Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lucy Grymes Nelson

                    Lucy Grymes became the wife of Thomas Nelson, of York who signed the Declaration of Independence.  She was the daughter of Philip Grymes, Esquire, of Middlesex County, Virginia, and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir John Randolph of Williamsburg.  Lucy was considered to be "a beautiful girl of refined manners and retiring nature when she married Thomas on August 29, 1762.

                    The union of Lucy and Thomas was considered to be very appropriate and fitting.  Lucy was a little younger than Thomas.  She was the daughter of a wealthy planter who was "prominent in the business and political life of the Province" as well as being "noted for his public spirit and hospitality.  She was also related, through her mother, to "many of the notable families of Virginia."

                    Thomas descended from Thomas Nelson who moved to Virginia in the early 1700s.  According to Bishop Meade's Recollections, the elder Thomas Nelson "founded the town of York …, established a mercantile business, and [became] wealthy."  Thomas's family married into other York County families and had strong connections there.  Thomas received his education at Trinity College in England and returned to America about a year before he married.  He lived in York in "much style and hospitality."

                    Soon after Thomas married Lucy, he was elected to the House of Burgesses where he began his lifetime public service.  He was also a militia colonel, brigadier-general of the Virginia troops, a delegate to the Continental Congress, and governor of Virginia.  He was a very active patriot in the American cause of liberty and donated much of his fortune to aid the cause.  Governor Thomas Nelson was one of the sons of Virginia who was well known for supporting the struggle for independence from England, and he did so with the full support of Lucy.

                    Thomas and Lucy were parents of eleven children:  William (born 1763; married Sally Burwell, eldest daughter of Governor John Page); Thomas Nelson, Jr. (born 1764; married Frances, also a daughter of Governor John Page); Philip Nelson (born 1766; married Sarah N. Burwell of Clarke County); Francis Nelson (born 1767; married Lucy, youngest daughter of Hon. John Page of Gloucester {now Matthews} County); Honorable Hugh Nelson (born 1768; married Eliza, daughter of Francis Kinlock of South Carolina); Elizabeth Nelson (born 1770; married Mann Page, eldest son of Governor John Page); Mary Nelson (born 1774; married Robert Carter of Shirley); Lucy Nelson (born 1777; married Carter Page of Cumberland County as his second wife); Robert Nelson (born 1778; married Judith Carter, youngest daughter of Governor John Page; was Chancellor of William and Mary College where he was Professor of Law for many years); Susannah Nelson (born 1780; married Francis Page of Hanover County, son of Governor John Page); Judith Nelson (born 1783; married Captain Thomas Nelson of Hanover County).  Five of the children married five of the children of Governor John Page, and two of them married children of Honorable John Page of Gloucester County.

                    Thomas died on January 4, 1789, at age fifty, and Lucy lived to be eighty, surviving him by many years.  According to Bishop Meade, she left "twenty dollars to her minister and freedom to her [only] servant…."

                    Thomas' biographer wrote "he descended into the grave honoured and beloved, and alas! of his once vast estates, that honour and love was almost all that he left behind him.  He had spent a princely fortune in his Country's service; his horses had been taken from the plough and sent to drag the munitions of war; his granaries had been thrown open to a starving soldiery and his ample purse had been drained of its last dollar, when the credit of Virginia could not bring a sixpence into her treasury.  Yet it was the widow of this man who, beyond eighty years of age, blind, infirm, and poor, had yet to learn whether republics can be grateful."

                    Facts and quotes are from Wives of the Signers:  The women behind the Declaration of Independence, pp. 250-254.


  1. As a descendant of the Nelsons of Virginia, specifically Francis Nelson, son of Thomas and Lucy Grymes Nelson, I am interested in learning about the women behind the men. Their lives were not easy esp. bearing so many children and keeping the family together while their husbands were at war or creating a new nation. Thanks to Google I found this very nice site. Thank you. Lynn Nelson Huidekoper

  2. Thank you for your comment. I am excited that my blog is being used for family history purposes. I hope that you found the information you were seeking.

  3. I'm looking to find a portrait of Lucy Grymes Nelson. Do you know if anything exists? I too am a Nelson descendent. In fact, first cousin to your other commenter, Lynn Nelson Huidekoper. Thank you. Ariel Dougherty

  4. I am sorry but I cannot help you find the picture. I hope you find one because a picture makes an ancestor so much more real to us.

  5. Dianne, I did find one. Very splendid. She is young with her siblings, painted by John Hesselius, in 1751:

  6. Excellent! I am so pleased that you found one. Thank you for enclosing the reference.