One of the top priorities when we took over the Cedars in August was renaming some of our rooms for various reasons. We enjoyed the process and so we wanted to share with you the logic of our names changes. Some names were discarded, some were removed, and others just didn’t fit. Our goal was to emphasize Virginian history. We’ll start our moniker menagerie by starting on the third floor of our home and moving to the first floor.
Patrick Henry Suite (nee Christopher Wren). Our finest room is now a little more grounded in Virginian history. Patrick Henry of course needs no introduction. The lifetime statesman, firebrand of the Revolution, and first governor of independent Virginia deserved to be nestled with Thomas Jefferson the proceeding governor and fellow Revolutionary. While Christopher Wren was a brilliant architect, we felt his English heritage rubbed Jefferson’s Francophile constitution the wrong way.
John Rolfe Room (nee Captain John Smith). While John Smith was arguably more important in keeping the hapless gentry alive in colonial Virginia, John Rolfe fit better (as you will soon see) when it came to coupling up. Rolfe is most famous for introducing a new strain of tobacco leaf to the flailing Virginia colony which created a cash crop and allowed the colony to survive and even flourish (despite King James I’s reservations). He also married…
Rebecca Rolfe (nee Plantation Room). Plantations have a less than salubrious connotation in our history so the name has been dropped. It also was the only room at The Cedars which did not bear an historical person. On the second floor, next to her husband John Rolfe is the Rebecca Rolfe room. While the name may not sound familiar, it is a certainty you know Rebecca by her nickname: Pocahontas. After being kidnapped by the English – and her emperor-chief father unwilling to pay the heavy ransom for his favorite daughter – Pocahontas converted to Christianity and was given the name Rebecca as both women were to give birth to two nations. Across the hall from our William and Mary rooms, it made perfect sense to create another couple to share the second floor.
William Lee (nee Patrick Henry). Of all the room-name changes, this was the hardest. We tried to maintain some sort of continuity in our room-name (the cottage is named after two royal governors, the third floor has two Virginians, the second floor has two couples) but creating a room that made sense with George and Martha was difficult. They had no children together nor was there another unifying person to join them on the first floor. We then read about William Lee. Known by the name “Billy,” Lee was George Washington’s personal valet for most of the large events of Washington’s American career. What makes William stand out though was his value to Washington. Lee was the only slave of whom Washington said the following in his will: “And to my Mulatto man William (calling himself William Lee) I give immediate freedom…I give him as a test<im>ony of my sense of his attachment to me, and for his faithful service during the Revolutionary War.” (Read the rest here) Lee led an important life and though slavery was a severe blot on Washington, we are honored to recognize the man who helped Washington through our war for independence and who would eventually reap the benefits of that struggle.