John Lewis III

Fielding Lewis' father

Excerpted from Lewis of Warner Hall by Merrow Egerton Sorley

As the oldest son, he inherited from his father, under the strict English system of primogeniture, which was followed in colonial Virginia, the "Warner Hall" home with all the surrounding estate. He made Warner Hall his home for his entire life.

His first wife, Frances Fielding, was the mother of all his children. She died after only 13 years of marriage but John remained a widower only a short time. He had several children, the oldest of whom was only 11, and Warner Hall needed a Mistress too. About 1734, he married the widow of Robert Carter of Nomini, son of "King" Carter. She was born Priscilla Churchill, daughter of Col. William Churchill of Middlesex County. She had two children by Robert Carter; Robert, Jr (known as "Councilor" Carter) and his sister, Elizabeth. They also resided at Warner Hall. There are letters in existence written by John Lewis ordering clothes from England for these two step children from 1735 onward and also, invoices showing, in detail, the articles sent to them at Warner Hall.

During its occupation by Col. John Lewis, Warner Hall probably was at its peak of existence as a prominent center of Virginia industry and social life. At this time, and perhaps earlier, the family acquired many of the fine furnishings and household treasures that were later destroyed by fire. Certainly, Warner Hall, at this period, was the home of more young children growing into the promise of prominent future usefulness than at any other time in its history. Col. John Lewis and his first wife Frances Fielding had seven children and though but three are known to have survived to adulthood, they spent at Warner Hall all the years of their adolescence. About 1735, Robert and Elizabeth Carter came to live at Warner Hall with their mother and stepfather. They were then aged 10 and 8 respectively and they remained at Warner Hall throughout their childhood. In addition, Col. John Lewis, with their uncle, Mann Page of nearby Rosewell, co-guardian of the orphan daughters of William Randolph of Tuckahoe - Judith and Mary Randolph (the grandmother of Chief Justice John Marshall).

So far as is known, Col. John Lewis did not take any prominent part in the political life of the Virginia colony until later in life. In 1748, he was appointed to the Council, the highest office to which a Virginian could then be appointed. He held, at one time, the rank of Colonel in the Virginia militia.

During the first half of the 18th century, the Warner Hall estate still consisted of its original extent of some 3,000 acres. Like other prominent contemporary estates, it was, of course, a large plantation and farming formed the principal attention of its owner and his assistants. Col. John Lewis, however, was also considerably engaged in the shipping business and he was the owner of a number of vessels engaged in trade with distant ports. Warner Hall was an ideal spot from which to conduct such operations. Situated on the banks of the Severn River, it afforded easy access to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay for foreign trade and to all its tributaries for communication with other parts of the Virginia colony.

During King George's War (1740 - 1748 - called the War of Austrian Succession in Europe), John wrote to Lawrence Washington, who was on the Cartegena Expedition with Admiral Vernon, saying "I heartily wish you safe here with Honour, that so wished for title, so much desir'd to be gain'd in the field of Battle; but I think I may as deservedly be acquir'd at home in the service of his County, Parish, and neighborhood, in Peace and Quietness". Home, hearth, and children must have been of primary importance to him.

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