Major Lewis

Lewis LittlepageDetermining definite biographical information about Major Lewis Littlepage, Caroline’s late husband, has proven more difficult than one might suppose. If he had a middle name to assist us, its documentation is so far elusive. Indeed the details of the most distinguishing portion of his name, Major, are only suggested in primary sources.

What is certain about our Lewis Littlepage is that he was related to some of Tidewater Virginia’s oldest, most prominent, and wealthy families. The Virginia settlement of his family on both sides predates Bacon’s 1676 rebellion, well before the establishment of King William County.1

Lewis Littlepage was born in March 19, 1807 at Aspen Grove in King William, the son of Capt. Hardin Littlepage (1772-1819) and Elizabeth Sutherland Quarles (1781-1851).2 Aspen Grove was a portion of old Littlepage family land, as indeed was the land donated for the nearby King William Courthouse which was built-in the 1720’s. He may have been named for his well-known first cousin, twice removed, General Lewis Littlepage, who had recently died, also for whom no middle name is known. After his marriage to Caroline Ellett the family eventually settled at nearby Mount Hope until moving the family in 1853 to Woodbury, the home of his Quarles grandparents. Lewis extended the family naming tradition for his thirteen children, likely encouraging the use of nicknames to distinguish them from nearby relatives. Indeed four of his and Caroline’s children are named after his siblings. Caroline contributed recycled Ellett family names as well.

Although Lewis was certainly educated in the manner befitting one of his station, we don’t know where. As nearby Rumford Academy was well-established by the time he was of school age, it is likely there he received his earliest formal education. We do know that he soon established himself after his 5 February, 1829 marriage as a large land and slave owner. The 1830 U.S. Census shows him with fourteen slaves; the KW Tax Book that year with 70 acres, acreage deeded to him by his new father-in-law, William Ellett. By 1850 the number of slaves was twenty-five, and the Tax Book charged him with tracts totaling 667 acres. He soon would add Woodbury’s 559 acres, some additional acreage, and a Mill. His daughter Rose’s diary suggests him a very energetic, hands-on farmer, not a genteel antebellum stereotype. By the time he died relatively young, at 56, Lewis Littlepage’s homeplace was a small plantation.

Lewis’ community status can also be inferred by his title Major. By 1844 he was recognized as an Adjutant in the local 87th Regiment of the Virginia Militia.3 By 1850 he was noted as Major Littlepage.4 He chose for his portrait (1849), his only known likeness, to be remembered in a military dress uniform.5  An active member of King William’s “Democracy,” he also served at least one term as county sheriff. 6 His role in the local Militia, local politics, and as sheriff suggests a level of leadership and respect recognized by his community.7 Thus he continued a Littlepage tradition of public service, a tradition his sons would soon continue.

Unfortunately all we can infer from known primary sources is that Major Lewis Littlepage died early in 1863, was buried at Woodbury, and left his wife and scattered family to face an uncertain future without him.8

  1. Through the use, and reuse, of surnames as given names, bonds among families were strengthened. But at the same time multiple individuals with the same names have caused no end to confusion as to who was whom, and who was related to whom and how. This confusion was well-documented even in Major Lewis’ day. See Clayton Torrence, Winston of Virginia and allied families. Richmond, Va.: Whittet & Shepperson, 1927, pages 421 – 430, for an example.  (back)
  2. Lewis’ birthday is found in Rose’s 1853 diary, on 19 March. She writes he is 46. That is consistent with the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Census reports.  (back)
  3. Richmond Enquirer, 17 January, 1844, page 2  (back)
  4. Richmond Enquirer, 4 May, 1850, page 1  (back)
  5. However, records of Lewis having any military training, serving in either the U.S. or Confederate armed forces, or participating in any military actions have yet to come to hand. Into his 50s, his role during the Civil War seems to have been limited to providing agricultural supplies to the Confederacy. And sons.  (back)
  6. Richmond Enquirer, 5 April, 1850, page 2; Rose’s diary, 16 January, 1853. “The Democracy” was a 19th-century term members of the Democratic Party used to describe themselves.  (back)
  7. While the Littlepage’s were long and well-connected with nearby Jerusalem Christian Church, by 1864 Caroline was attending the church of a reformed group of “Campbellites,” Zion. This group was inspired by Dr. John Thomas and would be later known as Christadelphians. Any leadership role Lewis played at either of these churches has not been established.  (back)
  8. Lewis modified his will on 3 March, 1863. His son Hardie wrote that he received orders for France on 23 May after visiting the Confederate Secretary of the Navy in Richmond after returning to Woodbury after the death of his father. Best guess is that Lewis died in early May, 1863.  (back)