Stratford Hall was the home of four generations of the Lee family, which included two signers of the Declaration of Independence, and was the birthplace of General Robert E. Lee. The plantation currently encompasses nearly 2,000 acres and borders two miles of Potomac River shoreline. Thomas Lee built the historic Great House circa 1738 and began to build a family empire based on the export of tobacco, the production of which required a large labor force. The 1782 slave inventory recorded during the division of Philip Ludwell Lee's (son of Thomas) estate remains the best information available about the enslaved population at Stratford. This inventory lists 137 enslaved individuals at Stratford and two outlying farms, including names, ages, values, and in some instances for the males, occupations. After 1782 the Lee owners of Stratford suffered financial instability and the enslaved population dwindled as many individuals were sold or confiscated to satisfy debts.
Stone slave quarters remain standing at Stratford Hall. Reconstructed in 1939, these duplexes with center chimneys – a housing arrangement common to large plantations– were likely residences for enslaved domestic servants and skilled tradesmen during the late 18th century. The Lees invested in better materials for these quarters since they were located close to the main house. These possibly date to Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee's tenure when some outlying farms were sold and the enslaved populations were brought back to the home farm. The dimensions of these two quarters are shown in an 1801 insurance plat (see attached image).
The Wesley Payne Memorial Cabin was constructed in 1941 and memorializes an African American man, Wesley Payne (1875-1954), and his family's history at Stratford. This cabin, modeled on one in which Wesley Payne was born, was built in the vicinity of other 19th-century Payne family residences. The one-room log cabin features a wood-and-mud chimney which was typical of the slave quarters on the plantation.
The property also includes a slave cemetery. A monument marking the plantation slave cemetery was erected by Stratford Hall Plantation's Board of Directors in 1953. This monument has been joined by new interpretive signage that identifies some of the Payne family members who were buried in the vicinity.
There are other antebellum, archaeological sites on the property as well. The Old Orchard Site, a tiny post-constructed slave quarter dating to the late 18th century, was located about 300 feet northeast of the main house. This site was excavated by the field school from the University of Mary Washington. Information about the quarter (ST116) can be found at the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery. Pre-dating Stratford, the Clifts Plantation, a site occupied roughly 1670-1730, is located along the main plantation road to the mill. Excavated by Fraser Neiman in the mid-1970's for the Virginia Research Center for Archaeology, the house complex contained a pallisaded manor house, kitchen, quarter, and associated cemetery. Ten African Americans were interred in the cemetery, along with a single white indentured laborer, probably after 1705 when planters turned from an indentured labor force to an enslaved one.
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Off Rt. 3, East of Fredericksburg