Removed EST from Birth Date and marked as uncertain.
Imported only 1716 from Birth Date and marked as uncertain.
In 1754 Sarah Shelton married Patrick Henry, reportedly in the parlor of her family house, Rural Plains. (It also became known as Shelton House.) As a wedding gift, her father gave the couple six slaves and the 300-acre (1.2 km2) Pine Slash Farm near Mechanicsville. With this marriage,Henry became a slaveholder and landowner. Henry worked with his slaves on the land because it was a small property; it was exhausted from tobacco cultivation and he could not gain profitable yields. After the main house burned, the couple moved for a short time with their two children into the 20 by 60 foot Honeymoon Cottage, a one-story building with attic. They later moved to the Hanover Tavern, owned by Sarah's father.
They sold Pine Slash Plantation in 1764, after Henry started working as a lawyer.
The Henrys had six children together, one of whom married a brother of the poet Thomas Campbell. In 1771 the family moved to Scotchtown Plantation, also in Hanover County.
In 1771 Henry and his wife Sarah moved into their Scotchtown plantation in Hanover County, along with their children: Martha ("Patsy"), Anne, Elizabeth ("Betsy"), John, William, and Edmund ("Neddy"). Sarah became mentally ill and "started to manifest disturbing behaviors which could not at that time be diagnosed or treated. ...her mental condition deteriorated rapidly, and when she became dangerous to herself and others, she was clothed in a 'Quaker shirt,' an early form of strait jacket." Following the general practice of the time, Henry's friends and his physician, Dr. Thomas Hinde, recommended she be moved to the public hospital in Williamsburg. But, after inspecting the facilities, Henry "saw that if he agreed, his wife would be locked into a windowless brick cell containing only a filthy mattress on the floor and a chamber pot. There she would be chained to the wall with a leg iron. Appalled by what he saw, he instead prepared a private, two-room apartment for her in the basement of Scotchtown. Each room had a window, providing light, air circulation, and a pleasant view of the grounds. The apartment also had a fireplace, which provided good heat in the winter, and a comfortable bed to sleep in."
Henry (or a domestic slave when he was away on business) took care of Sarah and "watched over her, fed her, bathed her, clothed her, and prevented her from harming herself." Sarah lived only a few years and died there in the spring of 1775.
"Because of her illness – then thought to have been caused by being 'possessed by the devil' – she was denied a religious funeral service or a Christian burial. Her grieving husband, 'bowed down and bleeding under the heaviest sorrows and personal distresses,' buried her thirty feet from the home they shared and planted a lilac tree next to her grave to remember her. The tree still stands there, a few steps from the door to her basement."
For entry in Wikipedia for Patrick Henry, click here.
Sarah and Patrick were childhood sweethearts. They married when Patrick was eighteen and Sarah was sixteen. It was this connection that would bring Patrick the most joy and most sorrow in his life. The tragedy that surrounded Sarah’s last few years has resulted in a haunting that has lasted over two centuries.
When Patrick married he was already a “failed merchant” but Sarah’s dowry included a 600-acre farm, a house, and six slaves. So the two young newlyweds became planters. But in three years time a fire destroyed the Henry’s plantation. Patrick again became a merchant but for a second time he failed as a businessman. He then studied law in 1766 and this time he succeeded. His legal career took off and the now prosperous lawyer bought one of the largest mansions in colonial America, Scotchtown, a 10,000-acre plantation located in Ashland, Virginia for his family. **
Just months after the Henrys moved in, Sarah gave birth to their sixth child, a son. Shortly after this she started to exhibit signs of a mental illness, her condition worsened steadily and resulted in her death in 1775 just four years later. Few records of Sarah’s condition survived but some believe she suffered from “puerperal psychosis” which is a mental illness that often occurs after childbirth. It was during this time that Patrick had to make a difficult decision.
He viewed a public hospital in Williamsburg and was so horrified at what he saw he decided to keep his wife at Scotchtown where he could make sure Sarah received the attention she needed. In the last year of her life Sarah’s condition worsened to the point where the family decided to keep her confined in two of the basement rooms at Scotchtown. It is said during this period she exhibited a “strange antipathy” toward her family. A servant was first assigned to monitor her behavior but when she started to inflict bodily harm upon herself a special “straight-dress” similar to today’s straightjacket was used to restrain her.
Patrick remained loyal to his wife to the end. He made attempts to keep his wife’s condition secret. He even used a secret stairway in the back hall of Scotchtown when visiting his wife in the basement. But despite his discretion word spread quickly around the large plantation about the mistress’s condition. In colonial American people who suffered from mental illnesses where misunderstood. People didn't view it as an illness but rather being possessed by “evil spirits.” This is probably the main reason Patrick tried to keep Sarah’s illness secret. But as word spread across the plantation many servants, slaves, and workers refused to come near the mansion let alone enter it.
When Sarah died in February of 1775 she was buried in an unmarked grave on the plantation. It was a custom at the time to bury people with mental illness in secret. This again was connected to the belief that the mentally ill where possessed by demons. To this day the location of Sarah’s final resting place is not known. In 1777 when Patrick Henry was elected the first governor *** of Virginia he sold Scotchtown because it held too many bad memories for him. But it seems Sarah’s ghost remained.
A lot of strange things have occurred at Scotchtown over the years. The house itself for many years was abandoned and allowed to slowly deteriorate. During this time many neighbors saw lights at the windows, which looked like candlelight. A female ghost wearing a long flowing white dress was seen by a group of children and adults floating along the back of the house. This same spirit was seen making its way from the basement of the house to one of the outer buildings that housed the servants.
Patrick Henry’s great-great-great granddaughter felt the house was haunted and would not stay overnight. Mary Adams as a child lived at Scotchtown from 1933 to 1940 she heard unusual noises frequently. She and a group of her young friends saw a woman in a long, white gown inside the house, the figure disappeared in front of them. She and others heard chains being dragged across the attic floor.
In 1958 the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities purchased and restored Scotchtown
Since, a cradle used by the Henrys that is kept on the first floor has moved on its own. A tea caddy and the top of a teapot were moved while the house was empty. A candle that dates from the Henrys time in the home was moved during the night when the house was closed. The door to the basement is never locked but sometimes it will not open. Witnesses state it is like someone is holding it on the other side.
In recent times more strange activity has been witnessed. On Halloween night in 1990 a policeman took a report from a neighbor who witnessed a candle light in the window after the mansion had been closed for the day. This female witness reported that as she entered the grounds the candlelight disappeared but that she then saw a transparent figure of a woman walk past one window holding a candle. The police are often called to the estate because the alarm system and motion detectors are set off without explanation.
During tours of the house, visitors have also experienced strange activity. One docent took her group into the room directly above the basement rooms where Sarah was confined. As she told the visitors about Sarah’s last tragic years they all heard a loud shrill scream coming from the rooms below. The group scattered quickly. Visitors have also reported feeling as if someone is watching them or standing behind them while they are in the basement.
A portrait of Joseph Shelton, Shelton was Sarah’s maiden name, hangs at Scotchtown. Many people have reported that the eyes of this man seem to follow them while they are in the room. In the attic strange swarms of wasps and flies have collected at one window.
Another odd phenomenon at Scotchtown is connected to the two basement rooms were Sarah died. Ever since the mansion was renovated there have been attempts made to paint the walls in this area. Professional painters have been hired, top quality paint has been used but regardless the paint will not adhere to the walls. It is stated the paint literally “burns” off the walls and there is no scientific reason for why this occurs. So even today the walls in these two rooms are dreary and in need of fresh paint.
Non-Cemetery Burial, Specifically: reportedly buried in an unmarked grave at Scotchtown Plantation, Hanover County, Virginia
Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Family Tree DNA.
There are no public comments yet.
Sarah is 28 degrees from Aaron Copland, 19 degrees from AJ Jacobs, 18 degrees from Barbara Shoff and 13 degrees from Queen Elizabeth II Windsor on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.