April, 2011. Hanover County, Virginia – Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown

Posted on December 26, 2011


Sometime around 1717, Scotland native Charles Chiswell received a land grand for nearly 10,000 acres of land in Hanover County, Virginia, from Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood. The selling price was fifty pounds.

And here the good luck seems to have run out.

According to some sources, Chiswell brought craftsmen over from Scotland around 1719 to build both a house for his family and the necessary farm outbuildings to begin agriculture production. A yellow fever epidemic killed many of the workers, and sent the rest fleeing back to Scotland.

Chiswell died in 1737 and the property passed to his son, Col. John Chiswell, who lived there until the mid-1750’s, when he and his family moved to Williamsburg. Sometime during this period the home was first called “Scotchtown”.

Col John hung on to it until 1760, at which time it filtered down to a son-in-law, John Robinson, probably in partial payment for miscellaneous debts.  In 1766, Col. John murdered a man in nearby Mosby’s Tavern, died while on bail, was refused burial in Williamsburg, and eventually was buried on the Scotchtown property.

A year later Robinson died, and Scotchtown was put up for sale.

Patrick Henry bought 960 acres of the property, including the home and outbuildings, in 1770, and lived there until 1777.  During this time, Henry was wrapped up in American Revolution politics, leading the movement for independence in Virginia.

He delivered his famous “Give me Liberty, or give me Death” speech in 1775, which is credited for convincing the Virginia House of Burgesses to pass a resolution to send members of the Virginia militia to fight in the Revolutionary War.

However, things weren’t going well at Scotchtown, which seems to have been a very unlucky place to call home.

Henry’s wife slipped into a deep depression after the birth of their 6th child, and eventually had to be confined to the basement of the house for her own protection and the protection of other members of the family.  She died in 1775, and Henry sold the property in 1777.

Scotchtown today is owned and operated by APVA/Preservation Virginia, a turn of good luck – finally – for this interesting property.