Lucy Grymes Nelson

Lucy Grymes was most likely born in Williamsburg on September 4, 1743. According to her daughter, Susanna, Lucy was a premature baby so small she “might have been put in a quart Pot.” Her father, Philip Ludwell Grymes (1721-1762) of Brandon in Middlesex County, was a member of the House of Burgesses, a Receiver-General of the Colony, and a member of His Majesty’s Council for Virginia. Her mother was Mary Randolph Grymes (1720-1768). Lucy’s parents maintained a residence in Williamsburg and were in the capital attending to political matters when she made an early entrance into the world.

Lucy’s father and extended family members were amongst the most politically influential and powerful citizens of the Virginia colony. Lucy’s grandfather, Sir John Randolph of Williamsburg (1693-1737) was Speaker of the House of Burgesses and Attorney General for the Colony of Virginia. Her maternal uncle, Peyton Randolph (c.1721-1775), also served as Speaker of the House of Burgesses, President of the Virginia Conventions, and first President of the Con-tinental Congress. A second uncle, John Randolph (1727-1784), served as the King’s attorney for Virginia from 1766 until the beginning of the American Revolution. Lucy counted Carter Braxton (1736-1797), Benjamin Harrison (1726-1791), and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) among her cousins. From her birth, Lucy found herself at the center of colonial politics. Throughout her life, she lived amongst her numerous male relatives who would become many of the Founding Fathers of our nation.

Lucy was the eldest of eight Grymes children, four boys and four girls. The only known portrait of Lucy, painted in 1751, is attributed to John Hesselius. The portrait is in the collection of the Virginia Historical Society and depicts an eight-year old Lucy alongside three of her siblings. Lucy was well-educated and attended the school of the Reverend William Yates (1720-1764) a Gloucester minister. She excelled at math and reading. She was proficient at singing, dancing, and the harpsichord. As the daughter of a prominent colonial family, Lucy was expected to become accomplished and educated. She was also considered beautiful.

On July 29, 1762 she married Thomas Nelson, Jr. (1738-1789) of Yorktown. She was almost 19 and her groom was 24. They were married in Williamsburg by the Reverend Yates, whose school they had both attended. Thomas was the eldest son of William Nelson (1711-1772), who served as President of His Majesty’s Council and interim Governor of Virginia (1771) and his wife Elizabeth Carter Burwell Nelson (1718-1798). His grandfather, Thomas ‘Scotch Tom’ Nelson (1677-1745) was a founder of Yorktown and created a successful shipping and mercantile empire. Young Thomas was educated in England at Eton and Cambridge. When he returned to the colonies, Thomas helped his father manage the family’s mercantile enterprises and began his political career. He became a Justice of the Peace for York County and entered the House of Burgesses as his father and so many of Lucy’s family members had previously.

For the first five years of their marriage, the couple lived with Thomas’ parents. In 1767, after the birth of their fourth child and following the death of Thomas’ grandmother, Lucy and Thomas moved into his grandparents’ home in Yorktown.6 The Nelson house, completed circa 1745, an elegant and imposing Georgian residence, provided plenty of room for Thomas and Lucy’s growing family. The Nelson family also kept residences in Williamsburg, one of which was the Nelson-Gault house. They undoubtedly spent a part of every year there while Thomas and his father attended to political matters.

-Laura Kelly Henderson Hayes, Descendant–5th Great Granddaughter of Lucy
Grymes Nelson and Thomas Nelson, Jr.

With research, genealogical, and transcription assistance by Anne Drayton Nelson of
Hanover, wife of the late John Garnett Nelson, 4th great grandson; Thomas Page Nelson,
Jr. of Roseland, 4th great grandson; Leroy A. Keller, Jr., 5th great grandson and Historian
General and Virginia Governor General of the DSDI.