Anne Lewis Wythe

Anne Lewis Wythe
Wife of George Wythe, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
1726 – 1748 A.D.

Anne Lewis, who in 1756 became the wife of George Wythe, was the eldest of ten children born to Zachary and Mary Waller Lewis of Spottsylvania County, Virginia. She was born on August 30, 1726, the same year as the young law student who led her to the altar thirty years later.

Her father was an eminent Colonial lawyer who had built up a fortune from his practice and owned a large landed estate. There is a road in Spottsylvania County which to this day bears the name “The Lawyers’ Road,” because of the fact that it was travelled [sic] so frequently by Mr. Lewis and his son, John Lewis, going to and from the court house in the adjoining county of Orange.

Of George Wythe, Hayden’s Virginia Genealogies says: “Chancellor Wythe was the son of Mr. Wythe, who owned a good estate on Black River, and died leaving a widow and three children. His mother was one of five daughters of Mr. Keith, a Quaker and author of work on mathematics, who came from England to Hamden in 1680.”

George WytheMr. Wythe was educated by his mother, and studied law with his uncle-in-law, Mr. Dewey of Prince George County. His mother died in 1746. Then came a lapse in the life of the young man; left an orphan before he was twenty-one, with an ample fortune, he gave way to what an apologetic biographer was called “the seductions of pleasure,” laid study aside, and devoted several years to amusement and dissipation. In the course of a few years, however, he seems to have come to sober reflection, for at the age of about thirty, he withdrew himself from his gay associates, relinquished his levities [sic], and returned to his studies with a zeal and application which prepared him for the distinguished honour [sic] and usefulness to which he afterward attained.

It was Miss Anne Lewis who seems to have brought Mr. Wythe to “sober reflection.” He was married in 1756 and soon afterward was admitted to practice at Williamsburg. In 1758 he was elected a member of the House of Burgesses. That was the beginning of the splendid career of George Wythe, who became a patriot of the Revolution with such confrères as the Lees, Harrison, Peyton Randolph, Col. Bland, and Patrick Henry, a professor of law in the College of William and Mary, during which he had the honour [sic] of having been law instructor to two young men who afterward became Presidents of the United States and one destined for the highest place on the Supreme Bench. From the chair of law in William and Mary, Judge Wythe became Chancellor of Virginia.

Mrs. Wythe died some time in the later sixties, leaving no children. A few years afterward, Mr. Wythe was married to Elizabeth Talliaferro, of “Powhatan,” near Williamsburg, but no children were born of the union. Chancellor Wythe died in 1806 and it was generally believed that he was poisoned. George Wythe Sweeney, a grandson of his sister, was tried for the murder but was acquitted. Before his death, Mr. Wythe gave freedom to all his slaves and made provision for their support until they should be able to care for themselves.

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Reference: The Pioneer Mothers of America: A Record of the More Notable Women of the Early Days of the Country, and Particularly of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods by Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, A.B. Third Volume, Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.