Thomas Nelson, Jr.
|Thomas Nelson, Jr.|
|Religion||Christian- Episcopalian |
|Founding Documents||Declaration of Independence|
Thomas Nelson, Jr. (December 26, 1738 – January 4, 1789) was a founding father of America, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and former Governor of Virginia. In the Continental Congress he represented the Commonwealth of Virginia and served on the drafting committee for the Articles of Confederation. Additionally, he was the commanding General of the Lower Virginia Militia that were instrumental in fighting the British at the Siege of Yorktown in the autumn of 1781.
Born in in Yorktown, Virginia, Nelson was the grandson of Scottish immigrants. His father was William Nelson, one of the wealthiest families of Virginia. At the age of fourteen, he was sent to England for an education. Nelson would graduate from Cambridge University and returned to America in 1761. The following year, he married Lucy Grymes of Middlesex County and she bore him eleven children. He would embrace all things English until the Stamp Act. He opposed Britain's attempt to impose colonial taxation. In 1775, as a member of the House of Burgesses, he introduced a resolution for organizing a militia force in the colony. This put him in direct opposition to England.
Nelson signed the Declaration of Independence and later would resign his seat in congress due to health issues. After his health was restored, he was appointed brigadier general and commander in chief of the forces of the commonwealth. Nelson led several military expeditions against the British who had invaded his state. At the Battle of Yorktown, Nelson joined George Washington's forces battling the British. British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelsons home for his headquarters. Nelson urged General Washington to open fire on his lavish estate, the Nelson House. He aimed the nearest cannon at his own house and destroyed it.
Nelson and family retired to a small estate in Hanover County. His vast fortune was gone and his health rapidly deteriorated. One week after his 50th birthday he died of asthma on January 4, 1789.
Nelson's legacy lives on with the naming of the Thomas Nelson Community College. Also named for Nelson Counties of Virginia and Kentucky. His 1730 era home the Thomas Nelson House, which was built by his grandfather Thomas "Scotch Tom" Nelson, was restored and is now a National Historical Landmark.
One of his sons, Hugh Nelson, also became a congressman representing Virginia.