By Scarlett Gathings Shepherd
The Jamestowne Society’s 2018 Fall Heritage Tour gave me the opportunity to visit my ancestral Randolph homes, Tuckahoe and Wilton, near Richmond, Virginia on November 2.
William Randolph and Mary Isham Randolph of Turkey Island Farm are considered the Adam and Eve of Virginia as their children married into all the other First Families of Virginia. Their descendants include Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of the United States), Robert E. Lee (commander of the Army of Northern Virginia during the War Between the States), John Marshall (Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), Peyton Randolph (President of the Continental Congress), Richard Bland II (member of both Continental Congresses), John Randolph of Roanoke (Congressman) amongst many others….including me as William Randolph and Mary Isham Randolph are my eighth great grandparents. Elizabeth Randolph and Richard Bland I are my seventh great grandparents.
William Randolph and Mary Isham Randolph had at least 9 children. Their first son was William Randolph II, whose son, William Randolph III, built Wilton. Thomas Randolph of Tuckahoe was the second son of William Randolph and Mary Isham, who began construction of Tuckahoe around 1714, located near Manakin, Virginia. Their third son was Isham Randolph, whose daughter, Jane Randolph, married Peter Jefferson; Thomas Jefferson was their son. William and Mary Isham Randolph’s ninth child was Elizabeth Randolph, as mentioned above.
It was a thrill to participate in the tour with my friend with my friend Susan McCrobie (2017-2019 Councilor and Communications Committee Chair) to visit my ancestral cousins’ homes. The group was divided into two buses. One went first to Tuckahoe and then Wilton, where we had a box lunch and the other group did the opposite. Our group leader was Anne Stokes Moore, (2017-2018 Historian and Special Events Committee Chairman), who did a great job.
Tuckahoe is the only early Randolph home still standing on its original site and was built by Thomas Randolph. Another William Randolph III, Thomas’s son, built a two story, four room house in 1733 around the original structure.
Later, a center hall and south wing were added, creating an H shape. The home is located on a bluff overlooking the James River. William’s wife died in 1744 and William in 1745 leaving young children. In his will, he asked that his cousin Jane Randolph (Jefferson) and her husband Peter Jefferson come to the Tuckahoe Plantation and care for their three orphaned children until his son, Thomas Mann Randolph Sr. came of age.
The Jeffersons did move to Tuckahoe with their three daughters and two-year-old son, Thomas Jefferson. The Jefferson children studied with their cousins in the one room school, which still exists, until 1752, when the family returned to their own plantation, Shadwell. Shadwell was on the land of the future Monticello and many Randolphs as well as Jeffersons are buried in the cemetery there. Thomas Mann Randolph Sr. had two sons named Thomas Mann Randolph Jr, born 1768, and Thomas Mann Randolph III, born 1792, by two different wives. (Thomas Mann Randolph Jr. married his cousin Martha Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter.)
Tuckahoe has been privately owned and lived in by distant descendants of the Randolph’s since 1935. Majority owners are Addison B. Thompson and wife Sue as well as his sister and brother, Jessie Ball Thompson Krusen and William T. Thompson III.
As mentioned, Wilton was constructed in 1753 by William Randolph III, son of William Randolph II and grandson of William Randolph and Mary Isham Randolph. The manor house was on 2,000 acres of land located on the north bank of the James River several miles east of Richmond. None of the three subsequent male descendants lived to the age of 40. The fourth descendant in line died at the age of 29, leaving Wilton to his daughter, Catherine. As the property was deeply in debt, she filed suit to sell Wilton in 1856 and was the last Randolph to own Wilton.
Wilton changed owners four times before going into foreclosure. The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Virginia saved the home from demolition and became the final and present owners of the house. It was carefully dismantled and categorized for removal to its present home, south of Richmond on the north bank of the James River. It is a two-story building, a museum in a historic home, which had to be rebuilt. Not only rebuilt but refurnished as nothing in the home had remained.
Both properties are beautifully kept up…One is lived in and one is a museum. They both can be visited, which I highly recommend. I had a personal interest in viewing them but everyone on the tour thoroughly enjoyed this unique learning experience.
Note: Lore has it that Jane Randolph Jefferson commented more than once that she had heard the Randolph family were descended from English Royalty, which her husband, Peter Jefferson, ridiculed. Genealogists today trace William Randolph’s heritage back to Prince John of Gaunt and his third wife, Lady Katherine Roet (Swynford.)