Fairfax, Thomas, Sixth Lord

, was born about 3691. He was the eldest son of Thomas, fifth lord Fairfax, of Cameron, in the kingdom of Scotland, by Catherine, only daughter and heiress of Thomas lord Culpepper; in whose right he afterwards possessed Leeds Castle, with several manors and estates in the county of Kent, and in the Isle of Wight; and that immense tract of country comprised within the boundaries of the rivers Potowmac and Rappahannoc in Virginia, called the Northern Neck; containing by estimation live millions seven hundred thousand acres. He had the misfortune to lose his father while young; and at his decease, he and his two brothers, Henry | and Robert, and four sisters, one of whom, Frances, was afterwards married to Denny Martin, esq. of Loose, in Kent, came under the guardianship of their mother and grandmother, the dowager ladies Fairfax and Culpepper, the latter of whom was a princess of the house of Hesse Cassel.

Lord Fairfax, at the usual age, was sent to the university of Oxford to complete his education, and was highly esteemed there for his learning and accomplishments. His judgment upon literary subjects was then, and at other times, frequently appealed to; and his biographer informs us he was one of the writers of the Spectator, but the annotators on that work have not been able to ascertain any of his papers. After some years’ residence in the university, he took a commission in the regiment of horse called the Blues, and remained in it, as is supposed, till the death of the survivor of the two ladies above mentioned; who had usually resided at Leeds Castle. Some time before their decease, a circumstance happened, that eventually occasioned him much uneasiness. He had been persuaded, upon his brother Henry’s arriving at the age of twenty-one, or rather compelled by the ladies Culpepper and Fairfax, under a menace, in case of refusal, of never inheriting the Northern Neck, to cut off the intail, and to sell Denton Hall, and the Yorkshire estates, belonging to this branch of the Fairfax family, which had been in their possession for five or six centuries, in order to redeem those of the late lord Culpepper, that had descended to his heiress, exceedingly encumbered, and deeply mortgaged. This circumstance happened while lord Fairfax was at Oxford, and is said to have occasioned him the greater vexation, as it appeared afterwards, that the estates had been disposed of, through the treachery of a steward, for considerably less than their value; less even than what the timber that was cut down to discharge the purchase money, before the stipulated day of payment came, was sold for. He conceived, therefore, a violent disgust against the -ladies, who, as he used to say, had treated him with such unparalleled cruelty; and ever afterwards expressed the keenest sense of the injury that had been done, as he thought, to the Fairfax family. After entering into possession, he began to inquire into the value and situation of his estates; and he soon discovered that the proprietary lands in Virginia had been extremely mismanaged and | under-let. An agent, who at the same time was a tenant, had been employed by the dowager lady Fairfax, to superintend her concerns in that quarter of the world; and he is said to have abused her confidence, and to have enriched himself and family, as is too frequently the case, at the expence of his employer. Lord Fairfax therefore wrote to William Fairfax, esq. his father’s brother’s second son, who held, at that time, a place of considerable trust and emolument under the government in New England; requesting him to remove to Virginia, and to take upon himself the agency of the Northern Neck. With this request Mr. Fairfax readily complied; and as soon as he conveniently could, he removed with his family to Virginia, and settled in Westmoreland county. He there opened an agencyoffice for the granting of the proprietary lands; and as the quit-rent demanded was only after the rate of two shillings for every hundred acres, the vacant lands were rapidly let, and a considerable and permanent income was soon derived from them.

Lord Fairfax, informed of these circumstances, determined to go himself to Virginia, to visit his estates, and the friend and relation to whom he was so greatly obliged. Accordingly, about 1739, he embarked for that continent; and on his arrival in Virginia, he went and spent twelve months with his friend Mr. Fairfax, at his house in Westmoreland county; during which time he became so captivated with the climate, the beauties and produce of the country, that he formed a resolution of returning to England, in order to prosecute a suit, which he had with the crown, on account of a considerable tract of land claimed in behalf of the latter by governor Gooch (which suit was afterwards determined in his favour); and, after making pome necessary arrangements, and settling his family affairs, to return to Virginia, and spend the remainder of his life upon his vast and noble domain there. It is not quite certain how long he remained in England to adjust all these concerns, but he appears to have finally settled in the Northern Neck in 1746, or 1747.

On his return at this time, he went to Belvoir, the seat of his friend and relation Mr. William Fairfax, and remained several years in his family, undertaking and directing the management of his farms and plantations, and amusing himself with hunting and the pleasures of the field. At length, the lands about Belvoir not answering his | expectation, and the foxes becoming less numerous, he determined to remove to a fine tract of land on the western side of the Blue Ridge, or Apalachian mountains, in Frederic county, about eighty miles from Belvoir where he built a small neat house, which he called Greenway-court; and laid out one of the most beautiful farms, consisting of arable and grazing lands, and of meadows two or three miles in length, that had ever been seen in that quarter of the world. He there lived the remainder of his life, in the style of a gentleman farmer, or rather of an English country gentleman. He kept many servants, white and black; several hunters; a plentiful, but plain table, entirely in the English fashion; and his mansion was the mansion of hospitality. His dress corresponded with his mode of life, and notwithstanding he had every year new suits of clothes, of the most fashionable and expensive kind, sent out to him from England, which he never put on, was plain in the extreme. His manners were humble, modest, and unaffected; not tinctured in the smallest degree with arrogance, pride, or self-conceit. He was free from the selfish passions, and liberal almost to excess. The produce of his farms, after the deduction of what was necessary for the consumption of his own family, was distributed and given away to the poor planters and settlers in his neighbourhood. To these he frequently advanced money, to enable them to go on with their improvements; to clear away the woods, and cultivate the ground; and where the lands proved unfavourable, and not likely to answer the labour and expectation of the planter or husbandman, he usually indemnified him for the expence he had been at in the attempt, and gratuitously granted him fresh lands of a more favourable and promising nature. He was a friend and father to all who held and lived under him; and as the great object of his ambition was the peopling and cultivating of that beautiful country of which he was the proprietor, he sacrificed every other pursuit, and made every other consideration subordinate, to this great point

Lord Fairfax had been brought up in revolution principles, and had early imbibed high notions of liberty, and of the excellence of the British constitution. He devoted a considerable part of his time to the public service. He was lord lieutenant and custos rotulprum of the county of Frederic; presided at the county courts held at Winchester, where during the sessions he always kept open table: | and acted as surveyor and overseer of the highways and public roads. His chief if not sole amusement was hunting and in pursuit of this exercise he frequently carried his hounds to distant parts of the country; and entertained every gentleman of good character and decent appearance, who attended him in the field, at the inn or ordinary, where he took up his residence for the hunting season. So unexceptionable and disinterested was his behaviour, both public and private, and so generally was he beloved and respected, that during the late contest between Great Britain and America, he never met with the least insult or molestation from either party, but was suffered to go on in his improvement and cultivation of the Northern Neck; a pursuit equally calculated for the comfort and happiness of individuals, and for the general good of mankind.

In 1751, Thomas Martin, esq. second son of his sister Frances, came over to Virginia to live with his lordship; and a circumstance happened, a few years after his arrival, too characteristic of lord Fairfax not to be recorded. After general Braddock’s defeat in 1755, the Indians in the interest of the French committed the most dreadful massacres upon all our back settlements. Their incursions were every where stained with blood; and slaughter and devastation marked the inroads of these cruel and merciless savages. Every planter of name or reputation became an object of their insidious designs; and as lord Fairfax had been pointed out to them as a captain or chief of great renown, the possession of his scalp became an object of their sanguinary ambition, and what they would have regarded as a trophy of inestimable value. With this view they made daily inroads into the vicinage of Greenwaycourt; and it is said that not less than 3000 lives were sacrificed to their cruel barbarity between the Apalachian and Alleghenny mountains. The most serious apprehensions were entertained for the safety of lord Fairfax and the family at Greenway-court. In this crisis of danger his lordship, importuned by his friends and the principal gentry of the colony to retire to the inner settlements for security, is said to have addressed his nephew, who now bore the commission of colonel of militia, nearly in the following manner: “Colonel Martin, the danger we are exposed to, which is undoubtedly great, may possibly excite in your mind apprehension and anxiety. If so, I am ready to take any step that you may judge expedient for | our common safety. I myself am an old man, and it is of little importance whether 1 fall by the tomahawk of an Intlian, or by disease and old age: but you are young, and, it is to be hoped, may have many years before you. I will therefore submit it to your decision, whether we shall remain where we are, taking every precaution to secure ourselves against the ravages of the enemy, or abandon our habitation, and retire within the mountains, that we may be sheltered from the danger to which we are at present exposed. If we determine to remain, it is possible, notwithstanding our utmost care and vigilance, that we may both fall victims if we retire, the whole district will immediately break up and all the trouble and solicitude which 1 have undergone to settle this fine country will be frustrated, and the occasion perhaps irrecoverably lost.” Colonel Martin, after a short deliberation, determined to remain, and as affairs in that quarter soon took a more favourable turn, the danger gradually diminished, and at length, entirely disappeared.

Lord Fairfax, though possessed of innumerable good qualities, had some few singularities in his character. Early in life he had been disappointed in a love-match, and this is thought to have made a deep impression on lord Fairfax’s mind; and to have had no inconsiderable share in determining him to retire from the world, and to settle in the wild, and at that time almost uninhabited, forests of North America. It is thought also to have excited in him a general dislike of the sex, in whose company, unless he was particularly acquainted with the parties, it is said he was reserved, and under evident constraint and embarrassment. But his biographer thinks this has been misrepresented. He possibly might not entertain a very favourable opinion of the sex; owing partly to the above-mentioned circumstance, in which the lady behaved very treacherously, permitting the carriages, equipage, &c. to be prepared, and then accepting another offer; and partly to the treatment he had experienced from the ladies of Leeds Castle; but this does not seem to have influenced his general behaviour to them. He had lived many years retired from the world, in a remote wilderness, sequestered from all polished society, and perhaps might not feel himself perfectly at ease, when he came into large parties of ladies, where ceremony and form were to be observed; but he had not forgot those accomplished manners which he had acquired in his early | youth; at Leeds Castle, at the university, and in the army. His motive for settling in America was of the most noble and heroic kind. It was, as he always himself declared, to settle and cultivate that beautiful and immense tract of country, of which he was the proprietor; and in this he succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations, for the Northern Neck was better peopled, better cultivated, and more improved, than any other part of the dominion of Virginia.

Lord Fairfax lived to extreme old age at Greenwaycourt, universally beloved, and died as universally lamented, in January or February 1782, in the ninety-second year of his age. He was buried at Winchester, where he had so often and so honourably presided as judge of the court. He bequeathed Greenway-court to his nephew colonel Martin; and his barony descended to his only surviving brother Robert Fairfax, to whom he had before consigned Leeds Castle, and his other English estates. This Robert, seventh lord Fairfax, died at Leeds Castle in 1791, and bequeathed that noble mansion, and its appendages, to his nephew the reverend Denny Martin, who has since taken the name of Fairfax. The barony or title, by regular descent, is now vested in the reverend Bryan Fairfax, the present and eighth lord Fairfax, third son of William Fairfax, esq. above mentioned. His claim on the barony was confirmed, in 1800, by the house of peers. 1


For this interesting account of the enterprizing and patriotic Thomas lord Fairfax, we are indebted to Dr. Burnaby’s “Travels through the Middle Settlements in North America,1798, 3d edit. 4to, where are other particulars of the Fairfax family.