merchant, felt that the minister was fortunate to escape his new wife so soon. In a letter to a British friend, James Foulis, he reported,"Your good friend, Mr. Commissary Dawson, died about the 20th July [1752]. About ten days before that he married the widow Bassett. It is generally said that it was happy for him that he did not live to experience the unhappiness it would have created for him."44 Dawson died intestate, but his estate seems to have been settled in due course. His personal estate was advertised for sale and those indebted to the estate were urged to pay while those to whom the estate was indebted were counseled to present their demands by the administrator of the estate, the Rev. Thomas Dawson,45 the deceased's brother. The Rev. Thomas Dawson was in turn married to Priscilla Bassett, the daughter of Elizabeth Dawson by her first marriage.

Elizabeth Bassett's marriage to William Dawson produced some curious relationships. Since her daughter Priscilla had married the brother of William Dawson, Elizabeth became her daughter's sister-in-law. Another daughter, Joanna Bassett, had married Rev. Dawson's nephew by marriage, Anderson Stith, so Elizabeth Bassett -11- also became an aunt of another daughter.

After being again widowed, Mrs. Dawson seems to have reverted to her former life. In November 1753 she petitioned the Assembly for payment of expenses incurred in building two wharfs at the Brick House in New Kent; her petition was approved and the sum of £45 was appropriated to her in recompense.46

Mrs. Dawson, as befitted a woman of her wealth and station, kept a coach and spent a considerable sum to maintain it (her account with Alexander Craig, a Williamsburg harness-maker, amounting to £17.17.4 ½ over a period of four years).47 That she retained the coach longer and kept it in good repair is shown further by reference to Craig's day book of later years.48

On 16 November 1761, Mrs. Dawson, as executor of William Bassett, was sued in the York County Court by her brother Armistead Churchhill of Middlesex County. The court recorded the settlement of this suit out of court by the arbitration of John Robinson, Edmund Pendleton and James Cocke. The arbitrators decided in favor of Mr. Churchhill and awarded the sums of £302.15.9 sterling and £16.8.9 current money plus costs due by the account of Col. Bassett with Churchhill. The court ordered these sums paid by Mrs. Dawson from the goods and chattels of Bassett or, if these were insufficient, from her own goods and chattels.49 These debts apparently had been carried by Churchhill since before Bassetts death. A possible reason for the 1761 suit may be that Armistead Churchhill had that year been removed from his position as Naval Officer of the Rappahannock District and had lost the income derived from that position. Also, his house had burned and many of his slaves had died of a plague.50

Mrs. Dawson was a good Anglican and had her slaves baptized regularly, as shown by reference to the register of Bruton Parish Church.51 She dealt with Williamsburg merchants, as already -12- shown by her long-standing account with Alexander Craig, and nearby planters, and paid her taxes and tithes.52

Mrs. Dawson is remembered principally for her association with George Washington, who frequently mentions her in his diary. Unfortunately in the published version of this manuscript, edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Mrs. Dawson is identified as a keeper of a boardinghouse. From this footnote reference she has been identified in this manner to this day. The identification is wrong and is based on inadequate research and a guess arrived at from other lines in Washington's text. Fitzpatrick's footnote is as follows:

Elizabeth (Churchill) Dawson, widow of Commissary William Dawson who was President of the College of William and Mary. Mrs. Dawson kept a fashionable boardinghouse in Williamsburg.53

No documentation is supplied to support any statement made in the footnote. While Fitzpatrick accurately identified her maiden name and the identity of her second husband, he either completely ignored or was unaware of Mrs. Dawson's first husband--who is more significant both for the length of the marriage, for the children born to the first marriage, and for the elucidation of the text of Washington's diary. When Washington mentioned his visits to Mrs. Dawson, he was often either accompanied by Burwell Bassett or had just left "Eltham," Burwell Bassett's plantation. Burwell Bassett was a close associate of Washington and was married to Mrs. Washington's sister. This relationship explains Washington's frequent visits to Mrs. Dawson.

Fitzpatrick assumed that Mrs. Dawson kept a boardinghouse in part because Washington frequently recorded such a statement as -- "Dined at Mrs. Dawson's, and supped at Mrs. Campbell's."54 Mrs. Campbell being a well-known keeper of a tavern, Fitzpatrick assumed, unjustifiably, that Mrs. Dawson also kept a boardinghouse. Further proof that his was not the case is provided by Washington's -13- account books which nowhere record payment to Mrs. Dawson for her hospitality. Washington was her frequent guest as a friend and relative of her son. Mrs. Washington and her children by Daniel Parke Custis were also entertained by Mrs. Dawson upon occasion. These visits occurred over several years, starting in 1768 and continuing until 1774.55

In a letter dated 23 January 1773 to Thomas Newton, Jr., Washington asked Newton to send a barrel of herrings caught at Mt. Vernon to "Mrs. Dawson of Wmsburg, and let her know that it is sent as a compliment."56

On 18 October 1773 the York County Court ordered £5.9.- due by account to be paid Mrs. Dawson from the estate of William Rind, deceased. At the same time Rind's estate was ordered to pay £5.15.6 to Priscilla Dawson, Mrs. Dawson's daughter.57 The last record we have of Mrs. Dawson prior to her death is one of distinction, for the Virginia Gazette announced that on Tuesday, August 5, 1777,

about 11 o'clock in the forenoon, arrived here, from the seat of Burwell Bassett, Esquire's, in New Kent, Lady Washington, the amiable consort of his Excellency General Washington. Upon her arrival she was saluted with the fire of cannon and small arms, and was safely conducted to Mrs. Dawson's in this city, and intends setting out for the northward in a few days.58

Information about Mrs. Dawson's last years, from 1777 to 1779, is scanty. She probably continued her quiet Williamsburg life, surrounded by family and friends, attended church and looked after her affairs. In April of 1779, Mrs. Dawson went back to the house where she had first come as a bride, where children - and now grand-children - had been born, where her first husband had died, and where the years of her first widowhood had been spent. She came back to visit with her son's family or perhaps she was brought -14- back too ill to care for herself. At any rate, it was in the house of her happiest memories, "Eltham" that Mrs. Dawson died. She had lived through Virginia's last days as a colony; the American Revolution was then being fought.

Her death was announced by the Virginia Gazette on 16 April 1779.59 Two months later the following announcement appeared:

On Tuesday the 29th instant (June) will be exposed to sale for ready money, The personal estate of Mrs. Elizabeth Dawson, late of this city, deceased, consisting of a variety of household and kitchen furniture. At the same time the house and lot on which Mrs. Dawson lived, with the improvements convenient for the reception of a family, and in an agreeable situation, will be sold to the highest bidder.

Her administrator was probably her son Burwell Bassett. We can never know the details of her will or the legal details of its settlement, for the New Kent County records were destroyed in the War Between the States as were the James City County records, which would have provided details of her Williamsburg life.

One more notice appeared in the pages of Williamsburg's newspaper; it called for all those with claims against Mrs. Dawson's estate to apply for payment and those indebted to the estate to make prompt payment.61

The Site of Mrs. Dawson's Williamsburg House

Elizabeth (Churchhill) Bassett-Dawson (c. 1708-1779) during her residence in Williamsburg lived on land owned by her first husband, Col. William Bassett of "Eltham," New Kent County, which he had inherited from his father, Col. William Bassett, who had purchased the lots in 1717. The original deed of sale dated 14 October 1717 between the Feoffees of the City of Williamsburg and "William Bassett of the County of New Kent Esqr." survives in a photostat in the Swem Library at William and Mary.62 The deed, covering lots 188, 190, 191, 193, 198, and 199 in the original town plat of Williamsburg, was recorded in the James City County Court.63

It is impossible to trace the title to this property through deeds recorded in James City County due to their loss, unless copies have survived, such as the original indenture. It is equally impossible to trace the property through the wills of the Bassett family recorded in New Kent County. The land almost certainly passed from William Bassett the purchaser to his son William Bassett (1709-1742-44), who in turn either left the land to his son Burwell Bassett or gave a life right in the property to his wife Elizabeth. When Elizabeth Bassett-Dawson died in 1779, the property was advertised for sale in the Virginia Gazette. 64 The purchaser is unknown (it may have been William Burwell); however, the property was almost certainly sold for in 1796 Burwell Bassett, Jr. (1764-1811), Mrs. Dawson's grandson, purchased the property now called Bassett Hall, which he would not have done had he owned the old Bassett property.

Incontrovertible proof of Mrs. Dawson's Williamsburg residence is provided by the chain of title to Tazewell Hall traced by George Southall in 1848: -16-

By deed dated the 15th October 1778, and recorded in James City County on the 9th Novr. following, the surviving trustees in the two trust deeds above mentioned, viz. John Blair and JamesCocke, in the latter, and JohnSyme, Burwell Bassett and William Fitzhugh in the former deed, united in conveying the said land &c to John Tazewell, of Williamsburg, by the following boundaries and description, viz. "all that aforesaid tract of land lying in the County of James City and part thereof in the City of Williamsburg, containing by estimation 100 acres, more or less, and bounded as follows, to wit: on the North by the street which divides the said land from the lots of William Hunter & Elizabeth Dawson, East by the lands of John Hatley Norton, on the South and West by the lands of John Greenhow, ..." [Tazewell Hall house history] 65
So Mrs. Dawson's property was located in James City County north of Tazewell Hall on property belonging to her through marriage into the Bassett family. This property is where the Williamsburg Lodge is now located.

The history of the lot from 1804 can be found in the Jane B. Cary house history, for the Cary House is the property owned from the establishment of Williamsburg through 1779 by the Bassetts of "Eltham."


^1. North Aston parish register, p. 30, line 27. Photostat of notes extracted by R. C. Ballard Thruston, Archives Division, Virginia State Library, accession number 22019.
^2. Polly Cary Mason, Records of Colonial Gloucester County Virginia, II, 126.
^3. Philip Alexander Bruce, Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, II, 558.
^4. William and Mary Newton Stanard, comps., The Colonial Virginia Register, pp. 87, 96; J. W. Fortesene, ed., Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, 1689-1692, V, 412-413.
^5. Louis des Cognets, Jr., comp., English Duplicates of Lost Virginia Records, 256; Cecil Headlam, ed., Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, XVII, 316, XVIII, 317-318.
^6. Louis des Cognets, Jr., comp., English Duplicates of Lost Virginia Records, 131-133; Annie L. W. Smith, comp., The Quit Rents of Virginia ...Rent Rolls...for the year 1704, n.p.
^7. H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Executive Journals of the Council, III, 23.
^8. Louis B. Wright and Marion Tinling, eds., The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, 1709-1712, p. 264.
^9. Cecil Headlam, ed., Calendar of State Papers, XXV, 318, 410, 560.
^10. Ibid., XXV, 410, 560; XXVI, 180.
^11. Middlesex County, Will Book A (1698-1713), 247-249.
^12. Louis B. Wright, The First Gentlemen of Virginia, p. 189.
^13. The Parish Register of Christ Church, Middlesex County, Va., 8
^14. Ibid., 36.
^15. Henry Hartwell, James Blair, and Edward Chilton, The Present State of Virginia and the College (London, 1727), 70, as quoted in Wright, First Gentlemen, p. 187.
^16. Wright, First Gentlemen, 187; Parish Register of Christ Church, Middlesex, 63.
^17. Christ Church Parish Register, 64, 69.
^18. Wright and Tinling, eds., The Secret Diary of William Byrd, 430-432.
^19. Christ Church Parish Register, 172.
^20. Berkeley Family Papers. Alderman Library, University of Virginia.
^21. Middlesex County, Will Book B. (1713-1734),54-57, 137.
^22. Ibid., 54-57.
^23. Richard Channing Moore Page, Genealogy of the Page Family in Virginia, 63-64.
^24. Ibid., 57.
^25. Robert Carter Diary, 1722-1727. Alderman Library, University of Virginia. [The entry for the marriage of Robert Carter, Jr. is under date of 22 June 1725.]
^26. Ibid.
^27. Pauline Pearce Warner, Benjamin Harrison of Berkeley, Walter Cocke of Surrey, Family Records, I, 115.
^28. Stella Pickett Hardy, Colonial Families of the Southern States of America. 43-44, 95, 98.
^29. Robert Carter Letter Book, 1727-1732, Alderman Library, U. Va., 66-68; Carter Letterbook, 1732-1781, Alderman Library, 81-82, 129-130, 136-137.
^30. Carter Papers, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. VI, (July, 1898) , 17.
^31. Carter Letterbook, 1732-1781. Alderman Library, University of Virginia, 13-15.
^32. W. W. Hening, ed., The Statutes ...of Virginia, IV, 454-457; H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses, VI, 200, 206-207, 208, 214, 217.
^33. Stella Pickett Hardy, Colonial Families of the Southern States of America, 44-45; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, II, (1894), 232; William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., XXII, 45-6, 47-48; Virginia Gazette, (Purdie), 19 Dec. 1777, p.2: 1; Virginia Gazette, (Dixon), 25 March 1775, 2: 3.
^34. Bassett Family Papers, Library of Congress.
^35. Maude H. Woodfin and Marion Tinling, Another Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, 1739-1741, pp. 19, 53, 62, 109, 151, 173, 174.
^36. H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses, VI, 408, 424.
^37. H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses, VII, 7.
^38. Ibid., 77.
^39. Bassett Family Papers, Library of Congress.
^40. Ibid.
^41. Virginia Gazette, 25 Sept. 1746, 4:1.
^42. "Diary of John Blair, copied from an almanac for 1751, preserved in Virginia Historical Society", William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., VII, 146.
^43. WMQ, ser. 1, VII, 146; XXII, 45-6.
^44. Ibid., VII, 146; Virginia Gazette, 24 July 1752, 3:2; Dawson Papers 1728-1775 in Fulham Palace, London. Transcripts in Library of Congress, Letters of Robert Dinwiddie, 21 July 1752 & 28 July 1752.
^45. WMQ, ser. 1, XIII, 11; Virginia Gazette, 6 October 1752, 3:1; Virginia Gazette, 28 August 1752, 3:2.
^46. H. R. McIlwaine, Journals of the House of Burgesses , VIII, 131, 144.
^47. Alexander Craig Account Book, Ledger B, 1749-1756, n.p.
^48. Alexander Craig Account Book, Day Book, 1761-1763, pp. 22, 23, 24, 25, 29, 34, 35, 51, 63.
^49. York County Records, Judgments and Orders, 1759-1763, p. 297.
^50. Egremont Papers, 1761-1763. PRO 30/47/14 p. 4.
^51. Bruton Parish Register. Baptisms 1739-1797, pp. 21, 42, 45, 49, 55, 59, 66.
^52. Virginia Gazette Daybook, 1764-1766, pp. 163, 171; Burwell Account Book, 1764, 1776, p. 27; Williamsburg-James City County Tax Book, 1768-1777, pp. 13, 15; Humphrey Harwood Account Book, p. 259.
^53. John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Diaries of George Washington 1748-1799, I, 268.
^54. Ibid., 352.
^55. For Washington's visits to Mrs. Dawson and those of his family see: Ibid., I, 268, 298, 325, 352, 353, 354, 379, 380; II, 1617, 17, 26, 40, 57, 58, 86, 86-87, 129, 131, 152, 153, 154, 159.
^56. John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, 1745-1799, III, 110.
^57. York County, Judgments and orders (1772-1774), p. 401; William and Mary Quarterly, 1st series, XVI, 217.
^58. Virginia Gazette, (Dixon & Hunter), 8 August 1777, 2:1.
^59. Virginia Gazette, (Dixon), 16 April 1779, 2:1.
^60. Ibid., (Dixon), 19 June 1779, 3:1.
^61. Ibid., (Clarkson), 11 December 1779, 2:1.
^62. Williamsburg Papers, Manuscript Division, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
^63. For the complete text of this deed see appendix.
^64. See appendix.
^65. Tazewell Hall House History, Research Department, Colonial Williamsburg.

Illustration # 1

RR133401 Colonial Lots 188, 190, 191, 197, 198 and 199

Illustration # 2
Colonial Lots 188, 190, 191, 197, 198 and 199

On Tuesday the 29th instant (June) will be exposed to sale for ready money,

The personal estate of Mrs. Elizabeth Dawson, late of this city, deceased, consisting of a variety of household and kitchen furniture. At the same time the house and lot on which Mrs. Dawson lived, with the improvements convenient for the reception of a family, and in an agreeable situation, will be sold to the highest bidder.


[Virginia Gazette (Dixon) 19 June 1779, 3:l]

Williamsburg, Dec. 3, 1779

All persons that have demands against the estate of Mrs. Elizabeth Dawson, deceased, late of this city, are desired to apply for payment to the subscriber; and those indebted thereto are required to make payment without delay.
John Bekley, for the adm. [Virginia Gazette (Clarkson) 11 December 1779, 2:1]

Illustration # 3
Colonial Lots 188, 190, 191, 197, 198 and 199

Williamsburg-James City County, Virginia Tax Book 1768-1777 [pages 13, 15]
1768Dr.lbs. Tobo.
Elizabeth Dawson 5 tithes25
To Coach and chair Tax1.10.-
Mr. Wallers fee 27.27
Cr.lbs. Tobo.
By Cash of W. Smith in full1.10.52
1769Dr.lbs Tobo
Elizabeth Dawson 6 tithes, Chair10.0--42
Last yeares Balance7.-.-
Credr. lbs Tobo
By Cash in full17.-.-42

Illustration # 4
Colonial Lots 188, 190, 191, 197, 198 and 199

Deed to Colonial Lots 188, 190, 191, 197, 198 and 199 dated 14 October 1717 from Feoffees of Williamsburg to William Bassett

THIS INDENTURE made the fourteenth day of October in the fourth Year of the Reign of Our Sovereign LORD GEORGE by the Grace of God of great Britain France and Ireland KING Defender of the faith &c And in the Year of Our Lord God One thousand Seven hundred and Seventeen BETWEEN the Feoffees Or Trustees for the Land Appropriated for the building & Erecting the City of Williamsburgh of the One part and William Bassett of the County of New Kent Esqr. of the other part WITNESSETH that whereas the Said William Bassett by One Lease to him by the Said Feoffees or Trustees made bearing date the day next before the date of these presents is in the Actual possession of the premises herein After Granted to the intent that by Virtue of the Sd Lease And the Statute for Transferring Uses into possession he may be Enabled to Accept of a Grant & Release of the Reversion & Inheritance thereof to him [and] his heirs for Ever the Said Feoffees or Trustees for divers Good Causes & Considerations them thereunto moving but more Especially for & in Consideration of four pounds ten Shillings Currant money of Virginia to them in hand paid at and before the Ensealing & delivery of these presents the receipt whereof and themselves therewith fully Satisfied & paid they do hereby acknowledge HAVE Granted, bargained, Sold, remised, released, and Confirmed & by these presents for themselves their heirs & Successors as far as in them Lyes and under the Limitations and Reservations hereafter mentioned they do Grant, bargain, Sell, remise release & Confirm unto the Said William Bassett Six Certain Lotts of Ground in the Said City of Williamsburgh designed in the Plott of the Said City by these figures 188, 190, 191, 197, 198, & 199 with All woods thereon Growing Or being together with all profites Commodities Emoluments and Advantages whatsoever to the Same belonging Or in Any wise Appurtaining TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the Said Granted premises & Every part thereof with the Appurtenances unto the Said William Bassett his heirs and Assigns To the only proper Use & behalf of the Said William Bassett his hares [heirs] and Assigns for ever TO BE HELD of Our Soveragn [sovereign] LORD the KING in free and Common Soccage YIELDING and PAYING the Quitt Rents due & legally Accustomed to be paid for the Same Under the Limitations & Conditions hereafter mentioned and not other wise that is to Say that if the Said William Bassett his heirs or Assigns Shall not within the Space of Twenty four Months next Ensuring [ensuing] the date of these presents begin to build and finish upon Each Lott of the Said Granted premises One Good dwelling house or houses of Such dimensions and to be placed in Such manner as by One Act of Assembly made at a Generall Assembly begun at the Capitol the Twenty third day of October 1705. Entituled An Act Continuing the Act directing the building the Capitol and City of Williamsburgh &c is directed Or within the time aforesd Shall not begin to build & furnish such & so much buildings as now are Or hereafter Shal be Agreed upon prescribed & directed by the directors Appointed for the Settlement & incouragement of the City of Williamsburgh pursuent to the Trust in them reposed by Virtue of the Said Act of Assembly then it Shall & may be Lawfull to and for the Said Feoffees or Trustees & their Successors the Feoffees Or Trustees for the Land appointed for building & Erecting the City of Williamsburgh for the time being into the Said Granted premises and Every part thereof with the Appurtenances to enter & the Same to have Again possess & Injoy in like manner as they might have done if these presents had never been made IN WITNESS whereof John Clayton Esq & Chicheley Corbin Thacker Gent. two of the Said Feoffees or Trustees have hereunto Sett their hands & seals the day & Year Above writen

Signed Sealed & delivered In the presence of

John Clayton [Seal]
[Chicheley Corbin Thacker] [Seal]

[written on the reverse]

October the 14th 1717 Received of the within named William Bassett Esq. four pounds & ten shillings Currant money being the consideration money for the Lotts within mentioned by me
John Clayton

At a Court held for James City County the 14th day of October 1717
John Clayton Esqr. and Chichely Corbin Thacker Gent two of the Trustees for the City of Williamsburgh came into Court presented and acknowledged this their Release and the said John Clayton Esqr his receipt for the Consideration money, And the Same are admitted to Record
Test Wil. Robertson Cl Cor

Trustees Release
to Bassett
ackd 14th Octr 1717

text from a photostat of the original in "Williamsburg Papers," Manuscript Division, E. G. Swem Library, College of William and Mary.

RR133402 Elizabeth (Churchhill) Bassett-Dawson: Relations by Marriage to Col. William Bassett

RR133403 Elizabeth (Churchhill) Bassett-Dawson: Relations by Marriage to Rev. William Dawson

RR133404 The Churchill-Carter Connection

Photo [Photo]