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Thomas Nelson Jr.

When I first started doing research on the internet about Thomas Nelson, Jr., I was unable to find very much. That was in the late 1990’s, and as a beginning surfer, the internet was still a mystery to me. Most of the information I discovered at that time was in libraries. Here it is ten years later and I have resumed my research on my fifth great grandfather. There is now a significant amount of information about this man however, there are some discrepancies on some of these sites, such as his date of birth and death, his father, etc., so I have had to double check for information. I would like to share my findings with other descendants as well as admirers. This is a new site which is under construction, so please be patient.

I welcome feedback or additional information from others @ the following email:

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Resources: The Page-Nelson Society. This organization helped me confirm that I was a direct descendant of Thomas Nelson, Jr. I supplied my family tree on my mother's side and they not only confirmed that my family descended from his line, but supplied me with a very thorough family tree. I am not sure if they still are able to provide that type of service now, but if you are unsure about your heritage, I strongly recommend that you contact them. Their website is:

Some Facts About Thomas Nelson, Jr.

He was born in 1738 in Yorktown, Va to one of the wealthiest families.

Thomas Nelson, Senior, was his father. He had been Virginia's acting Governor twice.

At age 14, Thomas was sent to England where he attended school. He attended a distinguished private school close to London, where he completed a preparatory course of studies. He attended Cambridge and Trinity College. He returned to Virginia when he was 22.

He was first elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1761.

He married Lucy Grymes in 1762. Peyton Randolph was her maternal uncle. His brother-in-law was Congressman Benjamin Harrison V. Her paternal aunt was Light Horse Harry Lee’s mother. Thomas Nelson, Jr. and his wife had 13 children.

His father died in 1772, leaving his 20,000 acres and more than 400 slaves.

In 1774, after he heard about the Boston Tea Party, he boarded a ship which was anchored near his home and dumped two chests of tea into the York River.

Nelson was named Colonel of the 3rd Virginia Regiment, but resigned the post when he was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775.

In 1776 he played a major role in Virginia’s Constitutional Convention.

He was one of the first congressman to favor independence and urged his fellow congressmen to support independence.

In Williamsburg in 1776, he introduced and won approval for a resolution recommending national independence, which Edmund Pendleton drafted. Nelson presented it to Richard Henry Lee in Phiadelphia. Lee redrafted it into his June 7 resolution.

In 1776, he signed the Declaration of Independence as a member of the Virginia delegation.

His first term in the Congress continued until 1777.

In the spring of 1777, he became very ill which affected his memory. Despite his friends attempts to try and get him to withdraw from Congress because of his illness, he was reluctant to do so due to his dedication to his duties. Eventually, he did have to resign his seat and return to private life until his health improved.

In the spring of 1778, after Nelson was awarded the rank of Brigadier General in the militia and was elected to the lower house of the legislature, Congress asked wealthy men in the Colonies to form troops of light cavalry. Nelson, partially at his own expense, outfitted, and trained a unit and marched it northward to Philadelphia in July. In August of the same year, the unit returned home after Congress decided it was not needed.

He was elected the third Governor of Virginia in 1781.

He was commanding General of the Lower Virginia Militia. In 1781, General Nelson led 3,000 Virginia Militiamen as part of George Washington’s Army besieging Yorktown.

He succeeded Thomas Jefferson as governor of Virginia.

He aimed and fired a cannon at his own home, the Nelson House, when he learned that Cornwallis had his headquarters there. He urged that his militiamen fire on it as well.

Nelson County, Virginia, Nelson County, Kentucky and Thomas Nelson Community College were named in his honor.

Thomas Nelson Page, the famous author and William Nelson Page were his ancestors.

“Scotch Tom” Nelson built The Nelson House in 1730 in Yorktown, Va. It is a National Historic Landmark.

Thomas Nelson, Jr. sacrificed a great portion of his own finances to help the war efforts when the soldiers uniforms were becoming ragged and supplies were running out.

Nelson suffered from ill health for many years and died at the age of 50 on January 2, 1789. He died at his son's home in Hanover County, Va. He is buried at Grace Episcopal Church in Yorktown.

James Innes, a Colonel in the Revolutionary army, and member of the Convention of 1788 paid him the following tribute:

"The illustrious General Thomas Nelson is no more! He paid the last great debt to nature, on Sunday, the fourth of the present month, at his estate in Hanover. He who undertakes barely to recite the exalted virtues which adorned the life of this great and good man, will unavoidably pronounce a panegyric on human nature. As a man, a citizen, a legislator, and a patriot, he exhibited a conduct untarnished and undebased by sordid or selfish interest, and strongly marked with the genuine characteristics of true religion, sound benevolence, and liberal policy. Entertaining the most ardent love for civil and religious liberty, he was among the first of that glorious band of patriots whose exertions dashed and defeated the machinations of British tyranny, and gave United America freedom and independent empire. At a most important crisis, during the late struggle for American liberty, when this state appeared to be designated as the theatre of action for the contending armies, he was selected by the unanimous suffrage of the legislature to command the virtuous yeomanry ntrepidof his country; in this honourable employment he remained until the end of the war; as a soldier, he was indefatigably active and coolly intepid; resolute and undejected in misfortunes, he towered above distress, and struggled with the manifold difficulties to which his situation exposed him, with constancy and courage. In the memorable year 1781, when the whole force of the southern British army was directed to the immediate subjugation of this state, he was called to the helm of government; this was a juncture which indeed 'tried men's souls.' He did not avail himself of this opportunity to retire in the rear of danger; but on the contrary, took the field at the head of his countrymen; and at the hazard of his life, his fame, and individual fortune, by his decision and magnanimity, he saved not only his country, but all America, from disgrace, if not from total ruin. Of this truly patriotic and heroic conduct, the renowned commander in chief, with all the gallant officers of the combined armies employed at the siege of York, will bear ample testimony; this part of his conduct even contemporary jealousy, envy, and malignity were forced to approve, and this, more impartial posterity, if it can believe, will almost adore. If, after contemplating the splendid and heroic parts of his character, we shall inquire for the milder virtues of humanity, and seek for the man, we shall find the refined, beneficent, and social qualities of private life, through all its forms and combinations, so happily modified and united in him, that in the words of the darling poet of nature, it may be said: "His life was gentle: and the elements so mixed in him, that nature might stand up And say to all the world--this was a man."

Thomas Nelson, Jr.’s Grave Marker:

Gen. Thomas Nelson Jr.

Patriot - Soldier - Christian - Gentleman

Born December 16, 1738

Died January 2, 1789

Mover of the Resolution of May 15 1776 in the Virginia Convention

Instructing her Delegates in Congress

To Move that body to Declare the Colonies

Free and Independent States.

Signer of Declaration of Independence

War Governor of Virginia

Commander of Virginia Forces

He Gave All For Liberty


Other interesting info:

You can find correspondence between Thomas Nelson, Jr. and George Washingon on the following site. You don't need to become a member, but you are welcome to make a donation to the site if you desire. Just do a search on Thomas Nelson Jr. near the top of the page to narrow the search to Nelson letters:

Nelson County, Va, which was formed from parts of Amherst County, was named for Thomas Nelson, Jr. in 1807. Nelson County is located in the Central Virginia region midway between Charlottesville and Lynchburg. It is bounded by the James River on the east and the Blue Ridge Mountains north and west. Nelson County is the location of Walton's Mountain, and where Earl Hamner was born. Hamner was made famous by the long-running television show, The Walton's. (And on a personal note, "Afton" is one of the unincorporated communities in Nelson County, and we named our daughter, Laura Afton after it.) For more information about Nelson County, Va:

If you would like to do further research on the Thomas Nelson, Jr. lineage, you may be interested in the following site. If you are a direct descendant of Thomas Nelson, Jr., then you are more than likely a descendant of Nicolas Martiau, who was the earliest American ancestor of General George Washington and Thomas Nelson, Jr. Lots of great information can be found about him on this site, as well as the opportunity to join the Nicholas Matiau Membership Association.:

Sites/Sights of Interest:

The Nelson House, was built in 1712 by "Scotch" Tom Nelson, founder of the Nelson family and fortune in Yorktown. It is located in the Historical District of Yorktown, Va. To this day, you can see damage from the cannonballs on the exterior of the house. There is an interesting article on the New York Times site, which was written in 1894 and is titled, "Famous Old Nelson House", In the article it states that it is a misconception that the Nelson House was ever Cornwallis' headquarters. After thorough research, however, I have found this to be the only source that disputes this. The article is very informative. The site is :

The George Washington Monument, located on N. 9th Street, near E. Grace Street, Richmond, Va, was erected in 1858. It has Thomas Nelson, Jr.'s statue as well as these other prominent men: Patrick Henry, Andrew Lewis, John Marshall, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason. Seated just below the male figures are six bronze allegorical female figures representing Revolution, Colonial Times, Justice, Finance (which is below Nelson's figure and represents his financial contribution to the Revolutionary War), Independence, and the Bill of Rights. To learn more about this monument you can go to:

This Site Was Created By: Grace Wagner Tyree