Thomas Nelson

Thomas Nelson

Yorktown, York County, Virginia, USA
Death 4 Jan 1789 (aged 50)
Hanover County, Virginia, USA
Burial Yorktown, York County, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 2771 · View Source
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Declaration of Independence Signer. He was born to one of the wealthiest merchant families in Yorktown, Virginia. His father, William Nelson, had been Virginia's Governor twice. At age 14, Thomas was sent to England to attend school, a common practice among colonists, and he was educated at Christ's College at Cambridge University. Graduating in 1760, he returned to Virginia the next year, when he was 22. While aboard ship on the return journey, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses. In 1762, he married Lucy Grymes, a talented harpsichord player and daughter of Philip Grymes, Esquire, of Brandon, Virginia. With an ample fortune given to him by his father, Nelson was able to live a style of common elegance and hospitality; together, they would have 13 children. Their son, Hugh Nelson (1768-1836), would later serve in the US Congress. In 1772, his father died, leaving him 20,000 acres of land and more than 400 slaves. Just two years later, in 1774, after hearing about the Boston Tea Party, he performed an act against the British Tea Tax by boarding a merchant ship, Virginia, which was anchored near his home, and dumped several chests of tea into the York River. In an age when destroying another person's property was a serious crime, this was a very risky act, yet he was not punished for doing this. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1775 to 1777, and again in 1779. He was one of the first congressmen to favor independence, and urged his fellow delegates to support the cause of independence. The following spring, in May 1777, he suffered the first of many strokes. Returning home, he seemed to recover, but would have additional strokes as well as periodic bouts of asthma. Despite these health problems, he kept active in politics, and in 1781, he was elected as Virginia's Governor, succeeding Thomas Jefferson. In addition, he commanded the Virginia Militia with the rank of General. In the fall of 1781, General Nelson led 3,000 Virginia Militiamen as part of George Washington's Army besieging Yorktown. When the British took refuge in his home, American artillerymen refused to fire on the house, in respect to General Nelson. Nelson then aimed and fired a cannon at his own home, and ordered the men to fire at his house, destroying it. The British surrendered at Yorktown on October 19, 1781, marking the end of the major fighting in the American Revolution. Thomas Nelson had sacrificed his health, his home and his fortune to help win independence. He died on January 4, 1789, at the age of fifty while living at his son's home in Hanover County, Virginia.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 25 Apr 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 2771
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Nelson (26 Dec 1738–4 Jan 1789), Find a Grave Memorial no. 2771, citing Grace Episcopal Churchyard, Yorktown, York County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .