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The man for whom the chapter is named, Colonel Fielding Lewis, was a leading citizen and patriot in Fredericksburg before and during the Revolutionary War. He married Betty Washington, George Washington's only sister.

Colonel Lewis owned a plantation of about 1300 hundred acres in what is now downtown Fredericksburg. He and his wife built their home there in 1775. Today, that home is known as Kenmore House, named for Kenmuir Castle in Scotland by a future owner, Samuel Gordon, in about 1819. Kenmore House still stands, as well as the Lewis Store, built in the 1740's by Fielding's father, Colonel John Lewis. It was used as a store until the 1830s, when it was converted to a residence. Historic Fredericksburg Foundation is currently in the process of restoring the store to be operated as an interactive museum, with costumed interpreters selling reproduction 18th century wares. Kenmore House is also currently undergoing extensive renovation.

Although not a soldier, Fielding Lewis was a patriot in every sense of the word. He was in charge of the militia in Spotsylvania County, hence the title "Colonel". He provided salt peter, sulphur, powder, and lead for the manufacture of ammunition during the Revolutionary War. He also supplied salt, flour, bacon and clothing to the soldiers, and provided for them when they were wounded.

He was also involved in the outfitting of ships, most notably the Dragon which was built in Fredericksburg. Captain Eleazer Callendar supervised the ship's construction and took command of the ship in October 1777. The Dragon's first mission was to protect the Rappahannock River. Later, it ventured into service in the Chesapeake Bay. It continued to serve after the Revolutionary War and finally sank in the early 1800's while berthed in Norfolk, Virginia.

Fielding Lewis represented Spotsylvania County in the Virginia House of Burgesses on at least 12 occasions, and was in attendance when Patrick Henry, "The Voice of the Revolution", delivered his famous Stamp Act speech to those assembled in Williamsburg in 1765. "If this be treason, make the most of it."

He served on the Committee of Safety of Fredericksburg and in 1775 was appointed, along with Charles Dick and three others, to establish and equip a manufactory of small arms for the newly formed government. Virginia's third revolutionary convention contributed the first 25,000 pounds, but most of the operating funds came from the personal account of Colonel Lewis. It was the first such factory in America. Two historical markers have been placed at the site near Walker-Grant Middle School on Gunnery Road. One marker (scroll down) describes use of the land during the Spanish American War and a spring located there. The other marker describes the gun factory. Scroll to the bottom to see a plaque placed by our chapter.

In May 1777, a visitor to the "Fredericksburg Gunnery" reported that workers there were producing "20 musquets, complete with bayonets" a week. Of this production schedule, the Kenmore Association says:

"Unfortunately, the patriotic zeal which distinguished Col. Lewis also ruined him financially. He advanced increasingly large sums from his personal funds for the expenses of the Fredericksburg Gunnery as well as for outfitting ships."

Fielding Lewis died in December 1781, just two months after the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown. The exact date of his death is unknown, but he wrote his will in October 1781 and his estate was settled in January 1782. Historian Paula Felder, a recognized expert on the Lewis and Washington families and author of the book "Fielding Lewis and the Washington Family: A Chronicle of 18th Century Fredericksburg" says Colonel Lewis died while visiting his son, Fielding Lewis, Jr., at his home in the Shenandoah Valley in Frederick County (now Clarke County), Virginia. She bases this on a letter Robert Lewis wrote to his sister Betty "Lewis" Carter in 1826. Both, Robert and Betty were children of Fielding Lewis. In the letter, Robert urges Betty to live on Fielding, Jr.'s land.

"You would be in the neighborhood where the venerated remains of our dear decd. Father lie."

Colonel Lewis built his home in Fredericksburg and operated a store there. His home, a mansion renamed Kenmore House sometime around 1819, and his store, still stand. It was built by Fielding's father, John, in the 1740s. It is the oldest standing store in the United States. Renovation on the store was completed in 2003. Work on the interior of Kenmore House continues.

(Our sincere thanks to Trip Wiggins for steering us to the source for some of the above information, and to Paula Felder for her research and helpful suggestions in writing this brief sketch of Colonel Fielding Lewis' service during the Revolutionary War.)

Kenmore House
Kenmore House Restoration

Lewis Store
Lewis Store Restoration 04-15-03
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